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One of the four precious metals, along with silver, palladium, and gold, platinum is expensive, prestigious, and durable. For much of history, it was always more expensive than gold, although this has changed in recent years.
In the past, platinum was only accessible to the rich, 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 has been used since ancient times and 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. However, due to the low supply of platinum, as well as other factors, platinum pricing has dropped in recent years.
However, platinum is still one of the most sought-after choices 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.
Platinum Purity and Identification
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 will 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.
Some common platinum hallmarks are:
- 950 Plat or 950 Pt. – The metal is at least 95% pure platinum and 5% alloy metals.
- 900 – 90% platinum purity and 10% alloy metals.
- 850 Plat or 850 Pt. – Platinum purity is 85% with the other 15% being other metals
- 800 Pt. 200 Pd. – Platinum purity is 80% while the other 20% is of palladium (another platinum-based metal).
- No platinum label – there is less than 50% pure platinum in the metal.
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, alloys with less than 80% platinum purity is not considered platinum.
Platinum vs. Other Popular White Metals
There are lots of white metals on the market that look very similar to platinum. Let’s take a look at how platinum compares to some of these other white metals.
1. Platinum vs. White Gold
White gold looks similar to platinum, but there are several main differences between the two types of metal. in the past, platinum was always more expensive than gold, but now, you may find that white gold costs more.
Another difference between the two is that platinum is a natural metal, but 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. This can make the white gold piece appear discolored.
This is why white gold requires re-plating frequently. While jewelers recommend replating every year, you may not find this necessary. Most people find that re-plating every 3-4 years or even longer does the job.
Platinum, on the other hand, does not change color or 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 potential nickel content.
For a durable everyday ring with minimal maintenance, platinum is best.
2. 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 and is nowhere near as valuable as platinum.
The most attractive fact about silver is that it is very affordable. For costume jewelry or inexpensive items, silver is always a good option.
3. 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. Because it is pliable and easy to craft, palladium is often preferred over platinum in the making of jewelry.
Platinum Engagement and Wedding Rings
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 their sparkle and brilliance. You can achieve this look with white gold as well, however, white gold may require more maintenance.
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 their 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 of 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.
Has 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 it 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 them 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.
Buy from a reputable retailer. This may seem obvious, but often it can be difficult to tell whether someone is an established retailer. Check reviews, if possible, about the retailer. What are people saying about them? Ask questions prior to purchase and communicate with the seller.
Check for the hallmark to identify platinum. Ask the seller if you cannot find the hallmark. It may be that the item was too small to have one.
Check the after sales policies. Does the seller take responsibility for the sale? Are there returns policies, warranty, or free maintenance? If purchasing online, check the shipping policies.
To avoid getting ripped off, we recommend the following retailers, known for their commitment to quality and customer service.
Why: Superior diamond imaging, competitive prices, high quality, wide range
An online giant in the diamond space, James Allen has a stunning collection of high-quality diamonds and settings. The images and videos are unparalleled in quality and make shopping online similar, if not better, to shopping in-store.
Why: Competitive prices, wide range, great quality
Known for dominating the online diamond industry since the late 1990s, Blue Nile offers one of the largest online diamond inventories. Search diamonds and settings, as well as platinum jewelry, here at competitive prices, solid after-sales policies, and good customer service.
Why: Superior cut quality, exclusive range, stunning designs
Whiteflash has earned an international reputation for the elite quality of their precision cut diamonds, and for their impeccable collection of designer engagement rings and settings. Check out their stunning range of platinum jewelry and engagement rings.
Why: Impeccable quality, superior cut, small but exclusive inventory
Brian Gavin is a renowned expert in diamond cut – and it shows in their superior diamond quality. For the very best in diamonds as well as exquisite platinum settings, search their inventory of designer diamond jewelry and loose diamonds.