So called ‘new metal’, meteorites contain platinum, earliest recorded meteorite impact on earth 2 billion years ago, disappeared for centuries at a time, ancient Egyptians, pre-Incan civilizations & Spanish conquistadors all encountered platinum, emerged in 1700’s to fascinate kings & alchemists, grew in popularity in 19th & 20th centuries.
1200BC Egyptians import gold containing traces of platinum from ancient kingdom of Nubia, make jewelry from metal mix but we don’t know if the platinum content is intentional
700BC Egyptian burial of daughter of King of Shepenupet under magnificent sarcophagus decorated with gold and platinum hieroglyphics, small document casket of platinum is placed in her tomb
100BC Ancient South American civilizations, most famous is Incas, gifted metal workers & craftsmen used platinum to create nose rings & ceremonial jewelry.
Platinum lost to mankind for 2 millennia, forgotten for thousands of years, briefly appeared when European explorers discovered new world.
1590 Spanish conquistadores named it ‘platina’ or ‘little silver’. Thirsty for gold and unimpressed by platinum, Antonio de Ulloa y Garcia de la Torre misunderstood value of platinum, dismissed it as an inferior metal and threw it back in rivers of Ecuador to ‘ripen’. Platinum disappeared from history again.
1700’s, Alchemy craze begins to arrive in Europe & is highly prized alchemy ingredient used in attempts to change lead into gold.
1751 Swedish scientist Theophil Scheffer categorizes platinum as a precious metal.
1780’s King Louis XVI of France declared it the only metal fit for kings and his jeweler Marc Etienne Janety makes several items for him including an ornate sugar bowl.
1795 In the wake of the French Revolution, France creates a metric system of weights and measures. Marc Etienne Janety who fled during the Revolution is recalled to Paris to create the standard kilogram weight out of platinum as it will not wear away and corrupt the standard. The original standard is kept at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures in Paris.
1803 British scientist W.H.Wollaston discovers process for making plat malleable facilitating commercial use.
1819 Plat deposits discovered in Ural Mountains in Russia.
1866 Diamonds discovered in Kimberly S.Africa thus boosting popularity and demand of this metal.
1884 Peter Carl Faberge, jeweler to the Russian Tzar’s, volunteer to create a jewelry egg for Alexander to give to his wife Marie. This was start of annual Easter tradition & Faberge eggs became legendary masterpieces adorned with precious stones and platinum. Made in secrecy with surprise interior
Late 1800’s Platinum mania spread across Europe & Russia, kings, queens, tsars and maharajas bedeck themselves, even using platinum thread. Carlos IV of Spain commissions creation of ‘Platinum Room’ at the Royal Palace in Aranjuez, room features hardwood decoration encrusted with platinum.
Early 1900’s, Louis Cartier 1st person to successfully create platinum jewelry, revealing for the first time, hidden characteristics of the metal. Uses platinum in his ‘garland style’ pieces to enhance the brilliance of the diamonds. His skill was unrivaled & hailed by King Edward VII of England as the ‘jeweler of kings and the king of jewelers’
1912 On maiden voyage from Southampton, England to New York, Titanic, world’s largest luxury liner. Struck an iceberg about 400 miles south of Newfoundland & sinks. About 1500 people died. In the wake of the disaster, New York high society adopts a trend for wearing black and white mourning jewelry and platinum was a popular choice of metal in these mourning days.
1924 German geologist Hans Merensky discovered worlds largest platinum deposit near Johannesburg, South Africa from which the modern platinum industry is born.
1930’s With talking pictures, Hollywood’s leading ladies become fashion icons to Americans looking to the big screen for escapism during the Great Depression. Jean Harlow and Marlene Dietrich adorn themselves in platinum jewelry. Hollywood summed up by title character in Frank Capra’s movie ‘Platinum Blonde’ played by Jean Harlow.
1936-7 King Edward VIII abdicates to marry divorcee Wallis Simpson & George VI is made king. At the coronation, his wife, the late Queen Mother, wears a crown mounted with the Koh-I-Noor Diamond. Edward, now the Duke of Windsor, marries Wallis Simpson with platinum wedding bands made by Cartier. Duchess of Windsor is expert collector of jewelry and declares platinum the one and only choice for evening wear.
1939-45 Platinum dominated the world of jewelry design during the Edwardian era, and the Art Deco period well into the 1930s. With the outbreak of the war, platinum is declared a strategic metal in USA and used in the manufacture of armaments. Jewelry making is forbidden. Rekindled after the war and is 1947 a number of precious platinum and diamond pieces are displayed in New York at the ‘White Heat’ exhibition, proving that platinum was back in vogue.
1967 Elvis marries Priscilla Anne Beaulieu at a private ceremony in Las Vegas at the Alddin Hotel with platinum wedding bands. The following decades see platinum jewelry grow in popularity, especially wedding bands and bridal jewelry.
1997 Tanaka Kogyo of Tokyo Japan created a ‘Cinderella shoe’ with 2kg of platinum metals. Displayed at the Ideal Home Exhibition in the UK with gift to the ‘best fit’ !
2000 Catherine Zeta Jones and Michael Douglas chose platinum wedding bands.
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