Trying to pick between platinum vs. white gold can be daunting, especially when it comes to important purchases like engagement rings and wedding bands. While white gold and platinum can look very similar, there’s more to each one than meets the eye.
So what are the differences? Is platinum better than white gold, or is it the other way around? Read on to learn more about these two precious metals, and decide for yourself!
What’s the Difference Between Platinum and White Gold?
There are several important differences between platinum and white gold, but this is the biggest one:
- Platinum is a naturally white metal.
- White gold is a manufactured alloy (mixture) of yellow gold and other metals.
What we call “white gold” doesn’t exist in nature. White gold alloys are created by combining pure yellow gold with white metals that mask its yellow color.
Palladium, zinc, and nickel are some of the white metals commonly used to produce white gold alloys. They also make white gold a much harder and more durable metal than pure gold.
Platinum is already silver-white in its natural state. However, most platinum jewelry is made from alloys of platinum and other white metals – usually iridium, ruthenium, or cobalt.
This is because, like pure gold, pure platinum is a soft metal. Alloys make for more durable metals and more practical products.
Do White Gold and Platinum Look the Same?
No. Although they are similar in appearance, white gold and platinum don’t look exactly the same.
Many white gold alloys appear slightly yellowish because they contain gold, and the color of pure gold is yellow. The more pure gold used in an alloy, the yellower it appears. 18k white gold, which is 75% pure, appears less white than 14k white gold, which is only 58.3% pure.
Platinum alloys appear whiter vs. white gold alloys, because they contain only white metals.
Is Platinum Shinier Than White Gold?
Yes. Platinum and white gold are both shiny, but platinum is shinier because it reflects more visible light than gold. Most white gold alloys used for jewelry contain at least 58.3% gold content, which makes them less shiny than platinum.
However, keep in mind that polished metals shine more than unpolished metals. If you put newly polished white gold rings next to dull, scuffed platinum rings, the polished rings will appear shinier.
Another consideration is that white gold pieces are usually plated with rhodium, which is an extremely lustrous precious metal from the platinum family. Rhodium-plated items appear slightly shinier than polished platinum ones.
But even when comparing polished platinum vs. white gold with a rhodium finish side-by-side, it’s difficult to tell the difference with the naked eye.
Is Platinum Stronger Than White Gold?
Yes and no. The answer depends on how we define “stronger” in the context of this question.
If by “stronger” we mean “more durable”, then platinum is the most durable metal that’s commonly used to make fine jewelry. Its greater durability means that a platinum wedding band will wear down more slowly than a white gold one.
Platinum is also less malleable than white gold, making it less likely to get bent out of shape. This makes it an excellent option for diamond engagement ring settings, as it reduces the risk of the prongs bending loose and dropping the center stone.
However, if by “stronger” we mean “harder”, then white gold’s greater hardness means it’s more resistant to getting scratched and dented.
This may come as a surprise, if you remember learning in high school chemistry that gold is a soft metal. But while it’s true that gold is very soft, white gold is not pure gold.
Gold jewelry of any color (yellow, white, or rose gold) usually contains no higher than 75% gold (18 karats) or 58.3% gold (14 karats). The rest is other, harder metals.
On the other hand, platinum alloys are often 95% pure, leaving only 5% for harder metals. This is why they are softer than gold alloys.
Does Platinum Scratch More Easily Than White Gold?
Yes, platinum is more susceptible to scratching than white gold. However, there are some caveats to consider.
When platinum gets scratched, the metal is displaced – in other words, it gets shifted around the surface of the jewelry. This means if you have a scratched platinum engagement ring, the displaced metal can be polished back into place.
When white gold gets scratched, the metal comes off the surface of the jewelry. These scratches can be polished out, but the scratched-off metal remains lost forever. That’s why gold rings actually become smaller over time, as their metal content slowly reduces as a consequence of daily wear and tear.
This doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker if you have your heart set on a white gold engagement ring or wedding band. The amount of metal you’ll lose to scratches is minuscule, and could take decades to even become noticeable. But it’s worth knowing, so you can make an informed decision between platinum vs. white gold.
Something else worth knowing: if you let your platinum ring accumulate scratches and dents through wear and tear, it will develop something called platinum patina. This matte finish can impart an “antique look”, which is a desirable quality for some. To keep this natural patina at bay, you’ll need take your ring for annual polishing.
But if you want a shiny finish that’s easier to maintain over time, then white gold could be a better choice. This is especially true if your white gold has rhodium plating, which both makes it shinier and gives it extra protection from scratching.
How Can You Tell the Difference Between Platinum vs. White Gold?
If you’re comparing platinum rings with white gold rings that don’t have rhodium plating, then you might be able to see a subtle difference in color. White gold and platinum are both silvery-white, but white gold carries a hint of yellow, beige, or warm gray.
But if the white gold does have rhodium plating, then visually telling the difference becomes much harder. Being from the same platinum metals group, platinum and rhodium are very similar in appearance.
How else can you tell the difference? Let’s say you have a platinum ring, and a white gold ring of the same size. The platinum ring will feel heavier in your hand, because platinum is denser than gold – in fact, platinum is the third-densest precious metal in the world. (The first and second are osmium and iridium, in case you’re wondering.)
Another way to differentiate between platinum vs. white gold products is to look at quality stamps. These are marks that are often stamped on pieces of jewelry, to disclose the types and amounts of precious metals used to make them.
If jewelry is made from platinum, then its quality stamp should read Platinum, Plat, or Pt. This is usually accompanied by a number which states the amount used in parts per thousand. For example, Plat 950 means that the item is made from an alloy of 950 parts platinum and 50 parts other metals.
If jewelry is made from white gold, then its purity is determined by its karat gold rating, and its quality stamp may feature Karat, Kt, or K. For example, 14 Kt on a piece made from 14k gold. Other common stamps are .750 and .583, which respectively indicate 18k gold (75% pure) and 14k gold (58.3% pure).
If all else fails, then you can take your piece for assessment by a professional. A trained jeweler will be able to distinguish between platinum vs. white gold.
Is Platinum More Expensive Than White Gold?
Yes and no.
As of August 2023, the commodities market price of gold ($1,915 USD per ounce) is currently about double that of platinum ($980 USD per ounce).
But while pure gold has a higher price tag than pure platinum, jewelry made from platinum is actually more expensive than jewelry made from gold!
Why is this? There are several factors that contribute to the price difference:
- Purity. In terms of precious metal purity, platinum alloys are among the purest, typically measuring in at 95% pure platinum. Gold alloys used for jewelry are significantly less pure, with 18 karat alloys containing 75% and 14 karat alloys containing only 58.3% pure gold.
- Density. Platinum is heavier, and precious metals are sold by weight. Meaning you’d need to spend more on the volume of metal needed to make a platinum ring than to make the same sized ring from gold.
- Rarity. Platinum is about 30 times rarer. Not only that, it’s much more difficult and expensive to extract from the ground.
- Workability. Platinum is slightly less malleable, and also has an extremely high melting point. This makes it more challenging to work with, so the cost of workmanship goes up.
Together, these factors make products made from platinum more expensive than those made from white gold – or any color of gold, for that matter.
Does Platinum Tarnish More Than White Gold?
No. Platinum jewelry doesn’t tarnish – but white gold items don’t really tarnish, either. At least, not unless their gold content is very low.
Most metals tarnish. This is often a result of oxidation, which occurs when a metal chemically reacts with oxygen to produce a thin surface layer of corrosion. Other chemicals such as sulfur can also cause tarnishing and discoloration.
Platinum and gold are exceptions. They’re both noble metals, which have extremely high resistance to oxidation. You can leave pure platinum and pure gold out in the air, heat, humidity, or even underwater, and they won’t tarnish.
Because platinum jewelry items are usually at least 95% pure platinum, they almost never tarnish. It helps that the other 5% is often also a noble metal – for example, iridium or ruthenium.
White gold jewelry that’s 14k (58.3% pure) or above is also mostly resistant to tarnish. But go any lower, and your pieces will be at risk due to the presence of tarnishable metals – for example, nickel and zinc.
Rhodium is another noble metal, meaning that items with rhodium plating have additional protection against tarnishing.
Sneaky chemicals to watch out for:
- Chlorine. As an oxidizing agent, chlorine reacts with base (non-noble) metals to cause tarnishing. Which is why you should take off your jewelry before you go swimming in either a pool or the ocean. The water in swimming pools is chlorinated, and seawater also contains chlorine ions.
- Sulfur. Another common cause of metal tarnishing. Many personal care products, such as deodorants and hairsprays, contain sulfur compounds. To check, scan the ingredients label for the words “sulfate” or “sulfite”.
Is Platinum Safer To Wear Than White Gold?
Yes, platinum is better than white gold if you have sensitive skin. Platinum jewelry is hypoallergenic, while white gold jewelry is only sometimes made from hypoallergenic metals.
The issue is nickel, which is used to whiten and harden some white gold alloys. Nickel in jewelry is a leading cause of contact dermatitis. If you’re allergic to nickel, you may experience skin irritation from wearing products that contain nickel. Symptoms can include rash, itchiness, and dry, scaly, or blistered skin.
It’s estimated that around 17% of women and 3% of men have a nickel allergy. Whether an alloy is safe for daily wear depends on how much nickel it contains, and how severe a person’s allergic reaction to it is.
18k white gold isn’t likely to cause most people problems, as it’s 75% hypoallergenic gold. If the alloy also contains nickel, it won’t amount to more than a few percent of the total metal content, which isn’t enough to be a problem for most people.
14k white gold can have much higher nickel content, so if you know or suspect you or your partner has a nickel allergy, then it’s safer to choose a purer jewelry metal. Since some allergies can develop later in life, this is good advice even if you’ve worn nickel-containing jewelry in the past without issue.
Should I Get a White Gold or Platinum Engagement Ring?
In the platinum vs. white gold debate, this is probably the most common question asked. Is white gold better for an engagement ring, or should you choose platinum?
Each of these two precious metals has its own pros and cons, so it really comes down to which one most appeals to you personally. You should try on several pieces in each metal, in order to get a sense of how the ring feels, looks, compliments your skin tone, suits your personality, and other considerations.
Here’s a quick rundown of the facts about each, to help you and your partner make the perfect choice for your needs:
Platinum Engagement Rings
- A less popular metal than white gold for engagement rings
- More durable and less likely to get bent out of shape
- Heavier, purer metal (more expensive than gold)
- A platinum setting holds gemstones more securely
- High upkeep (scratches easily and develops a patina finish)
- Naturally white without needing rhodium plating
- Less workable (resizing and repairing is more costly)
- Hypoallergenic all of the time
- A more rare metal (greater prestige)
White Gold Engagement Rings
- The most popular metal for an engagement ring
- Harder and less susceptible to getting scratched
- Lighter metal (more affordable than platinum)
- Not entirely white (displays a warm yellowish or grayish tinge unless rhodium-plated)
- Moderate upkeep (rhodium plating needs replacing every 1-2 years)
- Not as good at holding precious stones
- More workable (easier to have resized or repaired)
- Hypoallergenic some of the time
- A less rare metal (more options and designs to choose from)
If you have your heart set on a classic solitaire white gold engagement ring, but are worried that the prongs may not hold your center diamond securely, then you might consider getting the best of both worlds: platinum prongs and a scratch-resistant white gold band.
Some jewelers recommend this option as a clever compromise between the affordability and hardness of white gold, and the reliability and durability of platinum.
Is It Easier to Resell White Gold or Platinum Rings?
If you find yourself needing to offload an unwanted engagement ring, it will be easier to sell if it’s made of white gold.
Platinum engagement rings and wedding bands are harder to sell, and their resale value tends to be less reliable. This is because jewelry made from platinum is more expensive, less in demand, and harder to melt down and reuse than jewelry made from gold.
Saying that, it’s definitely possible to resell a platinum ring. You just may need to be more patient to get a good deal. An online marketplace, jewelry shop, pawn shop, or scrap metal shop are good places to start.