Palladium

DEFINITION of 'Palladium'

Palladium is a shiny, silvery metal used in many types of manufacturing processes, particularly for electronics and industrial products. Palladium has an atomic number of 46 on the periodic table of the elements. The majority of the world's supply of this rare metal comes from mines located in the United States, Russia, South Africa and Canada.

BREAKING DOWN 'Palladium'

Palladium is an important component in electronics, and it is used in many new technologies, such as fuel cells. As a commodity, it has drawn the attention of investors because it is not easily substituted for other metals. The element is an important component of catalytic converters. Palladium, platinum, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium and osmium form a group of elements referred to as the platinum group metals (PGMs).

Palladium is more 30 times more rare than gold. This rarity affects its price on commodities markets. As of 2016, the highest price for palladium was $1,125 per troy ounce in 2001. Political instability in Russia, the world's largest producer of palladium, caused the price to skyrocket at that time. The next-highest price was $900 per troy ounce in August 2014.

Fun Facts and Uses

The largest industrial use for palladium is in catalytic converters because the metal serves as a great catalyst that speeds up chemical reactions. This shiny metal is 12.6% harder than platinum, making the element more durable than platinum.

Jewelers first incorporated palladium into jewelry in 1939. When mixed with yellow gold, the alloy forms a metal stronger than white gold. In 1967, the government of Tonga issued circulating palladium coins touting the coronation of King Taufa Ahau Tupou IV. This is the first recorded instance of palladium used in coinage.

Metalworkers can create thin sheets of palladium down to 1/250,000th of an inch. Pure palladium is malleable, but it becomes stronger and harder once someone works with the metal at room temperature.

Statistics

In 2015, humans mined more than 208,000 tons of palladium. Russia produced the most at 80,000 tons, and South Africa was second with 73,000 tons. Canada ranked third with 24,000 tons. The United States produced 12,500 tons from two palladium mines in southern Montana owned by Stillwater Palladium. More than 60 tons of palladium in the United States came from recycling of catalytic converters in 2015.

The price per troy ounce of palladium averaged $690 in 2015, compared to $1,080 for 1 troy ounce of platinum. The price of palladium hovered around $100 to $150 per ounce from 1986 to 1996 before spiking around 2001. Historically, the price of palladium was volatile from 2001 to 2016 compared to previous periods.