Although both platinum and palladium are in the same grouping of metals commonly referred to as the “platinum group” or PGM (also including other white metals such as rhodium, iridium, ruthenium. osmium and radium) there are some discernible differences.
While white gold has long been considered the standard metal used for the classic engagement ring, in recent years platinum, and now palladium, are catching up. Here are the reasons why and a breakdown of the differences between the two.
How is palladium different from platinum?
Both metals have a silvery white appearance with palladium possessing an almost imperceptible light grayish hue (one shade darker than platinum). Both are considered “noble metals” along with rhenium, ruthenium, silver, osmium, iridium and gold, due to their remarkable resistance to oxidation and corrosion over time. They will, however, develop what jewelers have referred to as a patina, from wear and exposure over long periods of time. Some enjoy the patinated look as it can highlight the look of the diamond by contrast, as well as romantically symbolize the passage of time and commitment within the marriage.
Is palladium or platinum better?
Weight. Density. Wearability.
Palladium is a slightly harder metal, making it a bit more durable and harder to scratch than platinum. This trait can, however, make it less malleable and harder to work with when it comes to re-sizing, requiring specialized machinery which not all jewelers have. One might think that being the harder metal would make for a heavier product, however palladium is also less dense than platinum, making it actually lighter. Depending on preference, this can be seen as either an advantage or disadvantage. Some like the feel of a lighter ring.. barely noticing they’re wearing one, while others prefer the weight and gravitas of a heavier ring. Both metals are considered hypoallergenic due to their high level of purity (approximately 95%). Compare that to gold which is commonly alloyed with metals such as copper and nickel to increase strength and hardness, and can trigger allergic reactions in some as a result.
Until quite recently, palladium was considered much more affordable than platinum but due to increased industrial usage of the metal in recent years (an approximated 85% of the metal is now used mostly in automobile exhaust systems), the supply of available palladium has dropped significantly making it on par with the cost of platinum.
Platinum and palladium are both mined from deep within the earth’s surface when rock is blasted then carried to the surface for further processing. Platinum can also be a byproduct in the processing of nickel and copper, from a mineral known as cooperite or platinum sulfide. Both elements are mined in South Africa and Russia with palladium additionally found in parts of the United States and Canada, but in much smaller amounts, making it the rarer of the two metals. A large amount of palladium is also formed as products in nuclear reactors. As price and demand increases, producing the noble metals of palladium, rhodium and ruthenium in this way is becoming a viable alternative to traditional mining. Platinum has even been found in heavy concentration in meteorites, and to a lesser degree, palladium, too, has been found in these heavenly rock formations… metals of the Gods, as mysterious as love itself <3
While both platinum and palladium are considered the world’s rarest metals, palladium is considered the newest of the two. It was discovered relatively recently in 1882 whereas platinum has been written about since the 1500s and was used by the pre-Colombian indiginous people of Central America in artifacts made with a compound of gold and platinum. Palladium was discovered in 1803 by English chemist and physicist, William Hyde Wollaston who named the element after a recently discovered asteroid, Pallus. Palladium chloride was for a time prescribed as a treatment for tuberculosis until it was discovered to be resulting in too many detrimental side effects and more modern medications were employed. The price of palladium underwent many wild fluctuations in the years leading up to the millennium as Russia delayed and canceled its world supply. The panic that ensued led the price to an all time high. The Ford Motor Company, which relied heavily on palladium for its automobile production, began stockpiling enormous amounts which led to a loss of almost one billion dollars when the price plummeted in 2001. Palladium was used in jewelry making for the first time in 1939 when it was used to alloy platinum. Some credit the Cartier family with the first application of palladium in jewelry making. Although it has since been used, increasingly, for decades in jewelry production, it’s only been in the last 20 years or so that palladium has become a popular choice for wedding bands and engagement rings. Only as recently as 2010 has palladium been officially recognized as a precious metal, and since then, any palladium jewelry weighing more than a gram is legally required to be hallmarked.
As mentioned, both platinum and palladium have a natural ability to resist tarnish, however they are still susceptible to a build up of everyday dirt and grime. Over time, without a regiment of regular cleaning, they can both lose luster and look aged in appearance. You may want to have your fine jewelry cleaned by a professional, but with proper methods, your platinum and palladium jewelry can be cleaned at home. Both durable metals are resistant to the erosion of most chemicals. Palladium, being the harder of the two metals, is harder to scratch and a bit easier to clean.
The most recommended method of home cleaning is the safest. Fill a container with warm water and a small amount of mild dish soap. Allow your jewelry to soak for approximately 5 minutes, then scrub with a small brush or cloth until all dirt and grime is removed. Rinse in cool water, then dry with a soft cloth. Simple. Scratches and scuffs, occurring with everyday use over time, will result in a somewhat aged look in both platinum and palladium. When scratching occurs in a softer metal such as gold, the jewelry will actually lose small amounts of metal. Scratching that occurs with platinum and palladium merely causes the metal to move from one part of the jewelry to another, giving way, over time, to the more matte finished, worn appearance or what’s known as patina. This patina can be removed with a polishing cloth at home or may be professionally removed.
If you are in the market for an engagement ring/wedding bands, and have narrowed down your decision to these two precious metals, this is a lovely dilemma. Both offer exquisite almost indiscernible appearance, durability, hypoallergenics, and now, due to an increasingly low supply of palladium, similar price points. Platinum can be twice as heavy on the hand due to its density, which can be seen as an appeal or drawback, depending on one’s preference. Both will patinate with everyday wear over time and are equally easy to clean. Palladium may be trickier to re-size, should that become necessary, due to its hardness and the specialized machinery required for this. Consider that if you’ve come this far in the process, the most important decisions have already been made and the rest is, as they say, proverbial icing on the wedding cake. However your decision pans out, we wish you blissful nuptials and all the best on your journey together!
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