How is Pure Platinum Jewellery Made?
When you opt to purchase pure platinum jewellery, you’re buying a product that consists of an almost entirely pure metal – 90-99% pure, to be more specific. Mined from deep within the Earth and transformed for jewellery use with a minimum of other ingredients, platinum’s lustre, strength, and durability have helped make it legendary.
Platinum is a more recent addition to the jewellery scene than its famous comparable metal sibling, gold. Platinum has taken leaps and bounds in the jewellery industry to make a mark for itself as a modern household name.
After being adopted and modified for jewellery use by the Cartier family in the late 1800s, platinum began to develop a name for itself thanks to its colour and durability. Following that, the discovery of natural platinum in various countries around the world created the perfect balance of supply and demand for platinum to take the world by storm.
Platinum’s high purity – used in the finest jewellery at a ratio of 999 parts per thousand – makes it one of the finest metals available today. Platinum’s journey from the Earth’s crust to your wardrobe is most likely a story you’re not so familiar with.
Throughout this article, we answer the question: how is platinum jewellery made?
Why is platinum used in jewellery?
Platinum has always been the natural choice for milestone jewellery, such as engagement rings and wedding bands. This is primarily because it holds significant gemstones better than any of the other precious metals. Platinum is extremely durable, and for gemstone jewellery, there’s a minimal chance that prongs made from platinum will cause the gems to dislodge.
The natural whiteness of the metal whose glowing patina manages to get more beautiful with time, is considered a niche alternative to gold jewellery. Although similar in appearance to white gold, platinum does boast several advantages over it.
The most renowned of these advantages is that, unlike white gold which retains its whiteness only by being plated with rhodium, platinum will never require re-plating. This stands out as one of the top bragging rights that jewellery made of platinum has over other jewellery made of white gold.
Platinum’s purity also means that it is considered naturally hypoallergenic. This is a rather important attribute for anyone with a history of allergies to other metals.
First recognised as an element in the 18th century, scientists soon discovered that this unusual white metal which is difficult to melt using traditional methods, was also nearly incorruptible by gases or chemicals, which made it thoroughly non-corrosive.
Platinum is also extremely dense. One cubic foot of platinum weighs in at “a little more than 1,330 pounds”, according to precious metals investor I. M. Vronsky, making it 11% heavier than gold.
This extra density has made it a favourite among those who appreciate the feel of a weightier piece of jewellery. Just that extra 11% can have your jewellery feeling that little bit more significant and precious.
Does purity matter?
When it comes to gold jewellery, the less gold there is in an item, the more alloys are involved. Now, we know platinum also comes in different grades, which poses us with the question: what is platinum jewellery made of?
When compared with the gold alloys commonly used in jewellery, platinum contains a higher concentration of its elemental metal.
White or yellow 14-karat gold contains only 58.5% of the actual metal, and 18-karat contains 75%. Naturally durable yet malleable, platinum need only be mixed with the smallest amount of other platinum-group metals to create an alloy that can be moulded, cast, and shaped into the world’s most elegant jewellery.
Natural platinum consists of a composite of six different platinum group metals. From these six different metals, just three are utilised for manufacturing platinum jewellery. These three metals – platinum, iridium, and palladium – are combined to make what is known as pure-platinum jewellery.
Platinum jewellery will usually consist of either 90%, 95%, or 99% pure platinum. 999 platinum is the purest mix possible and, unsurprisingly also the most expensive.
It’s more or less common knowledge that the closer gold gets to 24-karat quality, the weaker it becomes. On the other hand, 999 platinum is the strongest form of platinum used in jewellery, making it ideal for settings requiring more support. This makes it the perfect metal for more intricate detail, such as tension settings or bezel settings.
On top of all this, your platinum jewellery will require less care over time, as it is more resistant to scratching and other wear.
Platinum’s integration into jewellery
Back in the 1800s, scientists identified and isolated those three of the six platinum metals best suited for platinum jewellery.
This process was made possible through experimentation with different temperatures and acid solutions. Through these trials, they discovered that submerging the platinum composite in hot aqua regia, a mixture of nitric and hydrochloric acids, dissolved the platinum component.
Once extracted from this solution and dried using a sponge, the pure platinum was pulverised into powder, cold compressed, sintered, and finally fashioned into a workable solid bar.
Now for the fun scientific part: during this extreme-heat process, each overlaying atom develops fragmented edges. These fragmented edges mingle to form a physical bond, creating a solid form that can eventually be forged and rolled into various objects (such as jewellery!)
This ‘powder metallurgy’ took many years to evolve into the competent and time-efficient process it is today. Pure platinum was also initially considered too soft and “easily scratched”, which resulted in the need for the platinum compounds we discussed above. As stressful as scratches tend to be, a platinum scratch thankfully only consists of a dent, with little or no actual metal lost. This sets platinum apart from most other precious metals, and means that owners of platinum jewellery don’t have to fear that their piece has depreciated in value after it endures damage as the mass of the piece will remain the same afterwards.
What processes are used to make pure platinum jewellery today?
Pure platinum jewellery is made using a process called “lost-wax casting”, in which a model of the desired piece is sculpted from wax. This model is then used to create a mould, into which molten platinum is then poured. Once the platinum has cooled and hardened, the mould is broken away to reveal the finished piece of jewellery.
For those of you wondering what kind of mould would be able to handle scalding hot platinum: the initial moulds used to create pure-platinum jewellery were actually created by Goodyear. Yes, the very Goodyear responsible for so many of the world’s car tyres. The vulcanised rubber created by Goodyear in 1839 was the only material strong enough to handle the heat required for this lost-wax casting process.
This moulding process allows for a high degree of detail and accuracy, meaning that complex designs can be created using platinum.
Platinum is also frequently used in “invisible setting” techniques, in which stones are set into the metal without any visible prongs or supporting structures holding them in place. This results in a piece of jewellery that appears to be made entirely of stone.
With the invisible setting technique, glamorous diamonds appear to be virtually floating within the ring, making it a heavily sought-after technique. The diamonds within the setting are held so close together by the setting that they’re assured not to come loose. The brilliance and sparkle provided by so many small diamonds being nestled this close together without a visible setting make this technique all the more impressive.
Platinum is also commonly used in “fusion” jewellery, which involves two or more metals being combined to create a new alloy. This can be done for aesthetic reasons to create a jewellery piece with a unique colour or appearance, or for functional purposes to create a metal that is stronger or more durable than its component parts.
So there you have it: platinum’s relatively brief yet extremely fascinating history in a nutshell. From humble beginnings in laboratory equipment and ornamentation, it’s certainly come along in leaps and bounds, attaining an extremely illustrious reputation for itself in the process.
If you’re convinced that you’re keen on investing in platinum, why not begin with 7879’s glamorous Pure Platinum jewellery collection? By purchasing your pure platinum jewellery from 7879, you know that nothing but the finest 999-grade platinum is used to make your glamorous platinum-jewellery product.
Our online store sells only the finest pure-platinum pieces, which are guaranteed to have you look your absolute best when you wear them out.
What’s more: with pure platinum jewellery, you can track your piece’s worth against the live market value whenever you choose. Be it a bracelet, necklace, charm, pendant, or earrings; by purchasing your platinum from 7879, you know that your platinum jewellery piece is of the highest quality possible.