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White Gold vs Platinum

Contrary to what some might think, there are several different options when it comes to white metal. As it is our most popular metal colour, many people have questions about how to choose the right white metal for their engagement ring. For fine jewellery, it always comes down to the choice between white gold and platinum. Each metal has its own unique finish, and usually has different advantages. And while platinum has historically fetched a higher price than white gold, recently global economic factors and material access has caused a significant shift in the price of white gold, which will affect many people’s choice in metal.

Due to recent economic uncertainty, global markets for precious metals have experienced wide-ranging fluctuation. In uncertain times like these, the price of precious metals tends to rise as people view metals as a safe haven. Which means that in 2020 alone, the price of gold has risen 24%.

In this post, we’ll explore the advantages and disadvantages of both white gold and platinum, and take a look at how the current global climate has affected the prices of both materials.

The Science

White gold

White gold is a coloured version of gold, meaning it is a different colour to the original material. Pure gold is a precious metal of an intense yellow-reddish colour, so in order to produce coloured golds yellow gold is alloyed with other metals. Gold can be made into many other colours besides yellow, with white gold and rose gold being the most popular colours. White gold is actually more popular than yellow gold in North America and Europe, with yellow gold being more popular in countries across Asian.

The exact alloy will depend on the carat of the metal. 9ct white gold usually is created out of 35.7% gold and about 62% sterling silver. 14ct white gold, which is typically found in North America, is created out of 58% gold, 32% sterling silver and 9% palladium. 18ct white gold, which is the highest carat of white gold available, is created out of 75% gold and 25% palladium. There is no form of pure white gold available, due to the fact that to achieve a white colour gold must be mixed with other white metals.

Sometimes a white gold alloy can contain a mixture of gold and nickel to achieve a white finish. However nickel can be known to cause allergic reactions, so for this reason many metalsmiths will avoid the use of nickel in white gold. As well, people with sensitive skin or allergies may choose to opt for a different metal option.

Platinum

Platinum is a precious, rare metal that is predominantly mined in South Africa. The metal is so scarce that only a few hundred tonnes are mined annually. The metal has multiple uses in automobile, chemical and electronic industries, as well as investments.

Platinum is an extremely valuable metal because of its special physical properties. It is one of the least reactive metals, highly resistant to corrosion and more ductile than gold, silver or copper, which allows it to have many different applications.

In jewellery, platinum has to be formulated with an alloy, because like gold, on its own the metal is too soft to withstand the daily wear and tear of practical jewellery. Platinum is usually composed of 95% platinum, and 5% cobalt or palladium. To represent this composition, the jewellery industry uses the hallmark “950 platinum”. Platinum can also be found in an alloy with 90% platinum and 10% other metals, and is marked as “900 platinum”.

What is the difference between white gold and platinum?

While both metals have a similar white, silvery finish, the difference between white gold and platinum is that each metal is made of a completely different mineral and alloy. White gold is created out of a composition of 75% pure gold, and 25% palladium. Platinum jewellery is made out of 95% platinum and 5% cobalt.

White gold has a slightly warmer hue, and then is usually plated in rhodium to give it a silver finish. Platinum has a naturally-occurring silver grey hue when shined and polished.

Advantages and Disadvantages of white gold and platinum

Affordability

Usually, the main advantage of white gold is that it is more affordable than platinum. However, during recent times, the prices of gold and palladium—the most important metals in the white gold alloy—have significantly increased, leading the metal alloy to become more expensive than platinum.

In the last five years, the price of palladium has increased by over 500%, and pure gold over 70%. As palladium makes up almost 25% of the composition of 18ct white gold, this has led to a large increase in the cost of white gold.
Platinum is now more affordable than white gold, so if you are looking to make a saving, platinum is a great choice.

Long term care

When it comes to maintenance, white gold generally requires more upkeep. The main limitation of white gold is that it is susceptible to tarnishing and discolouration over long periods of time. Care needs to be taken when exposing the metal to toiletries or household chemicals. This is because white gold is plated in rhodium, to maintain its silver finish. Without the rhodium plating, white gold would have a yellow tonal finish to it, due to the high concentration of yellow gold in the alloy.

White gold engagement rings need to be maintained by occasionally re-plating the ring in rhodium. The process of re-plating over the years can become costly and time consuming. Typically, a white gold engagement ring would need to be re-plated every 2-3 years, as an engagement ring is worn almost every day. The cost to replate a ring in rhodium is around £50-£100. Over a lifetime, this can add up to be more than you would usually save on choosing white gold over platinum.

In terms of long term care, platinum is easier to maintain because of the purity of the metal. A platinum ring needs no plating and won’t tarnish, meaning that all it needs is a simple polish once in a while. Platinum’s shine can be susceptible to fading, but many don’t see this as a defect due to the natural patina that builds up over time due to the softness of the metal. But if the warm glow of a patina isn’t for you, all it takes is a simple polish to restore a platinum ring to its original shine and lustre. Some people even prefer the patina because it allows your centre diamond to shine even brighter!

white gold rhodium plated vs white gold un-plated

White gold engagement rings need to be maintained by occasionally re-plating the ring in rhodium. The process of re-plating over the years can become costly and time consuming. Typically, a white gold engagement ring would need to be re-plated every 2-3 years, as an engagement ring is worn almost every day. The cost to replate a ring in rhodium is around £50-£100. Over a lifetime, this can add up to be more than you would usually save on choosing white gold over platinum.

In terms of long term care, platinum is easier to maintain because of the purity of the metal. A platinum ring needs no plating and won’t tarnish, meaning that all it needs is a simple polish once in a while. Platinum’s shine can be susceptible to fading, but many don’t see this as a defect due to the natural patina that builds up over time due to the softness of the metal. But if the warm glow of a patina isn’t for you, all it takes is a simple polish to restore a platinum ring to its original shine and lustre. Some people even prefer the patina because it allows your centre diamond to shine even brighter!

Platinum patina

Durability

When it comes to the durability of white gold and platinum, both can be advantageous in different ways. The metals have unique properties, resulting in different levels of hardness and malleability.

More often than not, it is easy to confuse the terms hardness and malleability. Hardness refers to a metal’s ability to resist scratches, dents, scrapes and general wear and tear, while malleability refers to the level of ease in which you can bend and shape the metal. When a metal is not very malleable, it is known to be quite brittle.

White gold is a harder metal than platinum, meaning that it is not as easily scratched or dented. This is because of the white gold alloy, it is gold mixed with harder metals such as palladium, silver or copper. On its own, gold is a very soft metal, so the composition of white gold allows the metal to be harder than platinum. Platinum’s purity is responsible for its softer nature, as it is made out of 95% pure platinum.

While white gold is a harder metal, platinum is less malleable, meaning that it is difficult to bend and shape the metal out of place. When platinum is scratched or dented, the metal is not lost, but moved from one place to another. This creates the patina that platinum is famous for. When white gold is scratched, the metal is lost. The density and brittleness of platinum makes it an ideal choice to secure a gemstone, as over time the metal will keep its form slightly better than any form of gold. However, this is not to say that white gold isn’t a safe choice to secure a diamond. Both metals are an excellent choice to hold and secure gemstones, and although platinum is technically more robust, both are very durable.

Hypoallergenic properties

Both white gold rings and platinum rings are both completely safe to wear, as they are relatively pure precious metals. Platinum is a very pure alloy, being made almost completely of pure platinum. In fact, the only other metal used in jewellery that is more pure is 24ct gold. However, people rarely use 24ct gold for an everyday piece of jewellery as it is too prone to damage. Platinum is the most hypoallergenic of all metals used to make jewellery, so it would make an excellent choice for those with sensitive skin.

White gold can be a good choice for those with sensitive skin, too. However, the wearer must take care of a white gold ring, as if the rhodium plating wears off the white gold alloy, depending on the composition of the metals can cause an allergic reaction. Sometimes white gold can contain higher amounts of nickel, which can cause skin irritation.

Overall, if you have quite sensitive skin, platinum would be the safer choice for an engagement ring.

Weight

One advantage of white gold is that the metal is lighter than platinum, so for people with larger rings this could be preferable, as the ring wouldn’t be as heavy. Platinum is a dense metal, almost 20% more dense than 18ct white gold. This is also what allows platinum to usually be more expensive than gold, because of its density. Platinum’s density also makes it more durable than white gold, so it is a great option for those who value a sturdy engagement ring—for example, if you enjoy sports or have a manual job.

Finish

Platinum also has a low reflection point, meaning your centre diamond or gemstone can shine even more brilliantly. Platinum develops a patina over time, and will lose its shiny finish that it has in the beginning. The platinum patina is a charming characteristic of the metal—but if you would like to restore your ring back to its original lustre, all you would have to do is take it back to your jeweller for a simple polish.

White gold has a lustrous, shiny white finish thanks to the rhodium plating. Without the rhodium plating, it would be off-white, or a very pale yellow. Over time, the plating will begin to wear off, and how fast this happens depends on your lifestyle. However, it is easily remedied by taking your ring back to your jewellery for a re-plating.

Why would you choose white gold?

In our current times, you should choose white gold if you prefer a lighter engagement ring, as the metal is less dense than platinum. This would be quite useful if your preferred style is quite bold or your band quite thick or if your gemstone is quite large and you are looking to reduce the overall weight of your ring.

White gold is also a good choice for those who prefer a shinier look. If you maintain your white gold engagement ring by re-plating every three years or when needed, then your engagement ring should keep its shine and lustre.

Up until 2020, white gold was more affordable than platinum. However now, due to the rise in price of gold and palladium, platinum is now the more affordable option.

taylor and hart pale green sapphire emerald side diamonds miligrain white gold

Why would you choose platinum?

Platinum is now the more affordable choice, and comes with a lot of benefits. Historically, it has always been the most expensive out of all the white metals used in jewellery, but now white gold comes at the highest premium.

In terms of durability, platinum also is a great choice. It is the most durable metal used to make jewellery. Platinum should last a lifetime and you should not have to reset your platinum engagement ring.

Platinum is a naturally white metal that is highly resistant to tarnish. This means it would not have to be re-plated like white gold, but instead an occasional re-polish to maintain its shine. Platinum is easier to maintain over time than white gold.

Platinum is also the most hypoallergenic of all metals, because of its purity. Platinum is made of 95% pure platinum, where white gold is made out of 75% pure gold, and 25% other metals. Platinum is extremely non reactive, so perfect for those with sensitive skin.

Platinum engagement ring with a round diamond and emerald pavé shaped as a flower

Custom white gold and platinum engagement rings

We have created countless custom engagement rings, reflecting many styles and trends, in both white gold and platinum. White gold is a classic, very popular metal that looks amazing with just a simple solitaire. Platinum is used to create very contemporary rings, but also harks back to the art deco era when the metal became extremely popular. As platinum is so durable, it was used to cast intricate details such as filigree and milgrain. Platinum is a wonderful metal if you would like a detailed, opulent design as the metal is remarkably strong.

Vintage engagement ring with a round diamond and milgrain
Yellow round sapphire engagement ring with a flower halo of round diamonds
Princess cut and round cut diamond platinum engagement ring
Vintage bezel set oval diamond with a pear diamond halo
Edwardian marquise diamond platinum engagement ring
Vintage art deco platinum wedding band with round and marquise diamonds
Vintage oval diamond with triangle side diamonds set in a platinum band

Celebrity white gold engagement rings

Kate Middleton

One of the most famous white gold rings is the wedding band that belongs to Kate Middleton, as her ring is made out of a very special gold: Welsh gold. Upon their engagement, the queen gifted the couple a piece of welsh gold to make their wedding bands with. The royal family has a tradition of using Welsh gold, which began in 1923. Welsh gold is extremely rare and valuable, so it is no wonder it is deemed fit for royalty!

 

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A post shared by Salma Hayek Pinault (@salmahayek)

Salma Hayek

Salma Hayek’s art deco inspired platinum stunner features a five carat oval cut centre stone, flanked by two trillion diamond accents. Given to her by none other than Francois-Henri Pinault, (CEO of Kering) her engagement ring was sure to be chic.

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