Who Discovered Platinum : If you look at various sources – both online and in print – you are going to come across a reference to Antonio de Ulloa quite a few times. He is credited with discovering this metal in South America around the year 1735.

Other sources say the correct year was actually 1748. It was named platinum because it was first dubbed ‘platina’ by the Spanish. That word was meant to be derogatory and meant ‘little silver’. It commonly came up when mining for gold, and they mistakenly thought it was a rough or underdeveloped form of gold.

Platinum is a versatile metal that has a very high melting point, is resistant to corrosion, and makes a great piece of jewelry to boot. It has many uses in the medical world, and has been working for many years to help keep vehicle emissions of carbon dioxide down.

This is a metal that has a wide range of great uses, but is generally hard to find and very expensive. If you look around for the answer as to who discovered platinum, you are going to find a few different answers.

History Of Platinum

Though Antonio de Ulloa is the most commonly sited person when a discussion of who discovered platinum arises, there are other reports that he was not the first to find this metal, and they Spanish were not the first to put it to good use. The Indians of South American have been using it for over 1000 years, mostly as an adornment, but had no idea what it was. They may have thought it a version of gold or silver that had new properties.

Other sources date back much further than the recorded Spanish discovery of platinum in South America. A few different sources claim that this precious metal was found on objects that have been dated as far back as 700 BC. The Casket of Thebes is said to have been adorned with platinum, along with some gold and silver as well. It is not known if they knew it was a different metal, or if they thought it to be a mix of gold and silver occurring naturally.

When searching for who discovered platinum, one might also come upon a name that predates Ulloa by almost two hundred years. Some recorded sources claim that the first European to record the existence of platinum was an Italian named Julius Caesar Scaliger around the year 1557. His mention of the metal was from the area around Mexico and Panama. His writings referred to a metal being used in jewelry type items, and the description matches that of platinum.

Early Supplies Of Platinum

Up until the early 1820’s it is said that Colombia was the sole source for platinum. As Columbia’s supply’s began to decline large deposits were uncovered in Russia in the Ural mountains, this deposit was the major source for platinum for some 100 years to follow.

The next area of major platinum supplies occurred in Canada in 1888, platinum was uncovered in the nickel/copper rich ores of Ontario in the Sudbury region. This region continued to be the a major source from the first world war to the mid 1950’s.

South Africa brings our next significant discovery of platinum, in 1924 farmers discovered platinum nuggets in streambeds. Shortly after this discovery geologist Hans Merensky unearthed 2 large deposits approximately 100 kilometers in length each. These 2 deposits were named the Bushveld Igneous Complex and today their mines supply 3/4 of the platinum to the world today.

Bushveld Platinum Complex

What anyone decides is up to them, or if in school, might be up to what the teachers thinks is the best reference. When deciding who discovered platinum, one could go by the first time it was used, as with the casket, or the first time it was mentioned, as with Mr. Scaliger. However, many like to go by Mr. Ulloa as this was the time it was first named.


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