Which is Better: Gold or Platinum? Two of jewelry's finest and most versatile metals.

 

Here's the one-sentence answer: platinum is rarer, stronger and more durable (but at least twice as expensive) than gold.

There are four reasons for the extra cost of platinum over gold.  First, precious metals are bought and sold based on weight and platinum is nearly twice as heavy as gold.  Second, most gold jewelry in the United States is 58.5% pure (14 karat) and most platinum jewelry is 95% pure.  Third, and perhaps most obvious, platinum is more expensive per ounce than gold.  Finally, platinum is much more difficult to work with, so the labor cost to create a piece of jewelry is higher.  Factor all four of those elements in, and the exact same piece of jewelry could easily cost twice as much, or more, in platinum over gold. Still, platinum is a stronger, more durable metal that never needs plating to retain its white color. 

If this answers your question, have a look at our gold engagement rings (we can make any of them in platinum if you wish) or dig into the details on gold vs. platinum below.

 

White Gold
Yellow Gold
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Gold and platinum are the two most common metals used in diamond and gemstone jewelry.

Everyone knows what gold looks like: a beautiful, bright, shiny, yellow metal.  The purity of gold is rated in karats.  Pure gold is 24 karat, and is rarely used in fine jewelry, because it is too soft.  18-karat gold is simply 18/24ths, or 75%, gold and 25% other metals used to make it harder and stronger. 14 karat gold (the standard alloy for fine jewelry in the USA) is 14/24ths gold or 58.5%.

White gold uses the same karat rating and has the same gold content as its yellow counterpart. Certain alloys are added to gold to turn it white … well, nearly white.  You see, most white-gold alloys also need to be plated with rhodium (a member of the platinum group of metals) to look bright white. With a ring, which gets more wear-and-tear than any other piece of jewelry, the plating begins to wear off after a year or so.  So, replating needs to be done periodically to keep most white-gold jewelry looking like new.  That process is quick, easy, and should be inexpensive (depending on the jeweler.) However, there are some very new, high-tech alloys that never require plating, and we use those special alloys for our custom-created jewelry at William’s Jewelers.

Platinum is the true white-colored precious metal used in jewelry. It is denser, stronger, but slightly softer on the surface than gold alloys. It will last longer than gold and never needs plating. Platinum is more expensive than gold, but right now the price per ounce of platinum is much closer to gold than normal making it a relative bargain. It is heavier and the alloy is purer (95%,) which explains why it costs so much.  But, in the long run, it is the superior metal.

The wonderful thing about these precious metals is that they can, at any point, be polished, plated (if necessary), and returned to their original beauty. 

Should I choose gold or platinum for my engagement ring?

One of the first questions that should come up when you start shopping for an engagement ring is, "What metal do I want my ring to be made in?"  While the two main choices are certainly gold and platinum, it is important to note there are other options such as palladium, tungsten, titanium, and silver. These options are not used nearly as often in designing engagement rings, but are much more popular in men’s rings and other jewelry. This article will focus on the two more popular metals used in engagement rings today, gold and platinum.

First is gold, which is the most popular metal of choice when it comes to engagement rings as well as other jewelry.  Gold is such a beautiful rich metal that really lends itself well to jewelry design and has been the main choice in most engagement rings in the last number of years. Even with the dramatic value increase in gold the last 3 years, gold is still the most popular choice for the engagement ring today. When you think of gold the first color that comes to mind is the rich yellow orange color that gold is known for, but the more popular color used today is white gold.  The major question that first comes up when you debate these two metals are do I want yellow or white? This is not always easy to decide, but some things to consider would be, do I like the way the diamonds look in white or yellow?  What color goes better with my skin tone? Usually this is a very personal decision and really is the first major choice you have to make in looking at engagement rings.

If you decide the yellow color is for you then you know that you want to go with gold. It is also important to understand that gold is distinguished in karats (this is different than carats that is a term used as a weight measurement for diamonds and other stones.) Karat refers to the content of pure gold in the gold mixture. Pure gold or 100% is 24 carat gold. This is not commonly used in jewelry because it is just too soft and would not be durable enough. Therefore most gold that is used in jewelry design, is less than 100% gold and is mixed with other metals or alloys to create a different color tone and strength better for jewelry. There are 3 major percentages of gold used in engagement rings.  18 karat which has 75% gold content, 14 karat which has 58.5% gold and 10karat that has 42% gold. These all look fairly similar, although the 18 karat yellow gold will look a little more orange and deeper. 14karat and 10karat look very much the same. 14karat is generally the most popular in the United States. It is also important to know that all 14 karat is not equal. There are many different ways to alloy gold. 14 karat only means that the ring has 58.5 % gold the other metals added to make up the rest of the percentage can vary from one manufacturer to the next. This isn’t an issue to worry about with yellow gold as the color and strength should all be very similar.

If your preference is for the white metal look then you do have a decision to make between white gold and platinum. White gold, like yellow gold also comes in 18 karat, 14 karat, and 10 karat. There are definitely some major differences between white gold and platinum. What are these differences?  The major differences between white gold and platinum have to do with cost, weight, color, and how the metal wears from use. When it comes to cost platinum is definitely more expensive. Platinum is more expensive per ounce than gold as it is a more rare metal. Currently the cost of gold at time of this article is about $1435 an ounce, while platinum is currently $1850 an ounce. Prices fluctuate every day, but platinum is more expensive than gold. Also it is important to note that platinum for use in jewelry generally has 90 percent to 95 percent platinum used in the mixture, so there is more pure metal.

There are other options that use less platinum for example 585 platinum, that like 14 karat gold uses 58.5 % platinum, but this is not used as often as 95% or 90 % platinum. By having more precious metal use this also makes the platinum more expensive comparatively to white gold. The weight of platinum is also much heavier than gold. It is about 60% heavier, so this will also affect the price as same platinum engagement ring will weigh more than its white gold counterpart. Sometimes this weight difference is a factor in deciding between the two metals as some will find the weight desirable, while others will not like the heaviness of platinum.

Color is a very big issue between platinum and white gold. Platinum is very consistent in its color and is a very pretty shiny white color when polished and unscratched. White gold does not always have a consistent white color as there are many ways to alloy white gold and keep in mind a high percentage of white gold is gold which is a rich yellow color. Of course they are adding alloys to give it the whiter color, but some alloys still have a yellowish appearance. Because of this yellowish appearance most white gold is plated with rhodium, which is a metal in the platinum family of metals. This rhodium plating gives the white gold a very bright shiny white appearance very similar to platinum. The problem is the plating is not permanent so after time this plating wears off. It is very easy for jewelers to plate the ring again and the appearance can be maintained through regular cleaning and plating. The downside is the time and sometimes cost of maintaining the plating, although when you are taking the ring in periodically to plate it is an opportunity to keep the ring clean and give the jeweler an opportunity to check the wear on the ring. Some stores will not charge for plating if bought there or possibly they will charge a nominal fee for plating, but beware some stores will charge a lot, so shop around.

Another very important thing to know is that some companies have developed white gold alloys that have a very natural white color with no yellow in them. These alloys don’t have to be maintained with rhodium plating and have a very similar color to platinum. By using this type of alloy, one of the major negative aspects of white gold compared to platinum can be avoided.  If you are interested in this type of white gold alloy you will have to check with your jeweler and find out if they use any manufacturer of engagement rings that utilize this alloy or if they use these types of alloys in their own custom designing.

Finally, one other difference to understand is the difference is between gold and platinum as you wear and use your engagement ring. Platinum is known for its strength and resistance to eroding. A platinum ring will wear for a long time and will take longer than gold to wear down. Platinum, although very strong in this sense does have issues with how it wears. Platinum doesn’t scratch like gold with light easy to polish out scrapes, rather it can get pitting. These pits can be very noticeable and can create a very uneven and not so shiny appearance called a patina.  These pits can be polished out by a jeweler, but polishing platinum is much harder to do than gold due to its hardness and resistance to erosion.  It requires polishing down past the pits and causing erosion to get back to a shiny clean surface.  From my own and many of my customers  experiences this pitting issue and the cost of platinum are the two major downsides to consider before choosing platinum over white gold. No matter what you chose either metal is great for use in an engagement ring or any other jewelry and should be able to last you a lifetime and beyond with some maintenance along the way.



matt


Matt Dendel

Gemologist, GIA






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