Platinum is a silver-white precious metal that, though it has various uses, is probably best known in association with platinum jewelry. Along with gold and silver, platinum is one of the most important fine jewelry metals.
As it is beautiful, rare, and lasts indefinitely, platinum symbolizes eternal love. These qualities make it a popular choice for engagement rings and wedding bands, as well as other types of fine jewelry.
If you’re considering going platinum for your wedding, have your eye on a platinum necklace or bracelet, or would just like to learn more about this fascinating precious metal, then read on to find out the answers to fifteen of the most frequently asked questions about platinum and platinum jewelry.
Platinum Properties & Price
1. What Are the Physical Properties of Platinum?
- Luster. As a lustrous white metal, platinum is good at reflecting light. This is what gives platinum jewelry its natural brightness and shine.
- Density. Platinum is one of the densest substances on Earth, which makes it heavier than other jewelry metals. For example, a piece of jewelry made from platinum is about 30% heavier than the same piece done in 18 karat gold.
- Hardness. Platinum has a Mohs hardness rating of 4 to 4.5 (the maximum hardness is 10). It is therefore a soft metal, though it is still harder than both gold and silver.
- Malleability. Being a malleable metal, platinum can bend without breaking. This protects platinum jewelry from shattering when struck or dropped, as can happen to more brittle metals such as tungsten.
- Non-reactivity. Like all precious metals, platinum does not react to oxygen, water, or most acids. This protects it from environmental damage, allowing platinum jewelry to last indefinitely.
2. Is Platinum Rare?
Yes. Platinum is far rarer than either gold and silver, the other two precious metals commonly used to create jewelry.
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 competition for platinum drives up its price, which makes platinum jewelry expensive. At the time of updating this guide (January 2022), platinum is being traded at around $1,010 USD per ounce.
Metal purity is another factor that makes platinum jewelry costly. Platinum jewelry alloys are typically 95% pure platinum or higher. By comparison, gold jewelry alloys usually contain only 75% (18 karats) or 53.4% (14 karats) pure gold.
Platinum jewelry is also more difficult to make. A jeweler crafting with platinum requires specialized equipment that can heat platinum to the 3,215°F (1768°C) temperature needed to melt it. Gold and silver have much lower melting points, so they are easier to work with.
Platinum History & Uses
4. When Was Platinum Discovered?
Though the Ancient Egyptians were aware of platinum, few Egyptian platinum artifacts survive. There is a much richer historical record of platinum metallurgy in the New World. Pre-Colombian platinum artifacts include ornamental items such as jewelry and figurines, as well as practical wares such as tweezers and fish-hooks.
The European discovery of platinum is usually credited to the Spanish naval officer Antonio de Ulloa. While journeying through what is now Peru and Colombia in 1735, Ulloa encountered what the Spanish would come to call platino, meaning “little silver”. At first, Europeans considered platinum a worthless metal.
This perception changed five decades later, when platinum jewelry was introduced to the court of Louis XVI of France. The monarch declared platinum the only metal fit for royalty, and it has 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 platinum 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 platinum mining is usually done underground. This is more difficult than mining gold and silver, both of which form closer to the surface.
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 listed as a critical mineral by the United States Department of the Interior.
Platinum Jewelry Alloys & Quality Stamps
7. What Are Platinum Alloys?
Platinum jewelry is usually made from alloys, not pure platinum alone. Platinum is a soft metal, meaning that jewelry made from 100% platinum would easily become damaged. Alloying (mixing) platinum with other metals increases its hardness and durability.
Iridium and ruthenium are often used in platinum jewelry alloys. Both are precious metals and platinum group metals, meaning they share similar qualities with platinum. Like platinum, iridium and ruthenium are noble, silver-colored, lustrous, and rare.
However, unlike platinum, iridium and ruthenium are hard and brittle. Both have a Mohs hardness rating of about 6.5, while platinum is much softer with a rating of 4 to 4.5. In small amounts, they add strength to platinum jewelry alloys without compromising their malleability.
Cobalt is another silver-white metal that is popularly used in platinum jewelry alloys. Though not a precious metal, cobalt is both hard and lustrous, making it is well suited for alloying with platinum.
8. What Are Platinum Quality Stamps?
Vendors of platinum jewelry are required to disclose its fineness, or purity, to consumers: how much pure platinum is present in the alloy used to make a particular piece of jewelry.
This disclosure is often done through a quality stamp, also known as a fineness mark. These 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 the presence of platinum in jewelry with the word Platinum, or with the abbreviations Plat or Pt. This is often accompanied by a number that discloses the amount of platinum used, expressed as parts per thousand.
For example, a piece of jewelry made from a platinum-iridium alloy 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 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.
|QUALITY STAMP||METAL CONTENT|
|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 meets the 95% platinum purity threshold, jewelers in the United States are permitted to describe the jewelry as simply Platinum. They may choose to disclose the other metals used along with numbers or percentages, but this is optional.
If jewelry contains less than 50% platinum, it cannot 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.
As most platinum jewelry alloys are 95% pure, and the other metals commonly used in these alloys are also hypoallergenic, you should not experience any sensitivity issues from wearing platinum jewelry.
Nickel, the metal responsible for most cases of contact dermatitis among jewelry wearers, is not used in platinum jewelry alloys.
10. Does Platinum Jewelry Tarnish?
No. Because platinum is a noble metal, it does not tarnish, oxidize, or undergo other forms of corrosion. Noble metals are chemically inert, meaning they don’t react with atmospheric chemicals.
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 in the air – which is why you don’t often see iron jewelry!
11. What is Platinum Patina?
When platinum jewelry is scratched, the metal gets shifted along its surface. The metal displacement caused by many tiny dents and dings 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 from your hand knocking into things. Patina can start to appear on a platinum 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 jewelry pieces that look like they tell a story, you might be a fan of patina. And if your jewelry has diamonds, patina can help them look brighter by contrast.
But if you prefer the gleam of polished platinum, you can take your platinum jewelry for professional polishing when it starts to look dull, which will make it shine like new again. The cost for this service is around $30 to $60 per treatment.
12. What is Rhodium-Plated Platinum?
Rhodium is another platinum group metal, known for its extremely bright white color. Both platinum and white gold jewelry are often given a thin coating of rhodium before being sold. This hides the natural gray tint of the platinum, or the natural yellow tint of the white gold.
The rhodium also forms a protective barrier around the jewelry, which helps protect it from wear and tear.
Some people prefer the dazzling brightness of rhodium plating; others don’t. When making your choice, keep in mind that rhodium plating 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
13. What Are the Pros of Platinum Jewelry?
Platinum is a highly popular jewelry metal, especially for engagement rings and wedding bands. Reasons you might choose platinum jewelry for your wedding or other occasions can include:
- Aesthetics. Platinum rings are undeniably beautiful. Whether polished to a high sheen, plated with rhodium, or allowed to take on the character of patina, a platinum ring makes a striking impression.
- Diamond Color. Because diamonds reflect the color of the metal they’re set in, platinum-set diamonds can look whiter and brighter than they actually are. On the other hand, diamonds set in yellow gold can look more yellow than they really 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. Engravings on soft or “springy” metals can become worn and faded.
- Practicality. Platinum rings are more durable and hold gemstones more securely than either gold or silver. And unlike gold and silver, platinum rings don’t wear down when scratched, so they’re a great option for everyday wear.
- 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.
14. What Are the Cons of Platinum Jewelry?
- Price. You can expect a piece of platinum jewelry to cost about 30% more than the same piece done in 18 karat gold. This is because platinum weighs more, so more of it is needed to create jewelry of the same size. Platinum jewelry alloys also have higher purity than gold jewelry alloys.
- Upkeep. If you don’t want your platinum jewelry to develop a matte patina, you will need to properly care for it. Polishing your jewelry with a soft cloth can help to slow and soften the appearance of patina, but eventually it will require professional treatment to restore its like-new shine.
15. Is Platinum Better Than Gold?
Yes, platinum is better than gold in some respects. It never tarnishes or causes skin irritation like some lower purity gold alloys can, displays the color of diamonds better than yellow gold, and holds gemstones more securely because it’s harder to bend out of shape.
However, although platinum is harder to bend, most gold alloys are harder to scratch. 18k gold and 14k gold, the two alloys most often used to make gold jewelry, both resist scratching better than platinum does.
One caveat is that when gold does get scratched, the metal comes off the jewelry, meaning it 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 piece of gold jewelry actually becomes smaller over time. Though this happens so slowly (think decades), you won’t notice it.
If you prefer to wear jewelry with some heft to it, platinum also wins in this area. Platinum is denser than gold, thus a platinum ring feels heavier on your finger than a gold one. But some people prefer jewelry that feels light, so it’s really a matter of personal taste.
Ultimately, there’s no objective way to measure whether platinum is better than gold. Like so much else, it comes down to what you like.