In 1998, the Colt Python, in Royal Blue, had gone up to $815; the S&W Model 19 to $430. The Ruger GP-100 was $440. But other Colts were still competitive with S&W and Ruger.
So either Colt's cost had risen sharply on the Python alone, or they were milking the Python mystique for all it was worth.
The other Colt's in the lineup in 1998 were using a much cheaper to assemble, less labor intensive lockwork than the Python, that still used the old hand fitted older style set up.
Add in the more time consuming polishing jobs to get that super deep blue or mirror bright stainless (S&W's finishes of that era.. even the 27's of that era aren't as nice) and that explains some of the price difference.
Isn't 98 about the time S&W started using MIM parts to keep labor and parts costs down?