Pure platinum is a lustrous, ductile, and malleable, silver-white metal. Platinum is more ductile than gold, silver or copper, thus being the most ductile of pure metals, but it is less malleable than gold. The metal has excellent resistance to corrosion, is stable at high temperatures and has stable electrical properties. Platinum does oxidize, forming PtO2, at 500 °C; this oxide can be easily removed thermally. It reacts vigorously with fluorine at 500 °C (932 °F) to form platinum tetrafluoride. It is also attacked by chlorine, bromine, iodine, and sulfur. Platinum is insoluble in hydrochloric and nitric acid, but dissolves in hot aqua regia (nitric acid hydrochloride), to form chloroplatinic acid, H2PtCl6.
Its physical characteristics and chemical stability make it useful for industrial applications. Its resistance to wear and tarnish is well suited to use in fine jewellery.
The most common oxidation states of platinum are +2 and +4. The +1 and +3 oxidation states are less common, and are often stabilized by metal bonding in bimetallic (or polymetallic) species. As is expected, tetracoordinate platinum(II) compounds tend to adopt 16-electron square planar geometries. Although elemental platinum is generally unreactive, it dissolves in hot aqua regia to give aqueous chloroplatinic acid (H2PtCl6):
- Pt + 4 HNO3 + 6 HCl → H2PtCl6 + 4 NO2 + 4 H2O
As a soft acid, platinum has a great affinity for sulfur, such as on dimethyl sulfoxide (DMSO); numerous DMSO complexes have been reported and care should be taken in the choice of reaction solvent.
In 2007, Gerhard Ertl won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for determining the detailed molecular mechanisms of the catalytic oxidation of carbon monoxide over platinum (catalytic converter).
Platinum has six naturally occurring isotopes: 190Pt, 192Pt, 194Pt, 195Pt, 196Pt, and 198Pt. The most abundant of these is 195Pt, comprising 33.83% of all platinum. It is the only stable isotope with a non-zero spin; with a spin of 1/2, 195Pt satellite peaks are often observed in 1H and 31P NMR spectroscopy (i.e., Pt-phosphine and Pt-alkyl complexes). 190Pt is the least abundant at only 0.01%. Of the naturally occurring isotopes, only 190Pt is unstable, though it decays with a half-life of 6.5×1011 years, causing an activity of 15 Bq/kg of natural platinum. 198Pt can undergo alpha decay, but its decay has never been observed (the half-life is known to be longer than 3.2×1014 years); therefore, it is considered stable. Platinum also has 31 synthetic isotopes ranging in atomic mass from 166 to 202, making the total number of known isotopes 37. The least stable of these is 166Pt, with a half-life of 300 µs, whereas the most stable is 193Pt with a half-life of 50 years. Most platinum isotopes decay by some combination of beta decay and alpha decay. 188Pt, 191Pt, and 193Pt decay primarily by electron capture. 190Pt and 198Pt are predicted to have energetically favorable double beta decay paths.
Platinum is an extremely rare metal, occurring at a concentration of only 0.005 ppm in Earth's crust. It is sometimes mistaken for silver. Platinum is often found chemically uncombined as native platinum and as alloy with the other platinum-group metals and iron mostly. Most often the native platinum is found in secondary deposits in alluvial deposits. The alluvial deposits used by pre-Columbian people in the Chocó Department, Colombia are still a source for platinum-group metals. Another large alluvial deposit is in the Ural Mountains, Russia, and it is still mined.
In nickel and copper deposits, platinum-group metals occur as sulfides (e.g. (Pt,Pd)S), tellurides (e.g. PtBiTe), antimonides (PdSb), and arsenides (e.g. PtAs2), and as end alloys with nickel or copper. Platinum arsenide, sperrylite (PtAs2), is a major source of platinum associated with nickel ores in the Sudbury Basin deposit in Ontario, Canada. At Platinum, Alaska, about 17,000 kg (550,000 ozt) was mined between 1927 and 1975. The mine ceased operations in 1990. The rare sulfide mineral cooperite, (Pt,Pd,Ni)S, contains platinum along with palladium and nickel. Cooperite occurs in the Merensky Reef within the Bushveld complex, Gauteng, South Africa.
In 1865, chromites were identified in the Bushveld region of South Africa, followed by the discovery of platinum in 1906. In 1924, the geologist Hans Merensky discovered a large supply of platinum in the Bushveld Igneous Complex in South Africa. The specific layer he found, named the Merensky Reef, contains around 75% of the world's known platinum. The large copper–nickel deposits near Norilsk in Russia, and the Sudbury Basin, Canada, are the two other large deposits. In the Sudbury Basin, the huge quantities of nickel ore processed make up for the fact platinum is present as only 0.5 ppm in the ore. Smaller reserves can be found in the United States, for example in the Absaroka Range in Montana. In 2010, South Africa was the top producer of platinum, with an almost 77% share, followed by Russia at 13%; world production in 2010 was 192,000 kg (423,000 lb).
Large platinum deposits are present in the state of Tamil Nadu, India.
Platinum exists in higher abundances on the Moon and in meteorites. Correspondingly, platinum is found in slightly higher abundances at sites of bolide impact on Earth that are associated with resulting post-impact volcanism, and can be mined economically; the Sudbury Basin is one such example.