Charles Green director Oliver Sutton asks whether we need more choice.
By Oliver Sutton
When palladium wedding bands first came to the market the material was met with suspicion by some. Why introduce a metal that will result in the reduction of platinum and 18ct gold sales?
The point of palladium wedding bands, however, was to offer gentlemen, and only gentlemen, the option of having a wedding ring that shared many of the qualities of platinum, but that didn’t share its scary price tag. It also offered many jewellers the chance to upsell from 9ct white gold for gents, and the money saved meant a few more diamonds or a platinum ring for the bride-to-be. It was simple, it made sense, and it sold.
But then some genius had the eureka moment to introduce into the market an alloy that would allow us to sell the same amount of stock at half the price, forcing us over time to replace a precious metal that the public were just becoming used to seeing in jewellers, palladium, with another alloy that was 50% its fineness, practically half the price, but with exactly the same name.
In the beginning there was a manufacturer that decided to introduce palladium 500 to the market, and thankfully for the best part of a year no one paid any attention. After all who in their right mind would want to threaten their palladium 950 sales by introducing something that’s half the price? In short it would mean they’d have to sell double the units just to achieve the same turnover as before. In the end, however, retailers steadily decided to launch collections of palladium 500, many of them simply calling it palladium, and between them and the manufacturers working in palladium 500, they set the wheels in motion that will result in the slow death of palladium 950.
Some retailers fail to distinguish palladium 500 from palladium 950, which begs a question of one’s ethics. It saddens me too that many of the people selling palladium 500 also have no clue what the metal is. Try it for yourself: pop in to a jeweller that sells palladium 500 wedding bands and ask a member of staff to see if they know there is a difference between 500 and 950. Some of the answers I’ve heard have made me want to laugh and weep simultaneously, and I have yet to be given the correct answer.
The groom-to-be can presently choose between platinum, yellow, white and rose gold in 9ct or 18ct, palladium, titanium, steel, cobalt or silver. Isn’t that enough? Do we really need another option? But, because manufacturers and retailers decided to launch palladium 500 it is now too late to stop it, and others have since followed suit.
Let me leave you with a thought. In mainland Europe there is a new platinum alloy that is growing in popularity, known as platinum 600. As yet it is illegal to sell it in the UK as it does not have a hallmark here. But how long will that last? In a couple of years we could be saying a fond farewell to platinum 950. Oh platinum 950, we had some good times, but I’m afraid we’re trading you in for a new, cheaper model. The geniuses strike again.
This Guest Column was taken from the December issue of Professional Jeweller. To read the issue in full online, click here.