Silver and white gold look similar at first glance, but there are many differences between these two metals. Both are precious metals that have been valued for centuries and used to make jewelry, especially wedding rings.
However, they have distinct pros and cons and the metal you ultimately choose will depend largely on your personal preferences, budget and the type of jewelry you’re after.
Let’s take an in-depth look at these two metals.
What is White Gold?
White gold is made of pure gold alloyed with other metals, typically palladium, nickel, manganese and zinc. These metals make the gold stronger and more suitable for use in jewelry. They also dilute the strong yellow of gold, making it whiter and lustrous. White gold is finished with a surface coating of rhodium which gives the metal its reflective shine.
White gold blends well with diamonds, like this ring. Check Price Here.
However, because most white gold alloys contain nickel, white gold isn’t hypoallergenic. If you have nickel allergies, you could potentially get a reaction from wearing white gold, although the rhodium coating acts as a hypoallergenic buffer between your skin and the white gold alloy.
Which brings us to our next point:
As the rhodium coating wears off, the original color of the alloy starts to show through the plating. As a result, you will need to have white gold jewelry re-plated periodically. Some retailers, like James Allen, include free rhodium re-plating for the lifetime of the jewelry.
What is Silver?
Like gold, pure silver is too soft for use in jewelry. Silver is mixed with other metals to make it more workable and wearable. The purest silver alloy used in jewelry is 99.9% silver, but it’s easily deformed and much too soft for regular wear. The most common type of silver used in jewelry is sterling silver with 92.5% purity.
Fine .999 silver ring by Perfections. Check Price Here.
925 sterling silver ring by Salty Pines. Check Price Here.
Silver alloys typically contain copper, nickel or zinc. As with white gold, nickel in sterling silver can cause allergies, making this a non-hypoallergenic option. Also, sterling silver tends to tarnish easily, but restoring it back to its original luster is easy and can be done at home.
Which is Better – White Gold or Silver?
When comparing white gold and silver, we need to look at several factors to see how they perform against each other:
- Price: Silver is much more affordable than white gold, costing a fraction of the price. Compare this lustrous 5mm sterling silver wedding band with this similar 5mm high polish white gold wedding band. The white gold ring is over 10 times more expensive. This makes silver the best option if you’re on a budget and are looking for an alternative to platinum and white gold.
- Type of Jewelry: Because of silver’s affordable price, it’s often used to make beautiful costume jewelry, whereas white gold is typically used just for fine jewelry pieces. White gold is more suitable for special jewelry pieces, like wedding rings, which you plan to wear daily.
- Maintenance: As we’ve mentioned, white gold needs to be re-plated periodically and may require a professional polish to get rid of scratches and dents acquired over time. Even so, white gold is still considered easier to maintain than silver, which tarnishes very easily. Silver tarnishes when exposed to moisture and air, which causes oxidization. This results in a patina, which develops over time and removes the luster of the piece. Some people like the look of silver patina, but others prefer a shiny ring.
Should I Choose White Gold or Silver?
Both white gold and silver have their advantages and disadvantages. Here’s a recap of the pros and cons:
Pros and Cons of White Gold
The benefits of white gold:
- White gold is strong, durable and ideal for regular wear.
- The hard rhodium plating provides extra durability against exposure.
- White gold is valuable and tends to maintain its value over time.
- It’s a contemporary choice and can be crafted into a range of ring designs.
The negatives of white gold:
- White gold isn’t hypoallergenic and can cause skin reactions among people with metal allergies.
- Re-plating the rhodium over time can be costly (unless provided for free by your retailer) and takes effort.
Pros and Cons of Silver
The benefits of silver:
- Silver is highly affordable.
- It’s perfect for costume jewelry as well as more high-end styles.
- Silver has a unique luster and beauty.
- Some people love the patina that develops on silver. The patina can also be used to create beautiful patterns and contrasts on the metal.
- It’s a precious metal and has been valued for centuries.
The negatives of silver are:
- Silver isn’t hypoallergenic and can cause skin reactions.
- It’s harder to maintain silver because of the metal’s tendency to tarnish. Silver needs to be cleaned more frequently.
- Silver is softer than white gold and can bend or deform much easier than white gold.
Ultimately, the metal you choose depends on your personal preferences, style and budget. For most people who’re on a budget, sterling silver offers the better option from these two metals. However, if you want a valuable piece of jewelry that will last a lifetime, white gold is worth investing in.