Home / Chemistry / Private Label Trade Names on American Pocket Watches: The Non-Magnetic Watch Company: Part 5: Palladium

Private Label Trade Names on American Pocket Watches: The Non-Magnetic Watch Company: Part 5: Palladium

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“Palladium” Handbill, Published in the August 1803 issue of Nicholson's Journal
Pictured: “Palladium” Handbill, Published in the August 1803 issue of Nicholson’s Journal

In 1803, chemist William Hyde Wollaston discovered palladium while experimenting with purification methods for platinum. 

Wollaston originally called the silvery metallic element “Ceresium.” However, by the time the discovery was published in the August 1803 issue of Nicholson’s Journal, the name was changed to “Palladium.”

The published handbill anonymously introduced the noble element as a “New Silver” with the following properties:

  1. It dissolves in pure Spirit of Nitre, and makes a dark red solution.
  2. Green Vitriol throws it down in the state of a regulus from this solution, as it always does Gold from Aqua Regia.
  3. If you evaporate the solution you get a red calx that dissolves in Spirit of Salt or other acids.
  4. It is thrown down by quicksilver and by all the metals but Gold, Platina, and Silver.
  5. Its Specific Gravity by hammering was only 11.3, but by flatting as much as 11.8.
  6. In common fire the face of it tarnishes a little and turns blue, but comes bright again, like other noble metals on being stronger heated.
  7. The greatest heat of a blacksmith’s fire would hardly melt it.
  8. But if you touch it while hot with a small bit of Sulphur it runs as easily as Zinc.

Samples of the new element were marketed by Jacob Forster in London as early as April 1803, several months before the published handbill.

In the 1870s, the unique properties of palladium caught the attention of Charles-Auguste Paillard. Seeking to create a hairspring for marine chronometers that was immune to oxidation and rust, Paillard experimented with different palladium alloys. His efforts were eventually successful, resulting in a new hairspring that not only prevented oxidation but was also non-magnetic.

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