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White Gold vs Platinum - What is the Difference?

White Gold vs Platinum - What is the Difference?

Deciding between white gold and platinum is among the many decisions you will make when shopping for a white metal engagement ring, wedding band or wedding ring. This may seem like a small detail, in fact often we get asked “aren’t they the same thing?” The straight up answer is no: white gold and platinum are two completely different precious metals with inherently unique characteristics. While there is no right or wrong choice to be made here, there are some interesting pros and cons to consider for each metal. If you’re the type of person who likes to skip to the specific information that hits your query, this platinum vs. white gold blog is for you. We’re going to break this topic down by our most commonly asked questions.


What is white gold?

So ok, here’s a mind blowing detail: white gold does not exist naturally. There are no “white mountains”. All gold comes out of the earth yellow in color. White gold is made by mixing refined pure yellow gold and white metals such as palladium or nickel to create a white color of gold.


Why is white gold mixed with other metals?

The reason why white gold is combined with alloys is because gold, as a metal, is extremely soft. If pure gold was used on its own in jewelry, it would bend out of shape very quickly.

Therefore, yellow gold, rose gold and white gold have to be mixed with harder alloy metals, to make them more rigid and durable in jewelry.


Why is white gold rhodium plated?

A little math to help us understand this better: 24K (or 24 karat gold) is 99.99% pure gold, which is very yellow in color. The lower the karat, the less pure gold is in the piece. 14K is 58.5% pure gold and 41.5% alloys (in white gold those alloys are the palladium or nickel we spoke of above). Given that over 50% of a piece of 14k fine jewelry is pure yellow gold, even mixing it with white alloys doesn’t give us a truly “white” look. That is why a finished piece of jewelry will be rhodium plated - it is coated with a lustrous bright white metal.


Will the rhodium plating wear off?

Yes. Rhodium plating will wear off over time. Quite often we get asked “how much time?” and the simple answer is it is dependent on the wearer. Here are some common things which can strip the rhodium plating off of a piece of jewelry and cause it to loose its luster during daily wear:

  • Harsh chemicals & cleaning solutions

  • Hot tubs, pools & saltwater (think: the ocean!)

  • Gardening or other use of tools

  • Sleeping in your rings (yes even constant rubbing on sheets and bedding can cause wear)

  • Acidity in your skin

White gold jewelry will need re-plating over time to keep it looking it’s best. At Perrara we recommend having your white gold jewelry rhodium plated no more than once per year. Why? The first step in rhodium plating a piece of fine jewelry is re-polishing. This takes off a very thin layer of gold and therefore not something that should be done frequently. It’s important to note that some people do not enjoy the upkeep of white gold, especially on a ring which tends to get more wear than earrings or a necklace. If this is you, read on for some benefits of the naturally white metal platinum.


What does white gold look like under the rhodium plating?

Natural white gold has a soft buttery color to it. It’s not bright white, but it doesn’t look like yellow gold either. If you are considering an engagement ring in white gold, you will notice the rhodium wear off on the palm side of your hand as this is the part of the ring that will make most contact with everyday objects.


Does rhodium plating make a ring scratch resistant?

No. Rhodium plating will not protect your ring from dents or scratches. Remember the purpose of rhodium plating is to give us a bright white appearance. Your white gold engagement ring will get scuffs and scratches along the way, don’t worry it is normal!


Can a person develop an allergy to white gold over time?

Absolutely, it is possible. However, if you are experiencing redness or a rash underneath your ring, we recommend the following before jumping to an allergy conclusion:

  • Take the ring to your local jeweler for a thorough polishing, cleaning and sanitizing. In my 30+ years in the jewelry industry, I have never personally encountered someone who developed an allergy to white gold. What I have seen time and time again is an allergen becoming trapped underneath the settings on a ring causing bacteria to grow and a reaction on the skin.

  • Leave the ring off until the skin is completely healed. I know, you love your diamond engagement ring and you will be very tempted to put it back on (especially now that it is shiny like you never thought it could be again, thanks to your jeweler!). It is imperative that the area is fully healed and there is no redness, puffiness or scabbing. Depending on the severity of the reaction, this may take several weeks. Be patient!

  • Thereafter, have your ring professionally sanitized by a jeweler every few months. It only takes a few minutes in the cleaner and well worth it.

  • Remember, if it is a true allergic reaction to the metal, the inside of your middle ring & pinky ring fingers will also be reacting to the metal where it touches. If those two fingers are not itchy and red also, I would highly suspect a cleaning is needed and thankfully you are not allergic to your white gold ring!

TRUE STORY: In 2012, I helped Judy select a ring to commemorate their 50th anniversary, a huge milestone! She chose a gorgeous princess cut diamond on a wider band & a matching wedding band. Despite encouraging her to return yearly for complimentary cleaning & rhodium plating, I didn’t see Judy again until 2016. She came into the store with a very red ring finger and announced that she was now allergic to her ring.  Judy left her rings in our care to be sanitized, polished & rhodium plated. She returned after several weeks with a healed finger. Despite her firm belief that it was an allergy, after removing the buildup of irritants that was lodged underneath the setting, she was once again able to wear her ring daily without any reaction.


What is platinum?

Platinum is a naturally occurring white metal. It comes out of the earth in a grey color, but when polished it has a much shiner white coloring. It is far rarer than gold, and much heavier and denser. Because of this, platinum can be used in a purer form than gold. Most platinum jewelry is made of 95% platinum (but that can vary from designer to designer). Platinum is one of the most durable metals and therefore the premier choice for diamond engagement rings, wedding rings and fine designer jewelry.


Is platinum scratch resistant?

Many people believe platinum is “scratch-proof”. While in a way this is true, it is not correct in the strictest sense. What actually happens is that platinum’s surface can develop little bumps, scuffs and ridges, which is called patina. When this occurs, what is happening is that the metal gets pushed to one side and another while the owner wears it. This is especially true for engagement rings and wedding rings which are typically worn day in day out as they come into constant contact with hard surfaces.

A piece of platinum jewelry will not tarnish like other metals. The patina on a well loved piece of platinum jewelry gives it an antique, heirloom vibe. When a platinum ring patinas, it develops a slight grey color. A jeweler can easily polish the patina as desired and you will once again have a shinier ring.


What is the best metal? White gold or platinum?

The best metal is the one that is best for you. White gold’s advantage is it is generally more affordable than platinum. The manageable downside is the upkeep needed to keep that piece of jewelry looking it’s brightest. That being said, many people find the upkeep inconvenient...if you’re not keen on that perhaps platinum is your “best” choice.

Platinum is initially more expensive that white gold, however, it can be debated that platinum is better than white gold because it is more cost-effective & a better investment long term. It has also been said that there is no better metal to secure diamonds than platinum.


What is the most popular metal?

White gold would be considered by most to be the most popular as it is more cost effective. A simple white gold solitaire engagement ring setting that is $1200 would cost around $2000 in platinum.


Is platinum hypoallergenic?

The purity of platinum is what makes it hypoallergenic and arguably the best choice for those with sensitive skin. Often times if you experience an allergic reaction to a piece of fine jewelry, what you are feeling is a sensitivity to is the alloy that has been mixed into the metal. As most platinum jewelry is 95% pure platinum, it is considered a hypoallergenic metal and you should not have an allergic reaction to it.


Which is the most durable?

Platinum would be considered most durable given its density and that as it ages, the molecules continue to harden over time. That is why vintage platinum settings have endured over time, often times virtually unscathed by multiple wearers.

White gold, depending on the karat, is actually considered harder than platinum but is more susceptible to wear. For example, prongs made out of gold (whether white gold, yellow gold or rose gold) will wear down over time. Depending on the lifestyle of the wearer, gold prongs will need to be replaced or “re-tipped” every 5-10 years. Platinum has the unique quality of wearing back into itself, rather than wearing away, making it the better choice to hold diamonds and other precious gemstones.


In Summary:

Whether you are purchasing a stunning platinum engagement ring or a piece of white gold jewelry, there are pros and cons to each unique metal. Remember, there is no wrong or right! Discuss the characteristics of white gold vs platinum with your local jeweler and make a choice that will endure.

With Love, Perrara

Author: Lisa Maloney, Proprietor

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