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White gold vs. Platinum: Difference is price?

Friday, September 28, 2012

White Gold vs. PlatinumIs white gold or platinum better? It’s a very common question because both precious metals are popular for fine jewelry and both look very similar. But there are important differences to consider in making your choice. One is the difference between white gold or platinum in terms of price.


Looking at current bullion prices there is not much difference between an ounce of pure gold and an ounce of pure platinum, which leads people to assume the prices of a finished jewelry piece would be approximately the same in either metal. However, there are a couple of factors that create a significant price differential between white gold and platinum.


First, platinum  is normally used in jewelry in almost pure form. Most platinum jewelry is between 90 and 95 % pure. And the most common metal mixed with platinum is iridium which is itself a very expensive metal. Gold alloys used in jewelry are normally used in purities between 41% (10 karat) and 75% (18 karat). And the metals mixed with the gold to make these alloys such as nickel and silver are relatively inexpensive.


The second reason that platinum jewelry  tends to be more expensive than white gold has to do with the high density of platinum. The same ring will weigh significantly more in platinum versus white gold. Therefore, more metal with a higher purity is used in making a platinum ring resulting in a compounding cost factor in the white gold platinum difference.


Either a white gold or platinum engagement ring will look white and lustrous when finished. However, there are differences in the properties of the metals that should be taken into consideration. As mentioned there is a difference in density and weight, sometimes referred to as “heft”. The density differential starts to shrink with 18K white gold vs platinum as that alloy contains more pure gold which increases its density and heft. Some people prefer the substantial feel of platinum and the knowledge that it is used in almost pure form.


18k White Gold "Lilly" Solitaire Engagement Ring Platinum "Infinity" Diamond Engagement Ring
18k White Gold "Lilly" Solitaire Engagement Ring Platinum "Infinity" Diamond Engagement Ring


White gold is an alloy of pure yellow gold and other metals that both whiten and harden it. Most gold alloys are actually harder than platinum and therefore more resistant to scratching and bending. However, because of its yellow gold content, white gold is not intrinsically white. It generally requires a coating of a platinum group metal called rhodium in order to achieve a bright white luster. The rhodium is applied to the polished white gold item through a process known as electro-plating. This is done in a liquid solution (sometimes referred to as “dipping”) where the gold item is immersed and electrical current is run through electrodes causing atoms of the rhodium in solution to bind to the surface of the gold creating very thin “skin” or coating. Depending on lifestyle and body chemistry the rhodium may wear off in spots revealing the yellowish metal beneath and creating a discolored look. Rhodium can be reapplied in this case by polishing and re-dipping. Platinum on the other hand is naturally white and does not require rhodium plating.


Whether you choose white gold or platinum you will have a precious metal that is beautiful and durable. The decision is one based more on price and feel, with some consideration also given to lifestyle and maintenance issues. If the white gold vs platinum decision is based upon price alone it is clear that white gold is the way to go. But if purity and heft are important considerations in the decision, or freedom from the need for rhodium plating, then platinum may be the ticket.



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