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Diverging price trends of 'white' precious metals

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There is a lot of complaining going on about ‘white precious metals’. In some cases producers are struggling to remain profitable, let alone to stay afloat. In other cases industrial consumers are trying to find ways to reduce the amount needed of those expensive metals having even multiplied in price.

Presently, price graphs are covering 2015 till the present day. Former articles have been focusing on the price trends in the early 21st century. See for example: Platinum, Palladium and Silver relative to Gold (Mar 2016) or Platinum group metals: a story of scarcity and industrial needs. You can find a complete list of precious metals prices related articles on the page: Precious metals (non-mining related) (4).


Silver is known since antiquity and it has been used for minting money since thousands of years. Jewelry for the common folk and cutlery (silverware in the US) for the affluent were a few of the early industrial uses. Photography during the 19th and 20th century has been using a lot of silver, though silver recovery from spent fixing agents made up for much of the need.

Now solar panels, medical applications and electronic devices take up most silver. Meanwhile, the minting of investment bullion and commemorative coins has replaced the former minting of circulation silver coins (though not to a comparable volume).

The gold to silver ratio was extremely important when a bimetallic standard was used. Gold was valued about 16 times higher than silver. Under the gold standard (from the mid 19th century till the early 1930′s in many Western countries), silver coins have de facto become fiat coins. At mintage, their face value far exceeded the silver metal value. Because of this, silver coins remained currency for decades after gold coins had been withdrawn.

Silver price and gold-to-silver ratio:

The price of the metal (blue) on the left axis and the Au:Ag ratio (red) on the right axis

The silver price has been struggling for much of the observed period. The metal hit a $14/oz bottom repeatedly and was unable to keep above $20/oz. Silver broke down during the early days of the 2020 pandemic and lost ground far more than gold did. The Au:Ag ratio peaked at 125 on Mar 18, 2020. Monetary and fiscal largesse drove up both stock markets and precious metals in the summer of 2020. Silver nearly reached $30/Oz on a closing basis. When inflation eventually surged, the FED started tightening and precious metals weakened. Again silver slid more than gold. The Au:Ag ratio bounced up from the mid 60′s to the mid 80′s. Silver is again quoting below $20/Oz. But for how long?


The second horror story. Historically platinum had been quoting higher than gold in the 20th century and for most of the first decade of the 21st century. ‘White gold’ didn’t however recover quite as swiftly after financial crisis. When gold retreated after the 2011 price surge, white precious metals leveraged down the gold price. Platinum kept struggling, with the Au:Pt ratio now continuously posting above one. Once an anomaly, it became the norm.

The price of the metal (blue) on the left axis and the Au:Pt ratio (red) on the right axis

During 2015 platinum continuously keeps weakening more than did gold. During the 2016 boom/bust of precious metals, Platinum can eventually keep up but after the blow off, platinum keeps struggling, eventually dipping below $900/Oz and staying there for about 12 months. Some quotes below $800/Oz didn’t even fuel any significant recovery rally. The Au:Pt had crept up to 1.4 and panned to stay there. As gold started strengthening in 2019, platinum followed reluctantly with Au:Pt now exceeding 1.6. The onset of the pandemic proved detrimental for platinum. The price plummeted below $600/Oz with Au:Pt peaking at 2.5.

Though platinum recovered after the March 2020 frenzy, the ratio remained elevated for much of 2020. Spring 2021 brought about a meaningful recovery to above $1200/Oz. Au:Pt didn’t however dip below 1.4. The days of expensive platinum aren’t back yet. Platinum still quotes below $1000/Oz, while the Au:Pt ratio posts near 1.75.

Platinum had historically been used as a catalyzer material for car exhaust filters. It has largely been displaced by palladium for normal gasoline engines. Though palladium now is far more expensive than platinum, producers seem reluctant to reverse engineer their catalyzers. Platinum is used for catalyzers for diesel (gasoil) cars and trucks. This application is using less than 50% of total production. There is a sustainable economy mantra, with massive platinum use for the production of green hydrogen and for fuel cells producing electricity. Investors consider it as unlikely, uncertain or too distant.


If prices of silver and platinum are more volatile than that of gold, palladium takes volatility to level 3. Almost all of the palladium produced finds its way into the exhaust filter catalyzers. More severe emission limits require more performant filters hence more need for palladium. 

Palladium price and gold-to-palladium ratio:

Below the graph of palladium and the gold to palladium ratio. Note that the bid/ask spread average is used for all graphs. The bid/ask gap is far higher (now $150/Oz) than for other current precious metals.
The price of the metal (blue) on the left axis and the Au:Pd ratio (red) on the right axis

Even recovery from spent catalyzers can hardly add enough to demand. Potential shortage spurs speculation with some palladium getting stockpiled. 2018 ends the days of relatively affordable palladium, with the metal constantly more expensive than gold from 2019 onward.

The below graph details the latter part of the graph, with high but volatile palladium prices and a low Au:Pd ratio. At palladium peaks, an ounce of gold only bought 0.6 Oz of palladium. After the pandemic, palladium surged to its highest price ever. 

The price of the metal (blue) on the left axis and the Au:Pd ratio (red) on the right axis

Supply chain disruptions in electronics for vehicle usage temporarily kept a lid on car production hence the need for catalyzers by the end of 2021 (making prices for used vehicles spike). The palladium dip below $1800/Oz was short lived. In fact it was followed by an absolute peak price of over $3000/Oz.

Electrification of the car fleet may however imply the end of palladium shortage, let alone its need for catalyzers. Again, investors are not looking this far forward.

Finally the Palladium to Platinum ratio is very illustrative of the diverging price trend.

Until well into 2017, platinum was more expensive than palladium, as it always had been historically. The palladium surge was however not mirrored by platinum. The ratio spiked above 3 as platinum dipped to $600/Oz during the pandemic and failed to recovery as rapidly as did palladium.

An ounce of palladium still buys two ounces of platinum.


Apart from iridium and osmium, this is the rarest element in the periodic table. In any case the rarest metal with a meaningful industrial use. Rhodium can prevent silver mirrors in telescopes from blackening under the influence of oxygen and traces of Sulphur compounds.

Moreover it is used in three-way catalyzers (Pt/Pd/Rh) where it effectively reduces the amount of nitrogen oxides in exhaust gases. While still affordable during the 2016 gold boom/bust, The price of Rhodium has surged to the most expensive of precious metals. 

Rhodium pricing is cumbersome, by lack of suppliers. The indicative bid/ask are now $2000 apart. Because of this, I have been using the bid-ask average in all graphs.

The below graph shows the Au:Rh ratio. From affordable Rhodium (with an ounce of gold buying 1 to 2 Oz of Rhodium or more), we morphed to a situation of extremely expensive Rhodium, where at its peak, 10 Oz of gold were required to purchase an ounce of Rhodium.

Au:Rh ratio from 2015 till now. Early observations are isolated monthly averages.

The below graph shows the daily Rhodium price and the Au:Rh ratio in the latter part of the graph. Rhodium prices overtake Palladium both in price and volatility. Unlike stock markets, volatility is not a synonym for prices cratering.

The pandemic caused a short lived plunge of the Rhodium price to a bid/ask level of $2000/$4000. It didn’t last very long till the pre-pandemic peak was overtaken. During 2021 Rhodium surged to an extremely high peak of $28000/Oz. The current price level ($14000/Oz) seems sustainable over some weeks.



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