Market Insights

What Is the Most Expensive Precious Metal and What Is It Used For?

Gold Alliance disclaimer
Gold and silver are amongt the most valuable precious metals, but what other metals are on the top ten list?

Last updated: 6/23/2022

When you’re asked about the most valuable precious metal in the world, you may immediately think of gold or platinum. The two metals are high on the list, but there’s one metal that beats them both in terms of price. 

The price of a precious metal typically depends on its supply, demand, properties, and extraction process. Some of these are affected by other factors — new technologies could suddenly increase the demand for specific metal, while political turmoil or a war could interfere with the supply. 

List of the 10 most expensive precious metals in the world

From the cheapest to the most expensive, here are the top 10 most expensive metals measured by their US dollar price per ounce (prices as of March 11, 2022). 

10. Indium

One of the softest metals on the planet, indium is the tenth most valuable precious metal.

Price

$7 per ounce 

Annual production

100,000 tons 

Uses

During World War II, indium was used as a coating for certain parts of aircraft engines. Today, it’s used in various industrial products, including semiconductors, corrosion-resistant mirrors, alloys, touchscreens, and flatscreen TVs. 

Largest producers

China, South Korea, and Japan 

Indium is the softest metal on the planet after alkali, and in its purest form, it’s white and extremely shiny. It is a result of the processing of zinc, lead, iron, and copper ores. 

The tenth-most valuable precious metal was discovered in 1863 by Ferdinand Reich and Hieronymus Theodor Ritcher via spectroscopic methods, and they named the metal after an indigo-blue line that appears in the metal’s spectrum. 

9. Silver

Silver is a popular precious metal, and it's number 9 on our list of the most expensive metals.

Price

$25.87 per ounce 

Annual production

Around 40,000 tons 

Uses

Silver is a key material in solar panels, circuitry, photography, batteries, jewelry, and coinage. It can also be used to prevent the spread of bacteria in various applications, so it can be found in some types of bandages and as an antibiotic coating on medical devices. 

Largest producers

Peru, China, Mexico, USA, Russia, and Chile 

Sporting the best electrical and thermal conductivity and the lowest contact resistance of all metals, silver is popular in many industries. It’s also one of the most commonly used precious metals in jewelry, and, as readers of this blog will know, silver’s long history as currency and a store of wealth makes it a very popular asset in the form of bullion coins and bars. 

In its purest form, silver can be found in the Earth’s crust as an alloy with gold and other precious metals. It’s also found in certain minerals. Most of the world’s silver is produced as a by-product of the refining of gold, copper, and other metals. Although silver could be considered fairly cheap when compared to other metals, it still made it onto the top 10 of the most expensive metals. 

8. Osmium

Osmium is one of the rarest metals on earth and also one of the most valuable.

Price

$400 per ounce 

Annual production

1 ton 

Uses

Osmium can be used for surgical implants, optical microscopy, electrical contacts, record player needles, and fountain pen tips. 

Largest producers

Russia, USA, Canada, and South Africa 

Osmium is a member of the platinum group, and it is one of the rarest metals on Earth. It is a hard, bluish-white metal, and it’s the densest of all naturally occurring elements. It can be found as trace elements in alloys and in platinum ore. Despite its rarity, osmium “only” made it to eighth place on our list of valuable metals. 

7. Rhenium

Rhenium is one of the densest metals and also on our list of expensive precious metals.

Price

$500 per ounce 

Annual production

50–60 tons 

Uses

This precious metal is often used for nickel-based superalloys in combustion chambers, turbine blades, and exhaust nozzles of jet engines. 

Largest producers

Chile, Poland, Kazakhstan, and USA 

Considered one of the rarest metals in the Earth’s crust, rhenium is one of the densest metals and has the third-highest melting point (5,765°F) and the second-highest boiling point (10,110°F) of any stable element. 

The rare metal is named after the river Rhine and was discovered in 1908, the second-last element to be found. Rhenium is a by-product of copper mining. 

6. Ruthenium 

Ruthenium is a member of the platinum family of precious metals.

Price

$530 per ounce  

Annual production

30 tons 

Uses

The rare and valuable metal is often added as an alloy to its siblings platinum and palladium to increase hardness and resistance. It’s primarily used in the electronics industry because of its ability to effectively plate electric contacts and wires. Other interesting uses include radiotherapy in medicine, exposure of latent fingerprints, and the production of fountain pen nibs. 

Largest producers

Russia, USA, Canada, and South America 

Ruthenium is a rare metal that belongs to the platinum group. It was discovered by Karl Ernst Claus in 1844, who named the element ruthenium in honor of his birth country, Russia (Ruthenia is Latin for the lands of Rus’). 

This precious metal retains many of the characteristics of the platinum group metals, including their hardness and their ability to withstand outside elements. 

5. Platinum 

Platinum is often used as a metal in valuable jewelry.

Price

$1,080 per ounce  

Annual production

160 tons 

Uses

Platinum is probably best known for its use in jewelry, where it’s popular due to its lustrous look and remarkable resistance, malleability, and density, but it’s also used in dentistry, weaponry, computers, medicine, and glassmaking. 

Largest producers

South Africa, Russia, and Canada 

Although platinum is one of the most valuable metals today, it wasn’t always so: It was once considered poor-quality silver and used in fake jewelry. Today, we know platinum is rarer than gold, and the metal has achieved a higher level of prestige.  

4. Gold

Gold is the best-known precious metals, and it's number four on our list of the most expensive metals.

Price

$1,977 per ounce 

Annual production

2,500–3,000 tons 

Uses

Gold is perhaps best known for its use in jewelry and as an investment asset, but it also has many industrial uses. Its conductivity makes it a great component in electronics, and its reflective surface helps create better radiation shields used in astronauts’ space suits.  

Largest producers

Russia, China, Australia, South Africa, and USA 

The most sought-after precious metal of all time, gold, hardly needs any introduction. It remains one of the most popular metals both in jewelry and as a store of wealth in portfolios, and it’s also desired for its durability and malleability. Gold takes fourth place on our list of valuable precious metals. 

Throughout centuries, gold has been used as currency in many countries, and it remains a symbol of wealth and power. This is part of the reason why the precious metal has always been in high demand, and for many people it is the most popular precious metals due to the many benefits gold offers. And according to these gold price predictions for next 5 years, one of those benefits could be wealth growth.

Usually, gold is separated from surrounding rocks and minerals via gold-mining equipment before being extracted with a combination of several refining processes. 

3. Palladium

Palladium is valued for its rarity, mailability, and stability

Price

$2,797 per ounce 

Annual production

Around 200 tons 

Uses

The third-most valuable precious metal is used in catalysts to reduce emissions by converting up to 90% of all harmful gasses into less noxious substances. It’s also used by jewelers to create “white gold” alloys.

Largest producers

Russia, South Africa, USA, Canada, and Zimbabwe 

Palladium is part of the platinum group of metals. it was discovered in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston and is named after the asteroid Pallas. 

The grayish-white precious metal has the lowest melting point (2,831°F) and the lowest density of all platinum metals. It’s valued for its rarity, its malleability, and its stability in hot conditions. 

2. Iridium 

Iridium is the second most valuable precious metal on earth.

Price

Around $3,645 per ounce  

Annual production

3 tons 

Uses

Iridium, the second-most expensive precious metal, is frequently used in the automotive industry. It’s also used in products like watches and compasses.

Largest producers

Brazil, South Africa, USA, and Russia 

Iridium is the most corrosion-resistant metal on Earth. It’s a silvery-white metal with a superhigh melting point (4,435°F) and one of the metals with the highest density. 

Iridium was discovered in 1803 by Smithson Tennant, who named the metal after the Greek goddess Iris because its salts resemble all the colors of the rainbow. 

The metal is processed from platinum ore and as a by-product of nickel mining. 

This leads us to our number one spot… 

1. Rhodium

Rhodium is at the top of our list of the most expensive precious metals.

Price

$15,267 per ounce  

Annual production

30 tons 

Uses

Rhodium is often used for its reflective properties, so it can be found in objects like search lights, mirrors, and jewelry finishes. The metal is also used in the automotive industry,  in catalysts.  

Largest producers

South Africa, Russia, and Canada 

The most expensive precious metal in the world is rhodium – a hard, silver-white precious metal. It’s an extremely rare metal that’s commonly used for its reflective properties. It has a high melting point (3,567°F) and an outstanding ability to withstand corrosion.

What is the most expensive metal vs. the most valuable metal?

While rhodium, gold, and platinum are among the most expensive metals used in various industries, the precious metals are actually not the most valuable elements.

The most valuable metal is californium

Its price goes as high as $27 million per gram or $765 million per ounce! However, californium is of little use, highly radioactive, and exceptionally dangerous. It’s an artificial metal, and only a little more than 1 ounce is produced annually in the US and Russia. Its main uses can be found in nuclear physics and power generation, but it’s also used in the medical field to treat tumors.

—–NEXT SECTION – LINK CODE——— turn to silver