Platinum & It's Origin
HistoryFrom prehistory to princesses and pop divas – the story of platinum, the so-called new metal is much longer than you would think. Platinum is found in meteorites which crashed to earth as far back as 2 billion years ago. Since then this rare and beguiling treasure has made sporadic appearances throughout history, mysteriously disappearing for centuries at a time, both baffling and enchanting those who have come across it. The ancient Egyptians, pre-Incan civilizations and Spanish conquistadors all encountered platinum. It then re-emerged in the 1700s to fascinate kings and alchemists alike. Platinum grew in popularity in the 19th and 20th centuries and today is the precious metal of choice of movie stars and the glitterati. At Platinum Diamonds all the platinum jewellery is 95% pure, the highest used in the history.
Two billion years ago, long before the age of dinosaurs, when life on this planet was nothing more than simple bacteria, an enormous meteorite crashed to Earth in North America. This is the earliest known meteorite impact. Meteorites, the product of a supernova – an explosion of an enormous star are rich in metals such as platinum.
1200 BC – The Egyptians import gold, which contains traces of platinum, from the ancient kingdom of Nubia. They make jewellery and adornments from the metal mix. Although no-one knows if their use of platinum is intentional.
700 BC – The daughter of the King of Thebes, the great high priestess Shepenupet, is buried in a magnificent sarcophagus decorated with gold and platinum hieroglyphics. A small document casket made of platinum is also placed in her tomb.
100 BC – Ancient South American civilizations, in existence before the Incas, use platinum and gold to create nose rings and other items of ceremonial jewellery. This pre-Columbian gold mask has eyes of platinum suspended on tiny wires. Platinum is then lost to mankind for two millennia, forgotten for thousands of years, only to briefly re-appear when European explorers discover the new world.
1590 – Platinum is next encountered by the Spanish conquistadors, who give it the derogatory name platina, meaning little silver. Spanish naval officer don Antonio de Ulloa y Garcia de La Torre was one of the conquistadors to misunderstand the value of platinum. Thirsty for gold, and unimpressed by platinum’s appearance, the Spanish mistakenly dismiss it as an inferior metal and throw it back into the rivers of Ecuador to ripen. Once again, platinum mysteriously disappears from history.
1700s – In the 18th century, platinum begins to arrive in Europe and soon becomes a highly prized ingredient in the alchemy craze. Because of its chemical qualities, platinum is a desired ingredient in the potions and cocktails of intrepid inventors trying to change lead into gold.
The Metal of Kings
1751 – When Swedish scientist Theophil Scheffer categorizes Platinum as a precious metal its only a matter of time before it falls into favor with royalty. In the 1780s King Louis XVI of France declares it the only metal fit for kings and his jeweller Marc Etienne Janety fashions several platinum pieces for him, including an ornate sugar bowl.
1788 – Not to be outdone by his French counterpart, King Carlos III of Spain, another platinum enthusiast, commissions Franciso Alonso to craft an ornate platinum chalice, which is presented to Pope Pius VI. The chalice is 12 inches (30 centimeters) high and weighs 4 ½ lbs (2 kg). Such a magnificent piece is worth around US £40,000 at today’s prices.
The Metric System
1795 – France is the first country to adopt the metric system of weights and measures. King Louis XVI calls on Marc Etienne Janety once again, this time to create the standard kilogram weight out of platinum. Platinum is the metal of choice for the task as its durability means it will not wear away and corrupt the standard. This original platinum cylinder is kept at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Paris.
1936-37 – King Edward VIII of England abdicates so he can marry divorcee Wallis Simpson. George VI is made king. At the coronation, his wife, Queen Elizabeth (the Queen Mother) is crowned with an elegant platinum crown holding the famous Koh-I-Noor diamond. Edward, now the Duke of Windsor, marries Wallis Simpson and they exchange platinum wedding bands made by Cartier. Wallis, Duchess of Windsor, is an expert and collector of jewellery. She declares platinum the one and only choice for evening wear. The Duchess has in her collection this Cartier panther brooch with sapphires and diamonds.
The Red Carpet Must Have
Today – Platinum has become the precious metal of choice of the worlds glitterati, loved by stars such as Sir Elton John. When movie stars Michael Douglas and Catherine Zeta Jones married in November 2000 they chose platinum wedding bands. Platinum is paraded down the red carpet at award ceremonies and worn by Oscar winners such as Halle Berry.