Platinum is a silver-white precious metal that, though it has various uses, is probably best known in association with platinum jewelry. Along with white gold and sterling silver, platinum is one of the most important white metals used by the jewelry industry.
As it’s valuable, rare, and lasts indefinitely, platinum symbolizes the beauty and commitment of eternal love. These qualities make platinum engagement rings and wedding bands a premier choice for couples.
If you’re considering a platinum engagement ring, have your eye on a platinum necklace or bracelet, or would just like to learn more about this fascinating metal, then read on to find out the answers to 17 of the most frequently asked questions about platinum and platinum jewelry.
Platinum Properties & Price
1. What Are the Physical Qualities of Platinum?
- Luster. Like many other white metals, platinum has a natural white luster and shine.
- Density. As one of the densest substances on Earth, platinum is noticeably heavy. A jewelry piece made from platinum is about 30% heavier than the same piece done in 18k white gold.
- Hardness. Platinum has a Mohs hardness rating of 4 to 4.5 (the maximum hardness is 10), which makes it harder than both gold and silver.
- Malleability. Being a reasonably malleable metal, platinum can bend without breaking. This protects it from shattering when struck or dropped, as can happen to more brittle metals such as tungsten.
- Non-reactivity. Like gold and most other precious metals, platinum is resistant to environmental damage because it does not react with oxygen, water, or most acids.
2. Is Platinum Rare?
Yes. Platinum is far rarer than gold and silver. Only about 6 million ounces (170 metric tons) of platinum is produced annually, compared to about 108 million ounces (3,062 metric tons) of gold, and about 860 million ounces (24,381 metric tons) of silver.
3. Is Platinum Jewelry Expensive?
Yes. The limited supply and high demand for platinum makes it expensive. Platinum is currently being traded at around $970 USD per ounce.
Metal purity is another factor that increases cost. In jewelry, platinum purity is typically 95% or higher. By comparison, gold jewelry alloys are usually only 75% (18 karats) or 53.4% (14 karats) pure.
Platinum items are also more difficult to produce. Jewelers need specialized equipment that can heat platinum to its 3,215°F (1768°C) melting point. Gold and silver have much lower melting points, so they’re easier to work with.
Platinum History & Uses
4. When Was Platinum Discovered?
Though the Ancient Egyptians were aware of platinum, few platinum artifacts from Ancient Egypt survive. There’s a much richer historical record of platinum metallurgy in the New World. Pre-Columbian platinum artifacts include ornamental items such as jewelry and figurines, as well as practical wares such as tweezers and fish-hooks.
Following the Spanish conquests in South America, the discovery of platinum is usually credited to the naval officer Antonio de Ulloa, who in 1735 encountered what the Spanish would come to call platino, meaning “little silver”. At first, Europeans considered platinum a worthless metal.
This perception changed when platinum jewelry was introduced to the court of Louis XVI of France five decades later. The monarch declared platinum the only metal fit for royalty, and it’s been associated with opulence and social status ever since.
5. Where is Platinum Found?
According to the World Platinum Investment Council, 97% of the world’s platinum is found in only four regions. South Africa is responsible for 72% of annual global production. The other three regions are Russia (11%), Zimbabwe (8%), and North America (6%).
Most platinum is found deeper in the Earth’s crust than other metals, so mining it is usually done underground.
6. What is Platinum Used For?
Platinum has both practical and aesthetic uses. About 40% of the annual global supply is used to make catalytic converters that treat vehicle exhaust emissions, reducing their harmful effects on human and environmental health.
The jewelry industry uses the second-largest amount of platinum, accounting for about 30% of the annual total. Platinum is also used as a catalyst for different processes in the chemical industry, in the production of some electronics, and in medicine and dentistry.
Due to its important applications in military technologies, platinum is considered a strategic metal. It was listed in the critical mineral category by the United States Department of the Interior in 2018.
Platinum Jewelry Alloys & Quality Stamps
7. What Are Platinum Alloys?
Platinum jewelry is made from alloys, not pure platinum alone. Alloying (mixing) platinum with other metals increases its strength and durability, allowing for the creation of practical jewelry designs.
The platinum group metals iridium and ruthenium are often used in platinum alloys. Like platinum, they’re both white precious metals. But unlike platinum, they’re hard and brittle. In small doses, they add strength to platinum without compromising its luster or malleability.
Cobalt is another silver-white metal popularly used in platinum alloys. Though not a precious metal, cobalt is both hard and lustrous, making it well suited for alloying with platinum.
8. What Are Platinum Quality Stamps?
Any individual or store that retails fine jewelry is required to disclose its purity – that is, how much of the metal content is actually precious metals.
Disclosure of this information is often done through a quality stamp, also known as a fineness mark. These marks are typically stamped in unobtrusive places such as the insides of ring bands, the clasps of bracelets and necklaces, and the backs of earrings and pendants.
A quality stamp discloses platinum purity with the word Platinum, or with the abbreviations Plat or Pt. This is often accompanied by a number stating the amount of pure platinum used, expressed as parts per thousand.
For example, a piece of jewelry made from platinum-iridium alloy metals may bear a mark such as Plat 900 Irid 100 or 900 Pt. 100 Ir. This lets you know that the alloy contains 900 parts pure platinum for every 100 parts iridium. Converted to percentages, this works out to 90% platinum and 10% iridium.
The table below shows the metal contents and percentages of some of the most common platinum jewelry marks. The words, abbreviations, and numbers can be stamped in any order.
|At least 95% platinum, and up to 5% other metals.
|99.9% platinum and 0.1% trace metals. Rarely used in jewelry due to its softness.
|95% platinum and 5% other metals.
|950 Plat 50 Ruth
950 Pt 50 Ru
|95% platinum and 5% ruthenium.
|Plat. 950 Irid. 50
Pt. 950 Ir. 50
|95% platinum and 5% iridium.
|950 Plat. 50 Co.
950 Pt. 50 Co.
|95% platinum and 5% cobalt.
|Plat 900 Irid 100
Pt 900 Ir 100
|90% platinum and 10% iridium.
When jewelry pieces meet the 95% platinum purity threshold, jewelers in the United States are permitted to describe them as simply Platinum. They may choose to disclose the other metals used along with numbers or percentages, but this is optional.
If the piece contains less than 50% pure platinum, it can’t be described as platinum jewelry in the US, even if the quantities of all the metals used in the alloy are disclosed.
Platinum Jewelry Safety & Care
9. Is Platinum Jewelry Hypoallergenic?
Yes. Pure platinum is hypoallergenic, meaning that it hardly ever causes skin irritation. In one study of 446 people, only two had any reaction to platinum.
Because most platinum jewelry alloy metals are 95% pure, you shouldn’t have any problems wearing platinum, even if you have sensitive skin.
Nickel, the metal responsible for most cases of contact dermatitis among jewelry wearers, isn’t used in platinum jewelry.
10. Does Platinum Jewelry Tarnish or Corrode?
Because platinum is a noble metal, it doesn’t tarnish, oxidize, or suffer other forms of corrosion. Noble metals are chemically inert, meaning they don’t react with chemicals or moisture.
The opposite of noble metals are base metals, which are chemically reactive. For example, the base metal iron rusts when it reacts to oxygen and moisture – which is why you don’t often see iron jewelry!
However, because platinum jewelry isn’t made from 100% pure platinum, it’s not always immune to every type of chemical corrosion. To be safe, remove your jewelry before you get in a chlorinated swimming pool, or handle harsh cleaning agents such as bleach.
11. Does Platinum Jewelry Get Scratched?
Yes, platinum is susceptible to scratching, especially platinum rings. You can’t prevent scratches entirely, but you can reduce them by taking off your rings before working with tools, doing manual labor, or performing any task that impacts your hands against hard objects.
When storing your platinum pieces, keep them separately in a cloth bag or lined box, so they don’t get scratched from bumping against your other jewelry.
12. What is Platinum Patina?
When platinum is scratched, metal gets shifted along its surface. The metal displacement caused by many tiny abrasions eventually causes platinum jewelry to lose its smooth, polished surface and take on a worn, antique look. This is known as platinum patina.
Platinum rings are the most susceptible to developing patina, as they’re subjected to wear and tear whenever your hand comes into contact with hard things. Patina can start to appear on an engagement ring in as little as six months to a year, depending on how often you wear it and if you wear it while working with your hands.
Earrings and necklaces can go much longer without developing patina, because they don’t get bumped against hard surfaces as often.
If you like vintage platinum pieces that look like they tell a story, you might be a fan of patina. And if you have a diamond ring, patina can help its gemstones look brighter by contrast.
But if you prefer the gleam of polished platinum, you can take your jewelry for professional polishing when it starts to look dull, which will restore its bright shine. The cost for this service is around $30 to $60 per treatment.
13. What is Rhodium-Plated Platinum?
Rhodium is another platinum group metal, known for its extremely bright white color. It’s commonly applied as a thin electroplated finish over white gold engagement rings, in order to mask the white gold’s natural warm tint and give it an allover brilliant shine. It also forms a protective barrier, which helps protect against wear and tear.
Platinum can also be treated with rhodium plating – though most jewelers recommend against this, as polished platinum is already shiny and bright on its own, and doesn’t have a yellowish undertone that needs covering up.
Some people prefer the dazzling brightness of a rhodium-plated engagement ring; others don’t. When making your choice, keep in mind that the electroplated layer is insubstantial. It will wear off within one to two years of regular wear and need to be replated, at a cost of around $60 to $120 per treatment.
Platinum Jewelry Buying Advice
14. What Are the Pros of Platinum?
Platinum is a highly popular jewelry metal, especially for engagement rings and wedding rings. Reasons you might want to choose a platinum ring can include:
- Aesthetics. Platinum is undeniably beautiful. Whether polished to a high sheen or allowed to take on the character of patina, a platinum piece makes a striking impression.
- Diamond Color. Because white diamonds reflect the color of the metal they’re set in, diamonds set in a white metal like platinum can look whiter and brighter than they actually are.
- Engraving. Platinum is an excellent option if you want to get your wedding band engraved. A jeweler can engrave messages or intricate designs on the band of a platinum ring, which will hold up over time. Conversely, engravings on soft or “springy” metals can become worn and faded.
- Practicality. Platinum prongs are more durable and hold precious stones more securely than either gold or silver. And unlike gold and silver, they don’t wear down when scratched.
- Safe for Sensitive Skin. Platinum is among the most hypoallergenic jewelry metals. If you have sensitive skin, platinum is a safe bet, even for earrings and other types of jewelry that pierce the skin.
15. What Are the Cons of Platinum?
- Price. A piece of platinum jewelry generally costs about 30% more than the same piece done in 18 karat white gold. This is because platinum has greater density than gold, so more is needed to create items of the same size. Platinum alloys also have higher purity than gold alloys.
- Upkeep. If you don’t like the look of patina on your platinum ring, you’ll need to take it to a professional for polishing whenever it starts to appear dull. You can stretch out the time between polishings by removing your ring before doing any manual labor or sporting activities that are likely to expose it to scratches and dents.
16. Is Platinum Better Than Gold?
Yes, platinum is better than gold in some things. It never tarnishes or causes skin irritation like some lower purity gold alloys can. A platinum diamond ring can display a white diamond’s color better than a yellow gold diamond ring, and holds gemstones more securely as it is less likely to get bent out of shape.
However, although platinum is harder to bend, most gold alloys are harder to scratch. 18k gold and 14k gold, the two most popular gold jewelry alloys, both resist scratching better than platinum does. For this reason, a platinum engagement ring or wedding band generally needs more maintenance and upkeep than a gold one.
One caveat is that when gold does get scratched, the metal comes off and is permanently lost. Whereas with platinum, the metal is moved but it doesn’t come off, and can be buffed back into place. That’s why with regular wear, a gold ring actually becomes smaller over time through metal loss. Though this happens so slowly (think decades), you won’t notice it.
If you like your jewelry have some heft to it, platinum is a good choice. Platinum is denser than gold, thus a platinum ring feels heavier on your finger than a gold one. Likewise, if you want your jewelry to feel light, you’ll probably prefer rose gold, yellow gold, or white gold.
Ultimately, there’s no objective way to measure whether platinum is better than gold. The two precious metals each have different characteristics that some will like and others won’t, so the choice of platinum vs. gold comes down to your personal taste and style.
17. How to Shop Online for Platinum Jewelry?
One of the best tips is to start looking early – especially if you’re shopping for a proposal, wedding anniversary, or other big event. The earlier you start your search, the more likely you’ll be able to get what you want on sale.
Do your due diligence and create a favorites shortlist of jewelers that have good platinum jewelry designs and independent store reviews from satisfied customers. Look for jewelers that clearly present important information such as product photos, alloy purity, and verified grading reports for gemstones. The store should also offer risk-free refunds and return shipping in case you need to send back your purchase.
Then, enter your email address on their mailing list and wait for a sale to come along. Jewelers often have periodic promotions on a category of products, or even a sale across their entire store inventory, which can reduce your desired item’s price tag. You may also receive an email with a discount code to use on your first order, as a thank you for joining the store’s mailing list.
Other tips for shopping at an online jewelry store:
- Wait before checking out. After you create a store account, add the items you want to your shopping bag – then wait. After one or two days, the store may email you a special sale price for the products you selected, to encourage you to complete your order.
- Beware of steep discounts. Get familiar with prices offered by other jewelers for similar pieces. If a sale price seems “too good to be true”, it probably is, and you won’t be getting a high quality item.
- Shop securely. At the store checkout page, look for a lock symbol and the letters “https” at the beginning of the site URL in your browser. This lets you know the website you’re buying from is secure, and the personal information and credit card details you submit won’t be seen by unauthorized parties.