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Platinum vs. White Gold: The Battle of Precious Jewelry Metals: UPDATED to reflect the NEW VALUE of PLATINUM for 2015!

Updated on January 15, 2015

NEWSFLASH: Advantage: Platinum!!!

As of January 2015, the 'spot price' of platinum is running neck-and-neck with gold. Go ahead, check out the live spot price:


This image from Fox Jewelers of Ventura, CA shows the difference between unplated "white" gold and platinum
This image from Fox Jewelers of Ventura, CA shows the difference between unplated "white" gold and platinum

A Fiscal Incentive

When I started in the jewelry biz back in the 1990s, platinum was trading at a multiple to gold. In 2015, the two precious metals are trading neck-and-neck! Some metals fanatics would say this is a sign to buy platinum as an investment, but I'm here to discuss the merits of the two metals for jewelry.

THE MERE FACT THAT PLATINUM IS LOWER-PRICED RELATIVE TO GOLD IS AN INCENTIVE TO BUY PLATINUM JEWELRY!

Platinum will still be more expensive, but for good reasons: not only is the PURITY higher than most gold jewelry, but platinum is much more difficult to work with than gold.

It's still worthwhile to understand the relative merits of both precious metals...

A platinum ring with two one-carat Asscher cut diamonds.
A platinum ring with two one-carat Asscher cut diamonds.
A white gold bracelet by designer John Atencio
A white gold bracelet by designer John Atencio

Battle of the White Metals

(Announcer)…"And in this corner, fresh off big gains in the commodities market, ladies and gentlemen, may I present, the ever-popular WHITE GOLD!”

(Crowd, Applauding) “That’s some mighty shiny metal. Doesn’t it look refined? But, oh my... that white gold--he's looking a little yellow under the skin. And look! White gold is more reasonably priced than platinum. ”

(Announcer)…”And in the other corner, the dense, the heavy, the impressionable and long-lasting champion of white metal jewelry, the lustrous choice of savvy collectors: he may be looking a little soft, but don’t be fooled: PLATINUM is READY TO RUMMMBBLLLLEEE!!!”

I’m not going to announce a favorite in this fight: it depends on the venue and the strategy.

Tell you what, I’ll give you the hard and soft of it and you can raise your ring finger for the alloy of your choice.

Platinum mining resembles precious gem mining more than gold mining. It's usually more environmentally sustainable than gold mining.
Platinum mining resembles precious gem mining more than gold mining. It's usually more environmentally sustainable than gold mining.

Platinum Wins in Purity

Platinum jewelry alloys are usually 90 or 95% pure, often mixed with related rare naturally whitish metals, such as iridium. Don't even consider platinum that's alloyed at a lower percentage, please. ASK!

Gold, on the other hand (ha ha) can be a scrappy mutt--not as pure as platinum, but it's got more spring in its step. 22 karat gold jewelry is the standard in some Asian and Middle Eastern countries, but at 91% yellow metal, no one attempts to alloy it to turn it white; 18 karat gold will alloy to an acceptable whiteness (but it's a notoriously brittle alloy, especially over time). The U.S. standard 14 karat gold is viewed by many Asians and Europeans with one raised eyebrow and a quiet “tsk tsk.” Gold purity is easy to calculate: 14 karat is 14/24ths or about 58% gold,18 karat is 75% gold, etc.

Gold alloys vary in color from maker to maker, and even batch to batch. Its natural hue has been alloyed into green gold, rose gold, black gold, even blue gold...Well, kinda blue anyway.

To achieve a cooler color, white gold takes on as much alloy as it can legally muster. Then jewelers usually add a rhodium plating--a few microns of (platinum's cousin) rhodium is enough to do the trick, at least temporarily... One of the big complaints about white gold is that it turns yellow over time. With the exception of some newer specialty alloys, a slight yellowing is inevitable. The good news is that it easily remedied with a quick, reasonable re-plating.

Who's Stronger?

If we’re talking threaded posts on earrings, clutches, catches or pin backs with springs, go with the WHITE GOLD, Baby. Because platinum is softer, it doesn’t spring back as well. If you have a gorgeous platinum necklace, brooch or earring, be a little more careful with the moving or removable parts.

If you want a luxe alloy for a piece of jewelry with moving parts, try 18 k. white gold.

These Yogo Sapphires are set in Platinum post and clutch 'martini' style earrings. The wearer is sensitive to white gold.
These Yogo Sapphires are set in Platinum post and clutch 'martini' style earrings. The wearer is sensitive to white gold.

If You're the Sensitive Type, Go with Platinum

It’s very rare to have a sensitivity to platinum; the nickel used in white gold alloys is the usual suspect. If you’re sensitive and don’t want to shell out for platinum, or if the style of jewelry you like doesn’t lend itself to a platinum alloy, look for nickel-free white gold, or give yellow gold or another non-traditional metal a chance. (Ask your jeweler about palladium, platinum's welter-weight relative).


A custom platinum band that required a finger exercise regimen.
A custom platinum band that required a finger exercise regimen.

Sometimes, Platinum is Just too Much of a Beast

I have designed rings that, in platinum, have weighed more than some white gold bracelets.

Sometimes I tease my clients by telling them not to fall off a bridge wearing their platinum ring!

Seriously, a wide ring might be surprisingly heavy if it's crafted in platinum.

Going the Distance? Platinum Wins the Endurance Test

If you want to know who’ll put in more rounds in the fight, the answer is probably platinum. Its molecular structure is dense. Platinum can take a lot of pushing around and not lose weight. It’s a better ‘shock absorber’ than white gold.


Engraving and Micro-Pave: Platinum Wins Again

Because platinum is dense and soft it’s the perfect metal for engraving or openwork. Even after decades in the jewelry business, l marvel at the metalworker’s art. Beautiful hand engraving, breathtaking filigree, precision millegraining: all are best achieved in platinum.

LIke Don King picking Muhammed Ali, Platinum is my ONLY choice in the ring for micropave.

IF YOU REMEMBER NOTHING ELSE FROM THIS BLOG, REMEMBER THIS:
Platinum tends to wear small diamonds inward; white gold tends to spit diamonds out over time.

There are so many halo rings and micro-pave designs out there: in the “Battle of Little Rock”, bet on platinum for the long haul--or don’t bet it all.

There are jewelers all over the USA who are tired of playing Hansel and Gretel with white gold pave--many unhappy clients find their way back to the jewelry store by following a trail of tiny diamonds that are forced or have fallen from hard-worn settings.

Ante up for platinum if you have a lot of tiny diamonds in your ring.


A genuine antique platinum ring with filigree, calibrated-cut sapphires and accent diamonds.
A genuine antique platinum ring with filigree, calibrated-cut sapphires and accent diamonds.

White Gold May Outshine its Classier Cousin

If you want your jewelry to shine, platinum may not be your best choice, particularly if the design features flat, unadorned planes of high-polish metal. Within a matter of weeks or months, a platinum ring can look as though it’s been worn for years.

The same dense softness that allows platinum to take a fine hand engraving make it vulnerable to visible dents and dings.

When you scratch white gold, it still tends to reflect more light than platinum, which has a tendency to get a little grey over time.

White gold wins over platinum here. Ding!!!


Who Wins?

Both platinum and white gold have their merits. it’s important to have a jeweler who understands which metal will work for a particular client, a jeweler who'll consider your lifestyle and ergonomics as well as your fashion sense.

Happy hunting for that perfect ring... and may the better metal win!



Can you guess whether this classic ring is platinum or white gold?
Can you guess whether this classic ring is platinum or white gold?

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      Eileen Damone 5 years ago

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