Palladium is a beautiful, gleaming, silvery white metal that, together with its sister metal platinum and a number of others, belongs to the platinum group of metals.
Palladium was discovered by William Hyde Wollaston (a distant relative of mine) in 1803. Something of a late-comer, its first major role in jewellery was during the Art Deco era when it was used as the main alloying metal added to gold to create white gold. Since then it has seldom been used as a metal in its own right, primarily due to the extreme difficulty in its manufacture, but apart from this it has everything in its favour.
Palladium is only a little heavier than silver, making larger pieces possible without being impractically heavy or expensive. It has superior whiteness, akin to platinum, with no need for rhodium plating as in the case of white gold, and is hypoallergenic. It has similar abrasion resistance to platinum, meaning it takes much longer to wear away than other metals, and is even slightly stronger than platinum. It’s also considerably less expensive. The alloy I use is 95 per cent pure, with only ruthenium and some other trace elements added to improve working characteristics.
With experience and modern equipment almost any piece can be made in palladium. Men in particular tend towards it as an alternative to platinum for big, robust wedding rings and yet it is just as suited to delicately flowing necklaces or sleek accents on coloured gold.
As a commodity, palladium has a myriad of important industrial uses. It is also one of only four metals with its own ISO currency code, XPD, the others being gold, silver and platinum. Having hidden so long as just an ingredient in white gold, palladium is becoming the precious metal for the 21st century.