So you’ve decided that you want a “white” metal for your engagement ring or wedding band, but can’t decide if you should choose platinum or white gold. This is a situation that nearly all our customers who are in the market for an engagement ring or wedding band have found themselves in. To most people, these two metals look nearly identical, but they actually have very different properties. Deciding on the right metal type will have a long-term impact on the durability, appearance, and maintenance required for your ring, so we’ll help you make the right decision in the guide below.
Durability & Composition
To properly understand the difference in durability between white gold and platinum, it’s important to first understand the difference between the metal compositions. Pure gold is 24 karats, but it is very soft and not practical to use in jewelry. Dropping a 24kt ring on the ground or pressing on it firmly is often enough to bend the ring. For this reason, gold jewelry is usually mixed with alloy metals to increase durability. A 14kt ring for example, has more alloy metals than an 18kt ring, and is therefore stronger. In addition to the metal alloys, white gold jewelry is plated in rhodium to create the distinctive white color that its is known for.
Platinum on the other hand, is not mixed with very many alloy metals. Platinum wedding bands and engagement rings are generally between 90-95% platinum. Platinum naturally has a “white” shade, so it does not need to be plated in rhodium to create a different color.
When it comes to durability, the reality is that both of these precious metals can (and likely will be) scratched over time. Despite the fact that both will get scratched, there is actually a difference in how they get scratched.
When white gold takes damage, a very small, often microscopic amount of the metal tends to get left behind on the surface it came into contact with. In contrast, as platinum gets damaged during daily wear, the metal tends to move around as very small scratches are created.
This difference in wearing-down is a very important consideration when choosing the prongs for your engagement ring. Since more metal is lost overtime in white gold, this can make the prongs of your ring thin out over time or even break-off, which increases the risk of your diamond falling out or otherwise getting damaged. White gold prongs require re-tipping much more often than platinum prongs. Due to this, we always recommend for our clients to at least get platinum prongs on their engagement rings, even if the base of the ring is still white gold. This is not to say that your fully white gold engagement ring will fall apart, but it’s important to consider the superior durability of platinum prongs.
Platinum rings are generally more expensive than white gold rings. Platinum is both more rare than gold, and is more difficult for a jeweler to work with due to the properties of the metal. Also, as we explained previously, platinum rings are generally 90-95% pure platinum, while white gold rings contain more alloy metals. This means that you get a heavier ring with a very high percentage of platinum, increasing the value of the ring.
Appearance & Maintenance
Both platinum and white gold change their appearance over time. White gold is coated in a layer of rhodium, which will slowly wear away. This will lead to a yellowing of the product, but it will return to its original appearance after you get it rhodium plated again. In general, we have found that most clients start noticing this change within a year and get their ring rhodium plated again.
Platinum tends to move slightly when it takes damage, and these very small grooves and scratches in the ring will lead to a slightly duller finish over time. Many people actually prefer this faded appearance because it gives the ring a vintage look. Many other people, however, prefer the original shine and brighter finish of their platinum rings. A jeweler can re-polish your platinum ring back to its original finish, and most of our clients get this done roughly once a year.
Overall, the decision of which metal to choose for your wedding rings is a personal decision. They both do require a minimal degree of maintenance, but between re-tipping prongs and rhodium plating, most of our clients find that white gold requires more upkeep. Platinum rings, however, tend to be more expensive at the offset, even though they may require less maintenance during the lifetime of the ring. If you are concerned about having the most secure setting for your diamond, I would always recommend purchasing a platinum engagement ring or platinum prongs on a white gold engagement ring. However, if you pay careful attention to your ring, avoid damage, and don’t mind visiting the jeweler for regular maintenance on your ring, white gold might be the superior option for you. White gold rings also tend to be more cost-effective and come in many more unique designs than platinum, because the metal tends to be easier to work with for a jeweler. We hope this guide helps you on your journey to find the perfect wedding band or engagement ring!