You thought that platinum ring was expensive? Try Rhodium. At $9875 an ounce, even this somewhat obscure metal seems to be hitting an all-time-high, according to Resource Investor. Besides providing comic character Iron Man’s shrapnel sucking device (or whatever it is called), Rhodium plays a role in the jewelry industry. The plates, for example, in this Montblanc Star Nicolas Rieussec Monopusher watch are Rhodium, as are the bridges — not that I have too much familiarity with these applications, mind you.
In addition to jewelry applications, Rhodium is a key component to the automotive industry (once again in those high priced catalytic converters), electrical connections and in aircraft turbine engines, according to this recent International Business Times article. So how in the world can this obscure metal skyrocket in price? Well, to be honest, it’s the usual suspects — it has no product substitutions in catalytic converters used in diesel powered vehicles. Because Europeans like to drive diesel-powered vehicles, European demand remains extremely high. The methods to mine this metal are also very complex (it is often mixed with other ores). Add on top of that those same power shortages in South Africa affecting aluminum, ferro alloys and related precious metals and it’s no wonder that Rhodium has also skyrocketed this year.
But what goes up (and in this case, way up) must come down. High prices spur innovation, and I can’t help but think that engineers throughout the automotive world are looking at substitute products for Rhodium. I just can’t see a boom year in Montblanc watches, either. Can you?