What’s the difference between white gold and platinum?

Posted on Sunday, February 9th, 2014 at 2:24 pm by Debbie Fox

New platinum and white gold jewelry look alike, but they’re very different!  The differences show up over time, and each has it's own advantages. Here’s what’s important to know before you purchase.

Platinum is white; White gold is slightly grayish

Plated white gold ring versus unplated white gold ringWhite gold is yellow gold with alloys added to make it white. Imagine adding milk to orange juice. It will become whiter, but it will never be completely white. To make white gold appear fully white, it is plated, or ‘dipped,’ with rhodium. Rhodium, one of the five platinum metals, coats the jewelry with a bright white layer. But rhodium wears off, and must be replated. Platinum, on the other hand, is a completely white metal, and never needs plating.

Plating will need to be done most frequently for rings because they receive the most wear. Bracelets will need rhodium plating from time to time, while pendants and earrings rarely need plating.

Platinum is more durable and softer than white gold

It seems impossible, but it’s true! Platinum is infinitely more durable than gold (white gold or yellow gold). For example, every time you brush a gold ring against something or a jeweler polishes it, a bit of gold comes off. Remember your grandfather’s old gold ring? After years of wear, the thick backside of the ring had become thin or broken through. But every time you touch or polish a platinum ring, almost nothing comes off. What happens? With platinum, the metal moves around, or ‘displaces.’ It’s softer than gold.

Platinum’s durability make it an ideal setting for rings with small diamonds and intricate designs. The prongs should last through the next generation and any detail will stay intact for far longer.

On the other hand, white gold’s hardness makes it an ideal setting for rings with less gems and a greater polished surface area. White gold lends itself to more secure stone settings, such as channel setting, bezel setting and most prong setting.

Worn Platinum BandAntique Diamond Engagement Ring
Why is custom platinum jewelry from Fox more durable and hard?

Unlike manufactured platinum jewelry, Fox Fine Jewelry uses a special Heat Treatable Alloy in their platinum. This gives the best of both worlds: durability and hardness. These custom platinum pieces are as scratch resistant as white gold jewelry.

Why does platinum jewelry cost more?

Platinum jewelry costs more because:

  1. Platinum jewelry is more pure (90 - 95% pure for platinum versus 58.5% pure for 14 karat gold)
  2. Platinum is denser than gold. This means that for a similar ring, a platinum ring weighs more than a gold one, and therefore needs more metal
  3. Platinum has historically cost the same or more than gold
  4. Platinum is more challenging to work with and requires a greater level of skill

All of these factors contribute to platinum jewelry’s higher cost. Consider the size of the piece when choosing your preferred metal. For example, a platinum bracelet will cost far more than a white gold bracelet, but a narrow engagement ring will not have such a large price differential.

When choosing between platinum and white gold consider the following:

Factors that point towards a platinum setting

  • Are there lots of very small gems that are prong or pave set?
  • Is there a lot of detailing, like openwork or engraving?
  • Is it a ring that will get heavy use?
  • Is this a custom ring made by Fox?
  • Can I afford or finance the additional cost?

Factors that point towards a white gold setting

  • Are there a smaller number of gems and a polished surface?
  • Are the gems securely set, especially channel or bezel set?
  • Is this a bracelet, pendant or earrings, or an occasional ring?
  • Am I willing to have the ring plated every so often?
  • Is white gold more within my price range?

Take these factors into consideration when you choose platinum or white gold. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re here to help!

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