Platinum is a magical metal. It beautifully holds intricate engravings, can be polished to a mirror-like finish and attains a shimmering, frosty patina over time. And, because of its purity, platinum does not tarnish like white gold and silver.
When first encountered by Europeans in the 1500s, platinum was discarded as "unripened silver." Platinum melts at a much higher temperature than gold or silver. As a result, it was a difficult metal for jewelers and creators of objet d'art to work with. During the Victorian era technological advances, like the high-heat oxyhydrogen blow pipe, made working with platinum more feasible. By the early 1900s the brilliance of platinum had captivated the jewelry world. The brilliant white metal became almost de rigueur for fashionable cufflinks and other fine jewels. In my opinion some of the finest platinum cufflinks were created during the early 1900s, culminating with the Jazz Age of the 1920s. The Carrington pearl and platinum cufflinks pictured above nicely capture the elegance and style of the age.
One of the appealing qualities of platinum is the rich patina it takes on over time. In winter we occasionally get a snow shower mixed with fine particles of ice. At night, especially under a full moon, the freshly fallen snow and ice crystals shimmer and sparkle with a magical glow.
Antique platinum often has a similar appearance. Platinum does not tarnish, but over the years platinum cufflinks can accumulate microscopic scratches and abrasions that give the metal a shimmering, magical glow. The effect is sometimes called "Platinum Frost". The frosty platinum cufflinks pictured above are a striking example.
The increasing demand for and limited supply of platinum resulted by the early 1920s in platinum costing eight to ten times as much as gold. Although occasionally you will come across a beautiful pair of solid platinum cufflinks from the early 1900s, most often platinum was combined with gold to create richly engraved cufflinks with platinum tops and gold backs. The pair pictured above feature geometric Art Deco borders which perfectly complement the richly engraved centers. I suspect many platinum cufflinks were patriotically sacrificed during World War I and II when the precious metal was needed for strategic purposes.
A beautiful variation on the platinum and gold theme are elegant two-tone cufflinks. Striking two-tone cufflinks from the 1920s add elegant pizzazz to any cuff. The Carter, Gough cufflinks pictured above feature platinum borders embellished with "C" scrolls and intricately engraved yellow gold centers. Carter, Gough and its predecessor firms created beautiful gold and platinum cufflinks and jewels from the mid 1800s to the early 1930s.
Below is a slightly earlier pair of platinum and gold cufflinks from Durand & Company, another maker of exceptional cufflinks during the Victorian and Edwardian eras. As a bit of cufflink trivia, the founders of Durand & Company, were cousins of the Hudson River school painter Asher B. Durand. I have always wondered if the artistic pursuits of the jewelers and painter ever influenced each other.
For additional views of the cufflinks pictured above,
please click the pictures.
To view these and other fine cufflinks from the past,
please visit our Antique Cufflink Gallery.