Articles / Platinum's Turbulent History

Of course, the ancient Egyptians, who knew a thing or two about jewelry, worked with platinum. The earliest known use of platinum, around 700 B.C., was on a document casket of High Priestess Schepenupet, which featured finely detailed hieroglyphics.

As early as 100 B.C., the pre-Columbian Indians of South America had also discovered the white metal, which they combined with gold for jewelry and implements. By the 16th century, Spanish Conquistadors plundered this region seeking silver, but when they found platinum instead, they threw it back into the rivers of Ecuador hoping it would "ripen," into silver. They dubbed it "platinum," meaning "little silver."

Two centuries years later, Louis XVI fell in love with the pure white metal and declared platinum "the only metal fit for kings." Jewelers from his court were among the first to understand how to fashion delicate jewelry using the superior strength of platinum.

In the early 1800s, platinum deposits were discovered in the Ural Mountains of Russia. This, coupled with the discovery of diamonds later in the century, ignited a new fashion style using these two precious white materials. From the late 1800s through the Deco Age, platinum was the metal of choice for fashionable women, prompting the Duchess of Windsor to declare, "After 7 p.m., all you can wear is platinum."

The public's love affair with the metal continued strongly until World War II, when platinum was declared a strategic metal and reserved for industrial use only; its use in jewelry was forbidden. After the war, yellow gold dominated until the early 1990s, when the elegance and beauty of platinum once again caught the attention of consumers.

Today, platinum accounts for two of every five engagement rings sold and designers are busily creating imaginative new jewelry designs to help women build their platinum wardrobes.

David WeissDavid Weiss

Graduate Gemologist, GIA
Certified Appraiser