Palladium, which occurs naturally in seams alongside platinum, is making a comeback as a jewellery metal after years of disappearing from the scene.It looks like platinum, it feels like platinum, it's part of the platinum family of metals and is a great alternative to platinum when it comes to jewellery.
Palladium is a silvery-white, rare and lustrous precious metal, one of the platinum group metals which are typically found together in ore deposits. The richest known palladium deposit in the world is located in southern Montana in the USA. More than a fifth of the worlds palladium supply now goes into jewellery production and China is the country with the highest demand for the precious metal.
Palladium first enjoyed success as a substitute for platinum in jewelry during the World War II era, when platinum was reserved for the war effort. The difficult process involved in extracting palladium for jewellery use meant that palladium lost favor as soon as platinum became available again; however, recent advances in palladium alloying has returned this metal to popularity.
Palladium's similarities to platinum include its durability, its permanent white-silver color and its resistant to tarnish and oxidation. Palladium is naturally white from the earth so it will never change colour. Thus palladium never needs to be re-plated to keep its color.
The hardness of palladium means palladium rings are much more pure than other metals used in jewellery. Palladium jewellery is 95% pure palladium. Gold is so soft that it has to be mixed with cheaper metals to make it hard enough to use in jewellery. 14k Gold is less than 60% pure gold. The purity of palladium makes it hypoallergenic, as it does not contain any nickel (unlike white gold) which can cause allergies.
As a bonus, it's less heavy and less expensive than platinum, making it better for many ring designs. Platinum is almost but not quite twice as dense (say heavy) as palladium. Platinum is sold by weight with an 85 percent to 95 percent purity rate.
Both platinum and palladium offer quite superior stone setting security than white gold. The reason is called “spring back”, a tendency of metal to spring back to its original position and not stay in the place it was bent. When a prong setting is pushed over a diamond with platinum or palladium, the prong shows no spring back and stays in place.