Palladium is not your Pal

Over 200 years ago a bloke by the name of William Hyde Wollaston was the first person to isolate Palladium. He also perfected the technique to obtain pure platinum. He accomplished this by dissolving platinum ore in hydrochloric and nitric acid. The electrical resistivity and thermal conductivity of palladium (practically identical to platinum) has revolutionized many areas. For example, palladium makes catalytic converters possible, protecting the environment and public health. Fuel cell technology, critical to hydrogen cars, cellular phones and personal computers, depends on palladium. But, if you are considering palladium as an alternative to gold or platinum for jewelry, you are just barking up the wrong tree.  Here are the facts:
  • Palladium has only about ½ the density of platinum
  • Palladium is ten and half times softer than platinum
  • Palladium has poor oxidation resistance (didn’t take fire well during sizing and casting)
  • Palladium has a lower tensile strength than platinum
  • Palladium has a high porosity (vulnerable to pitting & cracking)
  • Palladium is 44% lighter than platinum

If not for the recent spikes in platinum & gold prices, it is unlikely that anyone would be pushing this inferior metal for jewelry. But, to a vendor it’s always dollars and cents. Recently, the Wall Street Journal (in their June 5, 2006 article “Palladium Jewelry may find Appeal in U.S. after success in China”) tried to make the argument that if a billion Chinese gobbled up 1.2 million ounces last year, from zero in 1999, then U.S. consumption of 50,000 ounces most likely would go up. Anything is possible. However 1) it is an inferior metal (Balsa wood compared to oak)  2) platinum has established a foot-hold and recognition that palladium doesn’t have and would cost a fortune to establish and 3) metal prices can’t stay high forever (I’m not implying we will ever see $300 gold or $450 platinum again) but prices will come down. When they do, the need (if that’s what you want to call it) for palladium will disappear like David Copperfield.

While the Chinese might be content to have any “luxury item,” Americans are a little bit more particular. And, if palladium products are popping up on QVC and JC Penny it will miss any chance of reaching the affluent audience it was hoping to reach. Sayonara Palladium.

Oh, that’s Japanese, but you get my point


by Fred Cuellar, author of the best-selling book “How to Buy a Diamond.” More questions? Ask the Diamond Guy®