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Platinum fact file

Did you know...

...that platinum is so rare that all the platinum ever mined would fit into an average sized living room? Nearly 400kg of ore must be mined over eight weeks before a single gram of platinum can be produced. It is so flexible that one gram of the metal can produce a fine wire more than a mile long and it is so dense that a 30 centimetre cube of platinum weighs 600 kilos! It is also very versatile so it can be used for many other applications - from catalytic converters in cars to biomedical devices designed to remain inside the human body.

Platinum is more resistant to wear and tear than gold or silver due to its heavier weight and greater density - this makes it an excellent choice for jewellery. Platinum is mainly found in Africa, Russia and North America in deposits 3/4 of a mile deep beneath the earth's surface.

History of platinum 

Platinum has a rich and noble history - it is both an ancient and a recently rediscovered precious metal ideal for modern jewellery. It was the first material capable of holding diamonds in a delicate framework leading to the creation of the beautiful art deco pieces of the 1920's that we can see in museums today. Because platinum is one of the most enduring jewellery metals, many of the world's most famous diamonds, such as the Hope, the Jonker I and the Koh-i-Noor are secured in platinum settings. Fabergé, the famed nineteenth century Russian jeweller, prized platinum, as did Tiffany and Louis Cartier of Paris.

Until the 1940s, at which point it was declared vital to the American war effort, many engagement rings were made in platinum and are still much treasured and worn family heirlooms. Platinum was very popular in the decades before the World War II and Art Deco jewellery was often made in platinum. However, a shortage of supply during the war meant platinum was declared a strategic metal in the U.S. and its use was banned in all non-military applications, including jewellery. White gold's popularity soared quickly to fill the gap and after the War platinum did not immediately regain its previous popularity.

However from the 1990s onwards, white metals have become more fashionable in modern jewellery. Platinum is once again gaining in popularity as customers look for an alternative to silver and white gold (particularly since the removal of nickel from the manufacturing process of white gold means that all new white gold retains a very faint yellow tinge). This elegant, modern and timeless precious metal has been rediscovered.

Timeline

Approx. 700 BC: Ancient Egyptians approximately 4,500 years ago begin to master the techniques of processing platinum and decorate the casket that holds documents for High Priestess Schepenupet with ornate platinum hieroglyphics.

Approx. 100 BC: The Indians in Pre-Columbian South American cultures succeed in working platinum and gold together, creating nose rings and a variety of other jewellery pieces.

1590 AD: Spanish Conquistadors discover a white metal in the rivers of Ecuador. Not realising its superb qualities, they name it contemptuously "platinum" (meaning little silver) and throw it back into the river to ripen into silver.

1790: French goldsmiths make platinum jewellery for King Louis XVI, who later declares platinum the "only metal fit for Kings.

1824: Substantial deposits of platinum are discovered in the Ural Mountains in Russia. Today, these deposits are virtually depleted.

1875: Vast diamond deposits are discovered in Kimberley, South Africa, resulting in a new jewellery style that combines precious stones with this "modern" metal, platinum. Today these South African deposits are mainly contracted for industrial use.

1912: White gold alloys are developed at Pforzheim in Germany in an effort to provide a substitute for the increasingly rare platinum.

1924: Geologist Dr. Hans Merensky discovers the largest deposits of platinum ever found, the Merensky-Reef, west of Johannesburg, South Africa.

1939: WWII causes the restriction of platinum in the U.S. for any use other than the war effort.

1992: The PGI (Platinum Guild International) is formed to reacquaint the public and jewellery trade with platinum.

1997: The U.S. government mints the first platinum coin.

1998: Platinum jewellery sales at the consumer level are up 700% since 1992, with worldwide demand growing by 1.5% to 2% annually.

Importance

Platinum is important as it is one of the world's strongest metals and is also hypoallergenic, tarnish-resistant and extremely durable. It is a natural white metal with a rich, distinctive colour tone which, although not as reflective (shiny) as silver or white gold, will not fade or tarnish. To create white gold, yellow gold is alloyed with other metals to achieve a near white look and usually must be rhodium plated to maintain its brilliant white colour.

Platinum is so rare its international price is invariably higher than gold. Plus platinum jewellery is 95% pure while 18 carat gold is only 75% pure. Platinum also has a higher density than gold - a platinum ring will weigh around 30% more than an 18 carat gold ring of the same size. Platinum also requires a higher level of craftsmanship to work the metal, which adds to its exclusivity.

Properties

All precious metals can be scratched and signs of wear will inevitably appear after a while in all fine jewellery (even platinum jewellery). Platinum rings will not wear thin with age as gold rings sometimes do. Also platinum usually needs less upkeep than other metals because it wears better; for example platinum gemstone claws need less maintenance over the years.

Platinum is a dense, and unmalleable metal and as a result is hard for a jeweller to work with, so any repair needs to be done by an expert. If looked after properly, platinum jewellery should not need to be repaired but sometimes a ring might need to be resized, or an accident may bend one of the claws. Bring the piece to any F.Hinds store to have it skilfully and promptly repaired.

Platinum wears well against other metals, but signs of wear can sometimes appear on adjacent gold. When designing combined platinum and gold jewellery, every effort is made to ensure that the platinum is used in areas where the greatest wear is likely to occur. If you intend to wear a platinum ring next to a gold one, consider whether there is a way to prevent the platinum from rubbing against the gold so that no damage occurs.

Platinum is hypoallergenic and is compatible with all skin types. It will not cause an allergic reaction like alloys in other precious metals sometimes do, although most metals are now pretty innocuous since the removal of nickel from new jewellery. Platinum does not tarnish and will not react with chlorine.

Value

Since 1975 platinum jewellery sold in the UK has been given a platinum hallmark, applied by the assay office. The hallmark for platinum is a sceptre inside a pentagon and means that the jewellery contains at least 95% pure platinum.

Platinum represents excellent value for money. The price may be higher than similar items in gold but platinum is pure, rare, valuable, classic and the perfect host for diamonds - qualities that make it worth paying that little bit extra.