The underlying value of a precious metal is determined by its rarity and the unique demand for utilizing the metal. The price of precious metals fluctuates depending on public sentiment; for example, the price of silver surged in April 2011, because when investors are uncertain about the economy, they turn to assets perceived as safest. Investors can purchase precious metals through precious metals dealers and through exchange-traded funds.
Rhodium and Platinum
You may be surprised to learn that rhodium, although little known, is the most valuable precious metal, according to Curiosity.com. Rhodium is found in automobile catalytic converters, which convert carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides and hydrocarbons into carbon dioxide, water and nitrogen. The average price of rhodium for the period of May 2010 to May 2011 was $2,379 per ounce. In comparison, the second most precious metal, platinum, averaged $1,678 per ounce for the same period.
Gold, Iridium and Palladium
Gold, which has many industrial uses, is the third most precious metal and was trading at $1,500 per ounce as of May 2011. Iridium, used in pens and compasses, is the fourth most precious metal and was trading at $1,000 per ounce as of May 2011. Palladium is the fifth most precious metal and was trading at $750 per ounce as of May 2011. Palladium is a component in catalytic converters, used in the medical, engineering and dental fields.
Osmium and Ruthenium
Osmium is the sixth most precious metal with a value of $400 per ounce as of May, 2011. Osmium is used to harden platinum for electrical contacts and filaments. Ruthenium is the seventh most precious metal, trading at $180 per ounce as of May 2011. Ruthenium is primarily used as a hardening alloy and improves titanium's corrosive resistance.
Rhenium and Silver
Rhenium is the eighth most precious metal and is traded in kilograms rather than troy ounces. The metal was worth $118 per ounce as of May 2011. Rhenium is used in high-temperature turbine engines because of its high melting point. Silver, the ninth most precious metal, was trading at $41 per ounce as of May 2011. Silver is used in dentistry, the medical field and electronics including cell phones.
Indium is the 10th most valuable precious metal and is sold in kilograms. One kilogram is equivalent to about 35 oz. Indium has averaged between $500 and $800 per kilogram during 2011. The metal has a wide range of uses in commercial electronics products such as flat panel screens, laptops and cell phones.