Legend has it that, once upon a time, many centuries ago, a band of conquistadors had lain siege to a fortress in the centre of a lake. The aggressors had demanded a huge payment of gold and silver in return for leaving the island citadel in peace. In time, the fortress’s defenders sent several large baskets, full of precious metals, across the lake to appease their would-be attackers.
It was with great annoyance that the captain of the conquistadors discovered that most of the silver, he had extorted from the locals, was not in fact silver at all, but another shinning, silvery-grey metal that he had never seen before. In a fit of anger, he ordered his armorer to melt down this ‘fake silver’ and cast a cannon from it. He then ordered his men to pull apart their carts and build a miniature caravel with which he could sail across the lake and attack the treacherous natives with his gleaming new weapon.
The defenders rowed out from their island stronghold to meet the attacking conquistadors. Aided by a fierce tropical storm some of them managed to board the caravel and, in the ensuing chaos, toss the shining cannon overboard, never to be seen again.
It is said the armorer survived the fighting and eventually returned to Europe, carrying with him a piece of the silver-grey metal as a souvenir. This sat, with a few other mementos, in a local collection until, almost five hundred years later, the still untarnished metal was identified as platinum!
If the lost cannon was indeed made from platinum, even the most modest estimates would put its value in the tens of millions of dollars. And yet today, platinum can be seen as something of a bargain.
On the trading floors of the world’s money markets the historical average for platinum was somewhere around a third more expensive than gold. For jewellery the price difference was even more evident. In the western-world, gold jewellery typically contains between one third and three quarters of pure gold, whereas most platinum jewellery is 95% pure. Platinum is also heavier than gold, meaning a piece of platinum jewellery was always considerably more expensive than its gold equivalent.
That isn't the case now though. At the time of writing, gold is more than 1.4 times as expensive as platinum. On a relative basis, gold is the most expensive it has ever been, or platinum as cheap as it has ever been, meaning a typical piece of 18ct gold jewellery and a piece of platinum jewellery cost pretty much the same.
This bargain platinum price is unlikely to last. It is estimated that around 1 in 10 manufactured objects now contain at least a small amount of platinum, and as soon as the rate of manufacturing rises so will the price of platinum.
Adrian Ashley was recognised as one of the UK’s most capable platinum jewellers when he won the Platinum Design Innovation Award. Any of the gold or silver pieces on the adrianashley.com website can be made in platinum, and we are always more than happy to do so.