Pure Gold and Platinum

November 1998

Precious Metals:Metalsmithing

Pure Gold and Platinum

Appeal to consumers' desires for purity and status

If you've ever seen, held or worn pure gold, you know why it's been treasured and coveted throughout history. Pure gold is a regal yellow with a richness that almost glows, says Tom Weishaar, a Jewelers of America master bench jeweler and head goldsmith at Underwood Jewelers, Fayetteville, AR. But he's quick to add it's not necessarily the best metal for jewelry.

With the exception of some heavy wedding bands, Weishaar uses pure gold and platinum only for accents because these metals are not as durable by themselves as they are when alloyed with another metal.

Pure metals do, however, have two strong selling points:

  • The ethereal notion of purity. There's something deeply alluring about purity: pure love and pure metals go together naturally.
  • The more earthbound desire for status. Your customers won't likely see many other people wearing pure gold or platinum.

To accommodate these consumer desires, however, the age-old problem of pure metal softness must be overcome. Almost two years ago, Mitsubishi Materials Corp., a Japanese company with sales offices in the U.S., patented a specially hardened pure gold for sale to manufacturing jewelers. Made by adding minuscule amounts of chemical elements to pure gold, the product is 99.9% pure metal (which can be called pure or 24k gold under the National Gold and Silver Stamping Act). It can be welded by laser and other torches and machined without losing its hardness. It can be cast, but only with argon gas so it maintains its strength.

The Mitsubishi compound was sold primarily in Japan and Europe at first but now is marketed here also, says Darnall Burks, an engineering consultant to Mitsubishi Materials Corp. Bench jewelers, designers and manufacturers can buy the gold in ingot, wire and chain from MMC Electronics America Inc. in Rolling Meadows, IL, (708) 577-0200 or in Sunnyvale, CA, (408) 522-2600.

Finishing Touch
For jewelers or metalsmiths looking for a source of finished rings, the German company Christian Bauer has introduced a line of pure gold and platinum wedding rings. The metals from which the rings are made is hardened by a heating and pressure process rather than by alloying with other metals.

The pure gold is three times stronger than unprocessed 24k gold but not quite as strong as 18k gold, says Tom Loback, general manager at Christian Bauer. The line was introduced in the U.S. in January.

Loback says demand is higher for the gold rings than the platinum ones for several reasons. Platinum 950 is closer to pure platinum than 18k gold is to pure gold, so the difference is greater in gold. And the gold rings are offered in three finishes, each of which accentuate the metal's color, richness and depth.

Christian Bauer doesn't recommend bench jewelers repair or alter the rings themselves, but it does stand behind them by offering repair and alteration. The rings can be sized through stretching or compression, but they should not be cut. If a substantial resizing is needed, Christian Bauer will exchange the ring. The rings are sized before purchase using the German sizing system, which the company says is very precise.

Jewelers may view the prospect of having to return the rings to Christian Bauer for sizing as a problem. It's probably a good idea to let customers know the company's turnaround time is three to four weeks, says Bob Umbel, Christian Bauer's repair and sizing expert.

The company also provides jewelers who carry this line with a sales kit that includes displays and brochures. It also promotes the rings in a national advertising campaign. Christian Bauer's U.S. office is in Melbourne, FL, (800) BAUER-CH.

Among other companies that produced pure metal jewelry are Kazto Corp., New York City, (212) 308-5081, and Herbstrith, Pforzheim, Germany, which is distributed in the U.S. by Simon Sobie & Co., New York City, (800) 647-6243 or (212) 832-3246.

Copyright © 1998 by Bond Communications.


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