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Platina in the 18th century: mineralogy of the crude concentrate used in the first modern attempts at refining platinum

  • Fernando Gervilla (a1), Javier García-Guinea (a2) and Luis Fermín Capitán-Vallvey (a3)

Abstract

A platina sample brought to Spain in the last quarter of the 18th century is nowadays exhibited at the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid. It originated from the ancient Mineralogical Museum of the School of Applied Chemistry at El Turco Street in Madrid and most probably corresponds to the material used by François Chabaneau for his experiments to purify platinum metal in the late 18th century. The sample is a heavy-mineral concentrate consisting of Pt–Fe alloys and gold nuggets associated with ilmenite–hematite, chromian spinel, goethite and minor quartz, sphene, rutile, magnetite, hornblende, garnet, calcite, pyrite, native bismuth and bismite. The Pt–Fe alloys exhibit a characteristic composition (81.97–90.75 wt.% Pt and 5.08–10.81 wt.% Fe with minor amounts of Cu, Os, Ir, Ru, Rh and Pd) and mineralogy of solid inclusions (abundant inclusions of Ir alloy as well as Os alloy, laurite–erlichmanite, bowieite, tulameenite and undetermined Pt–Pd–Ir–Rh antimonides and tellurides) that are very similar to those Pt–Fe alloys currently mined in western Colombia (the Chocó Department). These features allow us to discuss the provenance of the sample (probably from the proximal or medial reaches of any of the Chocó rivers) and evaluate the suitability of the Chabaneau's method for purifying platina. Our results show that the method became effective only with platina samples depleted or lacking iridium.

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*Author for correspondence: Fernando Gervilla, Email: gervilla@ugr.es

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Associate Editor: Daniel Atencio

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References

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Platina in the 18th century: mineralogy of the crude concentrate used in the first modern attempts at refining platinum

  • Fernando Gervilla (a1), Javier García-Guinea (a2) and Luis Fermín Capitán-Vallvey (a3)

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