On the periodic table of elements, platinum is represented by the symbol Pt and has an atomic number 78. Its name comes from a Spanish term - platina, which translated literally, means “little silver.” Platinum is a ductile, precious, dense white/grey metal. Platinum is among the rarest metals found in the Earth’s crust and has a very low average abundance (around 0.005 mg per kilogram). South Africa accounts for about 80% of the world’s platinum production.
This metal is remarkably resistant to corrosion, including at extremely high temperatures, and due to this, is classified as a “noble metal”. Because of this quality, it is often unnecessary to combine it with other metals, and it is usually found as “native” platinum. Due to the fact of its natural occurrence in the sands in and around various rivers, the first recorded use of platinum was by the pre-Columbian South Americans, who used it to make artifacts. References to platinum production can be found in European writing from the sixteenth century, but it was only explored by scientists following an investigation on this new metal by Antonio de Ulloa in 1748.
Platinum is often used in jewellery, as well as dentistry equipment and tools, electrical contacts, catalytic converters, and laboratory equipment. Because a very limited amount of platinum is annually produced, it is a very rare substance, and is highly prized as a precious commodity. Because it is a heavy metal, it is non-toxic, although exposure to its derivative salts may cause health problems. Cisplatin, and several other compounds found in platinum are often used in chemotherapy to impede the growth of cancer cells.