White Gold vs. Platinum: What is the difference

Sharif Khan
Sharif Khan
Last Updated    EST 
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Before choosing between white gold and platinum, it bears significance to learn the ins and outs of these two jewelry-making metals. Like 22k yellow gold, platinum tends to be over 90 percent pure and ready to use naturally. But since it may have a percentage of other elements in its metal structure, it will be in a customer’s best interest to have the requisite information to avoid issues, such as skin irritation and other allergic reactions.

White gold is an alloy, so knowing the element composition that goes into producing it is pertinent. This knowledge will help pick out the right white gold ring that can be gentle on the skin. The correct proportions of base yellow gold and white metal play a role in determining the durability of the white gold. Most jewelers dip rhodium (a white element) to add aesthetic value to the white gold and prolong its life.

The average jewelry shopper cannot differentiate a white gold setting from a platinum one. If they were to get a dollar every time they got it wrong, they would be rich. This is so because white gold and platinum jewelry have a striking resemblance and are indistinguishable from the naked eye. Most shoppers buying white, shiny-silvery pieces get to know the difference from a jeweler’s product description or via the price gap between white gold and platinum.

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Metal Structure & Color

While searching online or perusing a jewelry store’s price catalogs, it will be noticed that platinum is pricier than gold, both yellow and colored. Several factors contribute to the price difference.

One is the ductility of platinum, which is higher than that of gold, copper, and silver. The second is platinum's rarity, found in minimal concentrations deep in the earth’s crust. However, a significant amount of the metal also occurs in alluvial deposits in South Africa, Russia, and Columbia. Finding sufficiently sized and economic-quality platinum accumulations on nickel or copper ore is also common.

Most platinum extracted from the earth is native, meaning other elements are absent in its metallic structure. Platinum is part of a larger group of platinum elements. At times, this relationship can lead to the presence of end alloys (nickel and palladium). It is usually the case for platinum deposits found in nickel and iron ores in South Africa. The end alloy can also be rhodium resulting in a purity of 95-98 percent. Natural element impurities or not, platinum usually has a white or silver-ish color tone.

topaz white gold engagement ring 

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Pliability and purity make platinum a highly sought-after metal. The motor vehicle and jewelry industries make the most use of platinum. It is also one of the major commodities in financial markets and has widespread applications in the electrical field and medicine (dentistry).

White gold is a mixture of 24k gold and one or more white metals. The commonly used white metals are nickel, silver, or palladium. The portions of white metal used to create white gold differ from one piece of white gold jewelry to another. Regardless of the ratios incorporated, yellow gold is always the base metal. The primary white gold combinations include:

  1. gold-palladium–silver and
  2. gold–nickel–copper–zinc

Jewelers like the first alloy more because it produces malleable white gold that can be bent easily into different shapes. Like rose gold, white gold alloys give rise to a spectrum of colors. White gold shades can be very faint yellow, a tint of brown, or a pastel rose.

To get a flawless white appearance, jewelers sometimes do a rhodium flashing of the white gold jewelry. Rhodium flashing means plating the white gold jewelry with a thick (at least 1.0 microns) layer of rhodium to enhance the white color.

swirl round engagement ring 

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Price Differences

The pricing of yellow gold and colored gold happens under the same considerations: the number of yellow gold karats and the associated costs of designing jewelry. The standard measurement of gold is karats. One karat is equal to 0.2 grams of gold. It can be converted into ounces or kilograms to get a clear picture of the dollar-sum of gold. But the fine white gold jewelry produced entails the use of alloys, skilled artisans, and operational costs. As the end-user of the jewelry, a customer pays for these costs in the form of a markup on the jeweler’s selling price.

It gets expensive with platinum. Jewelers buy platinum by gram or kilo. One ounce troy of platinum equals 31.10 grams and currently costs $884. It will cost jewelers approximately $28.44 per gram of platinum. This explains the considerable price difference between this platinum halo engagement ring and this other 14k white gold engagement ring by Blue Nile. A difference of $500 can be noted despite the fact that both rings have the same design.

ruby diamond engagement ring

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When it comes to resistance to corrosion, platinum beats white gold, hands down. It is a noble metal that cannot be affected by exposure to high temperatures, making it long-lasting compared to white gold.

Unfortunately, when jewelers clean and polish a piece of platinum jewelry, bits strip off. After a few years of cleaning, a significant amount of the original platinum will have been stripped away, eventually coercing the owner to replace the entire ring. Platinum also reacts with chlorine, so it is significant to avoid over-exposing it to water.

White gold is the more malleable of the two metals. But what platinum lacks in malleability, it compensates in purity, flexibility, and a natural, lustrous silver-white color. It takes less effort to care for and maintain platinum jewelry. The presence of an end alloy in platinum that contains rhodium is an added advantage, given that rhodium is the plating used to strengthen white gold and intensify its whiteness.

White gold’s durability comes second to platinum, though it does not mean that white gold is not a good option. The white gold alloy combinations can be altered to make it stronger.

Using more nickel and copper adds a bit of weight to white gold and resistance to wear and tear. More palladium and zinc in the gold alloy enables intense bleaching of the yellow gold. Palladium and zinc, coupled with rhodium flashing, can uphold the silver-white color of white gold for longer periods.

Regarding skin tones, platinum and white gold best suit people with pale and rose skin. Along the same line, skin can hinder wearing a beautiful platinum or white gold diamond ring. The nickel component often causes skin discomfort and can escalate to rashes and blisters for people with sensitive skin.

In such a case, the option of working with a white gold alloy that does not incorporate nickel exists. But even white gold—although rarely—can have a trace of mercury impurity used in producing the yellow gold base metal. Mercury may cause skin displeasure.

However, this should not provoke fear; for skin hypersensitivity occurs gradually. To reduce the chances of developing an allergic reaction, the ring should be removed occasionally, particularly when in bed and during prolonged periods indoors.

Settle for yellow gold settings for a tinted diamond to achieve a homogeneous feel and accentuate the yellow hue. White gold and platinum are the perfect choices for fancy colors. A pink diamond or blue sapphire looks great against the white backdrop provided by platinum or white gold mounting. From a budget purchase point of view, always go for white gold. But if making a statement is desired while fashioning the optimal fine jewelry, go platinum.

Related: White Gold vs. Yellow Gold vs. Rose Gold Rings