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Is this the last of 18ct white gold jewellery ?

Is this the last of 18ct white gold jewellery ?

Goldsmiths add palladium and silver to 24ct yellow gold to create an 18ct white gold alloy. When the price of platinum peaked at $2000/oz in 2008, 18ct white gold became the most popular metal for fine jewellery. It remained so until 2020 when the price of gold and palladium went wild. Since then, due to our weakening rand, the increase in the $ value of gold, and a skyrocketing palladium price, white gold alloys have become prohibitively expensive. Jewellery consumers thus turned to platinum or 9ct white gold. Even sterling silver and stainless steel jewellery regained popularity due to the exuberant cost of making a white gold alloy.

An unexpected result of the Covid epidemic could be the disappearance of 18ct white gold and a new demand for platinum. Also, jewellery made from palladium has all but disappeared. A few years ago, our goldsmiths regularly created jewellery in palladium, a rare metal with qualities similar to platinum.

If 18ct white gold disappears, South African jewellery manufacturers will have to innovate and retrain their staff to work in platinum and silver – a costly exercise. Fortunately, our goldsmiths at Prins & Prins have been working in platinum for many decades and were finalists and winners in the Platafrica Jewellery Competition for the past five years. We are one of the few manufacturers geared for the re-newed popularity of platinum jewellery.

Palladium and Rhodium – We mine it but can’t afford it.

18ct white gold alloys used for jewellery contain pure yellow gold, silver and 10 to 16% palladium. A more expensive 18ct white gold can be made by mixing pure gold with platinum and palladium.

South Africa is the world’s largest supplier of platinum, rhodium, palladium, iridium, ruthenium, and osmium, the so-called Platinum Group Metals (PGM). The superb catalytic properties, fuel cell use, investment, and other industrial applications of these metals are driving their current popularity. Although Covid-related mine disruptions resulted in a 15% drop in production volumes, sales of PGM metals increased by 40% due to higher prices.

In 2020, the US $ price of palladium increased by 43% and rhodium by 187%. In rand terms, the cost of rhodium increased by 222%.

At the start of 2021, rhodium traded between US$ 25-30 000 per ounce before losing half its value. Currently, it sells around $19 000/ounce, which is still far above its price of $2000 per ounce a few years ago.

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