Top 10 Most Expensive Metals

Our planet contains a pretty large amount of non-metals, Oxygen and silicon being the two most abundant elements on earth that make 75% alone. When it comes to metals, earth’s crust does hold some few percentage.

Excluding aluminum and iron, all the remaining metals make 0.2% in total. So when it comes to the top 10 most expensive metals, you have a teeny tiny portion in your hand of all elements.

Precious metals make 0.2% of earth's crust

The most expensive metals are also the most precious metals. In price terms, rarity does not count for much. What counts is the value people have provided them.

For example, ruthenium is 74th and scandium is 31st most abundant metal, if rarity was equivalent to price, then ruthenium had to be more expensive than scandium, but in reality where price is parallel to value, scandium is 200x higher in cost.

Another example would be osmium and rhodium, they are both the rarest metals, but the demand for rhodium is 180x higher than osmium because of rhodium’s beneficial properties of jewelry plating.

The price put on some of these metals are always changing. One day platinum is more expensive than gold, the next day it is the other way around, and the next week palladium surpasses both.

However, there is one metal compound that always stay on top of the list, and that is scandium fluoride.

Precious jewelry metals fluctuating demand

Alright let’s not deviate ourselves from the topic. The top 10 most expensive metals are:

10th – Zirconium

9th – Silver

8th – Ruthenium

7th – Osmium

6th – Platinum

5th – Iridium

4th – Gold

3rd – Palladium

2nd – Rhodium

1st – Scandium

As I explain the price of these expensive metals and the reasons behind it, there are going to be a couple of deal breakers, so don’t go anywhere.

 

10th – Zirconium

Zirconium is the 18th most abundant element on earth’s crust and seas with a percentage of 0.0165. Its compounds are known and used in various fields for a long time.

Today, zirconium alloys are used in bricks, ceramics, pipes, fittings and heat exchangers. It is also present in surgical instruments and as a hardening agent in steel alloys.

Despite it is wide variety of usages, zirconium has the lowest price on our list. It is valued at 0.157$ per gram if bought pure, and 0.16$ per gram in bulk.

 

9th – Silver

Silver is one of the most ancient and the first five metals discovered by humans. Being only 0.0000075% present in earth, silver makes the 67th most abundant element.

In spite of such small amount, 27000 ton of it are produced each year. Silver and lead are found mixed in nature as the compound galena.

Sterling silver and Britannia silver are used in jewelry and silverware. Other usages of silver are in photography, electric contacts and mirrors. Silver is currently priced at 0.58$ per gram in pure and 1.2$ per gram in bulk.

 

8th – Ruthenium

This transit metal was the last of the six platinum family metals to be discovered by Karl K. Klaus at 1884. Its name comes from the Latin word “Ruthenia” meaning Russia, since the platinum ores it was discovered in came from the Ural mountains.

Ruthenium is found at 0.0000001% in the planet, making it one of the rarest and 75th most abundant element. In small amounts, ruthenium is used to harden platinum, palladium and titanium alloys, for both industrial and jewelry making purposes.

Pure ruthenium is estimated at 14$ per gram and 6.5$ per gram in bulk according to chemicool.com. However, at infomine.com it is priced at 8$ per gram.

 

7th – Osmium

Being one of the rarest metals according to Wikipedia, osmium is unbelievably priced lower than it deserves, at 12$ per gram.

The surgical implants such as pacemakers and replaceable heart valves are made out of 10% osmium and 90% platinum alloy. Its toxic agent osmium tetroxide, is also used in microscopy and fingerprint detection, but is highly hazardous if not cared for properly.

In nature, osmium is found in platinum ores as the mineral osmiridium and recovered as a by-product of nickel refining. With a bluish-white lustrous color, it is the densest metal alongside iridium. 0.00000015% of osmium exists on earth, making it the 73rd most available element.

 

6th – Platinum

Name of this metal comes from the Spanish word “Platina” which means little silver. According to chemicool, platinum was discovered by the people of South America and was recorded by Julius Scaliger in 1557 for the first time.

He described it as a strange metal that wouldn’t melt by any kind of fire.

Platinum is widely used in jewelry, bullion coins and bricks, dental work, decoration and medical instruments. Currently it is worth 32$ per gram according to infomine.com. However, pure platinum can range up to 100$ per gram globally depending upon the demand.

Platinum and it is family member metals, namely: Ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium and iridium, carry similar chemical properties and can be found naturally, often mixed together. It is available at 0.0000005% and is 71st most abundant element on earth.

 

5th – Iridium

Another platinum family member which is also the most corrosion-resistant metal is iridium. It is dense, resists attacks by almost all types of acids and used as strengthening agent for platinum alloys.

Mixed with osmium, it is used to make fountain pen tips and compass bearings. Iridium is also used in the construction of satellites and its radioactive isotopes are known for cancer treatment.

According to infomine.com, per gram iridium is worth 48$, but according to chemicool pure iridium is at 42$ and bulk is at 23$ per gram.

Iridium was discovered by Smithson Tennant in 1803 in London, at the same time as osmium. It is also believed that dinosaurs were wiped out by comets containing high amount of iridium 65 million years ago.

Iridium exists at 0.0000001%, making it the 76th most abundant element on the planet.

 

4th – Gold

The most common precious metal and every woman’s favorite to wear, gold exists at 0.0000004% on this planet and is the 72nd most abundant element. Even before recorded history, humans are known to work with gold, mine it and trade it for goods and commodities.

Gold was the ultimate currency among huge empires and even today, most countries hold gold reserves.

Gold is non-toxic and a great conductor of heat and electricity. It is the most ductile metal, free-standing of air, water, alkalies and acids except aqua regia. Besides jewelry and coinage, gold is also used in dental fillings, embroidery, satellites and microelectronics.

At the moment, gold is priced at 50$ per gram in pure form, and 38$ per gram in bulk.

 

3rd – Palladium

Palladium, platinum and gold prices are never stable. As of this year, palladium is valued at 64$ per gram according to infomine, excelling mentioned, but it may change. Palladium jewelry has been gaining popularity day by day at a quite noticeable ratio.

More wedding and engagement rings, bracelets and necklaces are being made out of this expensive metal. Also, like gold, silver and platinum, palladium too is structured into bullion coins and bricks.

This silvery-white lustrous metal was discovered in 1803 by William Wollaston, who also discovered rhodium the same year.

Since palladium and other precious metals are found close to the surface, it is believed that they arrived with a comet or asteroid that hit the planet thousands of years after it is formation.

The automobile industry, catalytic converters and jewelers are quite thankful for the involvement of this awesome metal. Palladium is also used in dentistry and other medical fields. It exists at 0.0000015% on earth and is the 69th most abundant element (Nice!).

 

2nd – Rhodium

Rhodium is often referred to as the most expensive natural metal. It surely has it is uses in jewelry and various industries, but in today’s list rhodium is the second most expensive after scandium. Today, rhodium is priced at 200$ per gram.

The name rhodium comes from the Greek word “Rhodon” meaning rose. Wollaston named it after the rose-red color of it is salt compounds. Same as the other platinum family metals, rhodium is extremely rare, reflective, resistant to corrosion and acids and silvery-white in color.

Earth has 0.0000001% of it and it is the 77th most abundant element.

Rhodium is used in catalytic converters, in platinum alloys as a hardening agent, in electrical contact material because of it is resistant to corrosion, but it is biggest application is in the jewelry plating.

When metals such as gold, silver, platinum and palladium are scratched, tarnished or lose it is shine, rhodium plating acts as the recovering factor. After the operation, the old jewelry becomes as good as new.

Rhodium plating

 

1st – Scandium

Scandium is a transit rare-earth metal discovered by Lars Nilson in 1879. He discovered it while trying to isolate ytterbium from the minerals euxenite and gadolinite. Lars named it “scanda” from the word Scandinavia since he found it in Sweden.

Scandium is less toxic, soft, light-weighted and has silvery-white color that can change to a slight golden or pink when exposed to air. It is as light as aluminum but has a much higher melting point of 1540 degrees Celsius.

Unlike other expensive metals listed in this article, scandium is reactive with many acids.

Scandium is the most expensive metal

Global consumption of this exotic metal is at 10-15 metric tons per year. According to Wikipedia, scandium is 5$-20$ a gram, but education.jilab.org tells us that pure scandium is valued at 270$ per gram.

Latest US geological survey tells us that today there are five main compounds of scandium found in nature:

  • Scandium oxide priced at 4.6$ per gram
  • Scandium acetate priced at 44$ per gram
  • Scandium chloride priced at 124$ per gram
  • Scandium iodide priced at 183$ per gram
  • Scandium fluoride priced at 277$ per gram
Why is scandium so expensive?

For the sole reason that unlike the rest of the top expensive metals mentioned, scandium is not traded openly or in high amounts but in secrecy and sometimes among government. However, as the price is not standard there is no stable market for it.

This metal is mostly used in the aerospace industry combined with aluminum. It is also used in sports industry as bicycle frames, fishing rods, golf iron shafts and baseball bats. Scandium oxide is present in stadium lights and scandium iodide in sunlight replicating lights.

It is present in earth’s crust at 0.0022% and is the 32nd most abundant element.

Scandium the most expensive metal

 

Deal Breakers

Apart from Top 10 most expensive metals listed above, there are two other radioactive metalloids with sky high values. They are Polonium and Californium.

Polonium

Polonium is the first element discovered by Marie and Pierre Curie in 1898, while researching about uranium oxide. Marie Curie named it after the country Poland, where she was born and grew up.

Polonium is also a rare, silvery-white but radioactive, toxic metalloid and if someone is exposed to it, the result is cancer.

Polonium is valued at 3200$ per micro curie at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and by the way you cannot easily convert curies to grams but let me tell you that a curie is extremely small amount compared to a gram.

Polonium is produced by bombarding bismuth-209 with neutrons and over the years, scientists have only been able to manufacture milligrams of it.

Californium

Same as polonium, californium is also a radioactive element and of course one of the most expensive materials in the world. This element has isotopes that are used to launch nuclear reactors. Californium is also used in detecting gold and silver ores via a method called neutron activation.

Being extremely radioactive, this element can cause various cancers, fertility problems, miscarriages and immune system problems, not only to humans but to all living organisms if they are exposed. This element is widely applied in petroleum industry as well.

Californium-252 is probably one of the rarest elements, being manufactured synthetically and going through a super costly and hard process, one gram of it is worth 27 million dollars.

Californium was first synthesized in 1950 by bombarding curium with alpha particles at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and later at the University of California Radiation Laboratory, where it was named after, by Glenn Seaborg and Stanley Thompson.

 

Final Words

Metals, no matter how rare or abundant, cheap or expensive, they all play a role in our lives. Almost every living organism are made of metals in small portions, like the iron that is present in our blood. If we take all the iron out, a medium-sized screw can be made.

I sincerely hope that you have enjoyed this list of Top 10 Most Expensive Metals I prepared. Wish you all the best and if you believe the information provided are somehow misleading or false, leave a comment below.

Best of Luck!

Sulaiman Azimi.

 

References

Wikipedia.com

Chemicool.com

Infomine.com

Moneymetals.com

Thebalance.com

Investingnews.com

Education.jilab.org

Livescience.com

2 thoughts on “Top 10 Most Expensive Metals

  1. Highly informative! I had thought that platinum was always more costly than gold. As far as zirconium goes, I always associated it with cubic zirconia, i.e., fake diamonds.
    I can’t understand why scandium is so secretive. You’d think it has mystical powers or something. Now it’s like I want to have some of my own – just a tad so I can say I own some.
    I must correct one tiny statement you made. You said gold was a favorite of all women. While it was definitely my mother’s favorite, mine has always been silver, and I know several other women who feel the same.
    Magnificent article! Thank you for enlightening me as to the truth of metallic values.

    1. Hey you are much welcome.
      You are right about cubic zirconia, it is a synthetic mineral resembling diamonds, but zirconium is a metal.
      About scandium, as far as I can tell you is that it is an essential metal used in defensive and offensive weaponry, ranging from guns and rifles to huge warships. Since the war “industry” has vast appliance (unfortunately), I will let you imagine why it is so expensive and secretive.

      I agree with you about women liking silver as well, after all gold and silver are the most wanted precious metals wanted in jewelry. But it was a matter of perspective, you see where I live, women like expensive things. Since gold is much more pricey, no woman seeks silver no matter how pretty or fancy. Silver is men’s choice here.

      I am glad you liked my content, hope to see you around Cathy 🙂

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