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Platinum is considered one of four precious metals, along with silver, palladium and gold. But of the three, it is the most expensive, the most prestigious and easily the most exclusive. It also happens to be the strongest of all metals used for jewelry.
In the past, platinum as only worn by the rich and the wealthy, but today it is becoming more accessible to all shoppers and the demand for platinum is growing.
Let’s take a look at everything you need to know about platinum and why it is an excellent choice for jewelry.
What Is Platinum?
Platinum was used since ancient times, and its uses can be traced back to ancient Egypt 5000 years ago. It was also used by Inca Indians in South America. In the mid-1800s, platinum usage increased, and it was eventually recognized as a precious metal.
Over 60% of the world’s platinum comes from South Africa. Compared to other precious metals, it’s extremely rare. The total amount of platinum that is mined annually is 15 times less than that of gold and 100 times less than that of silver.
Platinum has become the premier choice for jewelry, especially for special pieces such as engagement and wedding rings. The metal doesn’t corrode, discolor, fade or lose shape with time and is one of the hardest metals, making it an excellent choice for jewelry.
In addition to jewelry, it’s increasingly used in manufacturing and electronics, with over half the annual platinum production being used in the automobile industry.
How to Identify Platinum
You will rarely find 100% pure platinum jewelry. Platinum is almost always mixed with other metals, but needless to say the higher the percentage of pure platinum the more expensive the metal. Copper, ruthenium, iridium, rhodium, palladium and cobalt are the most popular base metals used in platinum alloys.
To know how much platinum is in your alloy, you need to look for the platinum hallmark. A hallmark is a small identification symbol that is stamped on the jewelry, indicating the level of purity of the metal.
Platinum used in jewelry, like this ring, is generally of higher purity than gold.
Some common platinum hallmarks are:
Most platinum jewelry generally contains high purity levels, with 85% to 95% platinum commonly used. To put this in perspective, 18-karat gold contains only 75% gold while 14-Karat gold only has 58% gold. In comparison, platinum below 80% purity is not considered platinum.
Why is Platinum Costly?
As we mentioned above, platinum is the most expensive of the precious metals and the most luxurious. Even in credit card lingo, platinum ranks pretty high! Here’s why platinum jewelry comes with a big price tag:
Platinum vs. Other Popular White Metals
There are lots of white metals on the market that look very similar to platinum. Is it worth forking over the extra dollars for a platinum piece or should you go with a cheaper look-alike?
Let’s take a look at how platinum compares to some of these other white metals.
Platinum vs. White Gold
White gold looks very similar to platinum but is, on average, much less expensive than platinum. However, apart from the similarity in appearance, white gold differs from platinum in many ways.
While platinum is a natural metal, white gold is an alloy consisting of yellow gold mixed commonly with copper or nickel. White gold is commonly only 58% pure.
Because the white gold alloy is plated with rhodium (which gives it its white luster), over time the rhodium plating wears off and the yellow tint starts to bleed through, turning the white gold to its original yellow gold color.
This is why white gold requires re-plating at least once a year. Platinum, on the other hand, does not change color of fade. It is also 4 times stronger than gold. Another main difference is that platinum is hypoallergenic whereas white gold can cause metal allergies due to its nickel content.
The main benefit of white gold is that it is much more affordable than platinum making white gold a great option if you’re trying to keep costs down. But for a durable everyday ring with minimal maintenance, platinum is best. To compare the two, this ring costs $270 less if you choose the white gold option which is a significant saving.
Platinum vs. Silver
Silver and platinum have a similar color, but silver is very soft and much less durable than platinum. Every piece of silver jewelry tarnishes over time, requiring regular maintenance to keep it sparkling. Silver also easily loses shape over time and is nowhere near as valuable as platinum.
Silver is ideal for statement jewelry. See this necklace here.
The most attractive fact about silver is that it is very affordable. For costume jewelry or inexpensive items, silver is always a good option.
Platinum vs. Palladium
Palladium is a relatively new metal on the market that many people haven’t heard of. It is the newest precious metal and is of the same family as platinum. Both these metals look near-identical, although platinum is about a shade whiter than palladium.
Both platinum and palladium share many similarities, including being hypoallergenic and rust and tarnish free. Palladium jewelry also has purity levels equivalent to platinum.
Palladium is less dense than platinum and is more affordable. It’s price and rarity ranges somewhere in between that of gold and platinum. Because it is pliable and easy to craft, palladium is often preferred over platinum in the making of jewelry.
Why Platinum Engagement and Wedding Rings?
Platinum has become the premier metal of choice when it comes to bridal rings. It is beautiful, strong and luxurious!
For diamond engagement rings, a platinum setting has a twofold benefit: it enhances the beauty of the stone and keeps it protected.
The smooth white luster of a platinum setting complements diamonds bringing out its sparkle and brilliance. Admittedly, you can achieve this look with white gold as well at a lower cost, however white gold will require regular maintenance to keep it looking white.
Platinum and diamonds pair well together. See more rings here.
The other factor to consider is strength and safety. Everyday rings, such as engagement and wedding rings, are exposed to a lot of rough wear, hard knocks, chemicals and heat. Over time, a less durable metal will wear down requiring replacement of prongs. This is not a common issue with platinum. Because of its extreme hardness and durability, platinum heads don’t wear thin or deteriorate with time. The prongs will continue to hold the diamond steadily in place, reducing the risk of the diamond falling out.
A platinum head is the best way to secure the diamond in an engagement ring and keep it safely in its place.
Having said that, any jewelry that you wear on your hand will collect scratches and scuffs over time, regardless of the strength of the metal. Oftentimes, this can create a matte appearance on the surface of the metal, known as a patina. For many people, the patina is a desirable quality, and a welcomed feature. However, if this isn’t for you, a professional polish can easily smooth the tiny furrows caused by the scratches on the platinum band to regain its original luster and shine.
To avoid the patina, consider a platinum band with diamonds or engravings, rather than a smooth shiny surface. These can reduce and hide the appearance of wear.
On an abstract note, if symbolism is important to you, platinum is the perfect representation for a relationship. It is valued for its strength and signifies determination, resilience and following your visions through to completion.
How to Take Care of Platinum Jewelry
Looking after your platinum jewelry will ensure that it maintains its beautiful sparkle and appearance.
When cleaning platinum jewelry, use a non-abrasive jewelry cleaner or a solution of warm soapy water and use a soft-bristled brush or a soft cloth to gently rub the piece of jewelry. This will buff away the miniscule scratches on the surface of the metal. You can also safely use an ultrasonic jewelry cleaner for platinum jewelry.
Store platinum jewelry separately.
Have platinum jewelry polished by a jeweler when required to free the jewelry of its patina and make it look new again.
When storing platinum jewelry, place in a cloth bag or lined box, without contact with other jewelry items. This keeps it free from scratches. Also, platinum can scratch softer items so it’s best to store alone.
Shopping for Platinum Jewelry
Whether you buy platinum online or at a physical store, there are several factors to consider to ensure you get the best deal.
Here is a quick checklist before you purchase:
In the mood to browse platinum jewelry? We recommend the following stores: