The growing popularity of palladium jewellery has led many to wonder about this "new" metal. The truth is jewellers have used palladium in jewellery for more than a century. This sleeper silver-white metal owes its existence to another, better-known precious metal, and its renewed popularity to better technology.
What is Palladium?
Palladium, a precious metal, belongs to the same chemical family as the much better-known metals platinum and rhodium. Found alongside platinum, palladium is similar in colour to platinum--white-silver in appearance. It is lighter than platinum, but durable enough for jewellery applications.
History of Palladium
Palladium is anything but a newcomer to the jewellery market. Jewellers used palladium for jewellery as early as the Victorian era. During World War II, when the war effort needed platinum, palladium emerged as a viable alternative white metal, especially for use in fine jewellery and wedding jewellery. Two factors, however, contributed to the disappearance of palladium on the jewellery market during the last half of the 20th century. These were the difficulty to create a palladium alloy for mass-market jewellery, and the increasing popularity of gold jewellery.
Why Palladium is making a Comeback
The re-emergence of platinum for jewellery in the 1980s and 1990s made lower-cost alternative white metals return in popularity as well. White gold, which is actually yellow gold alloyed with other white metals, made a comeback, as did silver. However, the fact that white gold is rarely "white" and retains a yellowish cast unless plated with rhodium, and the fact that sterling silver is neither precious nor as durable as gold or platinum, opened the market for the reappearance of palladium. Furthermore, new alloy methods made reliable manufacture of palladium easier than in years past.
Palladium has much in common with its sister metal, platinum. In jewellery alloys, it is 95 per cent pure, similar to platinum. Its true, white-silver appearance rarely tarnishes and needs no plating to retain its colour.
It is the areas where palladium diverges from platinum that makes this metal attractive to jewellers and consumers alike. A much lighter metal than platinum, jewellers can cast palladium in much more intricate fashions. Its lighter weight also means it is less expensive. In other words, it retains platinum's appearance, while resolving the two issues that made platinum out of reach for many consumers--weight and price.