Platinum has been used for over 3000 years as a decorative accent. It has only become a metal of interest in the 18th century as platinum presented a tough challenge to scientists attempting to understand the chemical properties and discovering suitable applications. Platinum’s high melting point, great resistance to corrosion along with the other metals in the platinum group Palladium, Rhodium, Iridium, Ruthenium, and Osmium compounded the problem.
For the Spanish Conquistadors of the 16th century, platinum was a nuisance. While panning for gold in New Granada they were puzzled by some white metal nuggets which were mixed with the nuggets of gold and which were difficult to separate. The Spanish called this metal Platina, a diminutive of Plata, the Spanish word for silver. Some thought that the platinum was a sort of unripe gold so that for many years it had no value except as a means of counterfeiting.
Platinum mine production has grown continuously since WWII in response to the development of new applications. During the 1960s, demand for platinum in jewelry experienced a spectacular rise in Japan, appealing to the Japanese public by virtue of its purity, color, prestige, and value. Platinum jewelry later succeeded in penetrating other markets Germany in the 1970s, Switzerland and Italy in the 1980s and the United Kingdom, and the USA. China is the world’s biggest single market for platinum jewelry.
During the 1990s the rapid increase in the value of precious metals, including platinum, gave rise to the production of a variety of bars and coins, many of them collectible items, to meet the demand for platinum as a physical investment product.
- Platinum 2010 production South Africa 4,635,000 Ounces, Russia 825,000 Ounces, all other 600,000 Ounces. Platinum 2010 demand Autocatlyst 3,125,000 Ounces, jewelry 2,415,000 Ounces, Industrial 1,690,000, and investment 650,000 Ounces.
- Ten tons of ore must be mined to produce a single ounce of platinum. It takes five months to process platinum ore into pure platinum. Only after this time can skilled hands work their creativity and craftsmanship, transforming platinum into jewelry.
- Platinum is usually found naturally in deposits of small grains, dust, or small nuggets averaging 50-75% purity. Small amounts of it are acquired as byproducts of other mining. The industrial extraction of platinum is complex. The metal often is found in ores mixed with other metals such as palladium and gold.
7 Reason to Use Platinum in Jewelry!
Often heralded as just as beautiful as the gems it displays, platinum boasts a silvery-white luster that imparts unmistakable elegance and blends well with a variety of metals and stones. Four times stronger than gold, platinum is renowned for its hardwearing properties, resistance to damage and wear, and its substantial heft.
- Platinum is hypoallergenic – This is a benefit to the many people who have allergies to silver and lower quality gold, such as anything below 18K.
- It won’t tarnish or change color – Not many metals can claim this. Some, in fact, require regular care in order to keep them from tarnishing and turning color. Platinum is classically popular partly due to its durability and ease of care.
- Platinum is the heaviest of the precious metals, weighing almost twice as much as karat gold. Its strength ideally secures diamonds and other precious gems. Even after many years, platinum will not wear away or wear down. For example, after many years of wear, a gold wedding band’s shank will wear down and become thinner. This is not the case with platinum.
- As with all precious metals (gold, silver, etc.), platinum can be scratched. However, with platinum, there is actually no material lost from scratch as there is with gold. If your platinum jewelry becomes scratched, simply take it to your jeweler for a quick polish.
- Platinum is pure. In America, platinum jewelry contains either 90% or 95% pure platinum. By comparison, 18 karat gold is 75% pure and 14 karat is 58% pure gold. Platinum will never tarnish or lose its rich white luster.
- Considered among the purest and precious metals used in modern-day jewelry making, platinum has become synonymous with luxury and longevity.
- Platinum jewelry will last a lifetime vs. gold which wears out over a relatively short period 20 years.
Understanding Platinum Purity
Only metals marked with a 950 or 900 purity designation are considered high-grade platinum. Alloys containing a lower ratio are often used to make jewelry, but these pieces don’t impart the same high standards of quality, longevity, or beauty.
Jewelry items hallmarked with a 950 purity are a blend of 95% platinum and 5% alloy metals (usually copper, cobalt, iridium, rhodium, tungsten, or palladium).
Jewelry items hallmarked with a 900 purity consist of 90% platinum and 10% alloy metals (usually palladium or iridium).
In the United States, for an item to be described as “platinum,” the platinum content must be at least 95% platinum and 5% alloys. 95% or above, the item can be stamped “PLATINUM,” “PL” or “PLAT.” Anything less than 95% platinum, the alloy also must be stamped; e.g. IRID / PLAT for 10% iridium alloy. When examining a jewelry item look for the hallmark as a way of indicating its purity.
There are at least 6 reasons why platinum jewelry is relatively more expensive as compared to gold or white gold jewelry. Even in today’s metal market was gold (most recently) has been higher per ounce than platinum, a platinum ring will cost more than the same ring in gold because:
- Platinum items are 90% – 95% pure platinum
- 18K gold items are 75% pure gold
- 14K gold items are 58.5% pure gold
- Platinum is by far more difficult to work
- One must consider the lost wax casting process which requires an excess of metal used to produce the casting tree. Although the process is the same for gold as platinum the purity of the excess platinum vs. the purity of the excess gold adds to the overall cost. Allowing for the reuse of the excess material in a re-melt the inherent cost in platinum is apparent.
- Platinum is also a denser heavier metal than gold, making a ring design made in platinum heavier than the same ring design made in 18kt gold. As the metal price is calculated based on gram weight, this density or heaviness also contributes to making platinum more expensive than 18kt gold.
Care & Maintenance of Platinum
To maintain the beauty and shine of platinum jewelry, be sure to clean it periodically. It’s safe to use the same cleaning methods you would use for gold. Every six months have a professional jeweler perform a thorough inspection and cleaning in the ultrasonic cleaner. Avoid having your rings buffed as this adds premature wearing of the metal.
This article was contributed by Frank Fisher.