Thursday, May 16, 2013

PALLADIUM | THE OTHER WHITE METAL

According to mgsrefining.com as of May 3, 2013 the price of gold topped out at $1,476.50 per ounce.  With gold prices rising since 2008 jewelers like Shirlee Grund (USA), Dominika Syczynska (Poland), and Karyn Chopik (Canada) work with alternative metals to great effect.  Sterling silver, titanium, bronze, copper and brass are breathtaking substitutes.

However, another metal has emerged onto the jewelry making scene that challenges the durability and purity of 18-karat gold at a slightly lesser cost.  For this edition of Splendor Sidebar I introduce you to the other white metal: palladium.

Discovered two centuries ago, in 1803, by chemist William Hyde Wollaston, palladium belongs to the PGMs (Platinum Group Metals) as it is “extracted from the same mineral deposits as platinum.”  This rare, hypoallergenic and substantial white metal has been routinely used in various industrial applications like electronics and fuel cells.

Though jewelers like Cartier enlisted platinum into its jewelry creations as early as the Edwardian period (1901-1910) it would be nearly four decades, in 1939, before palladium became a go-to metal.  This shift, however, would be short-lived. 

Due to its inflexible chemical structure the metal was sparingly used by jewelers.  The metal was only used to produce wedding rings during World War II when platinum was “reserved for military use.” 

Conversely, jewelers retired palladium at the conclusion of the war deeming the metal too challenging to cast.  Fortunately the “out of sight, out of mind” mentality is not prevalent with many jewelers of today and the metal would make a resurgence. 

The present economic downturn has become a virtual launching ground for palladium.  As jewelers look for cost-effective materials to produce their collections many including Barbara Heinrich (Germany), Keiko Mita (Japan) and Todd Reed (USA) have turned to palladium. 

Not only is the cost of palladium appealing (it topped out at $701 on May 3, 2013) but also its strength, purity and light weight.  At the present time a number of jewelers have worked diligently to give the metal pliability for casting pairing it with 5% of ruthenium, cobalt or iridium. 
Palladium Necklace Design by Lloyd Pasach
With the inclusion of one of these alloys the metal is 20% purer than 18-karat white or yellow gold; and the cost of palladium jewelry rivals price points of jewelry made with 18-karat white gold.   If that is not enough palladium is also comparable in every way to its sister metal platinum as the snowy toned metal shares many of platinum’s characteristics. 

According to Sorella Jewelry Studio palladium “has re-emerged in fine jewelry.  Though it is 12% harder than platinum it is 40% lighter in weight so it is a popular choice for larger designs, earrings and wedding bands.   

It is mined only in Australia, Africa, Russia and North and South America.  Surprisingly even though the metal has had a fairly long history, it is relatively unknown to our customers and we often suggest it as a replacement for white gold.  This is a precious metal that has a lot to offer.”

That’s the scoop for this edition of Splendor Sidebar.  For additional information on palladium metal be sure to visit luxurypalladium.com.
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