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BRIDES-TO-BE WORTH MORE THAN GOLD.

Byline: Brent Hopkins Staff Writer

The platinum wedding band - a shimmering symbol of love favored by royals and hipster couples - has run up against something so utterly unromantic as car parts and computer components.

With rising industrial use colliding with demand from jewelers, the price of platinum jewelry has shot up sharply, just when June brides and their fiances are shopping for rings.

Current fashion trends and heavy promotion from the Platinum Guild International have made the premium metal the rage for young couples, who seek it out for its upscale image and classic name.

At the same time, semiconductor manufacturers crave it for its conductivity, and automakers for its noncorrosive properties in catalytic converters. And to lend just a little bit more prestige to a vehicle that sells for nearly $70,000, Cadillac makes the badges for its Escalade ESV Platinum from the element.

The July futures market for platinum settled at $815 an ounce on Monday, up more than $100 an ounce in the last year and more than double the price of gold. But some are willing to overlook the expense for the added cachet.

``You want to be the girl who got the platinum,'' said Dan Kohanarieh, chief financial officer for Los Angeles-based Kraiko Diamonds. ``People like to brag that they spent more money on things. You don't go bragging, hey, I got a great deal on this.''

Stephen McCloud, a 38-year-old construction superintendent from Temple City, wasn't looking to brag, but ended up laying out $7,400 on a platinum setting and 1.5-carat diamond solitaire for his fiancee, Angela Wiseman. When he proposed, he told her an elaborate story likening her good looks to the great value of the metal. The couple spent 4 1/2 hours picking it out at Robbins Bros. in Canoga Park after heading straight to the platinum case.

``I don't wear any jewelry. I just know it's the best, and that's what she deserves,'' McCloud said. ``The price didn't matter. It was just what she wanted.''

The price does matter, however, to the jeweler. Unlike gold jewelry, which can be made with various alloys, platinum jewelry is 95 percent pure. Its density makes it last longer, but also makes it harder for a jeweler to shape, driving the cost up around four times that of a similar design made in white or yellow gold.

And yet, it doesn't seem to bother most soon-to-be newlyweds that the platinum band each will slide on the other's finger costs $2,000, rather than $475 for the same piece in yellow gold.

``This is a very important time in a woman's life,'' said Michael O'Connor, a senior vice president at the Platinum Guild International. ``She wants the best wedding she can have, and she wants a marker that reflects that. Because of platinum's density, it'll stand the test of time.''

Not all jewelers are so enamored of it, in spite of the money they can make. Mitch Garten, manager of Camelot Jewelers in Woodland Hills, advises his customers to opt for the nearly identical-looking white gold and spend the extra money on diamonds, instead.

``You're paying for the name 'platinum,''' he said. ``I don't see the difference between it and white gold, except you're paying four times as much on a finished piece.''

But such is the nature of fashion: Image commands just as much respect as substance. At Glendale-based Robbins Bros., platinum has become the most coveted setting, regardless of its price. Steve Robbins, chairman and chief executive of the store chain, says men have no problem laying out $300 to $800 on a plain wedding band for the bride, even with an identical-looking $49 ring made from white gold just a display case away.

``It represents a lifetime together, so people realize it might be difficult to pay for it now, but she'll have this on her finger forever,'' Robbins said. ``And she'll bring it home to show it off to her parents and friends, so you want her to feel proud of the ring.''

Brent Hopkins, (818) 713-3738

brent.hopkins(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

3 photos

Photo:

(1 -- color) Platinum bands are displayed at a jewelry store in Canoga Park. Despite its rising cost, platinum is growing in popularity.

(2) Quang Nuynh mounts a diamond in trendy platinum, costlier than white gold, Monday at Robbins Bros. in Canoga Park.

(3) Marilyn Kasaboski, left, shows costlier platinum settings along with diamonds to Angela Wiseman, whose fiance, Stephen McCloud, says she deserves the best.

Andy Holzman/Staff Photographer
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Title Annotation:Business
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Article Type:Statistical Data Included
Date:May 18, 2004
Words:757
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