When it comes to previous metals, you always hear about the Big Three: Platinum, Gold, and Silver. That’s their general order of both scarcity and price, and all three are easily purchased in bullion form.

Platinum (“little silver”) is one of the rarest elements in the earth’s crust; it’s much rarer than gold, in fact, though it immediately precedes the yellow metal on the Periodic Table of the Elements.

It often occurs in association with silver, and was initially spurned because it was so difficult to refine and work. Modern processing methods have made it much easier to extract, and it’s insanely useful in industry, especially for automotive catalytic converters and electronics.

But somehow, platinum tends to get ignored in most investment discussions.

Why Is Platinum Bullion Ignored?

There are good reasons for this, and it’s not just because gold is the beautiful sister that gets all the attention. Mostly, it’s pure economics: cost, and supply and demand. Yes, the cost of gold is high — in excess of $1,340 — but lately, platinum is much higher: about $1,690 per ounce, down from a peak of $2,254 in the opening months of 2008.

Which brings up another good point: from that amazing peak in early 2008, platinum plunged to about $774 an ounce in December of the same year — very nearly a 66% drop in value.

This volatility, which gold has never seen, can be ascribed to new sources of platinum being tapped as the metal became more commercially useful, then the demand suddenly plunging as it was exceeded by supply.

The truth is that while platinum is a lovely, useful metal, it’s too much of a moving target for most investors. Sometimes, like now, it’s more valuable than gold; other times, it’s worth much less. That makes it less attractive as an investment — after all, who wants something that can shed two-thirds of its value in months, as it demonstrably did back in ’08?

Personally, I like platinum… but not so much professionally. It jumps around too much. You’ve gotta be a pretty audacious investor to bet the farm that the price of platinum won’t continue its historic volatility, and most precious metals investors just aren’t that audacious. Stability’s the name of the game here — especially for beginners.

As you know, for beginners, I recommend you stick with investing in gold.  Check out my Quick Guide to Buying Bullion to get started.

Are you a platinum bullion investor? Share your thoughts below.