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Tiffany & Co.’s ‘New Metal’ Creates Controversy Among Metallurgists

To celebrate its 175th anniversary in 2012, Tiffany & Co. released what it boasted to be a new precious metal. A mixture of gold, silver and copper, the collection was trademarked Rubedo, which means “red” in Latin. The Rubedo trinkets, which were only available in 2012, ranged in price from $200 for a slim pendant to $7,500 for a wide cuff. All of the pieces in the collection were made from “a new metal,” according to Carson Glover, Tiffany’s director of worldwide media relations.

This claim was met with some controversy from metallurgists, many of whom scoffed at the idea that the jewelry line was made from a “new metal.”

A new metal would be equivalent to creating a new element in the periodic table, Rudolph Buchheit, chairman of materials science engineering at Ohio State, told The New York Times. What jewelers actually use is considered to be an alloy, which is a combination of metals, such as gold, silver and copper. Rose gold, for example, which looks very similar to Rubedo, gets its rose color from copper.

What’s even more confusing to both metallurgists and goldsmiths alike was the fact that the Rubedo trinkets weren’t marked with a karat value, which is used to determine gold purity. In its place was Charles Lewis Tiffany’s signature and “1837,” the year Tiffany’s was founded. An element analysis later revealed that Rubedo consisted of approximately 31 percent gold, 55 percent copper, silver and zinc, which amounted to nearly 7.5 karats.

But, when all is said and done, it’s not what you label a piece or what materials it’s made from that matters most. It’s whether or not it sells. And, according to Glover, the collection’s blush color and ingenuity made it a very hot commodity.

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