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Gold

Gold was the first metal to be used by humans. The oldest gold artefact is from a burial site in Bulgaria dating back to 4,600 B.C.  Archaeological finds show that early cultures around the world used gold in religious forms and jewellery.

Gold was key to trade and played an important role in the Greek and Roman empires which controlled deposits in Greece, northern Italy, the Balkans, Spain, and the Rhine river. Spain and Portugal financed exploration and colonisation with gold and silver from the Latin and South America changing world history and economics.

Today, gold is mined in more than 100 countries. In Europe between 85-90% of gold is used for jewellery and investment. The 10-15% of gold used industrial applications makes our modern lives possible.

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Silver

Dating back to 3000 BC, evidence at ancient mines shows that people in Greece were extracting rock containing naturally-occurring silver sulphide which was refined to make coins and jewellery. The Romans very quickly began extracting silver from lead ore around Britain after their conquest in the first century AD, and German mines became the primary source of silver in medieval times.

Today, Europe still produces 17% of new silver in the world and recycles 37% of the world’s silver. European Citizens use or own nearly 60% of the silver in the EU market in the form of investments, silverware, and jewellery.

The unique properties of silver and silver compounds make them essential in applications key to European leadership areas such as Green Technologies and health care.

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Platinum Group Metals

Platinum and the five other closely related metals which form the platinum group were discovered thousands of years later than gold and silver. Beginning in 600 B.C. artefacts of a white gold-platinum alloy were produced by pre-Columbian Americans. The first European description of platinum was in 1557 referring to an unknown metal found in Mexico.

It was not until 1789 that French physicist P.F. Chabaneau produced pure platinum. The English chemist W. Wollaston discovered palladium in 1802. Rhodium and osmium were identified in 1803 in parallel by French chemists H.V. Collet-Descotils, A.F. Fourcroy, and N.L. Vauquelin and English chemists W. Wollaston (rhodium) and S. Tennant (osmium). And finally, in 1844 Russian chemist K. Karlovich Klaus isolated Ruthenium.

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