Both Gold and Platinum are beautiful, and relatively expensive, metals. Which would you prefer for your engagement ring or wedding ring? Is one metal clearly a better option for these special pieces?
Gold vs Platinum: Which metal is best for an engagement ring? Platinum rings are more durable and hypoallergenic than gold—but also more expensive. White Gold has a similar look, but requires more maintenance. Gold-filled, or Platinum-plated, Sterling Silver provides a luxury look and feel at a frugal price. Platinum is ultimately best, but comes at a cost.
There’s a lot that goes into an important the ultimate decision to go with gold or platinum for your ring. In the paragraphs that follow, I’ll give you the information that will help you to confidently decide on the metal that’s right for you.
What is White Gold?
There are several forms of gold commonly offered today for rings and other forms of jewelry. Yellow gold is probably the most common. Rose Gold is a combination of yellow gold and copper that has a more pink or reddish-pink coloring to it. I’ll primarily focus on White Gold as a possible alternative to Platinum throughout the remainder of this article, simply because the two look so similar (they’re very direct competitors).
White Gold also isn’t a naturally occurring form of gold. White gold is a man-made mixture of metals that includes yellow gold and other metal alloys. The final product has a beautiful siverly finish that pairs well with diamonds and other gems.
Because of the light coloring that white gold has, it complements clear and colorless diamonds and gems. Yellow gold can make a completely colorless stone appear to have a slightly yellowed tint because of the reflection of the metal. Fortunately, white gold won’t interfere negatively with the look of your center stones.
White Gold has become an incredibly popular option for engagement rings and wedding rings in recent decades. The metal looks a great deal like Platinum, but is typically quite a bit less expensive. It’s often chosen by those that are wanting to go a step up from Silver, but that can’t afford the cost of Platinum.
What is White Gold Made of?
Again, White Gold is a mix of Yellow Gold and other metal alloys like Copper, Silver, Nickel, Zinc, and Palladium. While each of those metals is frequently found in White Gold jewelry, each manufacturer uses different combinations and quantities of the.
Most people are surprised to learn that white gold isn’t really white. Remember that the largest ingredient in white gold is YELLOW gold. Copper also doesn’t move the mixture toward white. There are other additives like Silver and Palladium, for example, that lighten and dilute some of the colorings that those foundational metals bring, but the added metal alloys can’t produce the beautiful coloring that white gold is known for. If the metal mixture isn’t actually white, how does white gold get its color?
After the ring has been formed and stylized, it’s ‘dipped,’ or coated, in Rhodium. Rhodium is a member of the platinum family, so it has a similar look. That thin coating gives white gold the light-and-consistent coloring that has made it a popular option for brides and grooms around the globe.
Unfortunately, the wear and tear that rings endure as they’re worn through normal daily tasks wears down the thin layer of Rhodium, over time, until your white gold ring starts displaying a more-and-more obvious yellow tone. As the Rhodium gets thinner, the yellowish gold mixture that’s underneath begins to show through. The remedy is to have the ring re-dipped, so it has a fresh new coacting of Rhodium applied periodically.
While the procedure isn’t unreasonably expensive (about $40 or so), it can still be frustrating to have to leave your ring with a jeweler for several days every year or two AND pay money in order to keep the ring looking presentable.
10k White Gold Jewelry vs 14k, 18k, or 24k
White Gold is available in varying levels of quality, including 10k, 14k, and 18k. There are a few important things to understand about the rating of white gold. First off, karat (which is often abbreviated with a simple ‘k’ has to do with the purity of the gold (the amount of actual pure yellow gold that the jewelry contains).
People often confuse karats with carats. Diamonds are measured in carats, which are completely different. Carats are a measure of weight, not purity.
Second, gold purity is always measured in terms of how many parts, out of 24, contain pure gold. When 24 parts out of 24 are comprised of pure gold, it’s designated 24k gold, which is the purest gold available (it has no alloys mixed in. 10k gold, on the other hand, has only 10 out of 24 parts occupied by pure gold, with the other 14 filled in with alloys.
The lower the karat designation, the less gold the jewelry item contains. Conversely, the higher the karat rating, the more gold the item contains. In other words, 10k white gold is less pure than 14k gold. By the same token, 14k gold is less pure than 18k gold.
There’s no such thing as 24k white gold, because, by definition, white gold has to have alloys mixed in, yet 24k gold is pure gold (without any added alloys). Because of this, 18k white gold is typically the highest level of purity that you’re likely to find.
Because 10k white gold has the highest percentage of alloys contributed, and those alloys are harder than pure gold, 10k gold is more durable than higher purity mixes like 14k or 18k. Those more heavily used alloy metals are much less expensive than yellow gold, as an ingredient, so 10k gold is also substantially cheaper than higher purity gold.
If 10k white gold is both cheaper and more durable than gold with higher purity, why would anyone ever buy 14k or 18k gold, for example?
Skin Sensitivity: Some people have allergic responses to some of the alloy metals that are mixed into white gold. While the Rhodium plating might protect them from coming into direct contact with the metals that they have a sensitivity to, for a time, the plating will eventually wear through if it’s not carefully maintained. 14k and 18k White Gold have a lower percentage of other metal alloys contributed to their metal mixture. Because the metals that trigger reactions are found in much smaller quantities, they sometimes don’t trigger the irritation that they experience with lower purity gold rings.
Quality Assumptions: Most people aren’t extremely familiar with the distinction between 10k white gold, 14k white gold, or 18k white gold. Sometimes, all they know is that 14k gold is more expensive than 10k gold. They may assume that more expensive means better (more enduring). If they can afford the upgrade, they may decide that splurging is better than sacrificing when it comes to something like their engagement ring. They don’t have a solid, or specific, reason for purchasing the more expensive version, outside of assumptions. They err on the side of caution because they don’t want to regret buying lower-quality gold at some point down the road.
Marketing Messages: We’re all influenced by skillful marketers that get paid to manipulate our thoughts and opinions about various products and services. Print ads, banners, and commercials that we’ve seen throughout our lives my leave us believing that anything less than 18k gold, for example, isn’t worth owning.
Don’t get me wrong—there’s nothing wrong with buying 14k or 18k white gold, but if you’re looking for a frugal ring, 10k white gold might provide the ‘biggest bang for your buck.’
Does White Gold Tarnish?
As I mentioned earlier, the surface of a White Gold ring isn’t really white gold—it’s Rhodium. Rhodium is resistant to corrosion so it won’t tarnish or rust. Gold also isn’t susceptible to rust or tarnish.
What is Platinum?
Platinum is a natural metal that’s mined from the earth—like yellow gold. It’s represented as ‘Pt’ on the Periodic Table of Elements—and is actually one of the rarest elements in the earth’s crust. Platinum has a striking silvery appearance, in fact, it’s often mistaken for silver.
Platinum’s appearance isn’t completely unique, but some of its characteristics are. This metal is remarkably dense and heavy. In fact, it’s about 4 times heavier than white gold. It’s also incredibly resistant to corrosion of all kinds…even when heated to extreme temperatures. In addition, Platinum won’t darken or fade as time passes, and is extremely durable.
Platinum is relatively hard and one of the least reactive metals in existence. That combination of attractive features, among others, has made it a popular metal for manufacturing. It’s heavily used in electronics, surgical instruments, and automobile manufacturing. In fact, it’s estimated that more than half of all Platinum produced each year is used to manufacture car parts. Catalytic converters are one particular part where Platinum is very commonly used.
My wife has never been one to remove her ring before cleaning, showering, or doing yard work. If you rarely remove your ring, platinum might be the right metal for your next ring because its more resistant to scratches and other scarring. It’s also more resistant to some chemical reactions that gold rings are more vulnerable to.
Swimming pools and ocean water, for example, can cause damage to engagement rings over time that could cause you to eventually lose your center stone. Fortunately, Platinum rings aren’t impacted by chlorinated pool water or saltwater the way that gold is. I wrote an article recently about how water can impact common ring materials like Moissanite and gold. If you’re considering a white gold engagement ring, you may want to review that article to learn a little more about the care and precautions that are required.
Another feature of Platinum that many people with very sensitive skin appreciate, is its Hypoallergenic qualities. While Platinum jewelry is rarely pure (containing ONLY Platinum), it generally consists of a very high platinum purity (often 90% to 95%), which typically works well for even extremely sensitive wearers.
In the United States, Platinum jewelry is supposed to be stamped or inscribed with a hallmark that provides information on its level of purity (the amount of platinum that the jewelry item contains). The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the government body that’s responsible for protecting consumers from deceptive advertising practices. They’ve mandated that hallmarks provide clear and accurate representations regarding the composition of jewelry pieces that are sold in the U.S.
You should assume that any Platinum jewelry without a hallmark of any kind, contains LESS than 50% platinum. At that level of purity, the FTC stipulates that the metal doesn’t contain enough Platinum to be labeled as ‘Platinum.’
If you find jewelry labeled as Platinum, that doesn’t further qualify the amount of platinum that the piece contains, with a number of some kind, it should contain AT LEAST 95% Platinum (no more than 5% coming from other alloys) according to the FTC.
Hallmarks typically contain a three-digit number that represents the percentage of the metal mixture that Platinum comprises, followed by an abbreviation like ‘Plat.’ or ‘Pt.’ For example, you might see something like 850Pt., meaning that the piece contains 85% pure Platinum, or 950Plat., indicating that it’s comprised of 95% pure Platinum.
Any rings, or other jewelry items that contain between 50% and 85% Platinum, should display a hallmark disclosing the percentage of platinum that the item contains, but also information on the other metal alloy that was added. For example, you might see hallmarks like the following:
|The ring is 55% pure Platinum & 45% Palladium|
|The ring is 75% pure Platinum & 25% Iridium|
|The ring is 80% pure Platinum & 20% Rhodium|
What Color is Platinum?
Platinum is often described as a white metal, but it’s actually very similar in appearance to silver. In fact, the name ‘Platinum’ originates from the Spanish word ‘Platina,’ which means ‘little silver.’
Platinum’s color is fairly neutral, making it easy to pair with nearly any type of center-stone or outfit. It’s mild tone also can exist alongside other jewelry items of various shades and styles, making it an easy metal to wear in almost any combination with other pieces.
Where is Platinum Found?
Platinum is a resource that’s truly scarce in the earth’s crust. Only a few hundred tons are actually mined each year, and again, more than half of that quantity is used to manufacture parts for the automotive industry. When you also consider all the other medical and industrial uses for platinum, you start to realize just how little is actually available for jewelry each year.
Let me put the quantity of Platinum that’s mined each year into perspective. Worldwide gold production is about 2,500 tons per year. Silver production is nearly 30,000 tons per year. Once you catch a glimpse at the disparity of production for those three metals, you can start to understand why Platinum is more expensive than gold—and SO MUCH more expensive than Silver.
All but about 20% of the world’s annual Platinum production comes from South Africa currently. Russia, Columbia, and Canada are other locations where Platinum can be found. Platinum exists in space too! We know that Platinum can be found on the Moon’s surface, and small amounts have even been recovered from the site of past meteorite impacts.
Does Platinum Tarnish?
Platinum is one of the most non-reactive metals known to man. It won’t tarnish, oxidize, or rust in any way. This extreme resistance to corrosion is one of the key differentiators between Sterling Silver and Platinum in terms of maintenance and durability. While White Gold also isn’t susceptible to tarnish and rust, the Rhodium plating has to be reapplied periodically as it begins to wear through, making White Gold rings far more expensive and time-consuming to maintain than Platinum rings.
What is Platinum Patina?
As you wear an engagement ring or wedding ring daily over a period of years, you’re almost certain to collect small little scratches on the surface of the ring. When you have a smooth shiny surface, the scratches are the most noticeable. As scratches multiply over time, the collection of varied scratches can create a matte type of finish on the surface of the ring. That scratched up matte finish is referred to as ‘Patina.’
It sounds bad initially, but the matte finish that’s created can look good. Many people love the effect. If you prefer to keep the smooth-shiny surface that your ring originally had, you’ll just need to have your ring polished by a local jeweler to restore its original look.
If you really want to avoid an obvious Patina effect on the surface of your ring, you might consider one of the following options.
- Buy a Platinum ring that has a pattern carved into it. Obviously a pattern on your ring won’t make it more resistant to scratches, but it can make scratches far less obvious.
- Be more careful with the use of your ring. Take it off before working on playing in environments where your ring might come into contact with things that could cause damage. Taking precautions could slow a Patina process, but it’s unlikely to help you avoid it forever…because accidents happen.
- Use an even harder metal. While Platinum is considered hard, Tungsten-Cobalt is much harder, In fact, it’s so hard that it’s difficult to mount center stones on—but the metal works well for bands of all kinds.
Platinum vs White Gold?
It’s really impossible to say that Platinum is always better than White Gold for jewelry, or that White Gold is better than Platinum. Both materials have their pros and cons.
The Pros of Platinum:
- It’s a solid metal that doesn’t need to be plated.
- It’s extremely durable (much harder than gold).
- It matches a wide variety of colors and styles easily.
- It’s considered hypoallergenic.
The Cons of Platinum (it’s a pretty short list):
- It’s expensive.
The Pros of White Gold:
- It’s inexpensive (compared to the cost of some other options).
- It has a beautiful, Platinum-like, appearance.
- It’s a common offering, so it’s readily available.
The Cons of White Gold:
- The metal is plated with Rhodium, which has to be reapplied periodically.
- It’s a relatively soft metal.
- The alloys that are mixed into White gold can cause reactions for people with extremely sensitive skin.
- White gold is more vulnerable to things like Chlorine and saltwater.
After weighing all of the pros and cons of each metal it comes down to this. Platinum is the better option for most people if you can afford it, but White Gold is a great alternative if the cost of Platinum falls outside the bounds of your rings budget.
What is the Difference in How White Gold and Platinum Look?
White Gold and Platinum took very much identical when you’re comparing new rings—after all, Rhodium is used to plate White Gold, and Rhodium is part of the Platinum family.
The plating that covers ‘White Gold’ will wear thinner and thinner, as time passes, until the surface of the White Gold ring has a yellowish tone. That effect happens because again, White Gold (the actual metal mixture) isn’t white. Since Yellow gold is such a prominent ingredient, White Gold (the metal mixture beneath the Rhodium plating) is typically yellow. As the Rhodium plating gets thinner, the yellowish gold mixture that lies beneath the surface starts to show through making the ring look more like yellow gold than White Gold or Platinum.
The yellowish tint that White Gold acquires over time isn’t incurable. The ring would just need to be ‘redipped’ by a jeweler. They would essentially apply a new coat of Rhodium plating to make the ring look as good as new (until the plating eventually wears through again).
Why is Platinum Popular For Engagement Rings?
Platinum has a feeling of prestige. We’ve been conditioned to view it that way. Credit cards often name their card offerings after precious metals. The Platinum card is usually their best, and most exclusive, offering. Other companies sometimes offer various product or service packages that are also named after precious (or semi-precious) metals. They’ll offer something like a Silver, Gold, and Platinum package, for example. The Platinum offering is typically the most desirable—and the most expensive.
The durability of the material. Some people don’t want to spend much time or effort babying their ring. My wife feels that way. She definitely doesn’t want to abuse her ring, but she needs it to keep up with her normal daily routine. Similarly, my wife has no patience with clothing items that need special (delicate) treatment. She prefers to purchase clothing items that can tolerate normal washing and drying cycles. If you feel similarly about your special ring, Platinum is likely a better option than White Gold for you.
Along the same lines, Platinum saves people the cost and hassle of replating. While White Gold costs less in the short term, it may end up costing more over the long term—once you factor in the costs of periodic replating.
Sensitivity to other metals. Platinum is a hypoallergenic metal, which means that it’s going to be a safer choice for people with extremely sensitive skin. Again, while Rhodium-plated White Gold may work fine for people with major sensitivity in the short term, they may have issues over the long term, so the Rhodium plating wears through and the yellowish gold mixture that lies beneath the surface is increasingly exposed—because that mixture contains alloys that could potentially trigger reactions. Platinum isn’t plated. It’s solid all the way through.
Platinum-plated as a way to get many of the benefits of Platinum without the price tag (instead of going with White Gold). Platinum-plated will also wear through over time and will need to be replated. The main benefit is that the underlying silver isn’t yellow, and is less likely to cause reactions for those with sensitive skin.
Platinum Prongs vs White Gold
Is it better to have prongs that are made of White Gold or Platinum? Your prongs are the little metal posts that stand up around the outside perimeter of your ring holding your center stone in place. If you can afford it, Platinum is the better option for two key reasons:
- The Rhodium plating can be accidentally removed from White Gold prongs while cleaning your center stone. If you get an oil slick stain on a Moissanite center stone, you might use a yellow Silver polishing cloth, like this one, to remove the stain, but the cloth is also capable of removing your Rhodium. Platinum is solid (not a plating) so it’s more durable through maintenance like this. I recently wrote an article about removing the oil slick stain from Moissanite that talks more about this issue with white gold and Rhodium.
- You can lose your center stone if your prongs are weak (again, repeated contact with things like Chlorine and saltwater can eventually weaken Gold prongs). Getting snagged on clothing or other items can also weaken prongs over time. It’s not the Gold that reacts to these elements, but the alloys that are mixed into the gold and into the solder at the base of the prongs. This article addresses the damage that Chlorine and saltwater can do to gold in greater detail. You may want to check it out.
I mentioned earlier that my wife rarely removes her ring. It’s essentially on her finger 24/7. After nearly 20 years, one of her prongs suddenly bent. Fortunately, she noticed it before any serious damage was done. If not caught, her center stone (a diamond) might have slipped free and been lost.
A good friend of mine was walking through a major airport several years ago when something on the floor caught his eye. As he approached the item and bent down to get a closer look, he realized it was a pretty large diamond (more than a carat) that had somehow fallen from someone’s ring. This is the danger of weakened prongs, and it’s one of the best reasons to consider Platinum if you can afford it. Taking regular precautions with your gold ring could also help to keep your ring safe.
Platinum vs Gold Price
Here are a few facts that may help you to better understand the cost difference between these two metals.
- Platinum is much more dense than gold. In fact, it’s typically 40-60% denser (depending on the purity of the gold being contrasted). Because precious metals have a cost per gram, but it would take 40-60% more metal weight to make any given ring in Platinum rather than White Gold, it makes sense that the Platinum version would cost considerably more.
- Platinum is truly rare, and because of that, the universal laws of supply and demand naturally drive the cost of Platinum beyond the cost of gold.
- Platinum is a much harder metal than White Gold, and it’s MUCH more difficult to work with, requiring specialized tools and a more rare set of skills and experience to successfully craft. All of that adds complexity and cost.
- Platinum is more pure (it’s less diluted with other alloys) than most white gold. White gold frequently contains 62% alloy mix-ins consisting of cheaper metals like Copper, Silver, and Nickel. Platinum, on the other hand, is commonly 80 to 95% pure (with a 5-20% alloy contribution). The alloys make both metals harder, but they also bring costs down for the finished product. In that regard, White Gold gains a big cost advantage because it’s so much less pure.
What’s the actual cost difference for White Gold settings vs identical Platinum settings?
14k White Gold engagement ring settings frequently run 30% to 92% less than the same setting crafted with Platinum. That’s a significant cost difference. The price gap between 18k White Gold and Platinum is much less dramatic, commonly ranging from 2% to 25%. You can compare the cost of rings in a variety of metals here, including 14k White Gold, 18k White Gold, and Platinum (among others).
If you like the thought of Platinum, but can’t afford it, consider a Platinum plated silver engagement ring. Here are a few reasons that this approach might be your best option on a low budget.
- Silver (the base metal) is incredibly inexpensive.
- The Silver is completely encased in Platinum, so the ring looks like it’s ENTIRELY made of Platinum. This can leave you with a high-end (Platinum) look, but a low-end (mostly) Silver price.
- Your base metal (the metal in the center of your ring) isn’t yellow (as it is with White Gold), so the look of the ring won’t change as much as your ring’s plating wears through over time.
- Stainless Steel typically doesn’t contain Nickel, but White Gold often does, which can be a problem for people with serious allergies or sensitive skin.
You’ll recognize Platinum plated silver because even if a ring is only advertised as Platinum (without the Silver base clearly being disclosed), you’ll see the well known ‘925’ hallmark on the inside of the ring (the inner band).
Here’s an example of a Platinum-plated Sterling Silver Moissanite ring that’s incredibly affordable.
This one is Rhodium-plated Sterling Silver. It’s a beautiful ring at an even lower price. I’ve purchased this same brand for my wife, and it’s held up incredibly well over the past year. It still looks as sparkly and new as the day she got it.
Platinum is a beautiful and durable ring that costs more in the short term, but it could cost less over the long term, once the maintenance costs of repeated Rhodium replating are factored in. A better alternative than White Gold, for those on a tight budget, might be Platinum (or Rhodium) plated Sterling Silver. It will give you a ring that looks EXACTLY the same as white gold, and something just a durable, for a fraction of the cost.