Another white metal, platinum, has a short history in jewelry. Brought to Europe by the Spanish Conquistadors, its chemical properties made it difficult to work until the 19th Century, when it began to be used in jewelry. Platinum only gained recognition as a monetary metal in the 1980s, but has become as popular among collectors and investors as it is among prospective grooms.
Platinum is regarded as the preeminent metal for fine jewelry. It is rarer and thus more expensive than gold. The white luster of platinum is unique. It is also the strongest precious metal used in jewelry, and is almost twice as heavy as 14k gold. This weight is one of platinum’s strongest selling points, because it gives “heft” to fine jewelry, which people naturally equate with value. Platinum has rapidly grown in popularity in recent years, becoming the new choice for many diamond engagement rings because the luster of platinum is said to bring out the brilliance of diamonds better than gold. Platinum in jewelry is actually an alloyed group of six heavy metals, including platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium and osmium. These other metals are so similar to platinum in weight and chemistry that most were not even distinguished from each other until early in the nineteenth century. Today it is often alloyed with copper and titanium. It is the only precious metal used in fine jewelry that is 90% to 95% pure, largely hypoallergenic and tarnish-resistant. Platinum jewelry is marked 900Pt, 950 Plat, or Plat. Anything lower must be marked and described as platinum alloy; anything less than 850Pt cannot be sold legally in the US as platinum.
Platinum jewelry costs more than gold jewelry for good reasons: Compared to the common gold alloys, 22k gold or 18k gold, buyers get more precious metal with platinum jewelry. It could also be called “the new and improved white gold”–it is naturally white and stays that way (gold does not). Platinum jewelry does develop a patina that many think gives it a vintage jewelry feel and makes a great background for diamonds or other gems. Denser than gold, platinum is heavier and more durable; it holds gemstones more securely and is hypoallergenic. More rare than gold, it is something few people will ever own. Perhaps most important, platinum will not wear away; the bracelet, earrings, necklace or ring you buy today will be the same on your golden jubilee.