Earth’s rarest element: Rhodium

Rhodium, as well as platinum and palladium, was discovered relatively late. Specifically in 1804 and by the same man who discovered palladium, William Wollaston.

It is logical that the metal was used only very recently. It is mainly used in the industry but also a bit in jewelry as plated metal but very rarely solid metal.

Rhodium is the rarest element of periodic table on earth. Its concentration on our planet is of 0.0002 ppm (parts per million) or 0.0000000002%. This equates to two ten-billionths of atoms on earth, for every ton of earth there are only 0.2 mg of rhodium!

With such a rare metal, it is not surprising that it is not distributed evenly on earth. Does it surprise anyone if we reveal that South Africa has the majority of rhodium reserves and supplies 84% of world’s production? The other producers are, in decreasing order, Russia, Zimbabwe, Canada, and the United States for a total of 30 tons a year.

It isn’t a lot, and some fluctuations can disrupt profoundly the metal’s price. Therefore, in addition to the fact that we have great difficulty in assessing the capacity of active mines, the price of rhodium is the least stable of all precious metals. For instance when it rose from $ 14 600 per kilogram to $ 313,000 between July 2003 and June 2008; and then plummeted to $ 38,000 per kilo in less than six months.

Rhodium is a very particular metal in many ways; the main concern for the future of this matter is we do not know how big the remaining reserves are.

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