Platinum occurs in nature in alluvial deposits associated with gold and some rare metals, generally in fine metallic grains, and, occasionally, in nuggets. It is a grey metal with a high specific gravity, 21.5 when pure and about 18.0 in native specimens. It is fusible only at the highest temperature, and is not acted on by acids.
It is dissolved by warm aqua regia, forming a solution of “ platinic chloride,” H2PtCl6. This substance on evaporation remains as a brownish red deliquescent mass; on drying at 300° C. it is converted into platinous chloride, PtCl2, and becomes insoluble, and at a higher temperature it is converted into platinum. All platinum compounds yield the metal in this way. Platinic chloride combines with other chlorides to form double salts, of which the ammonic and potassic platino-chlorides are the most important.
Platinum alone is not soluble in nitric acid; but when alloyed with other metals which dissolve in this acid it too is dissolved ; so that in gold parting, for example, if platinum was present, some, or perhaps the whole of it would go into solution with the silver. Such alloys, however, when treated with hot sulphuric acid leave the platinum in the residue with the gold.
Platinum is detected when in the metallic state by its physical characters and insolubility in acids. In alloys it may be found by dissolving them in nitric acid or in aqua regia, evaporating with hydrochloric acid, and treating the filtrate with ammonic chloride and alcohol. A heavy yellow precipitate marks its presence.
The assay of bullion, or of an alloy containing platinum, may be made as follows: Take 0.2 gram of the alloy and an equal weight of fine silver, cupel with sheet lead, and weigh. The loss in weight, after deducting that of the silver added, gives the weight of the base metals, copper, lead, &c. Flatten the button and part by boiling with strong sulphuric acid for several minutes. When cold, wash, anneal, and weigh. The weight is that of the platinum and gold. The silver may be got by difference. Recupel the metal thus got with 12 or 15 times its weight of silver, flatten and part the gold with nitric acid in the usual way (see under Gold), and the platinum will dissolve. The gold may contain an alloy of osmium and iridium ; if so, it should be weighed and treated with aqua regia. The osmiridium will remain as an insoluble residue, which can be separated and weighed. Its weight deducted from that previously ascertained will give the weight of the gold.
When the platinum only is required, the alloy must be dissolved by prolonged treatment with aqua regia, the solution evaporated to dryness, and the residue extracted with water. The solution thus obtained is treated with ammonic chloride in large excess and with some alcohol. A sparingly soluble yellow ammonic platinum chloride is thrown down, mixed, perhaps, with the corresponding salts of other metals of the platinum group. Gold will be in solution. The solution is allowed to stand for some time, and then the precipitate is filtered off, washed with alcohol, dried, and transferred (wrapped in the filter paper) to a weighed crucible. It is ignited, gently at first, as there is danger of volatilising some of the platinum chloride, and afterwards intensely. With large quantities of platinum the ignition should be performed in an atmosphere of hydrogen. Cool and weigh as metallic platinum.