If you’re looking for stylish, contemporary jewelry, either platinum or white gold are great choices. They offer timeless elegance and look wonderful alone, or as a setting for jewels.
We’re going to tell you everything you need to know about platinum versus white gold. And when you’ve finished reading, you’ll be ready to make a perfect choice.
Platinum vs. White Gold – The basics
Both platinum and white gold are considered precious metals. But what exactly are they?
Platinum occurs in nature, just the way yellow or rose gold does. It’s rare than gold, and it’s also much harder.
The hardness of metals is measured in mohs. Platinum has a hardness of 3.5 mohs, compared to 2.5 mohs for pure yellow gold. That means it’s robust enough to be used for jewelry without needing to be mixed with other metals. Platinum jewelry is usually made of about 95 percent platinum.
White gold, on the other hand, isn’t found naturally. It’s made from yellow gold mixed with other metals to make it harder. If it were to be used in its pure form, it would bend out of shape very easily.
These other metals are usually palladium, silver or nickel, to give the white color. The resulting alloy is then coated in rhodium, another metal. It’s this rhodium coating that gives white gold its distinctive luster.
White metal, as other forms of gold, will have a karat rating. That will tell you how much pure gold is in the alloy. One karat is one-twenty-fourth, or 4.167 percent of the whole.
Platinum vs. White Gold – Appearance
Both platinum and white gold have a pure white color and attractive sheen. When jewelry is new, you will find it difficult to tell them apart. Some say that white gold has a slightly higher shine.
Over time, however, the appearance of both metals will change.
When worn regularly, platinum acquires a patina. Although the metal itself doesn’t change color, it appears darker because of the way the light interacts with tiny scratches on the surface. That will give it more of a gray color than white.
Some people prefer this. But if you want your jewelry to stay bright, you can get it repolished. Because platinum is such a hard metal, it needs a particular buffing process to achieve this.
Most jewelry stores will need to send your jewelry away to a specialist for repolishing. If you go down this route, check the store’s insurance policy will cover any loss.
Newly repolished platinum will stay looking bright for between six and twelve months. The exact length of time will depend on how much wear it receives.
You may also be able to have your platinum coated with rhodium, in just the same way as is done to create white gold.
But take care: rhodium plating can damage softer gemstones like pearls, peridots, opals, topaz, and turquoise. And if you take this approach, the coating will wear off eventually and need to be replaced.
As white gold is also plated with rhodium, it too will eventually need replating. Treat your jewelry with care, removing it for manual work and when using cleaning products, and you’ll minimize how often this is required.
Platinum vs. White Gold – Durability
We’ve already seen that both white gold and platinum can change in appearance over time.
Platinum, as we know, will appear darker as it picks up tiny scratches. But while the scratches will alter its appearance, this is a tough metal. Hardly any of the platinum itself will be lost to scratching. It’s perhaps better thought of as a smear, with a tiny piece of the metal being displaced.
A platinum ring worn regularly for twenty years will weigh pretty much the same as it did on the day you bought it.
White gold can be softer, although this depends on the alloy used in the ring. The higher the proportion of pure gold it contains, the softer it will be. That makes it more vulnerable to scratching and bending out of shape.
Going back to the hardness scale, white gold can have a hardness of anything between 2.8 and 4.0 mohs. A ring with lower levels of gold, then, can actually be tougher than platinum.
The durability of the white gold will depend both on how much wear it gets, and on the thickness of the rhodium plating. But that doesn’t mean that extra thick plating is the best option. That’s because rhodium is a very brittle metal. If the rhodium coating is too thick, it can crack or split.
The ideal thickness for rhodium plating is between 0.75 and 1 micron. If you’re buying a piece of jewelry that won’t be worn often, however, thinner plating will be acceptable. That can be anything between 0.1 and 0.5 microns.
Platinum vs. White Gold – Maintenance
If you’re happy with your platinum jewelry acquiring a darker appearance over time, very little maintenance is required. All it will need is an occasional clean.
You can buy specialist jewelry cleaners for gold and platinum, but they’re not necessary. You’ll get good results by placing your jewelry in warm, soapy water. Clean it gently with a soft toothbrush, then pat it dry with a lint-free cloth or leave it to air dry.
With white gold jewelry, you will eventually need to replace the rhodium plating. You can extend the period between replating by treating it with care. If it’s a ring, remove it before you do any work with your hands, particularly gardening or housework. The soil and cleaning agents can damage the plating.
With typical use, a white gold ring will need to be replated after between 12 and 18 months. A thinner coating of rhodium will need to be replaced more quickly than a thicker one. And if the metal below your ring has a yellow tint, that will mean more frequent replating too.
Platinum vs. White Gold – Price
Precious metals vary in price over time. Platinum is usually, but not always, more expensive than gold in its raw form. But sometimes that changes.
In both 2011 and 2021, for example, platinum prices dipped below those of gold. The reason is the law of supply and demand.
Gold is used almost exclusively for jewelry and precious objects. Platinum, on the other hand, also has a range of industrial uses. It’s used in hard disks in computers and to make chemicals like nitric acid. And about half of the platinum mined each year goes into catalytic converters in buses, trucks and cars.
That means that the demand for platinum can change significantly, depending on global economic circumstances. At times of recession, when the industry is contracting, demand for platinum drops, and prices fall.
In the same circumstances, people often move investments to gold as a relatively safe haven. That keeps the price of gold relatively buoyant.
But when it comes to jewelry, platinum is always more expensive than gold. So why is that?
The simple answer is that platinum is used in pretty much its pure form to make jewelry. Gold, on the other hand, is mixed with other metals.
That means the craftsperson will need more of the raw material with platinum than with gold. Even if the price of platinum falls below that of gold, the overall materials cost is still likely to be higher.
And because platinum is a much harder metal, it’s also more difficult to work with. (The 5 percent of alloys used in platinum jewelry are there to make the molten metal flow more easily during casting.) That means the labor costs of making your platinum jewelry will be higher than for gold.
The difference will vary over time. But as a general rule, you can expect to pay between 40 and 50 percent more for a platinum ring than a white gold one.
Platinum vs. White Gold – Wearability
Another area of difference between white gold and platinum is their weight. Platinum is considerably heavier – something like a third heavier than white gold.
The overall percentage weight difference will depend on how much of the ring’s weight is accounted for by jewels. To give an example, the same diamond cluster ring weighs 5.9 grams made in white gold, but 7.9 grams in platinum.
Some people like the feel of heavier jewelry. If you’re wearing a platinum ring, you’ll be aware of its weight in a way you won’t be with white gold.
But if you’re looking for a pair of large earrings, you’ll find white gold much more comfortable. And your ear lobes will stay in better shape wearing them!
Anyone with a metal allergy will be on safe ground with platinum, as it’s hypoallergenic. The alloys used in white gold can cause irritation to those with some types of sensitivity.
Use with jewels
If your jewelry will combine precious metals and gemstones, there are some other factors worth considering.
We’ve already seen that rhodium plating can damage some kinds of the gemstone. An engagement ring featuring topaz, for example, will be better made in platinum than white gold. That way you won’t have to worry about replating damaging the stone.
Harder gemstones, though, are unaffected by the plating process. If your white gold engagement ring is set with diamonds, for example, you’ll have nothing to fear.
It’s also worth noting that platinum is less easy to bend than gold. That means that the claws in gem settings will stay nice and tight. As a result, they can also be a little daintier than versions in white gold without sacrificing the security of your stones.
Mixing and matching
If you’re buying a platinum engagement ring, it’s best to choose a platinum wedding ring too. That’s because the two rings are likely to be worn together.
If one is made of white gold and the other platinum, their appearances will change differently over time. But more importantly, the harder platinum will rub against the rhodium plating of the white gold ring. That will speed up the process of wear, and mean you’ll need to get it replated more quickly.
So which is better for my jewelry?
There’s no hard and fast rule that says white gold is better than platinum, or vice versa. It really comes down to personal preference and budget.
When it comes to engagement rings, some people find a lighter-weight ring more comfortable. That would give white gold the thumbs up. And if you don’t mind replating it every so often, white gold will continue to look beautifully shiny.
Platinum is strong, resilient, and – let’s face it – high status. But it will need to be repolished if you want it to keep its high shine. And that’s likely to mean entrusting your ring to a courier service of some kind.
When it comes to budget, platinum is more expensive. Over a lifetime of wear, the costs of replating a white gold can bring your total expenditure closer to platinum. But bear in mind that if you want to keep your platinum super-shiny, you’ll need to pay for regular repolishing too.
Perhaps the single most important question to consider is whether your jewelry will feature gemstones. If it will, consider whether those are hard or soft. If they’re soft, platinum will always be the better option. You won’t have to choose between a shiny ring and undamaged stones.
Platinum jewel settings are also less vulnerable to bending if they receive a knock. But whatever your ring is made of, it’s a good idea to regularly check how securely your gems are sitting. A few seconds spent doing that is invaluable compared to the heartache of losing a stone from your precious ring.
Ready to make your choice?
We hope you’ve enjoyed our head-to-head of platinum versus white gold! Both metals are beautiful and valuable. And both make a wonderful choice for a special piece of jewelry.
Budget is an important consideration, but there are other factors too. Think about weight and durability. Check whether the person wearing the ring has any skin sensitivities. And if you’re choosing an engagement and wedding ring, it’s best to stick to the same metal for both.
Whichever option you choose, you’re sure to have a piece of jewelry that will be cherished for years to come.