List of Precious Metals

Some metals are considered to be precious metals. Here's a look at what makes a metal precious plus a list of precious metals.

What Makes a Metal a Precious Metal?

Precious metals are elemental metals that have high economic value. In some cases, the metals have been used as currency. In other cases, the metal is precious because it is valued and rare.

List of Precious Metals

The most widely known precious metals are corrosion-resistant metals that are used in jewelry, currency and as an investment.

01
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These are crystals of pure gold metal, a well-known precious metal.
These are crystals of pure gold metal, a well-known precious metal. Alchemist-hp, Creative Commons License

Gold is the easiest precious metal to recognize because of its unique yellow color. Gold is popular because of its color, malleability, and conductivity.

Uses: Jewelry, electronics, radiation shielding, thermal insulation

Major Sources: South Africa, United States, China, Australia More »

02
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Silver is a precious metal widely used in jewelry.
Silver is a precious metal widely used in jewelry. Alchemist-hp, Creative Commons License

Silver is a popular precious metal for jewelry, but its value extends well beyond beauty. It has the highest electrical and thermal conductivity of all the elements, plus it has the lowest contact resistance.

Uses: Jewelry, coins, batteries, electronics, dentistry, as an antimicrobial agent, photography

Major Sources: Peru, Mexico, Chile, China More »

Platinum may be the most precious metal.
Platinum may be the most precious metal. Harry Taylor, Getty Images

Platinum is a dense malleable metal with exceptional corrosion resistance. It is nearly 15 times more rare than gold, yet widely used. This combination of rarity and functionality may make platinum the most precious of the precious metals!

Uses: Catalysts, jewelry, weaponry, dentistry

Major Sources: South Africa, Canada, Russia More »

04
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Palladium is a precious metal that is similar to platinum in appearance and properties.
Palladium is a precious metal that is similar to platinum in appearance and properties. Jurii

The 4 primary precious metals are gold, silver, platinum and palladium. Palladium is similar to platinum in its properties. Like platinum, this element can absorb an enormous quantity of hydrogen. It is a rare, malleable metal, able to maintain stability at high temperatures.

Uses: One of the metals used to make "white gold" jewelry, catalytic converters in automobiles, as an electrode plating in electronics

Major Sources: Russia, Canada, United States, South Africa More »

05
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Ruthenium is a very hard, white precious metal.
Ruthenium is a very hard, white transition metal belonging to the platinum group. This is a photo of ruthenium crystals that were grown using the gas phase method. Periodictableru

Ruthenium is one of the platinum group metals or PGMs. All metals of this element family are considered precious metals because they are typically found together in nature and share similar properties.

Uses: Added to alloys to increase hardness, use to coat electrical contacts to improve durability and corrosion resistance

Major Sources: Russia, North America, South America More »

06
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Rhodium is a precious metal used in jewelry.
Rhodium is a precious metal used in jewelry. Dschwen, wikipedia.org

Rhodium is a highly reflective rare silvery metal. It exhibits high corrosion resistance and has a high melting point.

Uses: Most of the uses of rhodium are for its reflectivity. Rhodium makes jewelry, mirrors, and other reflectors shiny. It is also used in the automotive industry.

Major Sources: South Africa, Canada, Russia More »

07
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Iridium is a precious metal of the platinum metals group.
Iridium is a precious metal of the platinum metals group. Greenhorn1, Public Domain License

Iridium is one of the densest metals. It also has one of the highest melting points and is the most corrosion-resistant element.

Uses: Pen nibs, watches, jewelry, compasses, electronics, and in medicine and the automotive industry

Major Source: South Africa More »

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Osmium is an extremely dense metal.
Osmium is an extremely dense metal. Periodictableru

Osmium basically is tied with iridium as the element with the highest density. This bluish metal is extremely hard and brittle, with a high melting point. While it's too heavy and brittle to use in jewelry (plus it gives off an unpleasant odor), the metal is a desirable addition when making alloys.

Uses: Mainly used to harden platinum alloys. Also used in pen nibs and electrical contacts.

Major Sources: Russia, North America, South America More »

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Other Precious Metals

Rhenium is sometimes considered to be a precious metal.
Rhenium is sometimes considered to be a precious metal. Jurii, Creative Commons License

Other elements are sometimes considered to be precious metals. Rhenium is commonly included on the list. Some sources consider indium to be a precious metal.

Alloys made using precious metals are themselves precious. A good example is ​electrum, a naturally occurring alloy of silver and gold.

Although it shares many common properties with precious metals, copper typically is not listed as one.
Although it shares many common properties with precious metals, copper typically is not listed as one. Noodle snacks, Wikipedia Commons

Sometimes copper is listed as a precious metal because it is used in currency and jewelry, but copper is plentiful and readily oxidizes in moist air, so it is not particularly common to see it considered "precious." 

Precious and Noble Metals

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Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "List of Precious Metals." ThoughtCo, Mar. 21, 2017, thoughtco.com/list-of-precious-metals-608467. Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. (2017, March 21). List of Precious Metals. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/list-of-precious-metals-608467 Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. "List of Precious Metals." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/list-of-precious-metals-608467 (accessed December 18, 2017).