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Five hundred years ago platinum got no respect! Spanish conquistadors in Latin America could easily melt down artifacts made of gold and silver in order to transport them back home, but platinum’s extremely high melting point (1755o C.) made that impossible. It was called “platina” meaning “lesser silver” and was usually either discarded or used in place of lead as gunshot! Amazingly, it was almost 3,000 years ago that Egyptians were the first to use this precious metal, although in a limited capacity. It wasn’t until the mid-1800’s when the oxy-hydrogen torch was developed that platinum became a viable jewelry metal.

Platinum is one of the rarest metals on earth: it comprises only 45 parts per billion of the earth’s crust, and is found in only a few places in the world. Two mines in South Africa provide about 75% of the world’s supply. Its total production is only 6% of that of gold. On the average, 10 tons of ore need to be mined to yield just one ounce of platinum (as opposed to 3 tons per ounce for gold). All the platinum ever mined would fit into an average-sized dining room.

It’s the purest precious metal: most platinum jewelry is 90% or 95% pure, and that remaining 5% to 10% is often from the platinum group of metals, e.g. iridium, ruthenium. Because it’s so pure, it will not tarnish. And it’s hypoallergenic.

It’s the strongest precious metal: because of the type and arrangement of its atoms, it’s much denser than gold. When its surface is scratched or nicked, there is little or no metal lost as there is with gold. This is why jewelry with engraved or textured finishes will last indefinitely. We set most of our prong set diamonds and colored gems in platinum because of its superior strength and durability, very important when the only things holding your gemstone are those small prong tips! Bottom line: it wears longer and needs less maintenance over the years.

It's heavy: Platinum is 60% heavier than 14K gold, due to those densely packed heavy atoms. This is a difference you can feel. A six inch cube weighs as much as a grown man (about 170 lbs)!

It's versatile: Platinum with its pure white luster has a subtle beauty and understated elegance. And it works well in designs with 18K yellow gold, giving jewelry a sophisticated look.

Nope. During World War II, the U.S. government prohibited platinum use in non-military applications, including jewelry. Because of the appeal of platinum's pure white luster, white gold was substituted. To create white gold, yellow gold is alloyed with other metals to achieve a white look. However, platinum is white to begin with and maintains its white luster permanently.

Look for the quality mark: if it’s marked “Plat” or “Platinum,” legally it must be at least 95% pure platinum. Other markings will include a number which refers to the percentage of pure platinum: for example “900Pt” or “900Plat” refers to 90% pure platinum and 10% alloyed metal (usually iridium from the platinum group). Jewelry containing less than 50% platinum can not be marked as platinum at all, but it’s uncommon here to see it less than “850.”

Because of its extremely high melting point and superior hardness, working with platinum can pose problems for the jeweler who is not used to working with it. This can result in contamination of the metal, improper soldering, and poor polish. At Refined Designs we have taken classes with the experts in the field and have invested in the equipment needed to properly work with platinum. Make sure you bring your platinum jewelry to someone experienced in working with it.

Just as with gold, pay special attention to the craftsmanship, durability, and beauty of the design.