Are you in love with antique platinum jewelry? A strong, white precious metal, platinum goes so very beautifully with diamonds. It makes an eye-catching contrast to yellow or rose gold and colorful gems.
The antique settings can be spectacular, whether an elegant diamond set ring, a sparkling pair of girandole earrings or a gorgeous lavalier necklace. Platinum is strong, malleable, and ductile. It doesn’t tarnish or corrode. It makes an excellent choice for jewelry.
If you are resolved to buy some antique platinum jewelry, it is wise to learn about it before you dive in.
The Beginnings of Platinum Jewelry
- Platinum gets its name from the Spanish Platina del Pinto which means ‘little silver from the Pinto’, which is the name of the river in South America where platinum was first found.
- Platinum is often found in an alloyed state and was first isolated in 1804.
- A platinum alloy was first developed in 1800.
- There were various developments concerning the metal throughout the first part of the 19th century.
- It wasn’t until around 1870 that the first pieces of jewelry began to be produced using it.
- These first pieces of jewelry involved platinum appliqué only. Thin pieces of platinum foil were fused to other metals, usually gold.
- By 1878, the first platinum-tipped prongs were beginning to be used for setting diamonds.
- As the century came to an end, larger pieces of platinum were used alongside gold.
The Age of Platinum – 1895 to 1914
- In 1895 platinum began to be used frequently in jewelry. This was enabled by the invention of liquid oxygen which allowed for enough heat to melt it.
- Jewelers started to love working with platinum. Its strength allowed for fine filigree work and delicate gem setting.
- Between the years of 1895 until the outbreak of the 1st World war in 1914, platinum jewelry was extremely popular.
- Platinum jewelry, often set with diamonds, from that era is thought of nowadays as being very typically ‘Edwardian’ or ‘Belle Epoque’. The Edwardian era is sometimes also referred to as ‘The Garland Era’ in reference to the bow or garland motif which was so ubiquitous during that time.
- Delicate, lacy motifs were popular, and subtle scrollwork and curved lines were indicative of the styles of that time.
Art Deco Platinum Jewelry
- Precious metals became very scarce during the First World War and jewelry manufacture stopped almost altogether.
- It wasn’t until 1920 that platinum reemerged alongside the Art Deco Movement.
- Once again, the fashion for white jewelry was prevalent, but this time with Art Deco motifs, architecturally inspired lines and styling. It was used in the bolder, more geometric forms that typified that era.
- Splashes of color in the form of sapphires, topaz, citrine, emerald, and other precious stones were used alongside diamonds, rock crystal, and paste.
- In the mid-1920s, white gold began to make an appearance in jewelry and was soon overtaking platinum as it was less expensive.
- By the end of 1920, the dominance of all-white jewelry reached a peak.
- Platinum remained the preferred precious metal until 1942 when its use was prohibited by the US government.
- There are just a few rare pieces from the Retro Era (1935-1945) and most of those were used alongside gold.
- Although platinum was once again legal to use in jewelry after the Second World War, it seemed to have fallen permanently out of favor, never to quite regain the popularity it once had.
- With the prevalence of white gold, people didn’t feel the extra cost of platinum jewelry was worth it.
- People returned to yellow and rose gold as basic precious metals for jewelry because they are easy to visually differentiate from silver.
- Platinum is still used in contemporary jewelry, but it is the exception, rather than the rule.
It is always recommended that you buy antique and vintage jewelry from a reputable dealer.