Palladium vs platinum: What is palladium jewelry? And the differences?

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If you aren’t a jewelry expert, you might be unfamiliar with palladium jewelry. Though uncommon, this close relative of platinum can be used to make a variety of jewelry pieces in different finishes.

In this article, we’ll introduce you to this uniquely beautiful metal and explain the differences of palladium vs platinum.

What is palladium? What does palladium look like?

It is a rare, expensive and lustrous silvery-white metal discovered in 1803, which is mainly found in Russia and can be used in a range of industries including jewelry making and polishing.

Is palladium a metal?

Palladium is a metallic element — its symbol on the periodic table is Pd. It is also one of only four precious metals. The other three are probably much more familiar to you: they are gold, silver, and platinum.

Why is palladium so expensive? Elemental palladium is extremely rare. For the sake of comparison, it is about 15 times rarer than platinum!

Where is palladium found?

The world’s palladium comes primarily from Russia, South Africa, Canada, and the United States. It also can be mined in smaller amounts in South America, Ethiopia, and Australia.

Palladium uses

What is palladium used for? Though it was once considered to be a useless metal incidentally found while mining, palladium is now a prized metal found in a range of industries. In the car industry, it is crucial to manufacturing of catalytic converters. In the technology field, it is used to make various components of cell phones and laptops.

Palladium also is used as a catalyst for various chemical reactions, and it is sometimes used to make surgical instruments.

It also has an interesting niche use in the world of fountain pens. Most fountain pens have gold nibs, but if someone wants a nib that looks silver, a gold nib will usually be plated with palladium.

When it comes to jewelry, palladium is primarily used for palladium ring and especially, palladium wedding bands. It is lightweight and comfortable to wear. It also is both durable and extremely corrosion-resistant, making it ideal for jewelry pieces that are worn every day.

Palladium vs platinum: What is palladium jewelry?

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Palladium metal price

How much is palladium worth? In very recent years, the price of palladium has skyrocketed thanks to increasing demand. In early 2021, palladium cost $2,981.40 per ounce — more than the price of gold!

For comparison’s sake, the year-high price per ounce of palladium in 2016 was $770.43.

Prior to this dramatic spike in prices, palladium was considered to be a more affordable alternative to platinum, especially in the world of jewelry.

But currently, thanks to palladium’s extreme rarity and the demand for it across many industries, only about 4% of the world’s palladium is used for jewelry.

Palladium jewelry

In the early 2000s, palladium’s main use to jewelers was in the making of white gold. Traditionally, white gold was made by mixing gold with nickel. But as you may know, nickel is the most common cause when it comes to jewelry allergies.

Since palladium is both durable and hypoallergenic, it quickly became the logical replacement for nickel.

But in recent years, its beauty and durability have made it a popular metal for jewelry in its own right, especially for wedding bands.

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It is relatively dense, fairly hard and resistant to corrosion and can withstand high heat. But why does this matter when it comes to jewelry? It is because a harder metal will be more difficult to scratch, so it usually will make longer-lasting jewelry.

Since the patina is the result of a slow accumulation of small scratches, that also means that palladium will be slower to develop a patina.

Though palladium is durable, it can be more prone to breakage while being worked with. Palladium is harder than platinum, but it is also weaker. That makes it more susceptible to breakage, especially if a jeweler is unfamiliar with it.

Unlike some precious metals, palladium comes in a wide range of finishes, including hammered, brushed, polished, matte, and textured.

If you find a piece of palladium jewelry, look closely for its “hallmark” — a stamp indicating purity level.

From 2010 on, there were three possible palladium hallmarks: 500, 950, and 999. The 500 mark indicates an alloy made of 50% palladium. A 950 mark indicates 95% palladium, and a 999 mark indicates 99% palladium. (The three-digit numbers on the stamps indicate the parts per thousand of palladium.)

If you’re considering looking into palladium jewelry, here are some of the advantages and disadvantages to keep in mind:

Pros

  • It’s lightweight, especially compared to platinum
  • It is bright white when polished, but you can find it in a range of finishes
  • It’s hypoallergenic
  • It is very durable and easy to maintain

Cons

  • It’s much rarer than platinum and other precious metals
  • Not all jewelers can work with it, so repairs/resizing/etc. are often more expensive
  • It is very expensive

As a side note, the fact that palladium is very costly now doesn’t necessarily mean that it will always be that way. Since the market is volatile, it’s possible that prices will fall back to what they were before.

Palladium vs platinum

Palladium and platinum have similar names, but they’re also similar in appearance. However, they’re very different metals. Here’s what sets them apart:

Palladium vs platinum small

1. A brief history of palladium and platinum: Palladium is newer

Like most metallic elements, platinum and palladium were discovered relatively early on in human history. Both have gone from surprise mining finds to immensely useful metals!

Palladium

Though palladium is a fairly sought-after metal today, it wasn’t always. When Brazilian miners first came across it, they called it “ouro podre,” a name that translates to “rotten gold.”

Though it was first discovered in the 1700s, it took some time for palladium to rise in popularity. Thanks to its scarcity, palladium has become very expensive in recent years. It often commands a higher price than gold.

The name “palladium” comes from an asteroid called Pallas. That asteroid was named for the ancient Greek goddess of wisdom.

Platinum

Platinum was first discovered by Spanish miners in the 16th century. They first called it “platina,” a name that means “little silver.” The miners were only interested in gold, and platinum deposits simply got in the way.

Platinum wasn’t widely regarded as a valuable metal until the 18th century. That’s when the Royal Society of London became interested in it and began popularizing it.

2. Chemical composition and physical properties: Palladium is rarer and harder

These metals might look similar, but they are a bit different when it comes to physical properties:

Palladium

Both palladium and platinum are metallic chemical elements. Platinum is the softer of the two, although it is still strong enough for a variety of applications.

Palladium is a very rare element, and its abundance in Earth’s crust is estimated to be 0.0000015%. Even though it’s scarce, it is certainly more concentrated in some places: Russia accounts for almost 40% of the world’s palladium production. Here are some of the key features of palladium:

  • Atomic Number: 46
  • Melting Point: 2830.82 °F
  • Hardness: 4.75 on Mohs scale
  • Density: 12 g/cm3

Platinum

Platinum, like palladium, is a silvery-white metallic element. Both are part of the platinum group of elements. This group contains rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, palladium, and platinum.

As elements go, platinum is fairly rare. Its abundance in Earth’s crust is estimated to be 0.0000005%. South Africa is responsible for 80% of the world’s platinum production. Here are some of platinum’s key features:

  • Atomic Number: 78
  • Melting Point: 3214.9 °F
  • Hardness: 3.5 on Mohs scale
  • Density: 21.45 g/cm3

3. Weight: Palladium weighs less

As you can see above, palladium’s density is 12 g/cm3 while that of platinum is 21.45 g/cm3, this means that palladium is lightweight compared to platinum. On average, a platinum wedding band will weigh close to twice as much as a palladium wedding band of the same size.

4. Appearance and color: Palladium is slightly darker

To the untrained eye, platinum and palladium look very similar. But if you look closely, there are some key differences.

Palladium

Palladium is just slightly darker than platinum. However, it is a bright, silvery white that is a great choice for highlighting gemstones, especially those with darker coloration. As it ages, palladium develops a patina, or a muted, slightly matte appearance.

However, if you would prefer your jewelry to stay bright white, you can also have palladium re-polished if necessary.

Platinum

Platinum is only about one shade whiter than palladium. Like palladium, it has a silvery-white color that works very well with gemstones. This is another metal that will develop a patina over time, but it can be re-polished as needed.

5. Durability: Palladium is harder, more difficult to scratch but more prone to breakage

As you saw in the properties listed above, both platinum and palladium are relatively dense and fairly hard. Both are resistant to corrosion and can withstand high heat, so they’re great choices for a number of applications.

Palladium

Palladium is the harder of the two metals. But why does this matter when it comes to jewelry? A harder metal will be more difficult to scratch, so it usually will make longer-lasting jewelry.

Since the patina mentioned above is the result of a slow accumulation of small scratches, that also means that palladium will be slower to develop a patina.

Though palladium is durable, it can be more prone to breakage while being worked with. Palladium is harder than platinum, but it is also weaker. That makes it more susceptible to breakage, especially if a jeweler is unfamiliar with it.

Platinum

Platinum is softer than palladium, but it is also stronger. That means that it’s an especially good choice for jewelry that is worn daily — like wedding rings.

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Since the patina that forms on both palladium and platinum is made up of small scratches, you might start to wonder about the durability of both metals. This feature actually makes them much lower maintenance than white gold.

When white gold becomes scratched, the metal surface is permanently marred. That means that some of the metal is scraped away forever. By contrast, when palladium or platinum gets a scratch, the metal simply moves slightly.

6. Price: Palladium is now 50% more expensive

Both platinum and palladium can be used to make high-end jewelry, but their pricing is a little different.

Palladium

It was only in very recent years (around 2019) that the cost of pure palladium exceeded that of platinum. Demand for palladium as a chemical catalyst jumped, so the price of palladium is now about 50% more than that of platinum. As of 11/30/21, palladium was $1,783.00 per ounce! Prior to this market surge, palladium was about half the cost of platinum.

Platinum

Though platinum was much more expensive than palladium prior to this market surge, it isn’t necessarily a much better metal. Because of its density, you can use far fewer grams of platinum than you could of palladium while making the exact same ring. As of 11/30/21, the cost of platinum was $927.30 per ounce.

7. Allergy concerns and toxicity: Both are hypoallergenic metals

Both palladium and platinum are known as “hypoallergenic metals.” In almost all cases, they are not reactive and will not cause skin issues.

Palladium

It’s worth noting that while palladium is a hypoallergenic metal, it only began to be used in jewelry relatively recently (in 1939). Some doctors may recommend platinum to patients with allergies simply because it has been around longer.

This metal is not very toxic to humans. Wearing it as jewelry does not cause ill effects. Even if you were to ingest it, it would absorb very poorly!

Platinum

Platinum is also known for being a great metal for people with allergies. Just make sure you aren’t getting a jewelry piece that doesn’t also contain nickel. Wearing it as jewelry isn’t known to cause toxicity, but exposure to airborne platinum salts and some other forms may cause severe health issues.

8. Best Uses in jewelry: Palladium is lighter, thinner and used to make white gold

Platinum and palladium are both versatile metals that can be used as catalysts for chemical reactions and components of vehicle parts and electronics. However, we will focus on their best uses in the jewelry world.

Palladium

Palladium is a lot less dense than platinum, so it is an ideal jewelry choice for people who prefer a more lightweight feel. It also can be hammered very thin or offered in textured, brushed, or polished finishes.

It also is commonly part of the manufacturing of white gold. White gold is an alloy of gold and a white metal. Palladium white gold is one of the more expensive varieties because it won’t cause allergic reactions like nickel/gold alloys can.

Palladium is certainly a great choice for jewelry. But it’s important to know that some jewelers may not know how to work with it. Less than 1% of all rings in the world are made of palladium, and some jewelers may not have the right equipment to work with it.

Platinum

Platinum’s density and corrosion resistance make it an ideal metal to use to make wedding rings. After all, these rings are usually worn daily. A weak metal is more likely to lose shape over time.

Despite its strength and beauty, platinum is not as common in the jewelry world as gold or silver. Notably, it was used to make the frame of the crown for Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother.

Where can i buy palladium jewelry?

If you want to buy handmade palladium jewelry ranging from $20-$500, you can check Etsy. You can buy a palladium ring or a palladium wedding band that are affordable and of high quality and have them delivered to your house fast.

Alternatively, if you want to buy high end palladium jewelry from well known brands ranging from $300-$5000, you can check Farfetch

They have luxury brands like Gucci, Prada, Boucheron, Cartier, Chopard, David Morris, De Beers and designer brands that are unique and less well-known. You can have all the products delivered to your home.

How to clean palladium jewelry?

Palladium is plenty shiny on its own. But to keep it looking its best, make sure you clean it regularly!

There are two ways you can do this. The first method is with any commercial jewelry cleaner. If you choose this method, make sure you carefully follow the directions on the cleaner itself.

The second method is with soap and water. The best way to do this is by mixing a 1/2 tsp. of dish soap with a small amount of warm water (enough to cover the jewelry). Let the jewelry soak for about five minutes.

After that, take the jewelry out and either wipe it down with a soft cloth or use a jewelry brush to clean it. Rinse it in cold water and then wipe dry with a soft cloth.

Final thoughts

Thank you for reading this article on palladium vs platinum. If you value jewelry with uncommon beauty, you’ll probably love the look of palladium. Though it is relatively lightweight, it is hard and strong enough to resist everyday wear and tear. If you need white jewelry that will last for generations, give palladium jewelry a look!

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