Recently, I was asked to manufacture a men's wedding band for someone who is tough on his hands, doesn't wear jewellery and is definitely not interested in a ring that is going to need maintenance. Oh, and it needs to be in a white metal and not stainless steel or titanium. This narrowed the options right down to the usual contenders; sterling silver (not special enough), white gold (too much maintenance with having to rhodium plate) or platinum (with its density we are talking big money).
In the recent past, these were the only options that a jeweller would give a customer and even today most jewellers will only offer these metals. However, there is a metal that is slowly but surely making an appearance and gaining popularity with customers and jewellers (those who know how to work with it) alike. I call it the Cinderella of Metals.
Palladium is part of the Platinum Metals group and has been overshadowed by its famous sister platinum for many years. Most jewellers shied away from using palladium due to the technical difficulties when casting with it and it was relegated to being mainly used in jewellery as an alloy for the making of white gold. . However, it started gaining popularity as more was discovered about this noble metal. It also helped that after 2004 prices rose steeply for gold and platinum and dropped for palladium. In most cases it is still cheaper to have a palladium ring made rather then a platinum ring.
To work in palladium is unlike any other metal. Though, it is as tacky to saw and file as platinum, it is not as temperamental when adding the finishing touches as are 18ct gold and platinum. It has the lowest melting point of the Platinum Metals group and is soft and ductile once annealed. This makes it a pleasure to bend and form into shape. These are benefits to the jeweller but to the customer there are many advantages as well. It work hardens very quickly and becomes as strong as platinum. With its beautiful "white" colour it does not need the maintenance of rhodium plating like white gold. And, the biggest selling point is the fact that it is less dense then platinum. This equates to it being lighter which means that a ring in palladium is easily half the price of the same ring in platinum.
It seems that it is unlikely that the clock will strike twelve on this versatile metal.