New Jewelry Metal Offers Platinum Quality at White Gold Price
By Jill Renee
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There is a new jewelry metal on the horizon – palladium. As a platinum group metal, palladium offers customers a host of benefits that white gold and platinum can’t touch. Are customers ready for a white metal that is less expensive than platinum and hypoallergenic unlike white gold? Many jewelers and jewelry stores are banking on it.
Palladium’s steel-white appearance makes it an attractive jewelry alternative to white gold and platinum. However, palladium was difficult to cast with and had not been fit for jewelry casting until recently. Innovations in developing a castable palladium alloy produced 950 palladium, which is ideal for jewelry. It is expected that, within the coming months, consumers will begin to hear more about palladium and its benefits; and palladium could very well be the next revolution in jewelry. Much of this relies on the fact that palladium is in the platinum group of metals and shares many of the same attributes as platinum – high purity, good luster, and white appearance.
Palladium versus Platinum
Much of platinum’s cache is due to its purity. Jewelry cast using pure gold (i.e., 24K) is soft and subject to damage, which threatens the overall look and luster of the jewelry piece. To combat this, gold is commonly mixed with copper or silver to strengthen it. The concerns over gold’s softness are why gold jewelry is typically crafted using 14 or 18 karat gold. Palladium is attractive to consumers in the same way as platinum because it is a purer material that is not fabricated or man made.
Another benefit of palladium is that it is over 40% lighter than platinum, a characteristic of palladium that has jewelry designers excited. Weight is a consideration that is especially important in earrings as heavier metals and bigger designs can stretch the ear lobe and be too heavy to wear. Larger stones can be set in a palladium design and, because it is less dense, the piece won’t feel overly heavy to the wearer.
The biggest downside to platinum is its price. Often, consumers seeking that white-metal appearance had to settle for white gold or sterling silver because of platinum’s high price tag. Palladium is set to take a large share of the market because of its affordability. Palladium is less expensive than platinum and white gold – a trend that should continue for the near term.
Palladium versus White Gold
Why is palladium more desirable? Unfortunately, white gold jewelry is manufactured using alloys containing nickel and up to 10% of the population experiences an allergic reaction to contact with nickel. Palladium is hypoallergenic so there are not the allergy concerns that plague white gold.
Also, palladium is harder than white gold making it more durable and less likely to mar. Durability is an issue particularly when it comes to mountings. If a gem stone is set using mountings made with a softer metal, the likelihood that one of the prongs could fail and the stone could fall out is higher. Often jewelers will use a harder metal in a ring setting to combat this but with palladium the entire jewelry piece can be made with the same metal.
A Growing Market
At this time refiners are working to provide 950 palladium to jewelry manufacturers and designers and many stores are set to educate consumers on palladium. All are expecting palladium to find a market as messages about its lower price and platinum-like characteristics are presented to consumers. The demand for palladium jewelry will dictate how quickly it is integrated into designer’s product lines and jewelry stores catalogs. Palladium will likely be used in the same jewelry categories as platinum, especially engagement rings and wedding jewelry.