Is silver rarer than gold

Precious metal ruthenium: rare and unknown, but valuable?

Ruthenium is a precious metal like gold and silver and it is rare. Around 2,700 tons of gold and 23,000 tons of silver are mined each year. The annual output of ruthenium, on the other hand, is much lower at just 30 tons. This makes ruthenium one of the rarest, non-radioactive elements on our planet.

Use and value of ruthenium

Ruthenium is mainly used in the electronics industry, but the areas of application of ruthenium are more limited than those of other precious metals as a material, such as silver. For example, ruthenium is used as a coating material for data storage on hard drives. Ruthenium is used as a catalyst in various chemical processes.

Even if ruthenium is very rare and - especially in the electronics industry - it serves as a raw material in a rapidly growing market, the prices for this precious metal have not skyrocketed.

On the one hand, this is due to the fact that for a long time ruthenium did not have any large areas of application and therefore there is no shortage here. On the other hand, like many metals used in electronics, ruthenium is reused through recycling. Thanks to modern recycling processes, precious metals can be used again and again without losing their properties.

Ruthenium not suitable as an investment form

Unlike silver or gold, ruthenium cannot be bought in the form of coins or bars. It is possible to purchase ruthenium as an industrial material in the form of a gray powder, but ruthenium is definitely not suitable as an investment form for private investors.

Speculations on the precious metal ruthenium could have been profitable in 2006. The price of ruthenium has soared from around US $ 80 an ounce to just under US $ 900 an ounce this year. However, this “outlier” calmed down quickly. The average price for ruthenium in 2013 was US $ 85. This “price bubble” was caused by a misjudgment of the demand for ruthenium in the solar industry and, as yet unconfirmed, assumptions that ruthenium could be used in medicine as an active ingredient for cancer therapy.

Ruthenium: occurrence, assignment and some history

In nature, ruthenium only occurs in connection with the much better known noble metal platinum and is therefore included in the group of platinum metals. The largest deposit for platinum group metals (PGM) is in the South African Bushveld Complex. Other important mining areas for PGM are in Zimbabwe and the USA. In platinum deposits in Russia and Canada, PGMs are only extracted as a by-product of nickel extraction.

Even if no significant amounts of ruthenium are mined in Russia, the country is the godfather for the name of the precious metal. The word ruthenium is derived from the Latin name for Russia, ruthenia. The chemist Karl Ernst Claus discovered the precious metal in 1844 at the Russian University of Kazan, and gave it the name ruthenium.

Conclusion: investing in ruthenium?

In summary, it can be said that ruthenium is rare, also quite important in industry and, with a price of US $ 85 per ounce (approx. € 1500 per kg), not exactly worthless. Nevertheless, an investment like in gold is simply not possible for private investors. On the one hand, because ruthenium is not processed into coins, bars or jewelry and therefore cannot be physically acquired. On the other hand, there are no securities such as certificates or ETCs for ruthenium, since the total output and demand do not form a market that would justify the issue of such financial instruments.

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