A common question we get from clients is “Platinum vs white gold for my ring? What should I choose?”

At Katannuta Diamonds we always like to strike a balance between aesthetics, practicality, durability and affordability when we design and manufacture our engagement and wedding rings. Depending on the design of a ring, a significant amount of the cost of manufacture is tied to the metal that we use to make the ring and, given that engagement rings and wedding rings are intended to be worn “forever”, you want a metal that’s going to stand the test of time. There are currently only two metals that we are recommending (and manufacturing in) for our engagement rings – gold (white, rose and yellow) and platinum.

For many consumers, the platinum vs white gold ring debate is confusing because they don’t often know the difference between the two. Sometimes we’ll get someone asking for their ring in silver, because that’s the colour they like, not necessarily realising that silver is not practical for using in engagement rings or wedding rings.

We have always considered platinum to be the king of metals and up until about a year ago platinum was more expensive than gold. Now however, manufacturing a piece of jewellery in platinum costs less than making the piece in 18ct gold, which is a huge bonus for anybody looking for a white metal engagement ring or wedding band.

platinum vs white gold vs silver rings

An unplated 9ct white gold ring (with 20% palldium), left, next to a sterling silver ring. Both metals are white, but the colours are completely different.

What you need to know about gold

Before we dive into a direct comparison between platinum and white gold, let’s look a little more closely at gold. Gold is a native metal, which means it occurs naturally in its elemental form, and is a yellow, soft, malleable and ductile metal. Pure (or 24 carat) gold is too soft to use in jewellery and it is thus alloyed with a variety of other metals that make the gold stronger and more durable for use in jewellery, but can also change the colour of the gold. Rose gold, for instance, is made by alloying copper with the native gold.

In South Africa, the two most common gold alloys used in the jewellery industry are 18ct gold (75% gold, 25% alloy) and 9ct gold (37.5% gold, 62.5% alloy). To make 18ct white gold, we will thus alloy 75% with 25% of white metals such as silver, palladium and some copper. When you mix 75% yellow material with 25% white material, your resulting product is not going to be pure white; it’s going to be a dirty greyish yellow colour.

9ct white gold has a higher proportion of white metals, and a lower yellow gold content, and can thus be “whiter” than 18ct white gold; but it will still have a dirty yellow undertone. To counteract this dirty whitish yellow colour of white gold, all white gold is electroplated with another metal, rhodium.

Platinum vs white gold in a ring

Variation of colours of precious metals when made into jewellery.

What is rhodium?

Rhodium is part of the platinum group of metals and is exceptionally rare. Mined alongside platinum, it is predominantly used in the automotive industry but its bright white and metallic appearance has led to its use in the plating of white gold.

This rhodium plating on white gold is literally microns thin and, over time, the plating will wear off, revealing the natural dirty white colour of white gold. Often, people will think their white gold is “tarnishing”, but it’s not – it is just the rhodium plating wearing off. The rate at which rhodium plating wears off white gold jewellery depends on a number of factors including what the jewellery is (plating on a ring will wear off faster than on a pendant for instance), but generally speaking an engagement or wedding ring will need re-plating every one to two years or so.

18ct white gold engagement ring and wedding ring

18ct white gold engagement ring and wedding ring set, just after manufacture (rhodium-plated).

Same wedding ring showing rhodium plating wearing off on the bottom of the ring, where it is most susceptible to rubbing off. It shows the natural dirty yellow colour of 18ct white gold where the plating has worn off (excuse the fuzzy client picture).

What you need to know about platinum

Platinum, by contrast, is a naturally white metal – that’s how it occurs in nature. The word platinum is actually derived from the Spanish word “platino” which means “little silver”. Platinum is exceptionally rare, very resistant to corrosion and is exceptionally strong, which makes it perfect for providing a secure setting for valuable gemstones in jewellery. Our platinum jewellery is manufactured 95% pure, with only 5% alloy. Platinum is also hypoallergenic and thus perfect for people with sensitive skin or known allergies.

Any rings that are worn for any length of time will eventually get scratched and start to show some wear and tear. This is perfectly normal. Platinum is harder than gold and is thus harder to scratch. When gold scratches, tiny flecks of the metal wear away (think about how thin a grandparents gold ring is when they’ve worn it for 40+ years) but when platinum scratches, no volume of metal is lost. The atoms of platinum are literally just moved slightly out of position but a professional jewellery polishing will fix all the scratches.

Platinum is also heavier than gold, and in the context of jewellery, a platinum ring is 40% heavier than an 18ct gold ring (irrespective of gold colour). This meant that even as the platinum price started coming down and the gold price started rising, the platinum ring was more expensive because it required more metal.

Platinum vs white gold ring

Three of our bespoke engagement rings. Two are manufactured in 18ct white gold, one is in platinum. Straight off the bench, you cannot see a visible colour difference in platinum vs white gold in the rings. Over time, the rhodium plating will wear off the white gold rings, but the platinum colour will remain the same for the life of the ring.

Platinum vs white gold. What should you choose?

Now, with gold having reached it’s highest price point in 9 years (at the time of writing this article, it’s currently sitting at $2035/oz), the platinum price is low enough (currently $880/oz) for it to be more cost-effective to make a ring in platinum than in 18ct white gold.

That means if you’re looking for an engagement ring or wedding ring in 18ct white gold, choosing platinum instead of 18ct white gold is the best option. You’re getting a naturally white metal that is stronger, more durable, more resistant to wear and tear and requires less maintenance than white gold. It is, to coin a phrase, a no-brainer!

9ct white gold is of course much cheaper than platinum so if your budget only allows for 9ct white gold, that’s understandable. If you are looking for a rose gold or yellow gold ring, then we can have a chat about 9ct gold vs 18ct gold, but if you’re considering an 18ct white gold vs platinum ring – just trust us, go for the platinum. It’ll serve you far better in the long run and will last you a lifetime. Just as you intend when you pop the question or exchange your vows!

If you need more clarity on which metal will be best for your budget and jewellery requirements, please don’t hesitate to give us a call on +27 (0) 83 234 0247 or contact us via our website. We’ll give you honest advice on what will be best for your personal needs.