Palladium Makes Its Mark

Demand for the ‘white look’ continues as 9ct gold sees continuing decline. After only a couple of weeks as an ‘official’ precious metal for jewellery, with its own legally recognised hallmark, Palladium looks set to add to the continuing increase in demand for white precious metal jewellery.

The Palladium hallmark, which like all other UK hallmarks can only be struck in the UK by one of the four independent Assay Offices, came into force on July 22nd.

Until 31st December 2009 this mark is voluntary and yet in the first few days till the end of July nearly 5,000 articles have been hallmarked by the four UK Assay Offices, Birmingham, Edinburgh, London, and Sheffield. A sharp contrast to the introduction of Platinum in 1975 when for the first 9 years less than 100 units were hallmarked each year.

Every item of gold silver or platinum sold in the UK must be hallmarked, unless it is under a specified weight, and the hallmarking numbers released by the four UK Assay Offices are an excellent barometer of trends in the market.

In the past few months age old traditions have been quietly being overturned. Volumes of 9ct gold – the long serving old faithful of every woman’s jewellery box – have been in drastic decline, from nearly 24 million articles in 2001 (70% of all items hallmarked) to only 8 million in 2008. This year so far 3.5 million silver items have been marked, as opposed to only 2.9 million 9ct gold, a full scale reversal. Add to this a growing demand for ‘white gold’ – created in 9ct and 18ct by adding different elements to traditional alloys, and Platinum which contributes around 300,000 units per year and it is clear that white metal is here to stay.

Michael Allchin, Chief Executive of The Birmingham Assay Office who has worked at the heart of the jewellery trade as previous fashions have come and gone is not surprised by current trends. “The rising price of gold coupled with the increasing choice of quality well made jewellery in silver, platinum and now palladium makes white metal very attractive,” says Michael. “We are very encouraged by the positive response to Palladium hallmarking. So far most of the items we have seen have been wedding rings, but there is some men’s jewellery around and we expect to see designers experimenting widely with this ‘new’ metal now that consumers have the additional reassurance of a hallmark.”

Palladium is a Platinum group metal with similar qualities of being tarnish resistant and durable, but being much less dense and less expensive the same ‘look’ can be achieved at a fraction of the price. An attractive proposition to many jewellery buyers in the current climate.

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