May 31, 2010

Colombia: 1825: Observations on Platina

1823 : 1 Troy Oz platina (ore @ Choco)  = S$ 0.2704
c.1825 : 1 Troy Oz platina (ore @ Choco)  = S$ 0.5408

Citation: The Present state of Colombia: containing an account of the principal events...;  Officer late in the Colombian service (1828) p.309

An enormous penalty for smuggling platina, noted by Dr. Wollaston in London in November 1824 explains the Paris Price Spike of 1824/5. 

As news of Boussingault's discovery of a platina reef(October/November 1825) and news of the massive Russian discovery and yield reached Europe by the Spring of 1826, the European platina price started falling dramatically.  

Citation: The metallic wealth of the United States: described and compared with that ...  Josiah Dwight Whitney p.156

c.1836: J.-B. Boussingault returned to Paris in 1832; he apparently corresponded with Pierre Théodore Virlet d'Aoust for this article on precious metals in the Americas. 

Circa 1826, Boussingault estimated the platina yield to be ~8-9 quintales (libra hundredweight; 367.9 - 413.91 kgs) or 11,830 - 13,310 English Troy Ounces.

Virlet estimated abit higher, 10 quintals or 460 kgs (14,790 Troy Ounces).
Citation: Dictinnaire Pittoresque D'histoire Naturelle: Des Phenomenes de la Nature (1837)

Of potentially greater consequence, the British Crown ordered the fiat debasement of the Spanish Dollar in the Spring, 1825.  If British merchants dumped Spanish Dollars in the region as a result, it follows that commodity prices would settle higher in Spanish Dollars, lower in Sterling.  However, it's not clear that commodity market prices would rise/fall 33% or even approximate the exchange official rate change, which was varying throughout the West Indies for London bills and currencies.

Citation: The shipmaster's assistant, and owner's manual: cont. general information;  David Steel, et al. (1826) p.303

(The Spanish Pound @14.792 English Troy Ounces, and the Peso/Piastre on par with the US Silver dollar.)

According Cochrane, visiting in 1823, about ten quintales of platina (14,790 English Troy Ounces, or 460 kgs) were extracted annually from Chocó.  Dr. Jose Manuel Restrepo reported (1826) : "the amount of platinum that is exported is small, which sound data indicates cannot exceed 1,500 libras ( = 22,188 Troy Ounces or 690.14 Kgs) per year.  Platinum is worth 16 to 20 pesos per libra."

September/October, 1825 : 1 Troy Oz platina (ore @ Choco)  = S$ 1.35

Citation: Estudio sobre las minas de oro y plata de Colombia; Vicente Restrepo (1888) p.76

Noticias sobre las minas de Colombia (MS. 1826) recorded a platina price level much higher, at 16-20 pesos per libra castellano.   The Senior Restrepo's price appears to be the record high Colombian source price for the first half of the 19th Century.  The approximate months for his platina Price-Range can be ascertained from von Humboldt's Paris price-record (1825-6.)  

By December 1825, news of the enormous yield from the 1824 Ural placers discovery probably tempered European prices somewhat: widely reported, St. Petersburg prices fell by one-third in the Winter of 1825/6.

Between 1818-1825, the price of wholesale platina in Colombia rose from S$0.14 >  S$ 1.35. The reported Jamaican merchants' buyers' appears to have been double the official State monopoly price ($0.41 - S$0.54) c. 1821.  The Colombian platina export ban was noted incorrectly noted in Wollaston's Notebooks as "November 1824" ; this may date the price-surge in London instead .  The London platina price probably rose dramatically in that month; Paris Platinum price rose by 30% in December, 1824.

In the USA, the Tariff of 1822 included a 15% tax on both imported Platina/Platinum. This was consistent throughout the period, until 1832: 

Citation: The present state of Colombia, by an officer late in the Colombian service p.309

c. Summer, 1826

Citation: The present state of Colombia, by an officer late in the Colombian service p.309

Poor information for most literate people traveling, even traders on land, is illustrated by this 1822 account which reveals the utter chaos and permutations that passed for "world news." Metropolitan European merchants were exclusively focused on commercial matters of specific interest to their own business, or 'back home'; news, as such, was circumscribed by narrow professional bias and rampant provincialism.

Furthermore, platina prices were insignificant to published commercial intelligencers: the relevant global market was exceedingly small for those traders & their clients ( a few dozen people, globally.)  This commodity was largely ignored, irrelevant, except to refiners and their small pool of consumers.

c.1826: some experiments w/ Platinum alloys

1824: Peso fuerte +10% ; Peso ~ £0.17 - £0.21

1824 : 1 Troy Oz. Silver (manufactured @ Philadelphia)  = USD$ 1.51 - 1.57

Platinum Prices in the 19th C.

Russia, 1828-44: Russian Soverign Price Gold-Platinum-Silver

1827-40: 1 Troy Ounce Gold (Russian valuation) = USD$ 19.20
1827-40: 1 Troy Ounce Platinum (Russian valuation) = USD$ 7.02
1827-40: 1 Troy Ounce Silver (Russian valuation) = USD$ 1.30

The introduction of platinum coinage, of largely unknown and poorly understood value, certainly cost the Russian Mint dearly. As the largest buyer of platina & producer of Platinum from 1824-1840, the Russian government unavoidably 'set the global price' for Platinum, and created an epic price distortion.

Among financial counselors, Russia's ongoing monetary crisis (falling value of assignats) prompted a radical statist solution to both paper inflation and the dearth of Silver. This sovereign response did not necessarily exaggerate the notional currency & intrinsic values of the metals, but the introduction of a Platinum standard failed for several important reasons.

A few points to note about the abortive tri-metallic monetary experiment:

1) As a local currency, Russian merchants and peasants generally viewed the new coins suspiciously. The mystical psychology of money was probably the decisive factor, but ignorant peasants could hardly appreciate the intrinsic value of a much rarer metal if professional bankers were also uncertain. Nevertheless, Platinum money failed almost immediately: the Russian people preferred paper of declining value!

2) The official rate was insupportable almost immediately, the coins disappeared from circulation for various reasons. Though illegal, there were persistent reports of smuggling platinum out of country.

Citation: Chemistry and metallurgy, as applied to the study and practice of dental surgery, By Aaron Snowden Piggot (1844) p.425

Citation: Cours d'économie politique fait au Collège de France, Vol. 3 By Michel Chevalier(1850), p.173


1827: 1 Troy Ounce platina (ore @ St. Petersburg) = 21.88 руб (Banco)

1828-44: Consistent Russian official intrinsic valuation

1819 - 1844: Total Yield of 1,125,276/1,053,289 ozt worth 7 mln руб
1819-1844: 1 Troy Oz. Platinum (SPb est.) = 6.6458 руб


c.1828/9: Russian PM ratios: Where 1 Фунт =13.166 ozt,

1830: 1 Troy Oz. Gold (fine @ St. Petersburg) = 25.2953 руб
1830: 1 Troy Oz. Silver (fine @ St. Petersburg) = 1.7279 руб
1830: 1 Troy Oz. Platinum (fine @ St. Petersburg) = 9.0126 руб
Citation: Jahrbuecher der Geschichte und Staatskunst, Pt 1 (1830) p.34

According to this report in 1855, refiners debased the ingot.  If "immediately" is to be inferred correctly, the debasement occurred around the time of demonetization.


Coinage failed for "the very considerable variations of the metal price and impossibility of fixing a permanent monetary value on the coin."

UK/Russia, 1874 - 1907: Crude vs. Ingot Prices

After refining Iron, Copper and debris, the PGM purity of Russian platina would be ~3% Iridium in 'hard ingot.'

PGM Blagodat Niznhi-Tagilsk
Pt 92.7% 93.4%
Ir 1.0% 0.1%
Os 0.1% 0.0%
Ru 0.0% 0.0%
Pd 0.1% 1.5%
Rh 3.3% 5.0%
Iron 0.0% 0.0%
Cu 0.0% 0.0%
Au 0.0% 0.0%
Osmiridium 2.8% 0.1%

Citation: Minerals Yearbook 1913 p.451

The Canadian Mining Institute (USD$?):

Russia, 1823

In the 1820s, the Russian government and foreign trade merchants never paid £ 1.- 2. per Troy Ounce for platina, anywhere. Poor estimations on Gold-Standard Rouble forex (1908) should be corrected to contemporary Banco (1822-1827 rates.)

Citation: Transactions of the American Institute of Mining, etc. Vol. 39 ; American Institute of Mining, Metallurgical, and Petroleum Engineers p.296

1908: 1 руб Gold = £ 0.1057 (USD$ 0.5145)
1822: 7.97 руб Banco @ £ 0.0408 = £ 0.3485
1823: 12.44 руб Banco @ £ 0.0400 = £ 0.4926
1824: 15.17 руб Banco @ £ 0.0396 = £ 0.6003
1825: 17.52 руб Banco @ £ 0.0428 = £ 0.8493
1827: 15.00 руб Banco @ £ 0.0425 = £ 0.6445

USA, 1912: Ingot & Crucible Prices, Compared

1912: 1 Troy Ounce platina (Urals, source, 83% ore) ~ USD$ 37.05
1912: 1 Troy Oz. platina (SPb, export, 83% ore) ~ USD$ 37.08
1912: 1 Troy Oz. platina (Colombian import, ore) = USD$ 33.07

1912: 1 Troy Ounce Platinum (NY mkt: refined ingot) = USD$ 45.55
1912: 1 Troy Oz. platina (US ore, ~50%) ~ USD$ 21.
1912: 1 Troy Oz. platina (US ore, at purity) = USD$ 41.-42.
1912: 1 Troy Oz. Platinum (Total First Base expense) ~ USD$ 4.50

1912: NY Monthly Mkt Prices for Refined Ingot

1912: Russian Ingot at St. Petersburg and New York, for comparison.

Colombian imported platina, at the intrinsic rate

Citation: The Jewelers' Circular, Vol. 85, Issue 2 (11/1/1922) p.77

US platina sold at intrinsic rate, 

Citation: Minerals Yearbook 1913 p.447

Platinum in jewelry cost more, for the Iridium


January, 1912:  Iridium @ $63.

Professor Keller's lecture was delivered in early April, 1912. Ingot Platinum was quoted at this rate March-December. Bishop's correspondence probably includes (January-) March prices.

March, 1912: 1 Troy Ounce Platinum (NY mkt: ingot, 85%) = USD$ 45.50
c. February, 1912: 1 Troy Oz. Platinum (refined, producer) = USD$ 46.65
c. February, 1912: 1 Troy Oz. Platinum (semi-mfg, producer) = USD$ 48.21
c. February, 1912: 1 Troy Oz. Platinum (mfg, producer) = USD$ 52.875

October, 1912: 1 Troy Oz. Platinum (NY mkt: refined ingot) = USD$ 45.50
October, 1912: 1 Troy Oz. Iridium (NY mkt: refined ingot) = USD$ 68. - 70.

  Citation: Engineering and Mining Journal, Vol. 94 (Nov. 12, 1912) p.873

October 1912:

Oct/Nov, 1912: 1 Troy Oz. Platinum (NY mkt: refined ingot) = USD$ 45.50
Oct/Nov, 1912: 1 Troy Oz. Platinum (NY: ~4% Ir) = USD$ 48.

Citation: Engineering and Mining Journal, Vol. 94 (1912) p.913