Join us along with two platinumsmiths for a fresh look at platinum and platinum jewellery.
Platinum jewellery doesn’t attract anywhere near the amount of attention of its cousins yellow gold, white gold, or even silver. However, platinum is the metal France’s King Louis XVI once declared the only metal fit for kings, and as a white metal, its prized silvery whiteness and luminosity remain unchanged as over time there is no possibility platinum’s colour will fade to yellow like white gold. Here we examine platinum’s remarkable qualities and its unique place within the modern jewellery industry, with input from two acclaimed platinumsmiths.
Modern Platinum Artisans
David Michael Jewels are a Gold Coast-based jeweller run by twin brothers David and Michael Robinson. Their partnership is nurtured through shared childhood dreams and aspirations and focused through years of collective work experiences. They hold fast to tradition quality and values in jewellery making. David said platinum has always been their first choice in white metal.
“We choose it because it suits our work, it delivers a finish that no other metal can,” he said. “We enjoy working with all kinds of metal but the majority of the pieces we make are in platinum.”
Platinumsmith is a specialist platinum jeweller from Melbourne run by Phillip Schmidt. Phillip became a platinumsmith after 15 years as a general all-purpose jeweller doing repairs and the occasional bespoke piece. He was drawn to platinum after working in the UK with a wholesaler who used only platinum.
“I was actually a diamond setter at the time, but I improved the mounts by refinishing them and later polishing them,” he said. “Soon after I became a platinum specialist.”
A Fine Metal for Fine Work
Platinum is not just hard-wearing, its malleability and ductility means it can easily be hammered or drawn into wire without breaking, making it ideal for fine metal techniques.
Phillip said platinum is a dense and malleable metal that takes an excellent polish and never corrodes.
“Platinum handles more detail and my customers will pay for loupe clean jewellery,” he said. “You can keep on creating more microscopic detail forever. I’ve made rings with 12 hours in a 5mm x 5mm zone under a microscope. People never understand that the space is huge! There is a lot of handling involved and it’s harder to achieve.”
David said fine techniques such millgrain, scroll-work, forging, chasing, folding and repousse can be seen in most of their designs.
“We have a big social media following and we often share the creation of a piece step by step with our followers who really enjoy viewing the process.”
“People love to see the various techniques engaged.”
Hundreds of hours are often invested into creating a piece at David Michael Jewels.
“Because of the detail, complexity and quality of our pieces we are only able to complete 10 to 12 pieces annually.”
Platinum: Perfect for Diamonds
The colour and lustre of platinum makes a perfect pairing with a diamond’s brilliance, platinum can securely hold gemstones like no other precious metal can, and is especially suited to pave settings.
“We use pavé like an artist would use paint since the possible hue spectrum and combinations are limitless,” David said. “It’s so satisfying watching the cool grey of platinum disappear under a bed of colourful gems, building up the desired picture one stone at a time just like brushstrokes.”
“Using many smaller gems of differing shades allows us to add highlights or shadows within a petal and add depth.”
David said platinum’s density and durability means David and Michael can cut the part holding the gems in place much finer than they would in any other metal.
Phillip said that platinum is more practical for making an engagement ring that lasts and presents diamonds well.
“I can show more of the diamond whereby the dense metal holds up better and lasts longer, so I can use less metal around the stones,” he said.
Although traditionally more expensive than gold, platinum is trading lower than gold in the current economic market. This is also despite the fact that platinum is 30 times rarer than gold. Phillip said platinum is considered more rich and higher quality, although not cheaper when manufacture is considered. Although the metal is good for his business, he doesn’t consider it to be good for investors.
“I have always used all the platinum I have ever bought, so I will invest in it all the time, and if the price dumps I hope to have cash on hand.”
“The GFC was good for me, but I will buy it at a high price too.”
When trying to persuade customers to have their pieces crafted from platinum, Phillip said nowadays the profit margin is good enough for jewellers to promote it.
“When it was more expensive my customers would complain that their jeweller kept trying to talk them out of it… and did poor work.”
“(These days) I think most jewellers work with platinum properly – understand it takes twice as long to reach the desired level of finish and are equipped to manage the higher temperatures required to fuse, use hard platinum solder etc.”
David said platinum has always been traditionally revered among precious metals, originally among the very sophisticated and discerning collectors.
“As the general public has become more aware of platinum and it has become more available more and more people have chosen to invest in platinum pieces.”
“Yes, it is a little harder to work with and a bit more time consuming to shape and especially finish, but the investment of time is really well spent.”
For David Michael Jewels, platinum’s fluctuating value has no relevance to their pieces, as its unique aesthetics mean they will continue to use it regardless.
“After all, it is the ‘King of Metals’.”