During the Victorian, Edwardian and earlier periods the use of white gold and platinum were not known.
The use of contrasting colours in jewellery has been used since jewellery was being made. Until the early 1900’s the only metals that could give a white and gold contrast were silver and gold.
Platinum was first discovered by the Conquistadors in the New World during the 1500's. Due to the fact that jewellers could not make a flame hot enough to work platinum, it was used for alloying silver. The invention of the oxy-hydrogen torch during the 1880s opened up a whole new world for jewellers. The alloying of gold into a white colour and the ability to work platinum became a reality.
Platinum is the strongest of the noble metals and was first used for claw tips for jewellery. Following The Great War (1914-18) the new white metal became popular and was incorporated into some Art Nouveau pieces. However, it was the Art Deco period (1920-39) that cemented platinum’s place in jewellery history. To use a 21st century phrase, platinum went viral. Due to its strength many platinum pieces have come down to modern times in very good condition.
The first a patent for white gold was issued to Karl Richter of Pforzheim, Germany in 1915. As usual necessity was the mother of invention with The Great War placing limitations on the use of gold and silver. Richter invented an alloy for an white gold composed of gold, nickel, and palladium. In 1917, David Belais of the New York firm Belais Brothers, also invented a white gold alloy marked “Belais.
“Condicio sine qua non”
Items made in platinum or white gold simply can not be antique… Yet.