Precious metals are an essential part of modern day life due to their unique properties and different applications within daily life. In addition to gold, silver, platinum and palladium also play a key role in the Swiss precious metal industry. They are used in different applications in a variety of industrial sectors.
They are used pure, or in mixes, alloys or composites.
Gold is the most malleable and softest of all metals. It is often alloyed with other metals to increase its hardness, in particular in the jewellery, dental or electronic industries. It is an important component in almost all consumer electronics, such as audio equipment, mobile phones and digital cameras. Gold is used in decorative elements and is to be found on glass or ceramics. Due to its chemical stability, gold does not become dull or corroded and remains an excellent conductor of heat and electricity.
In the world market, purchasers of gold come from all sorts of commercial sectors. Gold consumption is greatest in the jewellery industry (43%), followed by the investment sector, consisting of investments in gold bars and gold coins at 29%. In addition, the gold reserves in national banks account for 12% of gold consumption. The remainder is used by the electronics industry and for dental applications.
Silver is the best electrical and thermal conductor of all metals, but unlike gold, it corrodes quickly. Silver, which is slightly harder than gold and has a lower melting temperature, can thus be used in a wide range of applications. The high reflectivity of this precious metal permits it to be used in mirrors. The unique photo-reactive properties of silver alloys are ideal for use in the photographic sector. Similar to gold, silver is very popular in the jewellery industry, but is also used in many electronics and chemical applications or as a means of investment.
Platinum is also an excellent conductor and sufficiently soft to be processed into thin wires and complex shapes. Its high melting temperature and resistance to corrosion mean it can be used under even the most difficult conditions. Platinum is therefore the ideal material for use at high temperatures. Since platinum is also an outstanding catalyst, it is widely used to enable chemical reactions between various substances. It is used extensively in the car industry as a catalytic converter.
Palladium has a lot in common with the properties of platinum despite being less dense and having a lower melting temperature. It is widely used for catalytic converters but also in the chemical and electronics industries. The automotive industry constitutes 80% of the demand for palladium, whereas the electronics industries, and notably that related to the production of connectors or jewellery, constitutes 20%.