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Tipping Point
With Scott Kay now its most vocal advocate, palladium may strike gold—or, should we say, go platinum.

Scott Kay is to jewelry what E.F. Hutton is to stocks. So when he speaks, everyone listens—especially when he speaks as loudly as he is now doing on behalf of palladium. This platinum group metal, he recently wrote in a letter sent to scores of industry bigwigs, "is going to change the jewelry industry as we know it."

Admittedly a latecomer to palladium, Kay is making up for lost time by serving as one of the metal's most articulate advocates. And he's got the guts to do what no one else has done: position palladium as a competitor to platinum, not just white gold.

Of course, palladium's main competition remains white gold. Indeed, the man who invented the first 95 percent pure palladium alloys ideally suited for casting, Tyler Teague of Jett Research, Johnson City, Tennessee, hopes that "Tru-Pd" and other castable palladium alloys that he has developed will be the death knell for white gold. So does Stewart Grice, a friend of Teague's and a metallurgist at Hoover & Strong, Richmond, Virginia, who found the way to make Tru-Pd on a mass scale. At recent palladium seminars, Grice has spent half his presentation making a very persuasive case against white gold. Teague wittily sums up that case as follows: "God made gold yellow and man made it white. Who would you trust?"

So far, new palladium advocates like Kay trust both the will of God and the hand of man. But clearly palladium gives Kay, who changed his Teaneck, New Jersey-based company's name from Scott Kay Platinum to Scott Kay Bridal and later just Scott Kay Inc., a chance to regain old positioning strength and sharpness as an apostle for platinum. "I'll always love platinum," Kay insists, then adds, "but the case for palladium is even better than it is for platinum." Here's a look at the case Kay is making for what might be viewed as the kid sister of platinum who, everyone is suddenly noticing, has come gorgeously of age.


If you gather a bunch of jewelers in a room and invite questions about palladium, invariably one will ask why it took so long to discover the metal. The implication is that if palladium is as much a godsend as Kay says it is, why didn't word come sooner. Surely there must be problems with the metal. Well, there were.

That is, until Ofer Azrielant of Andin International, New York, asked Teague to develop a standard operating procedure for the manufacture of cast palladium jewelry. "Great idea, I thought, until I started working with the alloy that was available," he says. That alloy, consisting of 95 percent palladium and 5 percent ruthenium, was, as Teague puts it, "hopeless. The combination works with milled products but it was the kiss of death for casting purposes."

Why? "Both palladium and ruthenium oxidize and palladium absorbs enormous amounts of gas," Teague says. "So by the time the metal cools and contracts, and you polish a few microns off the surface, you see cracks and so many hydrogen bubbles the stuff looks like Swiss cheese. I had to start from scratch and develop a completely new formula just so that I could give my customer what he had requested."

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