January 17, 2011

UK, 1825: "Gornoï Journal" reference, Joyce's Catalogue; Griffin mention

If the London market followed and matched the 1825 Paris Peak, the refined Platinum Price in Sterling peaked around November/December 1825.   There appears to have been another London Platinum shortage/ price surge in early 1828.   Other data shows the London price subsiding thereafter.

I was unable to find any other confirmation or approximation for this widely republished 1819-27 data from an early 20th Century Platinum Price Table from a Russian source:

Adjusted to the known 1827 Russian miner cost-price
1822: 1 Troy Ounce Ural Crude 70%, Spot ~ £ 0.2577
1823: 1 Ozt. Ural Crude 70%, Spot ~ £ 0.4002
1824: 1 Ozt. Ural Crude 70%, Spot ~ £ 0.4584

1825: 1 Ozt. Ural Crude 70%, Spot ~ £ 0.5985
1827: 1 Ozt. Ural Crude 70%, Spot ~ £ 0.4584

1825: 1 Ozt. Platinum (Manufactured, in London)  ~ £ 2.42 (USD$ 11.68)

There is an approximate London price for platina cited by contemporary platinum specialists in St. Petersburg.

Summer? 1825: 1 Ozt. platina ("Brazil" Choco ore, 75%)  = £ 1.o5 (USD$ 5.07) 
1825: 1 Ozt. Pt (Choco Ore @.999)  = £ 1.40 (USD$ 6.76)
1825: 1 Ozt. Platinum (UK Producer Cost)  ~ £ 1.50 (USD$ 7.24)  

Citation: Bulletin des sciences naturelles et de géologie (1828) p.321

Several points, to clarify:

1) Professor Kemmerer's article in the "Gornoï Journal" (No.1, 1826) referred to a major Demidov discovery in 1825, not 1826.  The article must have been written in October-November, after caravans arrived in St. Petersbourg (November?) and for publication in the next January 1826 monthly issue.   Subsequently, European journalists mistakenly identify '1826' and that erroneous date was widely republished for the discovery. 

2) Implicitly, reference to a commodity price in London should have been current (in the same year in which the article was written) but was likely delayed by several months.  Therefore, Kemmerer cites a market price for platina in the Summer (or perhaps Spring) of 1825. 

3) In 1825, the Colombian embargo on platina export was still in force; for a smuggling merchant, "Brazilian platina" was a fig-leaf to guard one's business interests.  Contemporary sources repeat this false locale, unwittingly.  Quite simply, there was no Brazilian platina ore so fine as the Colombian or Uralian (Brazilian platina ore was very low quality, ~55% Pt.)

4) While the weight-price is unspecified, the undated London unit-price was neither avoirdupois nor troy pound.   Per (troy) 'ounce' is understood; factors supporting that supposition include:

a) the intent to coin in Bogota at an intrinsic rate of $6./oz was well-known since 1824,
b) despite an export-ban, British merchants were then smuggling at rate over $16.-20. libra at the Choco source or Carthagena ,
c) the Russian platina market had been monopolized by the Russian Crown since 1824, and
d) the 1825 Paris Price for platina exceeded $3./oz English Troy.

This might have been the highest price indicated since the putative Jamaica sale of 1802, but it's by no means clear this was the highest market price recorded for platina in 1824/5.

Reported in the First half, 1825:  "The best grains of platina, of an equal weight an size, brought from Brazil to London, were paid at a guinea (£ 1.10 ; Fr 27.) "

Later specialists noted the 'Brazil' error, which may have been a tacit distortion to hide the actual source for illicit cargoes (smuggled ore, embargoed platina, etc.)  There was no Brazilian mines with >80% pure Platinum in grains - "rich Platina" came from Colombia & the Urals.

The 1827 Edition offered no further price data.

Citation: Bulletin des sciences naturelles et de géologie p.41

1825: "High Price" cited yet.

Citation: Chemical recreations: a compendium of experimental chemistry  By John Joseph Griffin (5th Ed., 1825)

Foil: Paper-thin, 2" x 0.5" or 1 sq in.

1825: Joyce's Platina Lamp was 75% more expensive than the normal chemical lamp.  Presumably, the Platinum wick accounts for the price difference.

Citation: Practical chemical mineralogy; or, Concise and easy methods ... for readily ... (1825) p.379

Circa 1825: high price persists

January 1825: fervent speculation on the London markets drove some imported commodities up 100% in two months (December 1824-March 1825.)

November, 1825: This price estimation is likely a forex calculation for the Charles Tennnant's average British cost in Pound Sterling for his Platinum still purchases over a number of years, not a current US imported price nor recent price quote.  The replacement cost in 1825 would have been far higher; Breant was then charging Fr. 46 ;

November, 1825: 1 Troy Oz. Platinum (mfg, still)  > £ 1.o4 (USD$ 5.00)

Citation: American journal of science, Vol. 10 1826 p.360

Erroneous republishing substituted Pounds Sterling for Dollars, inflating the price nearly five-fold! 
Citation: Mecanics' Weekly, July 1826 p.134

France, c. Late June 1825: Russian Osmiridium analyzed & described.  (Another sample, a Russian-manufactured bar of platina, was 65% Pt, 20% Ir and 15% Other.)  This description implies the specimen was still rare, price dear, market scarce.

50% Iron
25% Iridium
20% Platinum
5% Other 

1825: this Russia volume (in a travel series) mentions the platina discovery.

In July 1825 “foreign funds” (as the equities issued by foreign governments were known is
London) began to slide. In December 1825, the collapse became part of a financial storm
known as “the panic”. It reached its apex on December 11th when a run on London banks led
to numerous failures. The Bank of England came close to suspend specie payments, and Latin American and South-European securities plummeted (Figure 2). The collapse reverberated on financial intermediaries, some of whom had underwritten large amounts of sovereign debt such as Goldschmidt (which went under in February 1826)39 and Barclay, Herring Richardson and Co. (which crumbled in July). 40

1826: Presumably referring to news of Bolivar's "decisive battle" at Ayacucho, received in London two months later: news fed speculation on the money-markets.

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