From an ethical perspective, should I go for platinum or gold?
September 15, 2006 1:45 AM   Subscribe

Gold has all sorts of ethical problems, but I have not heard anything about platinum. Is this just because it is rarer and more expensive (so I'm unlikely to come across it), or is it actually a morally better choice?
posted by handee to Shopping (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
It depends if environmental damage is considered an ethical problem. My dad runs an environmental consultancy in South Africa, and a big chunk of their work over the past 20 years has been for Richards Bay Minerals, who open-cast mine for platinum in the dune areas of around Richard's Bay in northern KwaZulu-Natal. This means ripping up an awful lot of dune forest to sift through the sand for bits of platinum - but this company at least does seem to do their best to put things right afterwards.
posted by Flashman at 4:21 AM on September 15, 2006

Actually scratch all of the above - it's titanium that RBM dig for ...duh, sorry. Not sure then where platinum comes from..
posted by Flashman at 4:24 AM on September 15, 2006

Most platinum is from Russia, followed by South Africa, the US, Canada and Zimbabwe. That is to say, much the same countries that mine gold. The refining process seems about as alarming as that of gold, and indeed gold is a by-product of the process. Not sure what your ethical issues are - environmental, political? Platinum may be problematic for you either way.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:28 AM on September 15, 2006

Gold has all sorts of ethical problems....

True, but no more than any natural resource, and far fewer than others (think "coal" or "diamonds".)

Platinum is better at something things -- it can handle high temperatures, and as a catalyst, it has made the air around the US vastly cleaner (Catalyitic Converters in cars use Pt meshes as a catalyst.) As part of the cisplantin compounds, it's one of the major cancer therapies.

As jewlery? Well, it's more wear resistant than gold, but it's silvery. It's value is almost all in the rarity of the metal, there's lots of silvery metals that look nice when you polish them. Platinum does have the advantage that, like gold, it doesn't tarnish in air, but sulfur compounds will tarnish it, so if you work downwind of the local coal powerplant, you might have issues.

The largest producer of Pt is South Africa, which, given the record it has with its gold, uranium and diamond mines, casts a pretty dark shadow. However, much of the Platinum we get here comes from Canada and the Western US.
posted by eriko at 5:43 AM on September 15, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks eriko and IndigoJones: that's the sort of information I'm after. I'm in the UK so SA or Russian platinum is more likely, I suspect.
posted by handee at 5:56 AM on September 15, 2006

If you're interested in jewelry, look into Tungsten or Tungsten Carbide. The former is about as dense as gold, the latter not quite so much but extremely hard. Neither is terribly expensive or ethically ambiguous.

If you want to make an investment, that's another matter. Why not put your money into the Grameen bank?
posted by Araucaria at 12:55 PM on September 15, 2006

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