Palladium, discovered by William Hyde Wollaston in 1803, belongs to the platinum group of metals. It is a soft, lustrous white metal that is malleable like gold and has a low melting point. Like gold, palladium doesn't react to oxygen at normal temperatures and thus does not oxidize or tarnish. This is one of the reasons that Palladium is used to make white gold in place of nickel. Beyond its use in jewelry applications, the primary use of palladium is in the manufacturing of catalytic converters that are placed in an automobile's exhaust system to convert harmful gasses to more mundane substances. Also due to its anti-corrosive nature, palladium is well suited for uses in dentistry and medicine. It is considered to be "soft" by metallurgists, but if palladium is cold worked, its strength and hardness increases. The numerous uses combined with a relatively limited supply also make palladium a safe investment in that its value is relatively stable.
When considering palladium as a choice of jewelry, if you are allergic to nickel, you may want to avoid this metal as it may cause skin irritation at the point of contact.
Know Your Palladium
Palladium shares its malleable property with gold. Both can be thinned to roughly 100 times thinner than the thickness of the average piece of paper. It became popular in jewelry production in 1939 as an alternative to platinum to make white gold. A downside to palladium is that it can discolor at temperatures above 752 degrees Fahrenheit. Palladium is more commonly found in alloys and plating when it comes to jewelry applications. It is primarily used in catalytic converters but its uses extend into electrical components, watch parts, medical and dental instruments, and even aircraft spark plugs. It can be used as a catalyst in hydrogenation and dehydrogenation chemical reactions. It also has the curious ability to absorb large amounts of hydrogen. Efforts have been made to use palladium as an efficient hydrogen storage medium, though the cost of palladium makes that an unviable option. When palladium is heated, hydrogen can diffuse through the metal effectively making it a filter in the production of high purity hydrogen.
Discovered by William Hyde Wollaston in 1803, palladium has physical properties that make it an alluring choice for jewelers as well as industrial purposes. It's wide range of uses and rarity ensured its increased value over time. Wollaston named his newfound metal after the asteroid Pallas which had just been discovered around the same time. He discovered palladium mixed in some platinum ore that he got from South Africa.
Palladium deposits are rare but can be found in South Africa, North America, and Russia. Russia commands the palladium supply with a 44% market share with South Africa taking in a 40% share. That leaves Canada at 6% and finally the U.S. at a meager 5% share. In the year 2000, due to a variety of reasons, the palladium market had a huge shortage when exports from Russia were disrupted. Recycling of catalytic converters also reclaims a large amount of palladium to be reused in an industrial capacity. This will be increasingly important as the palladium supply decreases and the demand increases. Palladium absorbs hydrogen. This fact led scientists to use it in experiments in the search of a functional cold fusion device in 1989. Obviously their endeavors failed, but regardless of that, palladium continues to be an important material for industrial purposes and is gaining popularity in the jewelry market.
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