Johan Poggenpoel, Co-Founder.
This engagement ring you’re planning… should it be cherished and enjoyed or compulsively stressed over?
That’s a no brainer.
And this very issue shoves the exploration and choice of metal for your engagement ring to centre stage, instead of just a mere by the way formality.
Summary: Platinum is without a doubt the most sought after and prestigious metal for engagement rings due to it’s stunning colour, and superior durability. With platinum’s main use being in catalytic converters in diesel powered vehicles and the bleak long-term outlook for diesel power, the price has declined to extremely favourable levels for jewellery shoppers. From being 150% more expensive than gold a decade ago, it’s currently trading at a discount of 25% – 30% to gold. It’s a great time to opt for the best; a platinum engagement ring.
Thirty year gold price (orange) overlaid on the corresponding platinum prices (blue). Your new favourite chart.
I gave into temptation this morning, and buttoned myself up in a crisp white Brooks Brothers dress shirt.
Every time I wear it to work I love it until I take that first sip of coffee. Then reality sets in… I’m a jeweller working 60+ hour weeks and I would (guaranteed) wreck a white shirt every week with pencil smudge, ink, metal filings, polishing agents, platinum dust, 1000’C furnaces and good old gypsum. It’s a great shirt, but a bad choice for work.
Just like every other time I’ve worn this shirt to work I scan my elbows and cuffs for any marks every 30 minutes or so.
Yup, just did the check again.
Your engagement ring will face a similar challenge. It will be worn all day, everyday, and it should be able to withstand more than just formal dinners and weddings. Regardless of your vow to treat it like a fragile glass statue, life unfortunately doesn’t work that way. Wear and tear on an engagement ring is an issue.
The default metal choice most jewellers offer and push for an engagement ring is white gold. Platinum outperforms it in every single way. From collecting less scratches to keeping your diamond(s) safely in check platinum will greatly improve your journey with this special piece of jewellery.
Okay, but why is white gold still so popular?
Did you know pure gold (Au) is so soft that you can indent your nail into a bar of gold?
It’s easy to work in, and that has tons of spin-offs that make it attractive for most jewellers.
Most notably its soft and malleable nature makes it a goldsmiths dream.
Unfortunately these very same characteristics compromise the strength and durability of a white gold ring. Look, scratches aren’t a trainwreck, they can be polished out when it get’s too much.
The largest risk is the accumulation of light daily bumps that slowly move the prongs that secure your diamonds out of place… and then you lose a diamond, or 5. Personally, the fact that white gold isn’t a very secure home for a diamond disqualifies it as an option for me.
Another nagging issue people experience with white gold is its change in colour. It’s actually a dull greyish colour with a bland yellow undertone. That’s why they’re plated with a 0,002mm – layer of rhodium. This microscopic plating wears off unevenly over a few months and will need to be reapplied a few times per year at a cost of R200 – R500.
You’ll have none of these issues with a platinum ring.
Take a look at the colour of unplated 18k gold compared to platinum;
For an in-depth comparison of noble metals beyond pricing please head over to; “White Gold Vs. Palladium Vs. Platinum” (link).
What’s the best engagement ring metal option then?
Platinum or palladium.
When palladium traded at a 90% discount to platinum, the price difference was significant. Most gents and couples work with a budget of sorts, and a palladium setting simply made more of the budget available for a better, larger diamond. It made sense and optimised the whole purchase.
The qualities and properties of a certain metal have to be weighed to it’s price. And with the major shifts of the past few years, the value propositions have changed.
Per gram, platinum has gone from being the most expensive metal per gram to the cheapest.
What drove these changes?
Gold is used in everything from cellphones, medals, dentures, motherboards, certain vaccines, investments, a million other things and obviously jewellery.
Gold is widely considered a safe investment, and in times of uncertainty even governments stock up on gold bullion. I don’t get it. If you invested $1 000 into gold back in 1980, what do you think it would be worth today? $570. You’re down 43%.
There isn’t a single industry that completely dominates the use of gold but the majority is used in jewellery at this stage. Unlike white gold there aren’t durable alternatives to rose and yellow gold, and that ensures jewellery demand is safe and sound.
Keep in mind large countries like India skipped the white gold phase entirely, and still prefer yellow gold jewellery.
Platinum & Palladium.
The platinum group metals (ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum) are used in industries ranging from chemotherapy, fuel cells, ceramic capacitors, plastics manufacturing and jewellery.
By far the most of platinum and palladium consumed in a year is used in catalytic converters to reduce harmful emissions from a vehicle’s exhaust system.
Here’s where things got scrambled:
Palladium is used in catalytic converters for petrol cars and platinum is used in diesel engines. These catalytic converters are integral parts of the machinery, and every car has around 6 grams of pure platinum or palladium somewhere in the engine and/or exhaust system. That’s the average weight of an engagement ring by the way.
After a few recent scandals (Diesel-gate & Co.) that resulted in very punitive bans and fines, the long term outlook for diesel power seems bleak. This shift in sentiment has found it’s place all the way to the platinum price.
But, the resulting surge in demand and outlook for petrol cars has in turn driven the palladium price higher.
When you’re engagement ring shopping, don’t read too much into the platinum price. It’s important to understand that the drop in demand for diesel engines doesn’t change the fact that platinum is a superior metal for use for in jewellery. It’s king.
Platinum didn’t grab the white metal market over the past decades mainly due to its considerable and often unjustifiable premium over white gold.
Platinum is much denser than gold or palladium, and relative to palladium and gold – noticeably heavier. That boils down to you needing more platinum (in grams) than gold or palladium for the exact same ring design.
Let’s work with through the metal-section of an engagement ring quote.
Here’s a popular wedding set; our Janise.
Using the Janise’s 3D design file we weight the set digitally;
- Platinum: 10 grams.
- Palladium: 6 grams.
- 18k Gold 7 grams.
What would the metal cost for this set have been in 2008?
*Based on late 2008’s metal price per gram, excluding any labour, alloys, design, set fees. Those costs are fixed regardless of your metal choice.
- 950 Platinum: 10g @ $65,46 per gram = $654
- 950 Palladium: 6g @ $9.74 per gram = $58
- 18k Gold: 7g @ $24 per gram = $160
The platinum version of this set would have cost you 4 TIMES more than a white gold version.
With palladium overtaking platinum’s price this year, it’s interesting to see a mere 10 years ago the metal cost of this set would have been 10 TIMES higher than a palladium version. That’s why we recommended palladium at that stage.
What would the wedding set cost today?
- 950 Platinum: 10g @$28.44 per gram = $284
- 950 Palladium: 6g @ $30.42 per gram = $180
- 18k Gold: 7g @ $30.42 per gram = $213 / $250
18k White gold contains about 16% palladium, and when that is factored in the 18k price would be closer to $250. That’s right at the platinum price.
The massive platinum premium is gone, thanks to Volkswagen.
This oppertunity won’t last forever. Take advantage of it.
This 60% drop in price opens new opportunities, use cases and fields for platinum where it was previously sidestepped due to the prohibitively high price.
Don’t be surprised if the jewellery industry becomes the largest driver of its demand and price in the future. The market for platinum in jewellery is gigantic at this lower than gold price, and could demolish the 18k white gold market.
At the current spot price, I think platinum is the best buy, and personally it would’ve been my #1 choice. Platinum is seen as the premier metal choice and carries the scent of spoiling someone special over the top. The perfect cherry on the pie.
You’re invited to visit our jewellery studios in Pretoria and Rosebank to see feel and experience the different metals. This remains a personal choice but I’m sure you’ll leave sold on platinum and excited about working with us to get your ring nothing short of perfect.
You’re more than welcome to reach out on firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions and comments.