King Charles III of Spain created a public chair of mineralogy, physics and chemistry for Pierre-François Chabaneau provided in Madrid and provided a library and laboratory to aid in his research of platinum. The Count d’Aranda secured the government’s entire supply of platinum for Chabaneau’s laboratory.ii
Chabaneau succeeded in removing various impurities from the ore, including gold, mercury, lead, copper, and iron. This led him to believe he was working with a single metal, but in truth the ore still contained the yet-undiscovered platinum-group metals. This led to inconsistent results in his experiments. At times, the platinum seemed malleable, but when it was alloyed with iridium, it would be much more brittle. Sometimes the metal was entirely incombustible, but when alloyed with osmium, it would volatilize.
In 1786, he was so frustrated by his research that he lost his temper and smashed all of his equipment, exclaiming, “away with it all! I’ll smash the whole business; you shall never again get me to touch the damned metal!” [i]
Nevertheless, three months later Chabaneau presented the Count of d’Aranda with a 10cm cube of pure malleable platinum. His process, involving powder metallurgy and intense heating was kept secret until 1914.viii
[i] Chaston, J.C. (1980). “The Powder Metallurgy of Platinum”. Platinum Metals Review 24 (2): p 70-79