More Precious Than Jewelry

Posted on May 20, 2019 by Minerals Make Life

When we think of precious metals, it’s hard not to think of jewelry. These decorative pieces, such as a gold wedding band, represent the most precious moments of our lives. And it’s true that a substantial portion of gold is used for jewelry.

But, according to a February 2019 report from the U.S. Geological Survey, more than half of gold consumed in the U.S. is used for purposes other than jewelry.

In fact, a considerable 40 percent of gold used in the U.S. was dedicated towards electronic purposes. Take a computer: inside, gold is laced through the circuit board, computer chips and the various connectors that keep the processers running. Gold is a highly efficient conductor and is therefore able to reliably carry the tiny currents within a computer. Recently, scientists even stuck a smartphone in a blender to analyze its contents, finding 36mg of gold inside.

Silver is another prime example of a precious metal with practical applications. Seventy four percent of silver is used for purposes other than making jewelry, and an equal amount of silver is used for electronics as is for jewelry and silverware combined. Like gold, silver is found in circuit boards and computer chips (and 90mg of silver were found in the blended smartphone). But silver can also be found in photovoltaic solar cells. A thin silver paste over the solar panels forms the electric current that becomes the electricity we use.

Platinum is also found in computer hard drives and circuits, but platinum and silver share another practical application: both can be used for medical purposes.

Platinum, due to biocompatibility, is ideal for temporary and permanent implantation in the body, and thus can be found in pacemakers and catheters. Silver has anti-microbial properties and can be infused into bandages to fight off infection. These precious minerals are ones we simply cannot do without.

Mining brings to the surface all the minerals that go into our computers, phones, industrial equipment, roads, bridges and medical equipment. Even when we can’t see these metals at work, they are providing a vital service. And it’s all these practical uses that truly make these metals precious.

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