Sunday, 3 July 2011

Guide to Buying Platinum

By: Madhubanti Rudra

It is gorgeous; it is exotic!
It is the hardest; it is the most expensive!
It is platinum---a precious metal that has been captivating the imagination of contemporary jewelry designers in a big way!
Designers' favorite element for fashioning wedding bands and engagement rings, Platinum has great aesthetic as well practical value. Below are few platinum facts that a first time buyer will find extremely helpful.
Diamonds are forever, gold is conventional, sterling silver is chic, but jewelry wardrobes are incomplete without the special zest of silver-white platinum. Currently the fastest growing jewelry material, Platinum is ideal for making rings, bracelets and necklaces. Its natural whit luster makes it the perfect companion for dazzling diamonds. It happens to be the most expensive of all precious metals and widely employed by the designers as base metal for light colored gems, especially the pink and light blue varieties. But it is equally brilliant without any enhancement; a polished platinum piece is elegant and eye catching in its own right. 

Why go for platinum?

The heavy and enduring metal, Platinum is used by world's renowned jewelry designers for creating inspired jewelry pieces. Here are a few reasons why you should consider an investment in this highly expensive metal.
Platinum's chemical properties make it a dense, extremely heavy and remarkably enduring metal. Al these qualities make a platinum jewelry an aesthetically pleasing and monetarily valuable possession. 

On the practical side, Platinum jewelry pieces are subject to minimum wear and tear effects. Common household chemicals like chlorine, bleach, or detergents fail to tarnish its color or damage it in any other ways. Due to all these reasons, platinum is considered much more stable element than gold and silver.
With an unquestionable longevity, platinum jewelry retains its cosmetic value for generations.
Platinum looks brilliant when teamed up with diamonds or other colored gemstones. This remarkably strong metal is particularly good at holding gemstones firmly in place. As prongs and other setting components, Platinum is the best metal to work with.
Then, platinum is considered the best metal to make diamond jewelry. While teamed up with yellow gold, the metal leaves a yellow tint on the colorless diamond and this can bring down the value of the piece. But platinum's silver-white luster rightly complements the brilliance of diamond and as a result, platinum-diamond combination makes the hottest pair in jewelry designing circuit. So it comes as no surprise when world's top jewelry houses like Cartier, Faberge and Tiffany choose platinum as base metal for creating their striking diamond jewelry pieces.
Although a tough metal, it is alloyed with some tougher metal to prevent it from bending. But as compared to traditional gold and silver jewelry pieces, platinum pieces have very little alloy in them--- usually not exceeding 10%. As a result, platinum is largely hypoallergenic.
The chemical properties that bring out the magic in platinum

Platinum belongs to Platinum Group of Metals, or PGM.
PGM again consists of six related metals including Platinum, Iridium, Palladium, Ruthenium, Rhodium and Osmium. Now all these metals belonging to PGM family have very high melting point. This is because at the time of melting, the PGM metals require oxygen to be mixed with the fuel.
A unique feature of PGM metals is: they do not require flux when soldering and also resist tarnishing. It is possible to cast these metals, but that requires extra investment due to their high melting point.
To date Russia is the biggest supplier of platinum. The lion's share of the produce goes into making jewelry; the rest is used in medical industry and the automotive industry.
Understanding platinum content and marking
When it comes to buy metal jewelry, you have to consider the purity of the metal. To know how pure your platinum is, you must have a basic idea about its content and markings. This is important because it helps you choose the right combination that is most suitable for the platinum jewelry you are purchasing.
Metals in their raw forms are not suitable for making jewelry---in order to make them stronger, other alloys are added to them. How pure a metal is depends on the amount of alloys mixed with it.
US Federal Government has stipulated specific standards for different types of metals.
Let's take the instance of gold. So far as gold is concerned, you can refer to the following standard to judge its purity.24kt: 100% gold
18kt: 75% gold
14kt: 58% gold
12kt: 50% gold

So far as platinum jewelry pieces are concerned, they can contain different percentages of pure platinum. The ratio of pure platinum and alloys is expressed in "parts per thousand". According to the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) determined marking standards, if a jewelry piece is said to contain 950 parts per thousand of pure platinum, it will be regarded as "pure platinum jewelry".
A couple of example will help you understand the platinum marking more clearly.
The jewelry is made of "950 Pt" platinum means: it uses a metal that has 95% pure platinum in the mix and 5% other metals.
The jewelry is "650 Pt. 350 Ir" means: it has 650 parts pure platinum and 350 parts iridium. Similarly a marking such as "550Pt. 350Pd. 50Ir" means the jewelry has 550 parts pure platinum. The rest of the mix contains 350 parts palladium and 50 parts iridium.

According to the long standing FTP guidelines, jewelry pieces must contain at least 85% pure platinum or 850 parts per thousand to be considered pure platinum jewelry.
But designers have been demanding a correction in the current FTP standards so that jewelry pieces containing less than 85% platinum are also regarded as "pure platinum" jewelry. If lower percentage is accepted by the US Federal Government, it will open up greater opportunities for the small jewelers, who are often kept out of the market due to platinum's prohibitive price.

When it comes to create stand-alone pieces, jewelry designers would invariably pick platinum. Platinum is far more expensive than pure gold and it has higher and faster appreciation than gold. It is the metal's rarity that add to its exorbitant price---it is 30 times rarer than gold. Platinum jewelry pieces are most popular as engagement rings and wedding bands. It is great to send or receive platinum jewelry gift---after all platinum is something that few can possess.


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