Just in time for the holidays, a new precious metal to consider. (Well, technically new, as it was was classified as a precious metal in 2010.)
Palladium was discovered in 1803, by an English chemist who became wealthy by figuring out how to process platinum. It was during this endeavour that he discovered palladium, which is mined in Russia (which produces 44% of the world's supply) and South Africa (which is responsible for 40%), as well as Montana (US) and Ontario (Canada).
While the production of catalytic converters * is the biggest users of palladium these days, it's showing up more regularly in jewellery. Part of its appeal is that it's 'better' than silver, but quite a bit less expensive than platinum, though it looks similar in its silver-white colouring. And now that gold is so close to the price of platinum, white gold is no longer a more reasonable alternative to those who want more than silver. Looking at today's numbers, silver is trading at $33, white gold is trading at $1717, platinum is trading at $1604, and palladium is trading at $690.
It's also appealing because it's about half the weight of platinum, and about two-thirds of the weight of gold. So it lends itself to big earrings and larger pieces (like the epic heart seen here on Christina Hendricks). Kelly Osborne, Pamela Anderson and Rose McGowan have put their faces to campaigns to increase awareness of the metal (which could make you want to take it or leave it, depending).
If you're thinking of buying, check out Vivienne Westwood's Palladium collection, which is limited but quite exquisite. But you'll find it mostly with emerging designers, like the Rock Vault Dozen, which were created as part of London Fashion Week this autumn.
So what's the takeaway? If it's an engagement ring, or another piece of truly fine jewellery that you're after, stick with platinum. If it's a fun statement piece, silver would probably work. But if it falls somewhere in between, palladium might be worth considering.
* Yeah, we had to look it up, too. A catalytic converter is, according to Wikipedia: is a vehicle emissions control device which converts toxic byproducts of combustion in the exhaust of an internal combustion engine to less toxic substances by way of catalysed chemical reactions