Let’s talk about Osmium

Osmium – the hardest of the eight precious metals, the one with the highest density of all metallic elements on earth, and with an annual production of just 350kg also the rarest of them all. Why is it we aren’t hearing about it more?

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While doing research for a paper I presented at the IPMI’s recent seminar in Budapest (Hungary) earlier this month, the first apparent issue was: is Osmium a precious metal in the first place? It certainly checks some of the boxes – precious metals, generally speaking, are very conductive, but another criteria is that they do not oxidize in normal atmosphere and temperature. Osmium is known to oxidize in contact with air, and to form Osmium tetroxide which is highly poisonous on top of this embarrassing effect. It also has a strong odor. Which is why Os used to live on the fringes of the precious metals world, used to harden alloys (such as in golden fountain pen tips), as a contrast agent for tissue samples in scanning electron microscopy and a few others. Osmium, then, is a bit like Pluto, formerly known as “Planet Pluto”. It hangs around with the rest of the gang but isn’t really a member of the club. Or is it?

Just when I was beginning to regret having taken on this topic, the story took a dramatic turn. I came across the “Osmium Institut zur Inverkehrbringung und Zertifizierung von Osmium GmbH” (Institute for the distribution and certification of Osmium Ltd). Let’s call them OSI, if you don’t mind, although the acronym had a different connotation in the past. The company, with head office in Germany, developed a process to crystallize osmium, rendering it not only completely harmless but also quite beautiful. The crystals are already being used in the production of upscale jewelry and wrist watches, and they have been produced as 1 ounce discs for the collector’s and investment market.

While osmium crystals sparkle almost like diamonds, they cannot be industrially grown and are much rarer in quantity. Ingo Wolf, general manager of OSI, explained: “To mine a single ounce of osmium, 10,000 tons of metal ore, usually platinum ore, are required. Concentrations have been declining for years and there will be a point in the foreseeable future where we simply run out of osmium because of this”. If and when this happens,  the increased use of osmium in jewelry applications would lead to even higher rarity of the metal.

The caveat? Making the crystals is expensive, and the yield is low. While an ounce of “regular” osmium powder trades at around US$ 425 / ozt in today’s market, the crystals sell for around EUR 850 / g (approx. US$ 30,000 / ozt). This elevates them to a new product which has found its own market, much like diamonds consist of carbon.

Will osmium become a rare commodity for investors? That would require a market, and it remains to be seen if one will develop. With lessons to be learned from the fate of the diamond and the Bitcoin markets, there should certainly be room for a rare tangible asset that cannot be artificially reproduced.

Disclaimer: being a curious person, and passionate about technology metals, I have agreed to assist OSI with exploring business models for osmium investments since the conference. So expect to hear more once new milestones have been reached.

IPMI Europe: Seminar in Budapest in November

Here is another event that will be hard to miss: the European Chapter of the International Precious Metals Institute (IPMI) will be hosting its annual seminar in Budapest / Hungary from November 12 – 13 this year. I had the pleasure of attending last year’s seminar in Prague which was sold out. Presentations were very good (not just because I was speaking), and there was plenty of time to get to meet people who don’t typically attend the IPMI’s U.S. based summer conferences.

If you are pondering to attend I suggest you decide quickly because space is, once again, limited. Event title is “7 Precious Metals” and – spoiler alert – I will be talking about something completely different.

Head over to http://www.ec-ipmi.org/index.php/next-events-title/8-events/16-budapest-2018-seminar to learn more, and to register.

Hope to see you all there!

Don’t miss it: LBMA / LPPM Conference in Boston

IPMI’s friends of LBMA / LPPM will be hosting a conference in the U.S. later this year. This will be a high-caliber event with many interesting presentations to see, and great people to meet. There will also be a trade show, and IPMI will be an event sponsor. Don’t miss it! Dates are October 28-30 and the venue is the Boston Park Plaza. Head over to www.lbma.org.uk/events for more information, and to register.

Now available: Videos of IPMI’s “Precious Metals and Mobility” Symposium

In case you missed this event, there is now a convenient and inexpensive way to watch most presentations and the podium discussions of our “Precious Metals and Mobility” Symposium which took place in New Brunswick, NJ, a little over a month ago.

Kitco News provided news coverage for the event, and created the recordings for IPMI free of charge. All proceedings will benefit the IPMI, a charitable organization. Please follow this link to get to Kitco’s event page:

https://insider.kitco.com/product/ipmi-symposium-ticket-pass/

And if that’s not enough, please check out my interview with Daniela Cambone on YouTube:

IPMI Symposium Update

Hi everyone,

It’s finally happening! Tonight, we’ll kick off the “Precious Metals and Mobility” Symposium in New Brunswick, New Jersey. A few updates:

We know several of you are not having fun traveling today with the storm going on in our area. So please note that the Welcome Reception tonight has been moved to 7pm (was 6pm), and we’ll save you a drink.

Also, please view or download the final version of the event program here. Note the times, rooms, and the one speaker change on Tuesday.

We look forward to seeing everyone at The Heldrich tonight.

Precious Metals & Mobility Symposium – Cutoff Date for special rates is March 26

It’s finally happening: IPMI’s first symposium on the transformation of the automotive industry will start April 16. We have an exciting slate of speakers covering many different aspects of this topic. Sign up now as space is limited (seriously, the room will hold 90 people max).

Kitco News will provide news coverage, and it looks like we’ll have Tesla Model 3 to check out on Wednesday. Don’t miss out – hope to see you next month in East Brunswick.

Click here for the full program and registration info:  https://1drv.ms/b/s!ApQo82MBAeM2ioRHU7FPGghRzlvtEg

 

Precious Metals and Mobility Symposium

Mark your Calendars:

An IPMI Symposium on the future role of Platinum Group Metals in the Automotive Industry

When: 16-18 April, 2018

Where: The Heldrich Hotel and Conference Center, New Brunswick / NJ – USA

Details and registration info will be available shortly on the IPMI’s website.