Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Precious Metal Conundrum: Platinum vs. White Gold

I was recently helping a client with the creation of his engagement ring when he plainly asked me which precious metal was the "best" metal. His question was not uncommon: people are of course seeking enduring symbols of their commitment, especially when they can be so expensive. He had settled for a white metal, but could not really distinguish between platinum and white gold. While I could not give favor to one metal over another, there are certainly pros and cons for each to consider:

1)Price: Practically speaking, metals, like gemstones are sold by weight. So while both platinum and gold are considered rare mined materials and thus their value reflects this status, you will find that platinum is also much more expensive than gold because it is a denser material. Ask to be handed a band of each metal and you will feel the difference instantly. Today gold was selling at 1682.24$/oz. whereas platinum sells for 1302.47$/oz.

An example of allergic reactions to base metals. Photo courtesy of

2) Allergies: Research shows that about 10% of the population has some form of allergic reaction to the base metals (such as nickel or copper); these alloys are mixed into gold which allow it to keep its shape. People will  often try to counterbalance this by selecting a higher grade of gold content like 18kt gold. Alternatively, platinum finds itself to be 950/1000 parts, meaning that it is relatively pure. Thus it has been marketed as the industry's most hypoallergenic material.

Slight differences between white gold that has not been plated, that has been rhodium-plated, and where the plating has worn off in time. Photo Courtesy of

3) Color: As mentioned earlier, 18kt white gold is alloyed with other base metals in order to maintain shape, but alloys are also used in order to alter the color of the metal. In nature, gold is only yellow/golden. Because of its degree of metal purity, in time 18kt white gold will take on slightly yellow tinges. By comparison, platinum is again, relatively pure; and because it is found in nature as a white metal, the metal will stay as white as the day it was bought.

4) Wear: I didn't use the word durability here because it can be rather misleading. There are a couple of things to consider here:

An example of a gold ring that has worn thin with time and regular wear of the left; on the right, the same ring refurbished to have an evenly thicker shank. This is common maintenance for gold rings. Photo courtesy of

- Platinum is a very unmalleable material and is notoriously difficult to work with. This also contributes to the elevated cost of making platinum jewelry (jewelers often cringe at the idea of sizing platinum rings). For this very same reason though, it is sought after because it does not tend to thin out or loose its shape as other, more malleable  metals do. Gold for instance, can indeed thin out with everyday wear over the long periods of time.
A close up of the "patina" finish on platinum; this is the typical wear that can be seen in platinum when worn regularly because it does not keep its finish as well as gold. Photo courtesy of

-That being said, platinum is a soft material and is very easily scratched, meaning that it will quickly loose that high polish finish it had when it was first purchased. Gold on the other hand, will resist scratching a lot more and will maintain its finish a lot longer.

Ultimately, I told my client that there was no magic material that could withstand the pressures of everyday life. After all, no matter on Earth can do that forever, not even diamond (despite what people say about it being ''indestructible '', but that's another story). So I asked him to consider which of these factors had been most important to him and to run with that. He has, and I'm happy to report that operation surprise engagement is well under way :-)

Stay tuned!

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