When Platinum was discovered by modern European metalurges, it was mistaken for Sterling Silver. In fact, its name comes from the Spanish word Platina which means ‘little silver’. Platinum is a very dense metal, and this makes it hard to work with, and it has a high melting point. This is one of the reasons Platinum was not used often in jewellery making until the invention of the oxyacetylene torch. Platinum’s density is responsible for the metal’s ability to be stretched very thin, but still be very strong. It is a very hard-wearing metal, and because of its maleable nature, Platinum handles everyday wear and tear a bit better than White Gold. Every bump and scrape simply dislodges this maleable metal, and over time this creates a sheen on the service known as Patina. This can be polished out from time to time, but the metal does not become less with each polish and whereas with gold some knocks and bumps could lead to pieces chipping away from the metal. Gold also diminishes over years of wearing it away by touch, wear and tear and re-polishing. Some people prefer their settings to be crafted in Platinum, as the claws could potentially last much longer than their White Gold counterpart.
Element & Hallmark
Platinum is a very rare metal. It is only found in a few places on Earth, and 80% of the world’s supply is found in my home country, South Africa. Interestingly, Platinum is found in large quantities on the Moon, and in meteorites. Platinum is part of a larger group of metals, including Rhodium, Palladium, Iridium, Osmium and Ruthenium. All of these metals, except for Osmium, have jewellery applications. The most common alloys when mixing Platinum includes 90% Platinum and 10% Iridium, or more commonly 95% Platinum and 5% Ruthenium. Ruthenium makes for a harder and stronger alloy. Platinum is hypoallergenic, making it an excellent choice for those with sensitive skin and allergies.
A ring I handmade for the AngloPlat Student Design Competition in 2011.
2.5 gram Platinum Nugget from the Kondyor Massif, Khabarovsk Krai, Russia.
In terms of the colour of the metal, Platinum has a very specific Silver Grey colouring, and when polished up, creates a neutral white shine. Commercial Platinum is normally made up of 95% pure Platinum, so this natural bright white appearance will stay that way throughout the ages. In contrast, White Gold is made by alloying Pure Gold with at least 25% other metals like Palladium and Sterling Silver. This means that White Gold will always have a slight Yellow overtone, depending on the mix of alloys that was used. This is why White Gold is routinely Rhodium Plated, to maintain that white shine. Platinum’s neutral colouring also ensures that it will not interfere with the colour display of your diamonds or other gemstones.