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Platinum is an elegant, rare and versatile metal that has exploded in popularity for jewelry in recent years. Its signature brilliant white luster is a result of its incredible purity and is the ultimate backdrop for reflecting a diamond's radiance. Generally, platinum is 95% pure—compared with 18K gold, which is 75% pure. This purity makes platinum hypoallergenic, meaning it won't irritate sensitive skin.
Platinum is also prized for its eternal quality, resisting fading and tarnishing (although it does develop a lovely patina that may be polished out if you prefer) to look stunning for a lifetime of daily wear. This durability is the result of platinum's density and weight. Platinum alloy is virtually anticorrosive, having a melting point of 3,215 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rather than wearing away with a scratch, platinum does not lose volume but is merely displaced. Thus, impressions and scratches may appear on platinum, but it remains intact as an eternal symbol.
Also revered for its great pliability, platinum is so pliable that one gram of it can be drawn out to a fine wire more than one mile long! This pliability creates incredible flexibility in jewelry design, which other precious metals do not have.
Platinum is the most rare of the precious metals, found only in a few places on Earth. Thirty-five times more rare than gold, it has been said platinum is so scarce that if all of it in the world were poured into one Olympic-sized swimming pool, it would be barely deep enough to cover your ankles. The amount of gold in the world would fill more than three pools that size.
The supply of and demand for platinum is tight and getting tighter all the time. If platinum mining were to stop today, already-mined reserves would be gone within a year. Gold reserves on the other hand would last nearly 25 years.
About 90% of all platinum comes from South Africa and Russia, and much of it is used in other fields besides jewelry, including industry and medicine. In fact, platinum plays an important role in the production of about 20% of all consumer goods.
Over the past few decades, platinum's popularity in wedding bands, bridal jewelry and other jewelry has grown exponentially. Today, platinum is a favorite precious metal among women and men alike.
Japanese consumers buy approximately 48% of all platinum jewelry—a much larger number in the past 20 years. Chinese and North American consumer demand has made for double-digit growth rates in recent years, adding up to more than 40% of the world's platinum jewelry.
Platinum is also recognized as an investment, as are other precious metals. In addition to being a stable and secure investment, platinum offers the potential for profit as its demand increases.
As early as 1200 B.C. Egyptians imported gold with traces of platinum, which they made into jewelry. In 100 B.C., Incas used platinum to create ceremonial jewelry. Then, platinum jewelry all but disappeared until European explorers landed in the New World. Spanish conquistadors found reserves of platinum in 1590; they called it “platina,” meaning “little silver.” Again, platinum all but disappeared from history, resurfacing again in the 1700s when it arrived in Europe. In 1751, platinum was classified as a precious metal. In the 1780s, France's King Louis XVI declared that platinum was the only metal fit for kings.
In the 1800s, several major reserves of platinum were discovered, causing the metal to grow in popularity. In the early 1900s, Louis Cartier was the first person in modern times to create platinum jewelry, which King Edward VII of England declared “the jewelry of kings and the king of jewelers.” Furthermore, platinum became a popular choice for “mourning jewelry,” which was trendy after the Titanic sank.
German geologist Hans Merensky discovered the world's largest platinum reserve in 1924 near Johannesburg, South Africa, inspiring the platinum industry as it exists today. In the 1930s, platinum became a Hollywood favorite when actresses Jean Harlow and Marlene Dietrich wore platinum jewelry. Queen Elizabeth was crowned with a platinum crown and the Duke and Duchess of Windsor exchanged platinum Cartier wedding bands. In 1967, Elvis and Priscilla Presley exchanged platinum wedding bands. Today, platinum is a premiere choice for wedding bands for men and women alike.
An ancient Persian legend states the Earth rests on a gigantic sapphire that gives its blue reflection to the sky. The most popular colors for sapphires range from light blue to a blue that appears black. Hence, the name was derived from the Latin form of the Greek word for blue, "sapphirus." These blue colors are caused by iron and titanium in the stone. Bright daylight makes most sapphires shine more vividly than the somewhat muted artificial light. So the most highly cherished color for blue sapphires is not the darkest blue, but a deep and satiated blue, which even in dim, artificial light remains to appear blue.
While sapphires are best known for being velvety blue, it was decided long ago to consider all gemstones of the mineral family corundum to be sapphires. Non-blue sapphires are termed "fancy" and can be nearly any color, including yellow, green, white, pink, orange, brown, purple and even black. Red corundum is the exception, however, and was given the special name of "ruby."
In lighter-colored sapphires, the shade of color is determined by how the stone is cut. A cutter must take special care with sapphires. Not only do they rank a 9.0 on the Mohs Scale, second only to diamonds in hardness, but they display a different coloring and satiation depending on the perspective. The cutter must align the orientation of the stone in such a way as to bring about the best possible display of color.
There are a great number of varieties of sapphire, many of which are quite rare and highly sought-after in the gemstone market. A rare orange-pink variety, known as padparadscha, can be even more valuable than blue sapphire. Given the poetic name meaning "lotus blossom," it features a delicate orange color with pink undertones
Another rare variety of sapphire is known as the color-changing sapphire. This stone exhibits different colors in different light. In natural light, color-changing sapphire is blue, but in artificial light, it is violet. This effect is the same phenomenon seen in alexandrite.
For experts and connoisseurs, the Kashmir-color is considered the most beautiful and valuable shade. It features a pure and intensive blue, which is enhanced by a fine, silky gloss. Its color does not change in artificial light, but remains intense with a deep, velvety sheen. Setting the standard for the color of top-quality sapphires, Kashmir sapphires were found in 1880 after an avalanche. They were intensely mined for only eight years until the source was depleted. The Burma-color is also considered especially valuable, ranging from rich royal blue to deep cornflower blue. Ceylon sapphires are prized as well for the luminosity and brilliance of their light to medium blue color.
There is a translucent variety of sapphire, called star sapphire, which displays a six-point star when cut into a smooth domed cabochon. The mineral rutile is embedded in an asterisk-shape within the stone, causing light to reflect in a phenomenon called "asterism." Six- or twelve-ray stars appear to magically glide across the surface of the stones as they are moved. Star sapphires and rubies are expensive rarities and should always display the stars exactly in the center of the gem. The star stone is said to be the home of each person's angel, who lives there in contentment with the sapphire's spirit.
White sapphires have become a very suitable diamond substitute. With their high light refraction and level of hardness, they provide a less expensive alternative that is still very capable of turning heads with a very convincing sparkle.
The oldest sapphire mines are situated in Ceylon, where gemstones were mined in ancient times. Most blue sapphires today come from Thailand or Australia, but sapphires from Kashmir and Myanmar are highly prized. A large sapphire occurrence stretches across several miles in Madagascar. There are also two large occurrences in Tanzania, where smaller, yet high-quality sapphires are found. The stone is also mined in many other parts of the world.
Sapphires are readily available in sizes of up to 2.00ct, but gems weighing 5.00-10.00ct are not unusual. The cushion-cut Logan Sapphire from Sri Lanka weighs an astounding 423.00ct and can be seen at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. There is also a 258.00ct stone set in the Russian crown, which is kept in the Diamond Fund in Moscow.
Because the gem has long symbolized sincere love and enduring faithfulness, blue sapphires are often given in engagement rings to express commitment and loyalty. Many women throughout the world decide on the blue stone for their engagement rings, as the gem also represents truth, friendship, harmony and consistency. Sapphire blue has become a color related to anything permanent and reliable, making it an ideal stone to symbolize the promise of marriage.
Often referred to as "Gem of the Heavens," sapphire also symbolizes a noble soul. It is September's birthstone and is traditionally given as 5th and 45th wedding anniversary gifts. Star sapphires are given for the 65th anniversary. The color sapphire-blue is known for representing clarity and competence. In fact, the first computer to ever declare victory over a chess grandmaster and world champion was named "Deep Blue."
Sapphires have been associated with magical powers throughout the ages. The Greeks identified white sapphires with Apollo and the oracles at Delphi used them to tap into the subconscious and super conscious. In the 13th century, it was said that when worn, sapphires cooled the inner heat of anger. Soldiers wore them to prevent capture by enemies and kings wore the gemstone to defend against harm and put themselves in divine favor. This supposed "divine favor" is why sapphires were often the gemstone of choice for high priests and royalty throughout history. In fact, the British Crown Jewels contain a number of notable sapphires.
During the Middle Ages, sapphires symbolized the tranquility of the heavens and wearing them was thought to bring peace, happiness and purity of the soul. Medieval priests and monks would wear sapphire jewelry believing it had the ability to quell wicked impulses and impure thoughts. The color blue became the symbol of the union between a priest and the heavens, so sapphires came to be adorned on the rings of bishops.
Today, sapphires are still believed to hold special powers. It can be considered an aid to psycho kinesis, telepathy and clairvoyance, while providing spiritual enlightenment and inner peace. White sapphires, like diamonds, are considered the guardians of love, enhancing it and ensuring fidelity in marriage. The most powerful type of the gem is said to be the star sapphire. They are believed to protect against negative energy and have a calming effect that allows the mind to experience tranquility, joy and clear thinking.