Palladium - Platinum's Cheaper Sister
Beginning in January 2010, all palladium jewelry sold in the UK must be hallmarked by a government assay office after testing to ensure that the metal content meets a recognized standard. Palladium has made its way into the exalted company of gold, silver and platinum as a precious metal.
Palladium is in the platinum group of metals. It's silver-white appearance is similar to that of platinum, but palladium is even whiter. It's also lighter in weight, making it a better choice for large pieces of jewelry. The palladium and amethyst earrings shown above are lighter to wear than if they were made in platinum.
Palladium doesn't react to oxygen at normal temperatures, so it won't tarnish. Because of its hardness, it doesn't readily show signs of wear. Most important, palladium looks very like expensive platinum but costs about a third the price.
Though its name is not well recognized, palladium has been around for quite a while. It was discovered in 1803 and named after the asteroid Pallas, which had been discovered two years earlier. Palladium jewelry was made during Victorian times, and it had another burst of popularity during World War II when platinum was reserved for military purposes. But throughout its history and even today most palladium goes to industrial use, primarily in catalytic converters for automobiles.
While industrial use dominates, jewelry manufacture is increasing its palladium share. A few years ago the prices of platinum and gold began to rise steeply, so palladium became more appealing. Chinese jewelers have begun fabricating large amounts of palladium jewelry, and extensive advertising in that country is creating a growing market among young people. Meanwhile, the economic downturn has made consumers around the world extremely cost-consciousness.
Palladium doesn't yet have the cachet of platinum, gold, or silver, but inclusion in Britain's hallmark laws signals a move in that direction.
Paul Shikhvarger G.G.
Pacific Jewelry Appraisers