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Noble Metals: Definition and Examples

What are noble metals? Noble metals are noble, because they are far more corrosion-resistant than other metals. This means that noble metals possess very low reactivity, nearly eliminating the risk of oxidation at ambient temperature, i.e. in ambient air.

Noble metals are usually not affected by hydrochloric acid and usually don't form any thermally stable compounds. Due to these advantages, noble metals in particular have been used to manufacture coins and jewellery from early times up to the present day. Apart from gold and silver, the most well-known noble metals are probably the so-called platinum metals, which only started to gain importance about 400 years ago. Next to pure noble metals, there are semi-noble metals such as copper. These semi-noble metals thus rank between the traditional noble metals and the non-noble metals. Although its use for medals suggests otherwise, bronze is not a noble metal.

If defined by standards in physics, the group of noble metals is reduced to merely three - the aforementioned gold, silver and copper. In physics, the electronic band structure is used for classification. According to this system, the three metals mentioned above possess completely filled d-bands, which drastically reduces their conductivity and reactivity and gives them the outstanding properties of noble metals.