Trying to pick between platinum vs. white gold is a common issue faced by prospective jewelry buyers. These two precious metals look nearly identical – both are silver-white and luxuriously shiny – but there’s more to each one than meets the eye.
So what’s the difference? Is platinum better than white gold, or is it the other way around? Read on to learn more about these two attractive metals, and decide for yourself!
Platinum vs. White Gold – Physical Characteristics
1. What’s the Difference Between Platinum and White Gold?
There are several important differences between platinum vs. white gold, but this is the biggest one:
- Platinum is a pure metal found in nature.
- White gold is a manufactured alloy (mixture) of gold and other metals.
What we call “white gold” doesn’t exist in nature. White gold alloys are created by combining gold, which is yellow, with white metals that hide 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 harder and more durable 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. Platinum alloys make more durable and practical jewelry.
2. Do Platinum and White Gold Look the Same?
No. Although they are very similar in appearance, platinum and white gold don’t look exactly the same.
All white gold alloys contain gold, and gold is naturally yellow. This yellowness is mostly masked by white metals, but white gold alloys can still have a yellow or beige tinge.
The more gold used in a white gold alloy, the less white it appears. 18 karat white gold, which is 75% gold, appears yellower than 14 karat white gold, which is only 58.3% gold.
Platinum alloys appear whiter than white gold alloys, because they contain only white metals.
3. Is Platinum Shinier Than White Gold?
Yes. Platinum and white gold are nearly equal in terms of shine, but platinum is slightly shinier because it’s whiter, and white is the color that reflects the most light.
However, keep in mind that polished metals shine more than unpolished metals. If you put a newly polished white gold ring next to a dull, scuffed platinum ring, the white gold ring will appear shinier.
Another consideration is that white gold jewelry is often plated with rhodium, which is an extremely lustrous white metal from the platinum family. Rhodium coatings make white gold jewelry appear brighter and shinier than platinum jewelry.
4. Is Platinum Stronger Than White Gold?
Yes and no. The answer depends both on how we define “stronger” in the context of this question.
If by “stronger” we mean “more durable”, then platinum is the winner. Due to its greater durability, platinum wears down more slowly than white gold.
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 ring settings, as it reduces the risk of the prongs bending loose and dropping their gemstones.
However, if by “stronger” we mean “harder”, then white gold comes out on top. 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 pure gold is very soft, white gold is not pure gold.
White gold jewelry usually has no higher than 75% gold (18 karats) or 58.3% gold (14 karats) content. The rest is other, harder metals.
On the other hand, platinum alloys often have 95% platinum content, leaving only 5% for harder metals. This is why they are softer than white gold alloys.
5. 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 ring, the displaced metal can be polished back into place.
However, 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 normal wear and tear.
This doesn’t have to be a deal-breaker if you have your heart set on a white gold ring. The amount of metal you’ll lose to scratches is minuscule, and could take decades to 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 normal wear and tear, it will develop something called platinum patina. This is a matte finish that can impart an “antique look” which is desired by some people.
But if you want a shinier finish that’s easier to maintain over time, then white gold could be the right choice for you. This is especially true if your white gold has rhodium plating, which both makes it shinier and gives it extra protection from scratching.
6. How Can You Tell the Difference Between Platinum vs. White Gold?
If you’re comparing platinum jewelry with white gold jewelry that isn’t rhodium-plated, then you might be able to see a subtle difference in color. Platinum is silver-white. White gold is silver-white with a hint of yellow or beige.
But if the white gold jewelry is plated with rhodium, 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. Because platinum is more dense than white gold, the platinum ring will feel heavier in your hand.
Another way to differentiate between platinum vs. white gold jewelry is to look at their 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 of platinum used in parts per thousand. For example, Plat 950 means that the jewelry is made from an alloy of 950 parts platinum and 50 parts other metals.
If the jewelry is made from white gold, then its quality stamp might feature Karat, Kt, or K. For example, 14 Kt on a piece made from 14 karat gold. Other common stamps for gold are .750 and .583, which respectively indicate 18 karat gold (75% gold purity) and 14 karat gold (58.3% gold purity).
If all else fails, then you can take your jewelry for assessment by a professional. A trained jeweler will be able to distinguish between platinum vs. white gold.
Platinum vs. White Gold – Buying Considerations
7. Is Platinum More Expensive Than White Gold?
Yes and no.
As of January 2022, the commodities market price of gold ($1,800 USD per ounce) is currently about 80% higher than the price of platinum ($1,010 USD per ounce).
But although pure gold is more expensive than pure platinum, platinum jewelry is more expensive than white gold jewelry!
Why is this? There are several contributing factors.
- Purity. Platinum jewelry alloys are significantly more pure than gold jewelry alloys. 18 karat gold is 75% pure gold, and 14 karat gold is only 58.3%. Conversely, platinum jewelry is typically 95% pure platinum.
- Density. Platinum is heavier than gold, and precious metals are sold by weight. Meaning you’d need to buy more platinum to make a platinum ring than you would gold to make a gold ring of the same size.
- Rarity. Platinum is about 30 times rarer than gold. Not only that, it’s much more difficult and expensive to extract from the ground.
- Workability. Platinum is slightly less malleable than gold, and also has an extremely high melting point compared to gold. This makes it more challenging to work with, so the cost of workmanship goes up.
Together, these factors make platinum more expensive than white gold – or any color of gold, for that matter.
8. Does Platinum Tarnish More Than White Gold?
No. Platinum jewelry doesn’t tarnish – but white gold jewelry doesn’t really tarnish, either. At least, not unless its gold content is very low.
Metals tarnish due to oxidation. This occurs when a metal chemically reacts with oxygen, producing a thin layer of corrosion on its surface.
However, platinum and gold are 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 is usually 95% pure platinum, it almost never tarnishes. It helps that the other metals in platinum jewelry alloys are often also noble metals – for example, iridium and ruthenium.
White gold jewelry that is 14 karats (58.3% pure) or above is also mostly resistant to tarnish. But go any lower, and your jewelry will be at risk due to the tarnishable metals often found in white gold alloys – for example, nickel and zinc.
White gold with rhodium plating has additional protection against tarnishing, as rhodium is a noble metal.
As chlorine is an oxidizing agent, it also reacts with base (non-noble) metals to cause tarnishing. Which is why you should also 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 is another cause of tarnish in metals. Be careful of personal care products such as deodorants and hairsprays, as these often contain sulfates and sulfites (which are derived from sulfur).
9. Is Platinum Safer To Wear Than White Gold?
Yes, platinum is better than white gold if you have sensitive skin. Platinum jewelry is always hypoallergenic, while white gold jewelry is only sometimes hypoallergenic.
The issue is nickel, which is used to whiten and harden some white gold alloys. Nickel in jewelry is a common cause of contact dermatitis.
If you’re allergic to nickel, you may experience contact dermatitis symptoms from wearing nickel-containing jewelry. These 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 white gold is safe to wear depends on how much nickel it contains, and how severe a person’s nickel allergy is.
18 karat white gold isn’t likely to cause most people problems. This karatage contains 75% pure gold content, and gold is hypoallergenic. Even if some of the remaining 25% content is nickel, it probably won’t be enough to trigger contact dermatitis in most people.
14 karat white gold is also usually safe to wear. But if you know or suspect you have a nickel allergy, then make sure the jewelry is nickel-free before you wear it.
Lower karatages of white gold are the ones most likely to contain harmful levels of nickel, so anything 10 karats and below is safest avoided.
Since nickel allergies can develop later in life for some people, this is good advice even if you’ve worn nickel-containing jewelry in the past without issue.
10. Should I Get a Platinum or White Gold Engagement Ring?
In the platinum vs. white gold debate, this is probably the most common question asked. Is platinum better than white gold for engagement rings?
Each of these two precious white metals has its own pros and cons, so it really comes down to which one most appeals to you personally.
Here’s a quick rundown of the facts about each metal, to help you decide.
Platinum Engagement Rings
- Less popular than white gold for engagement rings
- More durable and less likely to get bent out of shape than white gold
- Heavier and more expensive than white gold
- Holds gemstones more securely than white gold
- High upkeep; develops a matte patina unless regularly polished
- Naturally very white without needing rhodium plating
- Less workable; resizing and repairing is more costly
- Hypoallergenic all of the time
- Rarer than gold; more prestigious
White Gold Engagement Rings
- The most popular metal for engagement rings
- Harder and less susceptible to getting scratched than platinum
- Lighter and cheaper than platinum
- Not entirely white; displays a yellowish tinge unless plated with rhodium
- Moderate upkeep; rhodium platings need replacing every 1-2 years
- Not as good as holding gemstones as platinum
- More workable; easier to have resized or repaired
- Hypoallergenic some of the time
- Less rare than platinum; more options and designs to choose from
If you have your heart set on a white gold engagement ring, but are worried that the setting prongs may bend and cause your diamond to fall out, then you might consider getting the best of both worlds: platinum prongs and a 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.
Thanks for reading all the way to the end! We hope you found this post about platinum vs. white gold jewelry to be useful and enjoyable.