White Gold vs Platinum For Wedding Rings – What’s the Difference?
This is my big monster of an article on White Gold vs Platinum. If I haven't covered it here, check the comments.
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. Once you choose the design for your wedding rings, your next decision is which metal to use. I hope to help you make that choice.
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?
White Gold vs Platinum and 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.
One thing to know about white gold is that many of the white gold rings made in the US contain nickel, which for some causes a reaction. This nickle allergy to white gold is sometimes stopped by the rhodium plating step.
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.
ell 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,
This is a great article and so comprehensive.
I really had no idea that white gold was 14K and only 58% gold. Comparisons between the two precious metals was fascinating!
Platinum being so much more pure was a total surprise and good to know.
I’m glad you liked the information. I used 14kt white gold as an example, but some people use 18kt white gold which is 75% pure gold. Because of the softness of pure gold I like going with the 14kt for white gold for strength and for color.
Your Personal Jeweler,
What I like about this article is that it was written without a lot of tech speak. Your comments on the quirks of platinum were really helpful. I haven’t heard anyone say this, but the bending prong thing happened to a fried of mine. We thought, “how weird is that?” Then you mention it in your white gold vs platinum article and I’m like going to have to share it with her. Evidently it’s a thing! I’m a platinum girl all the way. I like your suggestions on using diamonds and hand engraving to make the most of the platinum’s… Read more »
I appreciate your feedback on no tech-speak. I’m trying to provide information that’s easy to reach and think with. And if I can a little chuckle.
I loved that you knew what I was talking about with the bendy prong platinum.
Your Personal Jeweler,
Great article Calla. Very good info about our favorite things. 🙂
I’m reminded of when you did the restoration work on my platinum and white gold inherited rings. I’m glad you are able to work in both metals easily.
Our favorite things indeed – white gold and platinum jewelry. You have some wonderful pieces and it was a pleasure to work on them. Good taste runs in your family!
I appreciate your comment on the info in the article coming from you a three time published author!
Your Personal Jeweler,
Oh my goodness – what an awesome post! So much information on the white gold vs platinum question. I will definitely have this bookmarked in my fav’s so I can find it for future reference and if you don’t mind, I’m going to share it on Facebook, too!! Thanks so much Calla – super article!!
I’m so delighted that you shared my article on Facebook! I’m happy too that you liked the information!
Everyone who is looking into getting a wedding ring should read this! This article is well written and packed with information on the pros and cons of both white gold and platinum. It’s good to know about the needed maintenance with them too. Maybe I should have my prongs checked…
Hi Linda, I’m glad you enjoyed the article. It’s always a good idea to have your prongs check regularly. I know when I first got my wedding ring before I became a jeweler, I never checked my prongs. One day my ring was catching on my sweater. I dropped by the jeweler who’d made the ring. The diamond was hanging on by a thread. I was so surprised. I think at that time it didn’t occur to me that anything could happen to it. I’d bent the prong way out by bashing it. I had no memory of what I’d… Read more »
As always, Calla, this is so informative! I’ve had my wedding ring for so many years, and it’s white gold. It’s gone through a lot of wear and tear since the day my husband put it on my finger, and it still looks good. I need to have you check the prongs, though. That is an issue I had in the past, which can be really upsetting if a diamond falls out! Luckily, I was at home, and knew when it happened!!
I love that both of my commenting Linda’s are thinking about getting their prongs checked! You are smart readers really getting out of the article what applies to you and what to do.
White gold vs. platinum. Who knew? Calla, the more I read your blog, the more I realize I don’t know about jewelry, precious metals, gemstones, etc. It’s a whole new world – and a fascinating one. This post is so comprehensive! Well written and engaging, too. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone tried to plagiarize it.
Well they do say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. One thing I did a while back after seeing a number of my blogs on other people’s site with my name conveniently removed, was to get Google Authorship.
Now when people copy my stuff, Google ignores the source because I only write for this website.
I’m so happy you think it’s worth plagiarizing! I had a lot of fun putting it together.
Jeweler and Writer,
Hi calla my fiance is a plumber and I went shopping for wedding bands for him and was mainly looking for platinum because he’s obsessed with platinum. The jeweler insisted that white gold is stronger and better than platinum. He said platinum easily bend when hit. Anyhow I ended up getting a two tone 1ct band for him because most of his jewelry is yellow gold. I really hope I made the right decision.
If most of his jewelry is yellow gold that would seem to suggest that yellow gold is a good choice. His obsession with platinum however could affect his response. A solidly made, heavy platinum ring doesn’t bend. However it dulls quite fast. I personally feel that when the patina of wear from yellow gold and platinum are compared that yellow gold looks significantly nicer.
I see that you put effort and care into your decision, I hope he loves it.
Congratulations on your engagement and upcoming marriage.
Your Personal Jeweler,
Calla, you never cease to amaze me with your writing. I feel like an expert on these kinds of things because you explain them so well for a crowd who knows little to nothing about metals, stones, etc. I think it is great that you give advice to take into consideration the lifestyle of the wearer rather than just how things look (though that is important too!). It’s not something would probably even think about on my own. I didn’t know that I had curiosity about the white gold vs platinum subject. But it is quite interesting. I love that… Read more »
You totally made my day. Check out the comments on my titanium blog post sometime or my cz vs diamond post. The comments are in some cases, quite impolite to put it nicely.
You are most kind to take the time to let me know you enjoyed this post.
Your Personal Jeweler,
Calla, I always learn something new when I read one of your blog posts, but this takes it to a new level. This is a must read for any couple who is looking to learn about the differences between white gold and platinum for their wedding rings. This information is also excellent for other ring designing, not just wedding rings.
The idea that your design choices can impact which metal you’d be happier with is really unexpected. It’s details like that that I really value.
I’m so pleased that you enjoyed the details about white gold vs platinum. Various forms of that question have come to me a lot lately while designing wedding rings. It seemed like it was time to get it all down!
Lynn, you’re very right that the issues about design and lifestyle apply to other rings than just wedding rings.
Your Personal Jeweler,
I’ve also read your blog posts about the costs of sizing rings and appreciate learning why things cost what they do.
What are things that are harder to do with platinum vs white gold as a jeweler?
I have white gold and platinum jewelry and my platinum jewelry is always way more expensive to fix, to size and to replace diamonds on.
I love jewelry and I wear it vigorously. I ain’t gonna lie!
I thought maybe it was like driving in with a Mercedes vs a VW, it automatically costs more.
Educate me if you would Calla.
Hi Fannie, You have asked good questions. Let’s say you’ve lost a diamond that is a small side diamond from a white gold ring and a platinum ring. Let’s say the design is identical. When I fix the broken prongs on the white gold I plan to use open flame solder to do the work. The nearby diamonds will not be damaged by that work. It won’t take too long. Maybe the two prongs will cost $50.00 to $60.00 to repair. Not counting the cost of the replacement diamond. Now let’s fix the platinum ring. Because of the way-higher melting… Read more »