Apple Gold

Fascinating piece by Dr. Drang:

Apple’s patent application is for a method that allows them to make 18k gold that has, on a volume basis, less gold than regular 18k gold.

How can this be? It’s because Apple’s gold is a metal matrix composite, not a standard alloy. Instead of mixing the gold with silver, copper, or other metals to make it harder, Apple is mixing it with low-density ceramic particles. The ceramic makes Apple’s gold harder and more scratch-resistant — which Tim Cook touted during the September announcement — and it also makes it less dense overall.

According to their patent, one of their mixtures uses just 28 percent as much gold as a standard 18-karat alloy. This, in turn, has reignited hopes that Apple Watch Edition pricing will be significantly lower than consensus estimates.

It’s fascinating that Apple is doing cutting edge materials science like this, but I do not suggest holding your breath for a sub-$5000 Edition. The price of luxury gold watches is not based on the price of the gold. Even if it were made of pure 24-karat gold, the gold might only cost $2000. If Apple is using less gold than standard 18-karat alloys, that’ll go toward higher margins, not lower prices.

Also, for what it’s worth, at the September event, it was easy to feel by hand that the Apple Watch Edition models weighed more than the stainless steel ones (and likewise that the steel ones weighed more than the aluminum ones). Some quick math suggests that wouldn’t be the case if Apple were using a composite with just 28 percent as much gold as standard.

Saturday, 7 March 2015