A History of Palladium & Jewelry

If you’ve been around the blog for any length of time, this revelation will come as no surprise.  If you’re a new reader, Welcome!  We’re about to learn some stuff today.  Platinum is one of my favorite metals.  I prefer its gun-metal patina; the interesting way that it ages over time giving it a sense of history in a way that other metals don’t as easily convey.  Within the platinum family of metals is a lesser known cousin, if you will, called palladium.

A modern engagement set designed by Saskia Shutt featuring a central sapphire with diamond accents & paired with an incredible wedding band with diamond & ruby accents - all done in palladium.

Palladium is also a naturally bright white metal just like platinum.  What makes it unique to its more well-known cousin is that it is lighter and approximately 40% less dense.  If you have ever held a platinum band, you can feel the heft to it.  Palladium doesn’t have that same heft but is still 95% pure – just like most platinum jewelry.  Another more obvious benefit to palladium is that because it is less dense than platinum, it can also be less impact on your wallet.  As a point of reference, white gold is only 58.5% pure (on average) so you are actually getting less gold for your money than with palladium.

White gold also requires regular rhodium plating to keep its shiny white color.  Palladium, like platinum, doesn’t require regular plating.  Plus, it doesn’t tarnish like sterling silver would.  Another benefit to palladium is that it is nickel free – just like platinum.  If you’re like me (and about 15% of the rest of the world population) and have a nickel allergy, sometimes even trace amounts of nickel can cause a reaction, something you won’t have to worry about with palladium or platinum.

Another modern piece with a nod to earlier design periods, this peacock feather brooch by Podium Jewellery is crafted entirely in palladium with diamonds, sapphires & emeralds.

Originally discovered in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston, it is named after the asteroid Pallas which was named after the Greek goddess of the same name.  The story goes that a girls, Pallas and Athena were playing in a garden when Zeus appeared between them distracting Pallas just as Athena’s spear came towards her.  When the distracted Pallas didn’t dodge, she was accidentally killed by Athena’s spear.  Athena was so overcome with grief and remorse that she renamed herself Pallas Athena in an effort to ensure that Pallas would always be remembered.  As a result, the hallmark for palladium bears the head of Pallas Athena so it is easier to distinguish from platinum since both bear the purity stamp of “950.”

A recent addition to my personal collection from Eneres Jewelry, this late Art Deco beauty is crafted in palladium with a central emerald & diamond-stepped sides.  It has that wonderful patina associated with the platinum family of metals but still looks brand new & modern!

Platinum can be found in ore deposits all over world including South Africa, Russia as well as in some parts of the United States or in Ontario, Canada.  Palladium is very malleable and was often used as an alloy to make white gold, silver and nickel – only recently becoming more appreciated for its own characteristics and being granted its own hallmark in July 2009, thereby being classified as a precious metal.  Palladium is also used in computers, mobile phones, dentistry and more!

The history of palladium jewelry is just as fascinating!  It’s been used in jewelry quite frequently since the early 1900s.  During World War II, platinum was declared a war metal which restricted its use in areas not specifically designed to support the war effort.  As a result, palladium began to see an upsurge in usage during this time period.  Since it had many of the same characteristics of its platinum cousin, it was used more frequently in rings, earrings and necklaces.  Its lighter weight and malleability made it ideal for intricate designs both as earrings and rings.  Designs that would otherwise be too heavy or bulky in platinum found the perfect partner in palladium.

A quick search of "palladium" on eBay & this Art Deco Sapphire & Diamond beauty popped up with 2.20 carats of pink sapphires & 0.90 carats of diamonds, it's a stunning example of craftsmanship!

Once the war effort was over, designs in palladium began to take a downturn as platinum again reigned supreme.  The Great Depression soon gripped the U.S. and many luxury items, such as jewelry, just were not buying priorities as people across the Nation struggled to provide food and shelter for their families.  As the economy recovered, palladium was a bit forgotten.  It wasn’t until recently when it obtained its own hallmark that new designers began to once again see the value in palladium and incorporated it into their work.

This stunning example of a modern palladium band is the Atlantis Band by GEMVARA shown with  rhodolite garnets & diamonds.  However, the band can be fully customized both in available metals & gemstones.

Although still not as common as gold or platinum jewelry in today’s marketplace, palladium (both antique pieces and newly commissioned) is a solid option for those buyers wanting the platinum look without the platinum price tag.  I have several antique pieces in my personal collection and am always on the lookout for more!

Currently, these are the only palladium pieces in my personal collection.  Both are antique, late Art Deco pieces in emerald & diamonds.  However, I am very excited to expand it! 

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