Palladium is a rare and lustrous silvery-white metal that was discovered in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston, who named it palladium after the asteroid Pallas, which was turn, was named after the epithet of the Greek goddess Athena, acquired by her when she slew Pallas. The symbol for palladium is Pd, and its atomic number is 46.
Palladium is found with platinum and other metals of the platinum group in placer deposits of Russia, South America, North America, Ethiopia, and Australia. It is also found associated with the nickel-copper deposits of South Africa and Ontario. Palladium's separation from the platinum metals depends upon the type of ore in which it is found.
The unique properties of palladium and other platinum group metals account for their widespread use. One in four goods manufactured today either contain platinum group metals or play a key role during their manufacturing process. Over half of the supply of palladium and its sister metal platinum goes into catalytic converters, which convert up to 90% of harmful gases from auto exhaust into less harmful substances. Palladium’s precious metal qualities and appearance generate significant consumption in the luxury jewellery market.
Palladium itself has been used as a precious metal in jewellery since 1939, as an alternative to platinum or white gold. This is due to its naturally white properties, giving it no need for rhodium plating. It is slightly whiter, much lighter and about 12% harder than platinum. Similar to gold, palladium can be beaten into a thin leaf form as thin as 100 nm (1/250,000 in).