Palladium is a rare and lustrous silvery-white metal discovered in 1803 by William Hyde Wollaston.
He named it after the asteroid Pallas (which was discovered in 1802 and named after the goddess
Palladium, platinum, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium and osmium form a group of elements referred to as the Platinum Group Metals (PGMs). These elements have similar chemical properties, but palladium has the lowest melting point and is the least dense.
Ore deposits of palladium and other PGMs are rare. The most extensive deposits have been found in the Bushveld Igneous Complex in South Africa, The Stillwater Complex in Montana, USA and The Norilsk Complex in Russia. More than half the world’s supply of palladium is used in catalytic converters which converts exhaust fumes into less harmful carbon dioxide and water vapour.
Palladium is also used in dentistry and in the production of fuel cells that combine hydrogen and oxygen to produce electricity, heat and water. For us of course it is a wonderful new and exciting metal used in jewellery making.
Applications of Palladium
In the modern world, palladium was first used for jewellery when platinum was reserved for military use during WW II. As recently as 2001 palladium was more expensive than platinum and its use restricted to the making of white gold alloys. Although palladium white gold is more expensive than nickel-based white gold, it is not allergenic, as are nickel based alloys.
In early 2004, when gold and platinum prices rose steeply, goldsmiths started to search for a less expensive alternative to platinum and developed palladium alloys that are workable, hypoallergenic, tarnish free and do not need rhodium plating. Various palladium alloys were produced, of which the 95% Palladium and 5% Ruthenium is the most popular alloy.
Since 2010 it is a legal requirement in SA to hallmark all articles of jewellery that are wholly or partly made of palladium. Articles are marked as either Pd850, Pd900 or Pd950. The number in the hallmark indicates parts per thousand of palladium in the alloy.
Palladium offers the same benefits as platinum:
- It is a rare white precious metal that does not tarnish and requires no rhodium plating
- It is slightly lighter than platinum
Palladium is still quite unknown as it is not promoted by the Platinum Miners and their Guilds – mainly because it competes as a less expensive alternative to platinum. For jewellery use however you are more than welcome to contact us, should you be interested in a quotation for your very own Palladium jewellery!