Continued buying from industrial consumers and broker inquiries on behalf of consumers drove iridium prices higher this week.
The Platts New York Dealer iridium price range rose to $510-$540/oz from $500-$530/oz last week on more industrial buying in East Asia and continued price inquiries from consumers.
Iridium prices are now at the same level as one year ago. But prices have been creeping higher over the last month on small amounts of industrial buying.
This week, sources cited industrial buying in Japan and large orders placed with several dealers in the US.
Sources cited one would-be buyer in particular, who had left orders for sizeable volumes with several dealers. The buying and rising prices prompted some industrial buying in East Asia, one US physical dealer said, putting this week's range at $510-$540/oz.
One physical dealer in Europe said he bid this week at $525/oz, "and absolutely no one was offering." The dealer put this week's range of physical deals at $530-$540/oz.
The buying and number of inquiries prompted major European refiners Johnson Matthey of the UK and Engelhard Materials Services (BASF) of Germany to raise their base prices to $540/oz from $530/oz last week.
Another US physical dealer put the range at $520-$540/oz on "real industrial demand."
But iridium prices are also being affected by the size of the market,which remains very small, one PGM refiner said.
"There's definitely some interest that's starting to surface in that market, and because it's such an illiquid one, you're going to feel the ripples when any type of [large order] size comes in," he added, putting the range at $505-$540/oz.
Iridium is used to make high-temperature, cylindrical crucibles. The crucibles are used by the electronics industry to grow synthetic crystals, a key component of backlit, light-emitting diode (LED) displays.
But iridium demand has stabilized in recent years as production of consumer electronics has flattened and technology to recycle iridium crucibles improved, sources have said.
JM analysts estimate that total iridium demand this year will reach 244,000 oz, slightly lower than the 251,000 oz estimated for 2015.