Platinum is much rarer than gold. Found mainly in South Africa, only a few tons are extracted from the earth annually.
The existence of platinum was known for a long time before it began to be used in the manufacture of jewelry. The technology necessary to work with platinum did not exist before the very tail end of the 19th century. Since then, platinum has been considered by many to be the most desirable metal to be used in jewelry, largely because of its strength and durability and partly because of the advantageous way it shows off gems, in particular diamonds.
Up until the practical use of platinum in jewelry, silver was used to offset diamonds, but tarnishing was a problem and it had to be backed with gold to prevent discoloring clothes and skin. Not much could be done about the silver darkening with age. All of these problems were solved when the use of platinum in jewelry became feasible.
The introduction of platinum brought a number of benefits. Platinum is much stronger and harder than silver and allowed jewelers to set precious gems in tiny, delicate mounts. Close on invisible or millegrain settings were made possible by the use of platinum in the early 1900s. Jewels could be finer and thinner, with openwork features, lacelike in appearance. Platinum's white color shows off diamonds to great effect.
Platinum does not tarnish, so gone were the heavy, double layers of silver on gold that preceded the use of platinum.
Another ‘cheaper’ metal often confused with platinum is white gold. This was introduced around 1915. White gold is of a lesser value and not as strong as platinum.
In practice, 100% platinum is not used. Platinum is mixed with a small amount of other metals, called base metals, which have a lower value than platinum. The higher the percentage of platinum, the higher the price.
950 meaning 950 parts out of 1000 is the most commonly used purity of platinum in the jewelry trade.
Since platinum is expensive, some jewelry manufacturers have lowered prices by using platinum with 585 purity. This means that you are getting less platinum and more base metals.
Platinum is often benefitted by the inclusion or plating of one of the following 3 metals which are all part of the platinum family.
Palladium (Pd) is a metal that is included in the platinum family, but it has a lower density than platinum. It has a very white color and does not need to be rhodium plated. Heat may discolor palladium so it is inferior to platinum in this regard. It is also more malleable than platinum, which makes it easier to work with. Although it was more expensive than platinum, it was available to the jewelry industry during World War II (platinum was reserved entirely for the military industry at that time). Advances in technology have made working with platinum possible.
Rhodium (Rh) is also a member of the platinum group and has a white appearance. Since it resists mixing with other elements, it is often used to plate other metals such as silver, gold and platinum in order to prevent corrosion. You may see the term Rhod plated on your jewelry. This means that a layer of Rhodium has been electro-plated onto your gold or platinum jewelry. Unfortunately, the layer of Rhodium will wear away with time, so buyer beware.
Iridium (Ir) is one of the least abundant substances to be found on earth. It is also a whitish member of the Platinum family. While very rare, the most significant amounts are also to be found in South Africa.
Platinum jewelry is considered to be a very good investment. Many people weigh the metal in order to calculate the ‘scrap’ value of the platinum. How much money will you get if you melt it? This is based on the current price of platinum, which fluctuates on the stock market on a daily basis.
Here are some advantages of buying platinum jewelry:
- Platinum is strong and can be used to make more delicate, finer jewelry than any other metal;
- The color is very pleasing to many people especially for showing off diamonds to better advantage;
- Platinum is easy to clean and will not tarnish;
- Platinum, unlike softer metals including gold, will not scratch easily so your jewelry looks newer for longer;
- Platinum is hypoallergenic, which is very important to people with sensitive skin or allergies.
Traditionally, platinum is significantly more valuable than gold, but due to the idiosyncrasies of the stock market, this is not always true.
Platinum is a great investment. Usually, it has a higher value than gold. Platinum also has greater prestige than gold. Consider your credit cards where a platinum card is endowed with greater privileges even than a gold card.
Most importantly, you should buy what you love.