Speaking Out

Manos Phoundoulakis, CEO of Select Source in Santa Monica, Calif., speaks about palladium and platinum.

“So there is a new cockamamy alloy—palladium—out to make jewelry with. It is value-driven and is almost something it is not (but for less money). It looks like platinum, works like platinum, smells and tastes like platinum, but is way cheaper than platinum. It is all the rage with jewelry store owners, who ask us manufacturers’ reps: ‘So, are all your designs available in palladium?’ The first few times I heard this question I responded with interest and concern, saying we didn’t work with it but that I’d see what I could do for them. But now that question is starting to feel like a way to separate those who use it and those who don’t. The manufacturers who use it seem to be like the teenage ‘in’ crew; they are doing it because it’s ‘in,’ not because it is better in any way.

“We are in an industry of selling luxury, selling the best there is, and selling centuries of tradition in the working of metals and minerals. For metals, it so happens that the best there is sells at $1,300 per ounce* instead of $380. Nothing feels like platinum … nothing! Nothing looks like gold, either … nothing! (Sorry, white gold, but you are another story.) So, if you are willing to use substandard metals like palladium, then why not use synthetic gemstones or even synthetic diamonds? Heck, if your modus operandi is making things that look good for a good price, then just change the shop and sell costume jewelry. You could call it Faux Bijoux.

“We all have price tags on our jewelry, and many times it is easy to get caught up in what has ‘value’ for our customers or our markup. We may want to be able to tell our customers that we will make their ring in whatever alloy they like, because it is more convenient for them to hear instead of ‘I only sell platinum because it is the most exclusive and beautiful,’ but the most upscale jewelers only use the best metals. And the best metal, of course, is platinum.

“It’s this simple: If you want to feel popular, then use palladium. But if you want to sell luxury and fine jewelry (which is precious), then sell precious metals like platinum and gold—not value-driven palladium, which cheapens the industry. Value belongs at Wal-Mart.”