Platinum : The Metal of Kings
Although platinum was regarded as a worthless metal for most of its existence, it has been found in items dating from 700 BC, the most famous of which is the Casket of Thebes. This small box has hieroglyphics decorated with gold, silver and an alloy of platinum. The Spanish Conquistadors of the 16th century actually considered platinum to be a nuisance. They discovered white metal nuggets along with nuggets of gold when panning in New Granada which were difficult to separate. They named this metal “Platina”, which means “little silver” in Spanish. It was believed that the platinum was a form of unripe gold and for many years it was considered worthless except as a way of counterfeiting.
In 1751, a Swedish researcher named Sheffer added arsenic to platinum and succeeded in melting it. This was an innovation as it has an incredibly high melting point. This technique was improved on in 1782 by Lavoisier who successfully melted platinum for the first time using oxygen, but it was to be another twenty five years before significant quantities of platinum could be created using this method. At this time it was used for decorating porcelain, making laboratory items and ornaments.
However in the 1780′s, it caught the attention of aristocrats as a novelty. King Louis XVI hence dubbed it “The Metal of Kings” and in 1795 after the French revolution, France created the metric weights and measures system. Marc Etienne Janety, who had been King Louis XVI’s former jeweler, was recalled to Paris and created the standard kilogram weight out of platinum. It was chosen for its exceptional durability as this meant the standard would not deteriorate. Today, Janety’s original platinum cylinder is held at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Paris.
During the early 1900s the famous jeweler Louis Cartier was the first to create platinum jewelery successfully, he showed off the superb qualities of the metal and used it to enhance the appearance of diamonds. Cartier was acclaimed by King Edward VII of England as the “jeweler of kings and the king of jewelers”, royalty and maharajas were desperate to acquire Cartier’s creations.
Today platinum is one of the world’s rarest metals and is just as valuable as gold. It is only found in a few countries of the world, with South Africa at the forefront. It has grown tremendously in popularity in recent years and has become the new choice of many diamond engagement rings.
The appeal of platinum lies in its appearance, mainly its beauty and durability. Its white luster is unique and enhances the brilliance of a diamond far better than gold, making it the perfect choice for a diamond ring. This makes platinum a perfect match with diamonds that contain little or no color as the white setting will not reflect any color into the stone.
Perhaps the most important asset of platinum is its durability, making it the strongest precious metal used in jewelry. A scratch on platinum may leave a mark, but it will not bend or wear down which makes this ideal for prongs in settings. Over time though, this metal may develop a sheen referred to as “platina” which is unique to platinum. The original shine can however be restored by a jeweler polishing it.
- To obtain a lifetime of enjoyment from your platinum jewelry, keep it clean and avoid wearing it during rough work or when handling harsh chemicals.
- Keep your platinum jewelry looking good by soaking it in a mild solution of soap and warm water and gently scrubbing it with a soft-bristled brush.
- Store your platinum jewelry in a fabric-lined box away from other jewelry to avoid scratching it.