This is what I love most about the precious metals industry: more than 30 years in the business and the learning never stops. Back in 2017, I got myself into a pickle by promising the European Chapter of IPMI a paper on Osmium for their annual conference. At this point, I didn’t even like Osmium which had caused me several headaches back in my Degussa (the original one) days. The market is small, applications are few and to make matters worse, the metal forms a toxic substance when exposed to air, raising the question whether it is as much a precious metal as Pluto was a planet.
Things changed when I heard of a company offering osmium in a crystallized form, which isn’t just harmless in natural atmosphere, but also quite pretty to look at. My continued research after the conference, together with featuring the crystallized product in my paper sparked feedback from several industry contacts prompting me to revise some of the assumptions that I originally made.
Here is what I learned:
- Osmium is not just co-mined with other platinum group metals (PGMs) in South Africa. Significant quantities are also co-mined with nickel in several places around the world. Increased nickel demand for battery-electric vehicles will inevitably lead to more above-ground osmium.
- There already are substantial above-ground inventories of Osmium in unprocessed form (sometimes in conjunction with iridium as so-called “Osmiridium”) waiting for a mainstream application.
- Combining the information received from said industry contacts it must be assumed that the annual consumption of Os worldwide today is between 800 and 1,000kg.
Positioning Os as a novel, non-synthetic diamond replacement in jewelry applications therefore remains a convincing proposition if it can be accomplished. So far, the concerns I had raised in my blog when first reporting about the idea remain unaddressed. It would appear that a more compelling marketing strategy combined with industrial scale production are required to make it happen.
In the meantime, I will keep watching, and learning.