Platinum as a jewellery metal
In most of the countries in which platinum jewellery is
manufactured, it is made in a purity of at least 85 per cent
platinum. Other platinum group metals - palladium, ruthenium and
iridium - and copper and cobalt are commonly alloyed with platinum
to optimise its working characteristics and wear properties.
Among the main advantages of platinum for jewellery
fabrication are its strength and resistance to tarnish. It can
be repeatedly heated and cooled without hardening and oxidation
effects, while even the most slender sections of platinum
permanently retain their shape, providing a secure setting for
diamonds and giving jewellery designers a freedom of invention not
always possible with other materials. Perhaps the best example of
platinum's technical virtuosity is the tension ring, in which a
gemstone is held in place by the tensile strength of the platinum
ring shank alone.
Platinum does make certain demands on the jeweller's skills. It
requires high temperature melting and casting equipment (pure
platinum melts at 1769oC) and a scrupulously clean
working environment. Careful attention to polishing technique is
needed to achieve the highly reflective finish which shows a
diamond or other precious stone at its best.
More than 2,000 years ago the Indian civilisations of South
America made rings and ornaments from platinum nuggets found in
river beds. An even earlier example of platinum as a decorative
material is found on an Egyptian casket from the 7th century
The modern platinum jewellery tradition began with the European
court jewellers of the 18th century and developed with the great
jewellers of the Edwardian and Art Deco periods such as Cartier and
Tiffany. A boom in platinum jewellery followed, with the USA
accounting for the bulk of demand. With the economic depression of
the 1930s and the advent of World War II, when platinum became a
controlled material, its use for jewellery declined.
Growth of demand
Platinum demand growth restarted in Japan in the 1960s. Platinum
gained a special status in Japan, combining high purity, prestige
and value with an appeal, by virtue of its white colour, to
traditional Japanese modesty and sobriety. Japan rapidly became the
world's principal platinum jewellery market.
A European revival began in the 1970s in Germany, where
jewellers gave platinum a distinct identity characterised by stark
modern design and the prevalent use of a satin finish. Demand began
to grow in Italy in the 1980s and in Switzerland, the United States
and the United Kingdom in the 1990s.
Demand for platinum in China has surged since 1995, especially
among young urban women seeking the modern style that platinum
jewellery represents, so that China is now easily the largest
single market for platinum jewellery. In the last decade, demand
has begun to grow in India.
Jewellery demand for platinum since 1975 is estimated in
our market data tables.