When it comes to choosing a precious metal for special jewelry, gold and platinum reign supreme. Both are beautiful, either alone or set with gemstones. And both are highly valued, showing how much you care.
We’re going to look at all the pros and cons of platinum versus gold. And we’ll help you decide which will best suit you or your loved one. So if you’re ready, let’s get started!
Gold and platinum in jewelry
Both platinum and gold are precious metals, but when it comes to jewelry they’re used in quite different ways.
Platinum is a harder and stronger metal. That makes it more difficult to work with than gold. But it also means that it can be used in almost its natural state.
Most platinum jewelry is made of between 90 and 98 percent pure platinum. A small amount of other metals are added to make the molten platinum flow more smoothly, making casting easier.
With 90 percent platinum, these metals are usually ruthenium and iridium. With 95 percent platinum, copper, cobalt, rhodium and palladium can be used too.
Gold, on the other hand, is much softer. Other metals are added in higher proportions to ensure the jewelry doesn’t bend or break too easily. The quantity of those other metals is denoted by the karat rating.
24-karat gold is pure gold, and is too soft to be used in jewelry. The highest karat rating you’ll find for jewelry is 22-karat, but 10, 14 and 18-karat gold is more common.
One karat is the same as one-24th, or 4.167 per cent, of the whole. So the higher the karat rating, the higher the proportion of gold the jewelry contains.
Platinum vs. Gold – Appearance
Platinum is white in color, and when newly polished has a high shine. Over time this changes, as the metal picks up minute scratches. These alter the way the light reflects on the surface, giving it a darker and less shiny appearance.
Some people prefer this patina, and it’s characteristic of platinum. But if you prefer to keep a shinier finish, you’ll need to get your jewelry repolished. Because the metal is so hard, that’s a specialist job. Most jewelers will need to send your item away to get it done.
In its pure form, gold is a warm yellow color. The precise shade will vary according to the karat rating and the other metals it’s mixed with.
But it’s also possible to get white and rose gold. Both these are actually alloys, but the proportion of pure gold is high enough for them to be considered “real” gold.
As its name suggests, white gold has a pure white color, similar to newly polished platinum. The gold here is mixed with metals like silver, palladium and nickel. Most white gold is then plated in rhodium, another precious metal. This gives it a very high shine.
Rose gold, on the other hand, has a pink tone. That’s because the gold here is mixed with copper, and sometimes also with silver.
So a good way to begin thinking about platinum versus gold is which colors you prefer. If warm shades work best on your skin (or that of your loved one) yellow or rose gold will be a good choice. For cooler shades, consider platinum or white gold.
Platinum vs. Gold – Skin sensitivity
Both platinum and gold in their pure form are hypoallergenic. That means that you won’t have to worry about jewelry made of platinum or high purity yellow gold triggering skin problems.
The other metals added to white and rose gold, however, can cause irritation for some people with sensitive skin.
With white gold, the chance of problems occurring is reduced by choosing jewelry that’s been plated in rhodium. Rhodium is hypoallergenic.
But note that the rhodium plating will wear off over time. Precisely how long this takes depends on how often the jewelry is worn. You can extend the life of the plating by removing rings when gardening or doing housework. It’s also sensible to avoid wearing them next to other jewelry, which can abrade it.
If you have sensitive skin, you’ll need to have your white gold jewelry replated as soon as it shows signs of wear. Platinum will be a much better option.
And if you choose yellow gold, you’ll want to choose gold with high purity. Some people with skin allergies will find a 10-karat gold piece of jewelry causes itching and a rash. Those same people may have no reaction from a piece made of 18-karat gold.
Platinum vs. Gold – Strength and durability
We’ve already seen that gold is a much softer metal than platinum. That’s worth bearing in mind if your jewelry will be set with precious stones. That’s usually the case for engagement and eternity rings, for example.
With platinum, the stronger material means that settings are likely to stay fitting snugly, even if your jewelry takes a knock. It also means that any prongs can be made thinner, giving settings a more delicate look.
With gold, claw settings in particular are more vulnerable to becoming misshapen. Channel or bezel settings are a better choice, as these will keep your jewels more secure.
Whichever option you choose, it’s always a good idea to regularly check the setting of your precious stones. Inspect them carefully at least once every six months. That will allow you to take early action and avoid any upsetting losses.
With white gold, the rhodium plating will need to be replaced every so often. How long it lasts depends both on the amount of wear the jewelry gets, and the thickness of the plating.
Ideally, rhodium plating should be between 0.75 and 1 micron thick. Thinner than this, and it will wear through quickly (unless the jewelry is only worn occasionally). If it’s much thicker, it is liable to crack.
Platinum vs. Gold – Maintenance
Rose and yellow gold require very little maintenance. Simply place your jewelry in warm, soapy water and leave it for about half an hour. Then remove it and scrub gently with a soft-bristled brush.
If you want to, you can add soda water to the mixture. The bubbles will help lift dirt and grime from the surface of the metal.
After cleaning, pat your jewelry dry with a lint-free cloth, or leave it to air dry. The same cleaning routine will work equally well for white gold. But remember, you will eventually have to replace the rhodium plating.
One thing to note about having your jewelry replated is that the process can damage softer gemstones. If your jewelry will include stones like turquoise, topaz, peridot, pearls and opals, it shouldn’t be replated. Look for options in a different colored gold or in platinum instead.
Warm soapy water is also effective as a cleaner for platinum. But note that while it will remove any surface dirt, it won’t make the metal any brighter. If your platinum has taken on a grey sheen and you want to restore its original shine, it will need to be professionally repolished.
Platinum vs. Gold – Weight
There is a considerable difference in the weight of gold and platinum, which affects the way it feels to wear it. If you prefer weightier jewelry, platinum is the better option.
A cubic centimeter of platinum weighs 21.4 grams. The same amount of pure gold weighs 19.3 grams. But as we know, gold jewelry isn’t made of pure gold. A cubic centimeter of 14-karat gold can weigh anything between 12.9 and 14.6 grams.
That means you’ll feel a significant weight difference between the same ring made in platinum and in gold.
Some people find lighter-weight jewelry more comfortable to wear. And if you’re looking at a pair of chandelier earrings, lighter is definitely better! Heavy earrings will pull on your earlobes and can be quite painful.
Platinum vs. Gold – Price
Last but not least is the difference in price.
The price of gold varies depending on its purity. The higher the karat rating, the more expensive it will be.
But even gold of high purity is less expensive than platinum when it comes to jewelry. You can expect to pay something like 40 to 50 percent more for a platinum ring than the same design in white gold.
You might be surprised to find that this isn’t the case for gold and platinum in all their forms. If you’re buying bullion, there are times when gold is actually more expensive than platinum. So why doesn’t this translate to jewelry prices?
Well, part of the reason is that the price of platinum tends to vary much more over time than that of gold. That’s because, unlike gold, platinum has a wide range of industrial uses.
It’s widely used to speed up chemical reactions, including in the catalytic converters that go into vehicles. It’s also used to produce some chemicals, like nitric acid, and to improve the efficiency of fuel cells.
That means that when times are tough, the demand for platinum reduces. And at the same time, investors traditionally turn to gold as a relatively safe way to store their assets. The result is that, in periods of recession, the price of platinum can dip below that of gold.
So why doesn’t platinum jewelry get cheaper in an economic downturn?
Well, another factor to bear in mind is that platinum jewelry is almost entirely made of platinum. With gold, on the other hand, a much higher proportion of the weight comes from other, less expensive, metals.
So even if the price of raw platinum is less than gold, you’ll need more of it to make the same ring.
Last but not least, as a harder metal, platinum is more difficult to work with. It requires specialist tools and more labor. And that makes the process of crafting your jewelry more expensive.
Platinum vs. Gold – Match your metals
Platinum and white gold will wear differently. A pair of rings that look very similar in the shop may have quite different appearances in a year’s time.
And because platinum is so much harder than white gold, it will wear away the surface if it rubs against it. If you’re planning to wear your engagement and wedding rings together, two platinum bands will be far more durable.
Platinum vs. Gold – What about investments?
So far we’ve focused on the choice of platinum and gold when it comes to jewelry. But both metals are also options for investments, in just the same way as stocks, shares or other commodities. So is gold or platinum a better bet if you’re looking to protect or grow your assets?
As we’ve already seen, the price of platinum is more volatile than that of gold. It’s also much scarcer, whereas there is a buoyant trading market in gold.
These factors mean that, as a long-term investment, gold is generally considered the safer bet. But when the economy is booming, investing in platinum can be a shrewd move. Increasing commercial demand, particularly from the automotive industry, can send platinum prices soaring.
The bullion price of gold has been higher that of platinum since 2011. But between 1987 and 2008, platinum was almost always more expensive than gold. Perhaps the time will come when platinum once again becomes the better option for investors.
Ready to choose between platinum and gold?
We hope you’ve found our round-up of platinum versus gold helpful! Remember, there’s no right answer to the question of which is best. Instead, think about how you want your jewelry to look and feel. Consider maintenance. And think about the settings for any gemstones.
If you have a skin sensitivity, platinum is the safest option. But if your heart is set on gold, don’t despair. Most people with less severe allergies will be able to wear gold of a higher purity without problems.
And if you’re thinking about investing in gold and platinum, consider your long and short-term investment goals. It’s always sensible to seek professional advice before investing too.