I am one of the few custom goldsmiths who dare to use pure (.950 Palladium) palladium for many of my unique engagement rings. In fact, probably 30% of my custom white metal engagement rings are made out of this prestigious metal. The reason many jewellers refuse to use this new metal (new to the industry, that is) is because it requires special tools and a whole new learning curve that many are unwilling to tackle. I have seen this as an excellent opportunity to supply you with this special option on all my designs of engagement rings.
What is Palladium?
Palladium is a white element that is in the platinum group. It occurs naturally in the earth’s crust. Its element number is 46. Don’t let me bore you too much. For more technical information click on this link from the precious metal group database….very boring stuff!
In jewelry, we use .950 Palladium, which is 95% pure. The other 5% is mostly ruthenium (also in the platinum group) and trace amounts of gallium. The reason we alloy palladium with ruthenium is because pure Palladium is quite soft and bendable, where as ruthenium is 100x harder than Palladium. This additive really beefs up these weak characteristics and makes the Palladium alloy a very viable option for engagement rings.
Palladium vs. Platinum
Because Palladium is in the platinum group it shares very similar characteristics with platinum:
- Palladium is very ductile (bends without weakening)
- Palladium is dead soft (has no springiness).
- Palladium is as hard and durable as platinum.
- Palladium and platinum both develop a patina-like* look.
*—This matte finish is not true patina because it is not a product of oxidization. In fact, neither Palladium nor platinum oxidize in normal temperatures (Palladium begins to oxidize at approx. 600 degrees Celsius). The resulting matte finish is a product of scratching due to their soft malleable characteristics.
But it also has differences:
- Palladium is half as heavy as platinum, and also quite a bit cheaper in price.
- Palladium also appears to be slightly greyer in color, but when polished, they are almost impossible to tell a color difference.
- You can tell the difference between Palladium and platinum with a fast easy test. Put a drop of iodine onto the metals and allow it to dry. Dried iodine on Palladium turns black, while dried iodine on platinum is fairly clear.
- Another difference is Palladium requires special equipment to cast and weld.
- It is more rare than platinum.
Palladium vs. White gold
Here is another popular question. I feel that both metals are good for jewelry. They have very different characteristics, but each has unique qualities that are beneficial, and both have undesirable qualities as well.
I feel the best way to choose is to know their characteristics and pick the one you like best:
- Palladium is dead soft. This means it is superior to white gold in terms of holding stones securely.
- Palladium is also more ductile than white gold. This means it is less prone to developing fractures (which often leads to prongs failing and stones falling out).
- Palladium also remains white as it wears, while white gold requires a white rhodium plating every 6 months to remain pure white.
- Although Palladium is not as hard as white gold (means Palladium will scratch easier), it is far more durable*.
- Palladium is hypoallergenic, while some people either have or develop nickel allergies. White gold is often heavily mixed with nickel(up to 58% nickel in 10k white gold)
*—Durability means it wears slowly…..it scratches faster but the scratches merely displace metal, not remove metal. When white gold scratches the metal easily fall away. This characteristic of Palladium makes it very difficult to polish, and as such, palladium rings usually cost more in terms of labour.
White gold is more scratch resistant and has a more lustrous polish. White gold is easier to polish, cast, and re-size.
A common question is “can palladium rings be re-sized?”. The answer is yes. Not every jeweller does, though. Be sure you take the time to find a jeweller who feels comfortable working with Palladium. Palladium does require special equipment, but once a jeweller has the equipment, it requires little skill to actually do the work.