The best ways to buy into the platinum boom

If you want to buy into this year's trend for platinum, you could do much worse than pay a visit to Argos, says Merryn Somerset Webb. Alternatively, take advantage of a new way to invest in the metal.

My engagement ring has a platinum band on it, so my husband and I agreed that my wedding ring would also be made of platinum.

He went on a recce to look for one, came back and announced he intended to buy it at Argos. There he could get exactly what we wanted for less than £150.

I was horrified. Did he really think, I said, that on the most romantic day of my life, standing at the altar of a tiny church high in the Pyrenean foothills, I was going to allow him to pop an Argos ring on my finger?

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He couldn't see the problem. If he bought the ring somewhere else, he'd be getting exactly the same thing. There's no difference in purity between a ring from Argos and one from Dinny Hall in Notting Hill, although Dinny Hall platinum rings start at more like £400. Why would he want to spend that?

There's really no rational answer to counter that kind of argument so I left him to do the ring-buying alone.

I now have no idea about the branding of the ring on my finger. In fact, to be absolutely honest, it could be white gold or even silver for all I know the experts will tell you that it is the colour of platinum that makes it so desirable, but to the untrained eye I'm afraid many of these metals look much the same.

Platinum price soars on growing demand

I'm telling you this because wedding season is about to start and platinum wedding rings have now become all the rage Argos sells them in four different styles.

This partly explains why the platinum price is going through the roof. By the end of last week it was trading at $1,300 (£650) an ounce, a rise of 141% over the past five years.

Of course, it's not just about rings. Fashion and new wealth being what they are, demand for all sorts of other platinum jewellery is up too nearly 20 times as many platinum watches were sold last year (at £15,000 plus each) than in 1987, for example. China is now the biggest platinum jewellery market.

At the same time, the demand from industry is soaring; platinum is one of the vital ingredients of the catalytic converters that new environmental legislation are making compulsory.

There has been a deficit between supply and demand in the platinum market for the past five years, which I can't see changing soon it takes more than 14 tonnes of rock to end up with one ounce of platinum, so upping production is not easy.

On the other side of the equation, there is no reason to think demand is going to fall off much.

The only real risk is that we may see some substitution people using other metals instead both in jewellery and in industry. The one to watch, according to Adrian Ash of, is palladium, which would apparently make a perfectly good wedding ring and works in catalytic converters too.

Invest in platinum ETC listings

The good news is that from Tuesday you'll be able to invest directly in these metals via some new exchange-traded commodity (ETC) listings from ETF Securities. There are to be five ETCs (which will track the physical price of the metal see for more details) for palladium, platinum, silver, gold and finally a basket of the lot.

I'm not sure I'd go for the single platinum and palladium ones these are tight and thinly traded markets but I like the idea of the basket, which gives you exposure to four interesting metals but in a slightly more diversified way.

I would also be tempted by the gold ETC. The price has almost trebled since Gordon Brown's rather odd decision to sell off half of the UK's gold reserves at the turn of the century (it is now trading at around $690 an ounce).

According to GFMS, a metals research group, gold supply actually declined by 5% last year as mine production fell to a 10-year low and central-bank sales fell by 50%.

At the same time, jewellery demand is growing fast, and investment demand is also on the up thanks to concerns about the US dollar and inflation gold is thought to hedge against both. The launch of products such as this new ETC, which allows ordinary investors easy access to the market, has also boosted demand.

Last year the gold price hit $730 an ounce before falling back. There is no reason at all why it shouldn't bounce back through that level and end this year even higher.

Everyone should have some gold in their portfolio, if not on their finger though anyone who is thinking of buying gold rings this year should note that you can get them in Argos for a mere £69.

First published in The Sunday Times 22/4/07

Merryn Somerset Webb

Merryn Somerset Webb started her career in Tokyo at public broadcaster NHK before becoming a Japanese equity broker at what was then Warburgs. She went on to work at SBC and UBS without moving from her desk in Kamiyacho (it was the age of mergers).

After five years in Japan she returned to work in the UK at Paribas. This soon became BNP Paribas. Again, no desk move was required. On leaving the City, Merryn helped The Week magazine with its City pages before becoming the launch editor of MoneyWeek in 2000 and taking on columns first in the Sunday Times and then in 2009 in the Financial Times

Twenty years on, MoneyWeek is the best-selling financial magazine in the UK. Merryn was its Editor in Chief until 2022. She is now a senior columnist at Bloomberg and host of the Merryn Talks Money podcast -  but still writes for Moneyweek monthly. 

Merryn is also is a non executive director of two investment trusts – BlackRock Throgmorton, and the Murray Income Investment Trust.