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Platinum vs White Gold - The Differences, Similarities and More

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White gold and platinum bracelets next to each other

In the jewelry world, many beautiful metal options exist. In recent years, a trend toward more silver-esque jewelry has emerged. Even within this trend, options remain. Two popular options are white gold and platinum. If you’re not an expert, you may not be able to spot the difference between these two metals with your naked eye.

Despite being two of the most popular, most commonly used jewelry metals in the world, many people don’t know where these metals come from, what makes them unique or how they may differ from each other. Put on your prospecting hats! It’s time to dig up the dirt on the differences and similarities of white gold and platinum.

 

What is White Gold?

White gold is a metal alloy containing gold and another paler metal to achieve a silvery-white finish. Alloying gold also creates a metal durable enough to wear, as pure gold is too naturally soft and susceptible to damage. White gold alloys tend to maintain some of the gold’s natural, yellow coloring, requiring the alloy to be plated with another metal. Rhodium plating is typically used, as it is shiny and corrosive resistant.

 

Where Does White Gold Come From?

White gold does not exist naturally. It is made from 75% pure yellow gold and 25% of another metal. A variety of different metals can be alloyed with gold to achieve white gold, including nickel, zinc, platinum, palladium and sometimes silver and copper. A German jeweler, Karl Richter, first patented a white gold alloy in 1912, which consisted of gold, nickel and copper. White gold’s popularity really soared during World War II when platinum became reserved for military use.

 

Purity and White Gold Jewelry Markings

Like yellow gold jewelry, the purity of white gold is expressed in karats (“K”) and the gold content is typically stamped on each piece. Since 24-karat gold is pure gold, white gold jewelry stamped with an “18K” marking means the piece is 18 parts gold (out of 24), which translates to 75% gold.

If you know the karat value of a piece of white gold jewelry, all you need is a little math to figure out its gold content. Dividing the karat amount by 24 and multiplying by 100 will tell you the percentage of gold contained in a given piece. Therefore, 14-karat white gold contains 58.3% gold (14/24 = .583 x 100 = 58.3%), and 10-karat white gold contains 41.7% gold (10/24 = .417 x 100 = 41.7%).

 

Know Your White Gold Alloy Metals

Some might think, “I love the look of white gold, so I don’t really care what other metal is mixed with it.” However, individuals with skin sensitivities or allergies should be extra careful when selecting a white gold alloy. Despite being quite durable, the exterior rhodium plating on white gold jewelry will wear down over time, exposing the yellowed alloy metal beneath. This alloy, if made with a tarnish-susceptible metal, will begin to tarnish as well. Metals like silver and copper can oxidize quickly in the air or on your skin, creating discoloration, and copper oxidation is notorious for turning unsuspecting fingers green!

Another metal commonly used in white gold alloys is nickel, which is the most common metal allergy experienced by humans. Therefore, it’s best to be knowledgeable about the metals contained in the jewelry you’re wearing; a “green thumb” might be desirable, but a green finger certainly is not!

Due to this wearing and tarnishing over time, jewelry experts recommend that rhodium plating on white gold be re-plated by a professional jeweler as needed.

 

What is platinum?

Platinum is a natural element known for its rarity, resilience and versatility. Because platinum is not as readily available and abundant as other metals (about 30 times rarer than gold), it is exclusive and valuable. Platinum is one of six metals belonging to “the platinum group” - metals that are structurally and chemically similar and often found near each other. The other metals include palladium, rhodium, iridium, ruthenium and osmium.

Platinum jewelry is rarely made from 100% pure platinum. Most platinum jewelry will be made with metals from the following categories:

  • Pure platinum.
  • Other platinum group metals (palladium, ruthenium, rhodium, iridium, osmium).
  • Base metals (such as copper or cobalt).

 

Where Does Platinum Come From?

Platinum is one of the planet’s rarest elements and is found deep in the Earth’s crust, typically as nuggets or grains. Not only is platinum itself rare, it’s also rare to find platinum on its own. Instead, it’s likely to be found naturally alloyed with other metals like gold, copper or nickel.

The first mention of platinum dates to 1557, when Italian scholar Julius Scaliger wrote of a metal from Spanish Central America that could not be melted, which is widely believed to have been platinum. In 1735, Antonio Ulloa, a Spanish naval officer encountered platinum; however, his ship was captured by the Royal Navy on his return to Europe and his discovery quickly caught the attention of the Royal Society. In 1741, English metallurgist Charles Wood found platinum in Colombia, South America, and by 1750, platinum was being reported and discussed throughout Europe. The name platinum comes from the Spanish word for silver, “platina”.

Several forms of platinum mining exist. Early methods included narrow reef mining, in which explosives are used to unearth platinum. New, more sophisticated mining methods are often used today, including underground mining, open pit mining and in-situ mining, which involves drilling and pumping.

 

Purity and Platinum Jewelry Markings

To be considered platinum, an item must be at least 50% pure platinum. The following markings and abbreviations may be found on platinum jewelry labels, noting its contents:

  • Platinum: at least 95% pure platinum.
  • 850 Plat.: 85% platinum and 15% other metals (other platinum group metals and/or base metals).
  • 800 Pt 200 Pall.: 80% pure platinum, 20% palladium.
  • 750 Pt. 250 Rhod.: 75% pure platinum, 25% rhodium.
  • 600 Pt. 350 Irid.: 60% pure platinum, 35% iridium.

Jewelry labels may also simply list the jewelry contents by percentage, such as “75% Platinum, 25% Copper” or “60% Platinum, 35% Cobalt, 5% Rhodium.”

 

What’s the Difference Between White Gold and Platinum?

 

Look

White gold is known for its warm, yellow undertone while platinum is much brighter and shinier. White gold is more malleable than platinum which makes it easier for jewelers to mold it into more complex designs.

 

Affordability

Looking strictly at metal prices, pure gold is typically more expensive than the same amount of pure platinum. Still, platinum jewelry tends to be roughly 40 to 50% more expensive than white gold due to its rarity and the fact that more platinum is required in jewelry making due to its density.

Furthermore, white gold is not pure gold, making it more affordable than platinum. However, you may want to consider more than up-front costs when buying jewelry. While white gold may be more affordable initially, the required re-plating every five to 10 years to maintain its color can add up, making platinum less costly in terms of post-purchase maintenance.

 

Durability 

When it comes to withstanding everyday wear and tear, both platinum and white gold are strong contenders. Platinum’s durability lends it to applications outside of jewelry, from infrared military detection instruments and automobile parts to dental fillings and anticancer drugs. Despite this, platinum jewelry can develop a soft matte patina layer on its surface over time. White gold, while generally durable, can show wear over time and may require more frequent maintenance. For active lifestyles or heirloom pieces, platinum's inherent toughness makes it the more resilient choice. If you’re looking to buy a wedding ring and metal durability is a priority, check out Strongest Metals for a Wedding Band.

 

Care

The care required for jewelry made with white gold and platinum is similar. First, you will need to ensure that your platinum and white gold jewelry are stored away from moisture, direct sunlight, rough or abrasive surfaces and chemicals or environmental pollutants. It’s also recommended to clean your jewelry after each use, prior to storing.

Both platinum and white gold jewelry can be cleaned using a mixture of water and gentle dish soap. Submerge the jewelry in the water solution and brush gently with a soft-bristled toothbrush. Rinse with lukewarm water and carefully pat dry with a cloth.

While white gold jewelry will require rhodium re-plating, platinum jewelry should not require professional attention, if it is cared for properly. However, you may want to consider an annual professional inspection for platinum rings, to ensure any stone settings are still secure.

 

Finish

Both white gold and platinum have a bright white finish - white gold due to its rhodium plating and platinum due to its natural luster. The finish of white gold will fade over time, exposing its yellowed alloy beneath, while platinum can develop a silky, matte patina over time.

If you’re not a platinum and white gold expert by now, you’re surely on your way! Whether you are already own white gold or platinum jewelry, or you are just beginning your collection, consider insuring your valuable jewelry with a personal jewelry insurance policy from Jewelers Mutual. Individuals looking for jewelry insurance are often under the misconception that insuring their jewelry through a homeowners insurance policy is the best choice. And while home insurance companies may be experts at insuring homes, it’s recommended you protect your jewelry with jewelry insurance experts. Check your rate by clicking the button below.

 

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About Jewelers Mutual Group

Jewelers Mutual was founded in 1913 by a group of Wisconsin jewelers to meet their unique insurance needs. Later, consumers began putting their trust in Jewelers Mutual to protect their jewelry and the special memories each piece holds. Today, Jewelers Mutual continues to support and move the industry forward by listening to jewelers and consumers and offering products and services to meet their evolving needs. Beyond insurance, Jewelers Mutual’s powerful suite of innovative solutions and digital technology offerings help jewelers strengthen and grow their businesses, mitigate risk, and bring them closer to their customers. The Group insurers’ strong financial position is reflected in their 37 consecutive “A+ Superior” ratings from AM Best Company, as of November 2023. Policyholders of the Group insurers are members of Jewelers Mutual Holding Company. Jewelers Mutual is headquartered in Neenah, Wisconsin, with other Group offices in Dallas, Texas and Miami, Florida. To learn more, visit JewelersMutual.com.