950 Palladium Bridal Jewelry Manufacturing

Retailers have been converting bridal inventories from white gold to palladium as manufacturers expand the selection of new palladium jewelry designs. In addition to stocking palladium pieces, they have been custom making bridal jewelry with new palladium alloys. There are several factors responsible for this favorable (re)turn to palladium including:

Purity

  • Palladium alloys for jewelry manufacturing are pure, like platinum alloys used for the same. They are alloyed predominantly with other platinum group metals (PGM).
  • The alloys consist of 95 percent palladium and are typically alloyed with ruthenium with trace amounts of other non-allergenic metals that contribute to hardness.

Availability of 950 palladium components

  • Palladium finished jewelry, findings (including ring shanks), solder, wire and sheet are readily available from Hoover & Strong, Richmond, VA and a growing list of other suppliers.

Wearability

  • Like platinum, palladium wears better than white gold. According to Stewart Grice, director of mill products and refining for Hoover & Strong, “We have conducted wear testing of our TruPd 950 palladium alloy and it revealed that TruPd has a 15 percent greater wear resistance when compared to white gold.”
  • Palladium is comparable in weight to 14-karat gold, making it very comfortable to wear even larger pieces. 950 palladium has a specific gravity of 12.0. The specific gravity of most 14-karat white gold alloys is 12.7. With the specific gravities being almost the same, individual pieces of jewelry in 950 palladium and 14-karat white gold will weigh about the same.
  • Palladium and other platinum group metals are hypoallergenic. Many 14-karat white gold alloys contain nickel, an element which commonly causes allergic reactions.

Workablity

  • Palladium is malleable making it easy to bend, form and manipulate and has little or no memory, a characteristic conducive to the setting process of gemstones.

Permanent Whiteness

  • Palladium jewelry does not require rhodium plating to make it white. It is naturally bright white so it doesn’t turn a yellowish color with wear.

These points represent helpful selling tips for use at the sales counter.

Custom Making a 950 Palladium Engagement Ring

Michael Gerwig recently designed and sold a custom made 950 palladium engagement ring. Gerwig says, “My customer wanted purity, whiteness and superior wearing characteristics and the cost for custom making a platinum engagement ring exceeded his budget so palladium was the perfect alternative.”

Palladium Bridal Jewelry

This design was done by Michael Gerwig using Matrix 3D jewelry design software. After the design consultation and final approval of the design, Gerwig made the wax model for casting using his Revo 540 mill.

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Here’s an overview of the custom design and palladium jewelry making procedure:

950 Palladium Bridal Jewelry Manufacturing

Palladium Bridal Jewelry For cleaner milling of the wax, better parts for casting and the finest finished product Gerwig strategically separated the components of the ring for milling, casting and reassembly. The parts shown and the center stone setting (not shown) were cast as individual components and reassembled. Tip: Casting 950 palladium requires special equipment, materials and procedures similar to casting platinum. These 950 palladium parts were professionally cast by TechForm, Portland, OR.
Palladium Bridal Jewelry Terry Seigler of Seigler Jewelry Studio, a trade shop providing service to retailers did the manufacturing and assembly of the palladium ring. Seigler first started by removing the gates and pre-finishing the detail. Here he’s using a fine grit sanding disc to smooth the inside of the prong setting.
Palladium Bridal Jewelry After sanding, Seigler uses a fine rubberized abrasive wheel to smooth the sanding marks. Seigler remarks, “Pre-finishing palladium is much like working in gold. Fewer pre-finishing steps are required when working it as compared to manufacturing a similar piece in platinum.”
Palladium Bridal Jewelry Next Seigler filed and sanded to remove the gate to the ring shank. He placed it on a ring mandrel and tapped it lightly with a hammer to make it perfectly round.
Palladium Bridal Jewelry After rounding the ring, Seigler used abrasive sanding drums to smooth the inside of the ring shank.
Palladium Bridal Jewelry Once the pre-finishing of the shank and components were completed, Seigler polished the parts. He began the polishing process using Graystar, a coarse tripoli. He used green platinum rouge as the intermediate step and for the final finish he used extra fine blue platinum rouge. Tip: Palladium looses its polished luster and turns a soft white when heated to soldering temperatures similar to but not as obvious as when gold is heated. The polished luster is easily restored by re-polishing the affected area with rouge. For the best final results, pre-polish the parts after pre-finishing (prior to assembly).
Palladium Bridal Jewelry Prior to soldering, Seigler tacked the parts using his laser welder. Seigler states, “Palladium responds to laser welding much like platinum – both are desirable alloys for laser procedures.” He held the ring in cross locking tweezers to solder on the parts. For this ring, Seigler used 1100, 1300 and 1500 platinum solder to complete the process. “There was no color difference or visible joints using platinum solder”, remarked Seigler. Tip: No firecoating or flux is required when soldering 950 palladium alloys. Palladium solder is available in easy, medium and hard or platinum solders can be used.
Palladium Bridal Jewelry For final soldering of the parts, Seigler used direct soldering techniques.
Palladium Bridal Jewelry With the soldering completed, Seigler polished the assembly. Here he inspects the ring and checks the alignment of the parts prior to installing the center stone setting.
Palladium Bridal Jewelry Seigler soldered the center stone setting into the semi-polished ring. Because the palladium lost its polished luster during the soldering process, he runs the ring through his magnetic pin finisher to brighten the hard-to-access areas. Then he does the final polish prior to setting. Shown here, he begins the setting of the side diamonds using a small setting bur. Next he removes all metal flashing, seats the small diamond and then uses a beading tool to form the beads which secure the diamond. He sets all side diamonds then begins the preparation for setting the center diamond.
Palladium Bridal Jewelry He selects a high speed setting bur slightly smaller than the diamond. His goal is to set the diamond slightly above the level of the smaller diamonds. After creating the bearing, he uses a graver to remove the metal flashing. He seats the diamond, checks it for levelness and fit, then begins bending the prongs. After he’s set the diamond, he uses a fine pumice wheel to remove tool marks and to smooth the beads and prongs.
Palladium Bridal Jewelry He polishes the settings at this bench with a medium brush and rouge. Next he uses rouge and does a finer polish at his polishing motor. For the last step, he uses extra fine rouge to produce the final finish.
Palladium Bridal Jewelry Seigler was impressed by the reduction of steps (and time) required to work with palladium as compared to platinum. He states, “The extra tools required to work with palladium in contrast to gold were minimal. I used a few dedicated tools to avoid contamination and made an effort to keep my work environment clean and free of metal and debris from other projects.” Shown here are the variety of tools and materials that Seigler used to complete this ring.

This installment is sponsored by Stillwater Mining Company, Columbus, MT. Stillwater Mining Company is the largest palladium mine in North America . For information related to the Stillwater Mining Company contact James Binando at 406-373-8711, or John Stark at 406-373-8712

Casting for this palladium ring project was done by TechForm, Portland, OR. TechForm specializes in casting stainless steel, platinum and palladium for the jewelry industry.

The 950 palladium used in this project is TruPd™ from Hoover & Strong, Richmond, VA. TruPd is available in sheet, wire, casting grain, solder and a range of findings.

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By Mark B. Mann and Lainie Mann - Copyright © Mark Mann 2006
Photographs: Matt Feyerabend
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