Gold and platinum are two of the most famous, oldest, and most used metals in jewelry – especially for engagement rings and wedding bands. But it can be difficult when deciding between the two because each has its pros and cons.
Here’s a look at the similarities and differences of these two white metals, covering durability, price, appearance, maintenance and value. We’ll cover all this below but first, let’s start with a quick summary of these two precious metals.
What is platinum?
Platinum is one of the rarest metals in jewelry which is also one of the main reasons why it’s so expensive. This hasn’t stopped jewelers and other craftsmen from using platinum for over thousands of years, however. All throughout human history, platinum has been one of the most sought-after metals on the planet.
The physical properties of this metal are also very impressive. Platinum doesn’t fade or tarnish, it’s corrosive-resistant, and very hard and durable but still soft enough to be workable. It’s also hypoallergenic, making it a good choice for people with metal sensitivities. The combination of all these qualities makes platinum an excellent choice for wedding rings and bands.
It’s noteworthy that the platinum used in jewelry is an alloy and not 100% pure. The typical platinum alloy in jewelry has between 85% and 95% platinum purity (always above at least 80%) and the rest of the alloy is made up of copper, iridium, palladium, cobalt, and other similar metals.
What is white gold?
White gold wedding band. See it here.
White gold is a fairly recent innovation that’s been created precisely as a less-expensive alternative to platinum.
Like platinum, white gold is actually an alloy. That much should be obvious considering that natural gold is always yellow in color – white gold isn’t a material that’s mined straight from the Earth. It’s made by mixing natural yellow gold with some combination of the following metals – silver, palladium, nickel and manganese.
Some white gold alloys don’t contain any silver, others have quite a bit of it. Some have around 80% gold purity and others can fall below 50%. Still, the two most common and standard types of white gold alloy are 75% gold purity and 58% gold purity. In other words – 18 karats white gold and 14 karats white gold, with 24 karats being 100% pure yellow gold. The reason why white gold is mixed with so many other metals is because natural gold is extremely soft and is not suitable for jewelry work on its own.
In other words, while platinum is mixed with metals such as palladium in order to become softer, white gold is a mixture of metals like palladium so that it becomes harder. It should also be noted that the different karats of white gold also mean different colors and different value – the less gold there is in the alloy the less yellowish it will be as well as less valuable.
The yellow hues gold gives its white gold alloy means that it’s not exactly white or even silver in color. That’s why white gold rings will also have a layer of rhodium plating on top which makes it perfectly white, reflective and shiny.
White Gold vs. Platinum
Now that we’re roughly familiar with both metals, let’s see how they stack up against each other. Which is better for engagement and wedding rings, which is more valuable and expensive, and which will fit your personal preferences?
Platinum ring with high polish. See it here.
Platinum is much harder than white gold and more durable. Despite this major difference between the two metals, they are both suitable for engagement and wedding rings.
Platinum is much more scratch-resistant and corrosion-resistant than gold so if you’re looking for a metal that will survive some hands-on labor, platinum is the better choice. However, because platinum is much more expensive that it’s better to take off the ring before you do any manual labor or other physical activities. Platinum may be harder than gold and more scratch-resistant, but it can be damaged – hit it hard enough and it will get scratched or deformed as well and will need to be fixed.
White gold, it should be noted, is harder than yellow gold, thanks to the metals that go in its alloy. Additionally, the rhodium plating also adds a layer of protection and keeps it from easily getting scratched. Still, it is unpleasant when the rhodium plating gets scratched because the yellow hues of the gold below become easily visible. Additionally, the rhodium plating needs to be rebuffed every year or so to maintain the alloy’s color and shine.
Appearance and Color
Because of the rhodium plating, white gold looks very similar to platinum to the untrained eye. This stark similarity in the appearance of white gold is one of the things that make it such a good alternative to platinum.
White gold is very similar to platinum. See this ring here.
After a while, when the rhodium plating starts getting scratches, the difference between a white gold ring and a platinum ring can become easily apparent, especially if the gold underneath it is of high karatage and has a strong yellow hue. However, a quick rebuffing of the rhodium layer can quickly solve that problem.
On the other side of things, platinum can acquire scratches over time as well, albeit less so. Fortunately, a slightly damaged platinum ring or one that’s developed a bit of patina, can be easily polished and restored to its original beauty and luster. And if you keep your platinum ring from getting damaged in the first place, it can maintain its luster for a very long time.
Platinum is more valuable and more expensive than gold, it’s that simple. Not only is platinum a rarer metal, but platinum alloys also contain more pure platinum than white gold contains pure gold.
Platinum is also considered more prestigious due to its higher price point and properties, making it perfect for heirloom pieces to be passed down to the next generations in your family.
Gold is not a lightweight metal but neither is platinum – to the contrary. Comparing the weight of these two metals can be tricky, however, since it depends on the exact characteristics of their alloys. Still, here’s a quick approximation:
- Platinum is 10-11% heavier than pure 24-karat yellow gold.
- Platinum is 33-34% heavier than 18-karat white gold.
- Platinum is 59-60% heavier than 14-karat white gold.
In short, the weight difference between the two becomes quite substantial the more you dilute gold but it’s not that significant when you compare near-pure platinum with near-pure gold. In terms of how platinum and white gold rings feel on your hand – both materials have a noticeable heaviness to them which a lot of people like as it makes the ring feel substantial. If you don’t like heavy rings you can go for a 14-karat white gold ring or for another metal like titanium.
This is another major difference between white gold and platinum as the latter is highly hypoallergenic while the former can cause skin irritations and allergic reactions with the various metals in its alloy such as copper. If you want a ring that’s guaranteed not to irritate your skin, platinum is the way to go. If the price tag is a problem, the much cheaper titanium is also hypoallergenic.
Jewelry applications and design
Both white gold and platinum are widely used in jewelry – not only for engagement and wedding rings but also for various other types of jewelry. Design-wise, both platinum and white gold can be used for any type of ring design and setting although platinum design can afford to be bolder and more extravagant since the metal offers extra sturdiness and durability compared to gold.
What Real Brides Say
If you’re still unsure between these two metals, here’s what a few of our readers have said about white gold and platinum rings.
Moira: I have a white gold engagement ring and a platinum wedding band. No one can tell the difference and neither can I.
Amalia: Platinum is super stylish and more durable, but you have to bear with the patina. I for one hate the look of patinas on my rings. I prefer the shiny look of white gold so both my rings are white gold.
Aryan: Platinum is the way to go. It scratches, just like white gold, but it only displaces and doesn’t lose any metal. I like it because it’s more durable and easier to wear.
Most people are split down the middle when it comes to choosing between these two. At the end of the day, it comes down to personal preferences and to budget.