Tag Archive | palladium

Palladium, the young pretender?

Palladium is one of the six metals in the platinum group, like platinum it is a rare precious metal, mined mainly in Russia and South Africa.  It was not identified as a separate element from platinum until 1803 when it was isolated.  Palladium was quite rare until 1930 when the International Nickel Company of Canada began producing it in significant quantities.  In 1931 a German company developed and patented alloys of palladium with silver and gold, and at the time it was used in dentistry.

Silvery-white palladium, source: Wikipedia

Silvery-white palladium, source: Wikipedia

Jewellery designers started using palladium in the late 1930s, and the use increased during World War II when it was used as an alternative to platinum.  The supply of palladium dropped in later years and the price was relatively high compared to other metals so it was seldom promoted as a jewellery metal.
In 2009 Palladium was officially recognised as a precious metal and received a voluntary hallmark in July 2009, and a compulsory one in January 2010.  Since this recognition it has increased in popularity within the jewellery world, combined with the huge rise in the price of gold and platinum at around that time, palladium offered an attractive alternative to those seeking a white metal.  It features both the advantage of around half the price point of platinum whilst retaining the durability associated with it.  Further it is a much lighter metal so offers designers the chance to make larger statement pieces which are easy to wear, hypo-allergenic, affordable and with no risk of tarnish.
Some argue that palladium should not be considered as an equal alternative to platinum, and that it is best thought of as an alternative to white gold.  However, it has the advantage over white gold of not requiring rhodium plating to maintain it’s colour.  Additionally palladium 950 provides a higher purity than white gold and has a whiter colour, although it is slightly darker and greyer than platinum.
Palladium owes much of its increased publicity to the British based Palladium Board, established to promote the use of the metal within fashion.  It kicked off its 10 year “Palladium Visions” campaign in 2012 by creating initiatives with leading British designers, most notably Dame Vivian Westwood and Hussein Chalayan.
Throughout the US and China, the Palladium Alliance promotes the metal through sponsorships within the jewellery trade.  In January 2013 the winner of the Alliance’s first annual design contest was awarded 30 ounces of palladium to create a jewellery line.
It seems clear that palladium has a future in fashion jewellery, not just because of its price but because of its qualities with offers the designer a freedom of expression that would not be comparable in other precious metals, but it is also starting to become more popular in wedding jewellery, could it be that one day in the future it will be uttered in the same breath as gold and platinum, accepted into the fold and no longer an outsider…


The most precious of metals…?

Gold and silver have been the “go to” metals for jewellery for a long time, but there are alternatives (we’ll be taking a look at some of the newer ones in future posts) but we thought we would look at that premium metal which is becoming ever more popular with wedding jewellery…Platinum.

Platinum Nugget, picture from Wikipedia, copyright  Heinrich Pniok.

Platinum Nugget, picture from Wikipedia, copyright Heinrich Pniok.

The history of platinum dates back more than three thousand years, beginning with the ancient civilisation of Egypt. Archaeologists have found Egyptian gold pieces from as far back as 1400BC that contain traces of platinum.

Platinum came to the attention of European scientists in the mid 1700’s but remained fairly obscure till the 1890’s when French jeweller Louis Cartier started using it. It became more popular in the 1920s and 30s especially in Art Deco jewellery. It also became popular for engagement and wedding rings a trend that continues still today. It is the most expensive precious metal due to its rarity; platinum is one of the rarest elements in the earth’s crust, above gold and silver. It is dense and hard wearing, which makes it the strongest and best setting for precious gems; it also requires only minimal cleaning.  Unlike silver, it does not tarnish and it has the advantage over rhodium-plated gold, in that it does not wear away with time.

Platinum & other materials pin set by Lacloche Freres, from the V&A Collection, bequeathed to the museum by Miss J.H.G. Gollan

Platinum & other materials pin set by Lacloche Freres, from the V&A Collection, bequeathed to the museum by Miss J.H.G. Gollan

Due to its desirable characteristics, there has been more of a push in recent times to have the metal seen not just for classical wedding jewellery but as a metal used in innovative design and trend based jewellery. The Lonmin Design Innovation award was set up 11 years ago to recognise and reward outstanding design in platinum. A previous winner of this award in 2012 was Laura Strand the head designer at Purejewels for their Platinium Heritage Collection, this range asks up-and-coming designers to submit platinum design ideas for the PureJewels range, and the collection is something to behold so please do check out the link!

Platinum has it all beauty, rarity, longevity and purity (nothing else has to be added to ensure its high shine and whiteness) but it also has a hefty price tag! Of course this means that we area always on the look out for an alternative and a strong contender can be found in the form of its cheaper relative Palladium! More about this lookalikey metal in a future post….