The average jewelry shopper can’t differentiate a white gold setting from a platinum one. If they could and get a dollar every time they got it right, they would be rich. That’s because white gold and platinum jewelry have a striking resemblance. They’re indistinguishable to the naked eye, and you can easily mistake one for the other. In fact, most shoppers out to buy white, shiny-silvery pieces only get to know the difference from a jeweler’s product description. Or the price gap between white gold and platinum. And that’s not all...
Before choosing between white gold and platinum, you need to learn the ins and outs of these two jewelry-making metals. Similar to 22k yellow gold, platinum tends to be over 90 percent pure and ready-to-use in its natural form. But it may have a percentage of other elements in its metal structure. It’ll be in your best interest to have that information because of issues such as skin irritation and allergic reactions.
White gold is an alloy. You need to know the element composition that goes into producing white gold. That knowledge will help you to pick out the right white gold ring that’ll be gentle on your skin. The correct proportions of base yellow gold and white metal play a role in determining the durability of the white gold. Most jewelers do rhodium (a white element) dipping to add aesthetic value to the white gold and prolong its life. You might want to know a thing or two about a rhodium dip for good measure. Take a look at the information below to get the full picture.
White Gold vs Platinum: Metal Structure and Color
As you search online or peruse through jewelry store price catalogs, you’ll notice that platinum is pricier than gold both yellow and colored. Several factors contribute to that price difference. One is the ductility of platinum, which is higher than that of gold, copper, and silver.
The second is the rarity of platinum. It’s found deep in the earth’s crust in minimal concentrations. However, a significant amount of the metal also occurs in alluvial deposits in places such as South Africa, Russia, and Columbia. It's also common to find sufficiently sized and economic quality platinum accumulations on nickel or copper ore.
Most of the platinum extracted for the earth is native platinum, meaning the absence of other elements in its metallic structure. Platinum is part of a larger group of platinum elements. At times, that relationship can lead to the presence of end alloys (nickel and palladium). It’s 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.
Pliability and purity make platinum a highly sought after metal. The motor vehicle and jewelry industries make the most use of platinum. It’s 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 in the creation of 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:
- gold-palladium–silver and
Jewelers like alloy (1) above more because it produces malleable white gold that’s easy to bend into different shapes. Similar to 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 pastel rose.
To get a flawlessly 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.
The pricing of yellow gold and colored gold happens under the same considerations: the number of yellow gold karats and associated costs of designing jewelry. The standard measurement of gold is karats. One karat is equal to 0.2 grams of gold. You can convert that 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, you pay for these costs in the form of a markup on the jeweler’s selling price.
It gets expensive with platinum. Jewelers buy platinum by the gram or kilo. One ounce troy of platinum equates to 31.10 grams and currently costs $884. It’ll cost jewelers approximately $28.44 per gram of platinum. That explains the considerable price difference between this platinum halo engagement ring and this other 14k white gold engagement ring by the Blue Nile. You’ll notice a difference of $500 despite both rings having the same design.
When it comes to resistance to corrosion, platinum beats white gold hands down. It’s a noble metal that’s even not affected by exposure to high temperature, making it long-lasting in comparison to white gold.
Unfortunately, every time you visit a jeweler to clean and polish your platinum jewelry, bits of it strip off. After a few years of cleaning, a significant amount of the original platinum will have stripped away. You’ll eventually have to replace the entire ring. Platinum also reacts with chlorine. Avoid over-exposure to water (because it contains chlorine).
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. That’s because rhodium is the plating used to strengthen white gold and intensify its whiteness.
White gold durability comes second to that of platinum. It doesn’t 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.
In terms of skin tones, both platinum and white gold best suit people with pale and rose skin. Along the same line, your skin can hinder you from wearing that 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.
You have the option of working with a white gold alloy that doesn’t incorporate nickel. But even white gold—although rarely—can have a trace of mercury impurity used in the production of the yellow gold base metal. Mercury may cause skin displeasure.
However, don’t let that scare you. The skin hypersensitivity happens over time. If you do have delicate skin, you can reduce the chances of developing an allergic reaction by taking off the ring from time to time. For instance, when in bed or generally spending 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 you want to make a statement while fashioning the optimal fine jewelry, go the platinum way.