White gold vs. Platinum: What's the difference?

30 May 2010

One of the questions we are asked most frequently by our clients is: What is the difference between platinum and white gold? The metals are often confused because, at the retail level, the metals look very similar. Both are shiny and very white, and both can be set with diamonds or gemstones. So what really is the difference?

Platinum and white gold are completely different metals with different chemical compositions and molecular structures that give them different characteristics. Without going too far into the science of how they differ, platinum is a metal that is used in its almost pure form, while white gold is alloyed with other metals to create a strong metal with a white colour. Both metals are perfectly suited to fine jewellery, including engagement and wedding rings.

Platinum is a very dense metal. It has a density grade, or specific gravity, of 21.4, which means that a 4.0mm ring made in platinum will be almost one and a half times the weight of a ring with the same measurements in 18ct white gold. Platinum used for jewellery is usually 95-98% pure platinum, with a very small amount of other metal mixed in for strength and durability. It is an ideal metal for people who have a sensitivity to metal, or find commercial jewellery irritating to their skin. Also, given the density of platinum, it is very strong and offers a lot of strength with very little metal, which makes it ideal for delicately set gemstones, including shared claw style wedding bands. Despite its density and strength, platinum is actually a very soft metal, meaning that it will show scratches and scrapes more easily than white gold. Also, given the rarity of the metal, it is a little more expensive than white gold.

White gold on the other hand is an alloy of yellow gold and other metals, used to both change the colour to white, and make the metal strong and malleable enough to be used for jewellery. White gold is derived from 24ct gold, which is a naturally rich yellow colour. By adding 25% other metals in the case of 18ct white gold, the yellow colour is changed to a white colour. Most of our jewellery is made in 18ct white gold, as this alloy is very strong, tough (resistant to scratching and scraping) and greyish white in colour. Unlike platinum, white gold has a slightly greyish tint, which means that it is usually rhodium plated to create the very bright white finish that you see in jewellery stores. Rhodium is a platinum family metal that is applied in a very thin layer to the outside of white gold to achieve a very white, tarnish resistant coating. White gold is a great option for wedding rings, and offers a slightly lower price point to platinum.

The choice is yours as to whether to have your wedding rings in platinum or white gold. Generally, you should match the metal of your engagement ring ot the metal of your wedding ring, but other than that, the choice is yours!

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