Palladium and platinum are undeniably superior to any other white precious metal used in fine jewelry manufacturing. Plenty have been written about platinum and its properties as compared to the white gold alloys. I myself wrote short article a while ago. The newcomer palladium is described as very similar to platinum. This is truth but there are differences and the major one is its price. Let`s live now the price part for the end and put the two metals together.
To assess the color I compared the most popular ruthenium alloys. While during the manufacturing process Palladium looks slightly yellowish the finished items have identical color. I have read studies calming that the palladium is slightly whiter but I never managed to see difference in color and luster in finished pieces. I compared 5mm wide wedding bands in order to avoid interference from gems and detail. Three colleagues of mine also try to find difference with no success
Both metals are alloyed to 95% purity as standard. The remaining 5% in this study case was ruthenium. Being also member of PGM (platinum group of metals) ruthenium delivers 100% noble metal content in the final alloy.
Both metals are very rare and considered precious. They are two of only 4 metals that have an ISO currency code. The other two metals are gold and silver. Platinum is about 15 times rarer than gold – palladium is even rarer.
Very similar hardness in cast state and no much difference when worked on.Palladium is a bit easier to file and polish. on the other hand it is much more complicated to cast due to its low density and ability to absorb gases in molten state.
In cast state the two alloys are very similar with platinum being about 5% stronger. When work hardened however this difference could increase to 25%. Tensile strength is important for designs like tension set diamond rings, wire based necklaces and bracelets as well as delicate ring shanks and diamond bands. Both metals are highly suitable for this type of pieces with platinum being better where work hardening is applicable.
Both metals are very durable and abrasion resistant. Palladium is about 15% better abrasion resistance than 14 K white gold. Compared with the same 14 K white gold alloy platinum stands at 23% as concluded in tests conducted by Hoover and Strong.
Density is a major point of difference. Palladium has density of 12gr/cm3 while platinum is almost double at 21gr/cm3. The obvious advantage of palladium is that you get more volume per gram or as we will show in the example at the end, a setting in palladium will be substantially lighter than the identical one in platinum. The low density is also great advantage in items where lower weight is important, like earrings and necklaces, as well as chunky dress rings and bangles.
Both metals have advantages and disadvantages which should be considered in order to utilize them best in the design. As mentioned above, palladium is the right metal for large chunky pieces and earrings, where platinum has shortcoming, but has more complicated casting process and due to its low density does not fill well casts with fine details, especially where thin and thick parts are in succession (eternity rings for example). Platinum perfectly covers this gap and is the best choice for such items.
This is the second segment (density being the first) where palladium and platinum are miles apart. The current price of platinum is $1548 p/oz and palladium is $426 p/oz. This 3.5 times difference together with palladium`s low density spells in radically different cost. How different? Look at the example bellow:
An average solitaire diamond setting is used as base for this example:
In palladium this ring is 4.2gr and it will reach the customer @ $ 240
In platinum identical ring will be 7.3 gr. with final price of $ 890
Difference: $650 (prices based on market values at the time of the writing)
Is it worth it?
This depend on the angle from which one appreciates one`s jewelry. The name platinum already carved itself comfortable niche in the high end jewelry market and it is a statement on its own. On the other hand, with no perceivable difference, the only one to appreciate it will be the one who paid for it. I would say it is also a question of budget. For somebody who spends $10 000 on a diamond the difference of +/- $600 will not seem a big problem. For me, as somebody who is working hands on with both metals the answer is on the practical side – I will contribute the difference to larger and/or better quality diamond.