White Gold vs. Silver: What You Need to Know
At first glance, it's hard for the untrained eye to tell the difference between white gold and sterling silver. They're both silver in color, but the two metals are quite different beyond their initial appearances.
Here's what you need to know when you're on the hunt for silver-hued jewelry.
What is White Gold?
White gold is a mixture of pure gold and other metals, which makes the metal harder with a white color appearance. Generally, the metals used in white gold are nickel, silver or palladium and the properties of white gold varies on which alloy is used.
Just like yellow gold, the purity of white gold is measured in karats. So, if a white gold ring is 18 karats, this means that the ring is made up of 75% gold (18 karats divided by 24) and 25% other metals.
What is Silver?
Silver is a shiny, precious metal valued for its beauty and electrical conductivity and has been used to create coins, decorative pieces and jewelry for centuries.
Regarding jewelry, silver is often alloyed with copper to add strength, since it’s a fairly soft metal. When silver is mixed with copper, it is called sterling silver. While shopping for sterling silver, you may notice a “925” stamped on the metal, which means that it contains 92.5% of pure silver and 7.5% of other metals.
White Gold vs. Silver
The type of jewelry you're looking to get will weigh heavily into your decision between white gold and silver. Researching for an engagement ring? Read the differences between the two to help make your decision easier.
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When shopping for a piece you'll wear every day, like an engagement ring, white gold is a much better bet for long-standing durability and resistance to wear. However, keep in mind that the hardness of white gold depends on its purity (ie: karats).
Silver is soft and easy to scratch and can change shape slightly with wear and tear, while white gold is resistant to both corrosion and impact.
Silver is among the most affordable types of metal for jewelry, making it perfect for costume jewelry that you rotate with your wardrobe. However, the extra durability of white gold does increase the price tag of the metal. White gold costs more than silver, but less than platinum, making it moderately affordable.
One of the most common metal allergies is Nickel, which can be used in both white gold and silver.
As mentioned above, sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver alloyed with copper, but in some cases, nickel may be present in the other 7.5% of metals.
Regarding white gold, Nickel is generally used as the alloy, but often white gold is plated with Rhodium, a silvery-white metal in the platinum family. The Rhodium plating will initially protect wearers from any nickel within the gold, but it will eventually wear off, which can leave the skin irritated if allergic.
Maintenance & Care
Both white gold and silver require some level of maintenance, as does all jewelry.
Every few years, your white gold piece will require a reapplication of rhodium plating by your jeweler, which easily restores the white finish. Without the reapplication, your jewelry will “yellow”.
Silver, on the other hand, requires regular cleaning and polishing to prevent tarnishing. While sterling silver is prone to tarnish, it will never rust, so that's a plus.
Whatever you decide, make sure to visit your jeweler twice a year for a check-up and professional cleaning. Looking to clean your jewelry at home? Check out our Cleaning & Care Guide!
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