Precious platinum is making a sparkling comeback


LOS ANGELES The newest kind of prestige jewelry is one of the oldest: platinum.

American jewelers report that the precious, silvery-white metal is enjoying a resurgence in popularity, and not just among the most precious and pricey pieces.

Swings in fashion are helping promote platinum among buyers who might have bypassed it before, said Wilma Vigano, managing director of the Platinum Guild International, a Milan, Italy, association representing jewelers who work in platinum.

"White is coming back into favor," Vigano said. "If your jewelry is white, it should be platinum because white gold does not have the same properties or strength."

Platinum, with 950 parts per 1,000 of pure metal, is one of the strongest metals. By comparison, 18-karat gold has 750 parts of gold per 1,000 in an alloy, and 14-karat has just 585.

New platinum pieces are often paired with other metals, such as yellow or pink gold, for a modern look, said Leopoldo Poli, a jeweler from Florence, Italy, in town recently for the once-a-decade International Jewelery Symposium. More affordable types of platinum jewelry, such as hollow platinum chains, are beginning to show up in the market, he said.

The metal is enjoying a resurgence in diamond jewelry, too, said Cri Cri Solak-Eastin, vice president of the Diamond Information Center in Los Angeles.

"There are more designs that are featuring platinum now because it is a great accent for a beautiful, white diamond," she said.

Platinum's place in fashion wasn't lost to changing tastes, Vigano said.

"All the production of platinum available was taken off the market by industrial users during the world wars," she said. "Actually, white gold was invented in those years to replace platinum."

"Now the discovery of new mines and more sophisticated refining techniques have allowed larger quantities of platinum to be mined," she said.

Diamond engagement rings in platinum are enjoying a return to popularity at Harry Winston jewelers in Beverly Hills, said manager Patricia Gentry.

Platinum has always outpriced gold, making it the choice only for heirloom jewels. Even now, a platinum watch may cost $40,000, while the same model in gold may cost $30,000, Gentry said. But for an engagement ring setting, the price difference may be a few hundred dollars, she said. The price goes up for elaborate designs.

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