The Real Reason Iridium Is More Valuable Than Gold

Gold. Platinum. Diamond. Valuable materials sought after for their luster, beauty, and more practical applications. Yet according to Economic Times, there is one rare metal that puts its shinier brethren to shame, however, exploding in value this year and giving anyone lucky enough to invest in it a payout three times larger than gold: iridium.

Iridium is one of the rarest precious metals on the planet, only mined as a byproduct of palladium and platinum. As such, the supply is extremely limited, and it is not commonly traded. There are only a handful of traders who sell iridium ingots and investors immediately send their purchases into production for use in things like electronic screens. On top of that, production issues can affect the already meager supply, and when demand suddenly increases, so too does the price of the metal. Over the span of three months from January to March 2021, iridium prices rose 131%, compared to an 85% increase for popular cryptocurrency Bitcoin.

Production issues are lowering supply

So what is this magical metal that became three times as valuable as gold? Unlike its yellow cousin, iridium is extremely hard, durable, and resistant to corrosion, with a very high melting point (via Hindustan Times). Various industries, from electronics and chemicals to automobiles and cell phones, all want their hands on the silvery-blue metal. Iridium can be seen in car spark plugs, in electrical screens, in smartphones, and even as a water disinfectant on the ballast of ships.

About ⅘ of the world's entire supply of iridium is mined from South Africa, and issues from that country are greatly contributing to the rise in price and shrink in supply. Technical problems with a platinum mining group combined with complications arising from the coronavirus pandemic and lockdowns have tightened supply. Not only is demand for iridium high, so too is the clamor for platinum, and since the two are mined together, a call for one is the call for another. It might not be as pretty as gold or platinum, but iridium's variety of uses without a variety of ways to purchase it make it one of the most valuable materials in the world — at least temporarily.