In addition to gold, silver, platinum and palladium also play a key role in the Swiss precious metal industry in a variety of industrial sectors.
Gold is the most malleable and the softest of all metals. It is often alloyed with other metals to alter the properties of the pure metal, in particular in the jewellery, dental or electronic industries. It is an important component in almost all consumer electronics, such as audio equipment, mobile phones and digital cameras. Gold is used in decorative elements and is to be found on glass or ceramics. Due to its chemical stability, gold does not become dull or corroded and remains an excellent conductor of heat and electricity.
In the world market, purchasers of gold come from all sorts of commercial sectors. Gold consumption is greatest in the jewellery industry (43%), followed by the investment sector, consisting of investments in gold bars and gold coins at 29%. In addition, the gold reserves in national banks account for 12% of gold consumption. The remainder is used by the electronic industry and for dental applications.
Silver is the best electrical and thermal conductor of all metals, but unlike gold, it corrodes quickly. Silver, which is slightly harder than gold and has a lower melting temperature, can be used in a wide range of applications. The high reflectivity of this precious metal permits it to be used in mirrors. The unique photo-reactive properties of silver compounds are ideal for use in the photographic industry. Silver, just like gold, is very popular in jewellery, as well as being found in all types of electronic products and in the chemical and electronic industries, and is a valued investment vehicle.
Platinum is also an excellent conductor and sufficiently soft to be processed into thin wires and complex shapes. Its high melting temperature and resistance to corrosion permit it to be used under even the most difficult conditions. Platinum is therefore the ideal material for applications at high temperatures. Since platinum is also an outstanding catalyst, it is widely used to enable chemical reactions between various substances. It is used extensively in the car industry as a catalytic converter.
Palladium has a lot in common with the properties of platinum despite being less dense and having a lower melting temperature. It is widely used for catalytic converters and in the chemical and electronic industry.