Most rings or wedding bands are made from one of three metals: platinum, white gold or yellow gold. For diamond engagement rings or wedding rings, the popularity of platinum and white gold has increased dramatically in recent years. To help you make an informed choice for your ring or band material, here are some basic facts about the differences between platinum and white gold.
The purity of a platinum diamond engagement ring is usually higher than that of a gold ring, with the exception of 24 karat gold, which is 100% gold. Platinum is graded by a sterling number that represents parts per thousand of pure platinum. 900 sterling is 90% platinum, 950 sterling is 95% platinum and so forth. White gold engagement rings are often 18kt, which is 75% pure, or 14kt, which is just under 60% pure.
Both white gold and platinum are "white" in color. However, the color of white gold is actually due to its alloys and plating. Unlike yellow gold, which is alloyed with copper, silver and zinc, white gold is typically alloyed with copper, nickel (sometimes palladium is used due to nickel-related skin allergies) and zinc, resulting in gold that is light gray in color. A white gold wedding band or ring is usually plated with a very hard, white metal known as rhodium. To maintain the full whiteness of a white gold engagement ring, the rhodium must be replated about every year. A platinum wedding band or ring is naturally "white" and does not require plating. Platinum can lose its luster over time and become grayer, but this can be ameliorated with professional polishing.
Though rhodium-plated white gold and platinum jewelry are virtually indistinguishable to the casual eye, there is a significant difference in weight. Platinum is a very dense material and therefore much heavier than white gold. For example, a men's diamond wedding band made from platinum will be about 1/3 heavier than one made from 18kt white gold.
Hand-worn jewelry inevitably receives many invisible scratches that dull its appearance. The difference between platinum rings and white gold rings is that these so-called micro-scratches do not remove platinum from the ring. Burnishing a platinum ring will smooth out these infinitesimal furrows and restore the ring's original appearance. To renew the luster of a white gold ring, a small amount of metal is often added during polishing to replace the gold lost to scratching.
Platinum is an extremely rare metal that is 60% denser than gold. It is also less malleable than gold, which means that more labor is required to create a platinum antique engagement ring or wedding band than one made from white gold. For reasons of weight, rarity, purity and labor, platinum jewelry costs much more than white gold jewelry. However, because of platinum's natural beauty, endurance and low maintenance requirements, it is an ideal choice for long-term daily wear.