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History of Platinum jewelry



Platinum, known for its lustrous finish and remarkable durability, is a relatively recent addition to the world of jewelry compared to gold and silver, which have been used for millennia. The history of platinum jewelry is fascinating, reflecting both technological innovation and changing tastes in fashion.

Pre-Columbian Use

The earliest known use of platinum dates back to ancient Egypt around 1200 BC, where it was found in small amounts in gold artifacts. However, it was in pre-Columbian South America that platinum was first used in a significant way. The indigenous peoples of what is now Ecuador worked platinum, as they found it in local river sands. They developed a sophisticated technique to use the metal despite its high melting point, which involves sintering platinum dust with gold to create a sort of naturally occurring white gold.

Rediscovery in the 16th Century

When Spanish Conquistadors arrived in the New World during the 16th century, they encountered platinum but regarded it as an unwanted impurity in the silver they mined and often discarded it. It wasn't until the 18th century that European scientists began to study platinum in earnest, intrigued by its properties.

18th and 19th Century Developments

In the 18th century, platinum captured the interest of European scientists and craftsmen. Notably, the metal was challenging to work with due to its high melting point. It wasn't until the introduction of oxyhydrogen torches in the late 1800s that jewelers could fully manipulate platinum to create intricate designs. Platinum’s resistance to tarnish and its strength made it increasingly popular among jewelers and consumers alike.

20th Century Boom and Art Deco Popularity

Platinum’s heyday in jewelry came during the early 20th century, particularly in the Art Deco period (1920s and 1930s). Its ability to provide a strong, secure setting for precious stones and its pure, bright color made it ideal for the geometric designs and intricate settings that characterized the era. Platinum was extensively used for engagement rings, brooches, and other pieces during this time, often set with diamonds and other precious gems.

Impact of World War II

During World War II, platinum was designated a strategic metal by many countries involved in the conflict. Its use in jewelry was restricted, as it was more urgently needed in military applications, including in the construction of aircraft and other war-related technologies. This led to a resurgence in the popularity of gold for jewelry during the mid-20th century.

Modern Era

After the war, platinum regained its status as a premier material for fine jewelry. It remains highly valued for wedding bands, engagement rings, and high-end watches due to its durability, resistance to wear, and hypoallergenic properties. Modern jewelry makers prize platinum for its understated elegance and strength, ensuring that it remains a symbol of luxury and permanence in jewelry design.

Platinum's rarity and the technical challenge of working with it add to its allure and status as one of the most prestigious materials in jewelry making. Its rich history and the technical developments that have allowed its use in intricate designs make platinum an enduring choice for exceptional adornment.

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