10 PLATINUM DAYS – WHAT HAS CHANGED?

Neill Swan - Johnson Matthey
This is now the 10th platinum day, the first one being in March 1995. Johnson
Matthey had the singular honour of being the first company to present, a paper
entitled “Choosing Platinum Alloys to Maximise Production Efficiency”. Well a lot has
happened in the last seven years.

World platinum jewellery fabrication
new metal consumed
000's T ozs
3000
Japan China Europe USA
2500
2000
1500
1000
500
0
1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001

For a start the amount of net new metal consumed each year has increased by 40%
and the picture within the platinum jewellery market now looks dramatically different.

In 1995 the Japanese market overwhelmingly dominated demand with more than
80% of platinum jewellery being produced for this market. Since then seven years of
recession have ravaged Japanese demand reducing it by more than half. In the
meantime, happily however, other markets have prospered.

Not least of these is the Chinese market, which has grown rapidly in a short space of
time to become the largest platinum jewellery market in the world. In 1995 Chinese
jewellery fabrication consumed only 40,000 oz of platinum. Last year it consumed
more than 1.3 million. Nearly all this jewellery is sold within its own borders.

Europe has also seen growth over this period, albeit on a much more modest basis.
It has grown at a fairly steady rate of around 10% per year until 2001 when it fell
back in some countries, notably Germany and Italy, in the face of higher platinum
prices and softer economic conditions.

And last but not certainly least here in the U.S. The jewellery industry here has
responded splendidly to the challenge – increasing new metal consumed for
platinum jewellery fabrication from 45,000 oz in 1995 to close to 380,000 in the
Millennium year.

new processes and of new alloys. At these events you have learned of new equipment. Most trade casters were using vertical spin casters only capable of handling small charges – perhaps less than 100g a cast. But a softening of the price in recent months. The platinum alloy was being melted with a hand held oxy-gas torch – just the job on a summer’s afternoon in an un-air-conditioned room on 47th street. new consumables.Unfortunately the market was then similarly affected by higher prices and the economic downturn in 2001. At these events Platinum Guild International have invited speakers to present papers on the latest innovations with the singular aim of making the platinum manufacturers life a little easier. .S jewellery buyers? Fortunately quite a lot in terms of technical advancement and the industry have been able to keep up to date on these new technologies though events such as Platinum Day. and stronger economic messages. US platinum jewellery fabrication new metal consumed 000's T ozs 270 2001 240 210 180 150 120 90 60 1995 30 0 Overall though we can see that despite the set back of in 2001 the US platinum jewellery market has advanced by more than 400% since the first Platinum Day and this is probably not mere co-incidence. So have PGI’s Platinum Day’s helped? I think the answer to that question is an unreserved YES! Looking back to 1995 the casting sector at that time was struggling to get to grips with the increasing volumes of platinum it was being asked to handle. So what has happened since 1995 that has eased this pressure and enabled manufacture to meet the appetite of U. indicate that 2002 will be a year to begin regaining that lost ground and getting platinum jewellery back on the growth trend line it was enjoying prior to 2001. In a rapidly growing market it is vital that manufacturing capacity keeps pace with consumer demand since if this goes unsatisfied they will soon find other places to spend their dollars.

Today most casters have invested in state of the art vacuum casting machines that melt charges as high as 500g with medium frequency induction. platinum jewellery demand. Then though each ring was being individually machined on old Benzinger lathes in what was almost a hand made operation. Scrap rates were high with the ring blanks being either stamped from sheet or cut from tube with parting tools sometimes almost as wide as the rings themselves. These tools were often the same ones as those used in gold ring production and consequently suffered from the excessive wear typical of tool steel. . As with the casting process several papers on the machining of platinum. in 1995 platinum wedding rings were. Casting quality and yield have consequently improved immeasurably. more profitable and produce better quality product at competitive prices. These have helped platinum wedding ring manufacturers become more efficient. tungsten carbide and even diamond tooling when used on platinum. we see the blanks being cut with abrasive water jets to minimise kurf loss. outlining new materials and new techniques have been given at the PGI’s Platinum Day's and at the Sante Fe Symposium.S. Today we see platinum being machined on CNC lathes using polycrystalline tooling. as they are now. From this to this Looking at a different sector. the main sector of U. And we see highly engineered extruded tube as the starting material. helped also by the development of new investments and the dissemination of information at events such as these on how to get the best results on platinum from the casting process. honed on the ID and OD to give perfect concentricity and further minimise scrap loss.

we estimate that of the sixty or so papers that have been presented 67% have been on process developments. etc. perhaps. . whereas only 18% have been on alloy choice or new alloy development. Platinum Day papers 100% 90% Design 80% Alloy 70% 60% Process 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Ave Analysing the content of the papers given at the first 9 Platinum Days. The balance of the papers has been on design. From this to this When considering the impact these technical conventions have had on working practises it is interesting to note what has been the main focus of the papers since this. for example. identifies where the most need for development lays. This appears to support our contention that after years of looking at all kinds of alloy combinations to try to find "the perfect platinum alloy" that the range of alloys currently available.

In Asia Palladium/Platinum alloys were most commonly used but when palladium became too pricey. certainly in comparison to iridium and ruthenium. making it difficult to work. however. that U. but it will not solve all your problems. Most used platinum alloys Region Alloy Group Main Use USA Ru/Pt machining Co/Pt & Ir/Pt casting Ir/Pt general working Europe Cu/Pt general working Co/Pt casting Asia Pd/Pt general working Cu & Co thrifting palladium We don’t suggest. Iridium/Platinum or Cobalt/Platinum are used for casting and Iridium/Platinum for hand manufacture. and this is why a lot of Asian platinum jewellery is rhodium plated. In that first paper of the first Platinum Day. But what about the alloy mix in the U. Copper and/or Cobalt has been used to thrift it. In the US. Ruthenium/Platinum is pretty much de-rigueur for machining wedding rings. It will simply give you a solid base upon which to build a sound manufacturing technique" Since he said this little has really changed regarding the main platinum alloys used in the U. offer a good compromise of workability and economic use. James Huckle concluded: “Your choice of platinum alloy will help your manufacturing process.? Has this changed at all? .. In Europe Copper/Platinum is mainly used for general working and Cobalt/Platinum for casting.S manufacturers adopt either copper or palladium because both these materials have downsides.S. or indeed around the world.S. and with larger additions the alloy work hardens quickly.despite the inherent challenges of working with platinum. Palladium/Platinum alloys tend to be soft and scratch easily. Copper tends to have a darkening effect on the alloys colour.

It is widely accepted that wedding rings constitute the majority of the platinum jewellery product made and sold in the U. We calculate from our sales figures and yields mentioned to us conversationally by manufacturers that this alloy has consistently made up around 40-50% of the platinum jewellery made in the USA during the last seven years. the second best selling alloy Johnson Matthey NY had was 10% Iridium/Platinum. the material traditionally used by U.S. is relatively economic to treat. Trendsetters as ever.S.Since Johnson Matthey NY have been consistently supplying platinum alloy to the US jewellery market over the last 7 years. The reason for this is that the alloy is proven to be the best material for machining. finding it sluggish. and the main alloy used to manufacture these is Platinum/Ruthenium.8% Ruthenium/Platinum. made platinum jewellery . In addition. analysis of the split in our alloy sales is probably fairly representative of what is being used in the rest of the US. Some companies. A good general-purpose alloy it performs well in most processes but it began to lose favour when Tiffany & Company decided all its platinum jewellery should have a purity of 95% so they could market it worldwide. generated from the machining processes. Back in 1995. Adjusting these figures to take into account typical yields from the processes the alloys are usually used in can give us a rough guide to the alloy split for finished jewellery in the U.S. scrap from Ruthenium/Platinum. however. And we can see that much of this growth has been at the expense of 10% Iridium/Platinum which we calculate has slipped from 40% in 1995 to around 18% last year.up from only 3% in 1995. offering less tool wear and a better turned finish than other platinum alloys – advantages that also make it the alloy of choice for the luxury watch companies in Switzerland.S. Tiffany led the way and many manufacturers also began upgrading to the 95% purity level. A compromise for some jewellers has been to use 5% Iridium/Platinum and that alloy has been used in around 10% of product for most of the years throughout the period.S. Consequently the company switched all its production and that of its subcontractors to 4. and began to use an alloy newly introduced to the U. . had problems casting Ruthenium/Platinum. Despite misgivings from a small element of the industry about its oxidation during heating operations (which is easily removed by the way) and its slight magnetic properties Platinum/Cobalt has gradually gained in popularity such that using the assumptions mentioned it is now used in 20 to 25% of U. jewellers since the 1920's when platinum was previously at it's height. from Europe – Platinum/Cobalt.

Invariably. Platinum market by alloy 100% Other 90% Pt/Ir 5% 80% 70% Pt/Co 5% 60% Pt/Ir 10% 50% 40% Pt/Ru 5% 30% 20% 10% 0% 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 Although these alloys make up most of the picture there are other alloys Johnson Matthey NY has offered over the years. doing this changes other properties of the material and it is often necessary to compromise on other working processes. Equally the addition of more elements often adds to the complexity of the refining process needed to de-alloy the resultant scrap leading to higher costs. Although these initially raised some interest with our customers they have failed to gain any significant sales. few . or at least improve. These have included specialist casting alloys. aspects of working platinum that are perceived as being difficult. however. Why do we think this is? New alloy development revolves around changing the constituents and the way they are alloyed with platinum to alter properties and overcome. when a company tries to manufacture sheet.if any . To our knowledge. There have also been interesting alloy developments from several of the other bullion suppliers offering improvements in properties which designers and manufacturers have found very useful in niche applications. seems to be those that were established as being the best materials through extensive research and development in the mid 1970's. Although an alloy may be a revelation on a small-scale.of these have achieved significant sales volumes to date. Platinum/Cobalt and Platinum/Iridium. wire and tube on a production scale it can raise problems that are difficult to resolve consistently enough to provide a reliable supply of the material. spring alloys and age-hardenable alloys. So it is that the core alloys that form the backbone of the platinum jewellers armoury in the US. though. The binary alloy systems of Platinum/Ruthenium. Even if these issues can be resolved it may be at a cost that might be unpalatable. All too frequently this compromise has proved unpractical or uneconomic when companies try to use the alloy in commercial quantities. and elsewhere. .

• Price information • Column on technical developments. consumables.Platinum Times. . The publication will be targeted at platinum jewellery manufacturers and is aimed at bringing you up to date on the latest market developments and price moves. This is not to say we are ignoring the development of new alloys. Technical Director for the PGI. If any alloys show an indication of having some benefit to the jewellery making processes of our customers rest assured we are researching them further with a view to bringing them to market. They have also greatly improved yields on castings by making it simple to infill porosity that has become apparent only in the latter stages of finishing. however. Our involvement in many industrial applications of platinum offers us a unique opportunity to observe and participate in a wide range of research and development. lasers.In Johnson Matthey we continue to focus our development efforts on improving how we process these alloys to provide better starting materials aimed at improving yields and profitability for our jewellery manufacturer customers. It will also feature a regular column on technical developments in platinum equipment. When we have something to tell you about we will let you know through the pages of the Johnson Matthey NY newsletter . Johnson Matthey constantly monitors material developments all over the world. So please make sure you are on the mailing list by giving us your details and watch out for it. and not just in the jewellery industry. Platinum Times • For manufacturers. and processes by Jurgen Maerz. • Market updates. Apart from their use in the fabrication of unique pieces of jewellery. laser welders have also revolutionised the sizing of rings removing unsightly solder lines that could often only be disguised by rhodium plating. In the first issue Jurgen’s technical column was on yet another remarkable introduction to the jewellery industry in recent years.

I am sure. are where most of the advances have been. We will also continue to monitor platinum alloy research worldwide and where appropriate develop them for jewellery applications. and the area of new processes and consumables. We at Johnson Matthey NY will be doing out part to help disseminate this information. by thanking the Platinum Guild for providing such an excellent service to the manufacturing side of the jewellery industry. are likely to continue to be. Echoing the comments of my colleague seven years ago I urge you all to learn about new equipment new processes and new consumables that can improve your manufacturing ability.Just one of the amazing changes that has affected the platinum jewellery industry in the last seven years and inevitably it has been the introduction of a piece of equipment that has improved processes. therefore. made. It is vital for your businesses to stay in touch with them. Invest in these and ensure you and your staff gain the knowledge and skills necessary to use them. And together. This. We will continue to develop our own processes to further improve our products and service. platinum jewellery market back on that growth trend line for the benefit of all of us. . Laser welders I would like to conclude.S. Events such as Platinum Day have supported the growth of the platinum jewellery market and it is so important that we continue to support them. we can set the U.

net new metal consumed 000's T ozs 500 450 400 350 300 250 200 150 100 50 0 1995 1996 1997 1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 Target Target Target .US platinum jewellery fabrication .