White Gold vs Platinum – The Big Article
This is my big monster of an article on White Gold vs Platinum. I’ll also do smaller bite size blog posts on the sub-topics taken up within this post.
This post will cover whatever it is you want to know about gold or platinum. I’ve covered why platinum is more expensive, which metal holds its shine longer, and why one is better for someone with a more active lifestyle.
White Gold vs Platinum, How Are They Different?
As a California jeweler who specializes in wedding ring design, I’ve been designing and making white gold and platinum wedding rings for years. Lately, an increasing number of people have asked me what the difference is between the two.
They’re both valuable and expensive metals. Both are dense and weighty. Which one is right for you and your design? And why you might ask are the prices so different?
Tripping Down Memory Lane with the Periodic Chart of Elements
Remember the periodic table of elements from high school science class?
Gold and platinum can both be found in the heavier metals section.
And of course, both metals are white—ish. So what’s the difference?
All About White Gold
Gold is a great metal. Always has been. Always will be. The ancient Egyptians thought so. So did the Incas. People have been making jewelry out of it for thousands of years—for good reason. It’s easy to work with. It doesn’t tarnish. It doesn’t oxidize or get a green patina. And it doesn’t rust. (If we wanted our rings to rust, we’d make them out of iron.)
24k gold—100% gold—is too soft to be used for jewelry. Combine and strengthen it with a few other metals, though, and it will stand up to the rigors of everyday life.
Fourteen karat (14k) gold—yellow or white—is an alloy made up of 58% gold and 42% other metals. 18k gold is 75% gold and 25% other metals. It’s this percentage of these other metals that affect the hardness and color of gold jewelry. Wikipedia reference.
Depending on the proportions of alloys used, the color can change dramatically. White color is typically achieved by joining gold, palladium and silver, or gold, nickel, copper, and zinc.
In addition to alloying to create the white color, white gold jewelry is regularly plated with rhodium, a hard, bright, and shiny white heavy metal. Rhodium is in the platinum family.
Occasionally, people react to one of the alloys in white gold jewelry—most commonly, nickel. In cases such as these, jewelry made with a different white gold alloy or jewelry made out of platinum would be a better choice.
All About Platinum
Just like gold, platinum doesn’t tarnish, corrode, rust, or change color over the years. And like gold, it’s a great metal for making jewelry.
Platinum is 40% to 60% heavier than gold (depending on the karat weight of the gold). It’s dense, malleable, (moves easily) and at the same time, very strong.
Just because it’s strong, though, doesn’t mean it won’t scratch. It will. Without a doubt. A platinum ring will develop a dulled finish after a while due to all the tiny dent marks it gets from coming into contact with hard surfaces. This is discussed more in the maintenance section later in this article.
Unlike karat gold, platinum is normally not alloyed with more than 10% other metals, making it fairly hypoallergenic. More about platinum.
Platinum has a higher melting point than gold (3,215°F as opposed to 1,948°F) and can be harder to work with. Normally your jeweler uses a separate set of tools when working with platinum, as well as different gases to achieve the required temperature.
The Three Reasons Platinum Rings Cost More
1. Since platinum is denser than gold, a platinum ring with the identical dimensions (the same volume) as a gold ring will cost more simply because it weighs more.
2. With a platinum ring, you’re paying for 90 to 95% pure platinum. With a 14k white gold ring, you’re only paying for 58% gold. Not counting labor and gemstones, it’s the cost of these two precious metals that largely determine the price of fine jewelry. The other alloy metals are hardly worth considering.
3. Because platinum demands separate tools, a special higher temperature gas to work it and requires a higher level of expertise to work with it, you’ll pay more in labor to have your ring made in platinum than in white gold.
White Gold vs Platinum – Maintenance and Wear
Since white gold started its life as a yellowy, orangey and sometimes greenish gold and had to be coaxed into whiteness by alloying it with whiter metals, it’s not truly a white metal. Comparison pros and cons from the Jewelry Information Center.
When jewelers finish making a white gold ring the final step is to rhodium plate it.
You may need to have the rhodium plating re-applied once a year or so with your wedding ring.
The good news with white gold is if you have a shiny design, you can wear it for quite a while before you need to re-polish it.
It can get scratched from the slings and arrows of a vigorously lived life. But overall it maintains its shiny look.
It does so for quite a bit longer than a platinum ring does.
It seemed unlikely at first when I saw this, but if you have a plain platinum band or a design that is simple and shiny, it will dull up a lot more quickly than white gold in a similar design.
Most clients I run into aren’t aware of this attribute of platinum when they are choosing metals.
It can be especially upsetting to have a simple band that looks lackluster from the first month of wear on.
I’d recommend you also read about Rhonda’s Dull Platinum Wedding Band Disaster for advice on how to design successfully with platinum to overcome its tendency to dull up too quickly.
Read the blog post: “Why Platinum Rings Turn Dull so Fast and What to Do About it.”
For maintenance, your platinum ring will need more frequent polishing than a white gold ring.
Your white gold ring will probably need to have rhodium plating done from time to time.
White Gold vs Platinum Design With Prongs
No article would be complete without discussing the different metal’s behavior. In this section I’ll discuss these two metals and how I have advised clients I have designed for in the past.
Although gold in its pure state is quite soft, by the time is alloyed (mixed) with its alloying metals it is quite strong.
Platinum is known for its strength and lasting nature. But platinum’s strength and lasting nature and white gold’s alloyed strength do not add up to the same thing. Their very differences need to be known so that you can make an informed decision about which metal is the best choice for you.
White Gold vs Platinum – Prong Setting Behaviors Compared
Platinum is a malleable (movable) metal. White Gold, 14kt, is a more hard and brittle metal. First I’ll discuss platinum.
As a metal, platinum deforms ever so slightly when it contacts for example, a doorknob.
Platinum moves slightly in response to clacking into the doorknob. In comparison the white gold ring leaves a tiny bit of itself behind..
Weirdly what this translates in real life to is, your white gold stays shiny longer, and your platinum dulls up faster.
This means that over time the white gold prong will slowly wear away until it needs to be re-tipped. See my blog post: “Re-tipping Your Ring Prongs, Defining a Common Ring Repair.”
Platinum does not wear away over the years in this way. See the: “More Quirky Details of Platinum Prongs,” later in this post to see what platinum does do.
White Gold vs Platinum Brittle or Bendy?
The white gold prongs will need the re-tipping before platinum in many cases. However that doesn’t mean that platinum is automatically your best choice. Platinum has its own little quirk. Because it is a malleable metal, it tends to bend more easily than white gold.
Over the years I have observed a similar amount of little side diamonds dropping out of platinum settings compared to white gold settings.
What often happens with platinum is that the ring receives a direct hit on a prong and that prong responds by bending away from the pressure and lets go of the little diamond. So your platinum prong is still intact, but bent off in a different direction.
Now let’s talk about what happens in that same case with the white gold prong. It receives a direct hit. The white gold with its stronger, stiffer metal alloys stands firm. But if the hit is severe, the metal cracks in response to the shock as opposed to bending.
If the hit is hard enough it cracks completely off. If it is just under the crack-it-off level of hit, the prong, probably at the base, will be cracked and cause a problem down the line.
More Quirky Details of Platinum Prongs
One other thing I see a lot of with tiny platinum prongs is that they get pounded flatter and start spreading unattractively. This weakens the prong.
When platinum spreads like this and flattens out, it is prone to cracking off if hit just right. Then your diamond either falls out or is in danger.
White Gold vs Platinum – Active Lifestyle and Designing With Lots of Tiny Side Diamonds
If the woman who will wear an engagement ring with a number of tiny diamonds in the design, is someone with a very active lifestyle, I usually recommend 14kt white gold.
My reasoning is that white gold seems to be able to take more abuse without dropping little diamonds than platinum. This is my personal opinion based on 30 years of observation.
It goes back to the quirky details of platinum above.
Platinum vs White Gold Plain Wedding Bands
As mentioned earlier white gold holds its shininess much butter than platinum. If you plan to have a plain wedding band that has a high polish finish, I’d recommend white gold. White gold stays shiny way longer than platinum.
If you want a platinum wedding band, add hand engraving or sparkly little diamonds to give an interesting detailed design to it. Having a dull matte finish next to sparkly diamonds actually looks great.
How Do White Gold and Platinum Stack up to Alternate Metals?
Gold is the traditional metal of wedding rings. Platinum is a close second. Silver? Tungsten? Stainless steel? Metal from Mars? Not even close, 99.99% of all wedding rings are made out of gold and platinum.
Over the millennium, gold and platinum have come to symbolize marriage. Other metals haven’t.
Gold and platinum are valuable metals. Silver isn’t.
Titanium rings can’t be altered in size more than one or two sizes. This work needs to be done in a machine shop setting, not by a classic jeweler as soldering cannot be done. See my blog post, “Don’t Buy Titanium or Tungsten Wedding Bands.”
Tungsten rings flat out cannot be sized. At all!
Gold and platinum metals can be sized and worked on as many times and as much as needed by your jeweler. Your fingers will likely change in size over the years of your marriage.
Silver tarnishes. Gold and platinum don’t.
This isn’t to say that silver isn’t a great metal, or that lots of fantastic jewelry isn’t made from it.
But silver is softer, it tarnishes and it can develop porosity, micro holes in the surface which are unattractive.
I’m just saying…it’s not wedding ring and everyday wear material.
White Gold vs Platinum, Do You Know What You Want?
These are your choices. Now you know more about the
differences between white gold and platinum. The details in your design choice should also be a factor in choosing which metal is the right one for your wedding ring.
Work with a jeweler who is well versed in the subtle differences between white gold and platinum. Tell your jeweler about your work and your time off activities.
Tell your jeweler about your taste and style. The style you craft together coupled with the unique way you live will call
for one metal or the other to give you the best ring. Make sure that choice is the one that will make you happy in the years to come.
Happy Wedding Ring Designing,