Gold Vs. Platinum
Choosing the right precious metal for your ring
Fine jewellery is typically crafted from either gold or platinum. But what are the differences between these two precious metals, and which is the right choice for you? On the one hand, gold is the 'original' precious metal of choice, whose beauty and value has been coveted for thousands of years. On the other, platinum is even rarer and more valuable than gold, and has gained a certain caché as the most luxurious of the precious metals in more recent years.
Perhaps the most obvious starting point when considering the differences between gold and platinum is their colour.
Gold is naturally yellow, though it is often alloyed (mixed with other metals) to form white gold or rose gold. Platinum on the other hand is a naturally greyish-white metal.
One of the most common dilemmas faced by a client choosing a ring is whether to go with white gold or platinum. If you find yourself in that position, there are a few useful facts to bear in mind.
Platinum in its unpolished state is actually a pale grey colour, but when it’s highly polished becomes so reflective that it takes on a bright white appearance. In contrast, white gold is a slightly off-white colour, retaining a hint of yellow even when polished, unless it is rhodium-plated (which most white gold is), in which case it takes on an even brighter white than platinum. The image below is of four 18ct white gold rings. Two are rhodium-plated (one polished and one matte) and two are unplated (again, one polished and one matte).
Alloys and hallmarks
Both gold and platinum are alloyed to make them more hardwearing, since in their pure forms they are too soft to be suitable for jewellery. It is this alloying that is also used to create the different colours of gold. By mixing gold with silver and copper, it retains a yellow colour; mixing it only with copper creates the pink colour of rose gold; and mixing it with silver and palladium produces white gold.
Pure gold or fine gold as it is called in the industry, is also known as 24ct gold. In the UK, the gold used in fine jewellery is most commonly alloyed to 18ct (18 parts out of 24, meaning 75% purity). In different countries there are other standards that have been adopted. In the US for example, 14 carat gold is very popular (58.3% purity). The UK hallmark for 18ct gold is ‘750’, signifying 750 parts gold out of 1000.
Platinum on the other hand is typically alloyed to 95% purity in the UK (the other 5% is usually ruthenium or cobalt), for which the hallmark is ‘950’ hallmark, signifying 950 parts platinum out of 1000.
In practical terms, one of the most important differences to be aware of is in malleability, platinum being less malleable than gold. This gives platinum the advantage when creating very delicate structures and very secure diamond settings. However, it can also be problematic if you want to set a softer gemstone like emerald, where the force need to create a platinum setting could damage the stone.
Wear and tear
Another important practical consideration is how the two metals age. Despite the very high tensile strength of platinum, it actually marks relatively easily, forming what is known as a 'patina' of tiny scratches on its surface, as shown in the image here of a single ring.
Wedding and engagement rings are inevitably subjected to significant wear and tear as a result of being worn every day. This is particularly noticeable on the underside of rings, where they come into regular contact with hard objects like door handles for example. After a while, platinum will lose its brightly polished finish, and take on a greyer colour, and will need to be re-polished every few years if you want it to look pristine.
In contrast, if you have a white gold ring that has been rhodium-plated, as the rhodium gets scuffed and scratched away it will eventually start to reveal the natural warmer colour of the white gold underneath. Every few years, the ring will need to be re-polished and re-plated if you want it to look bright white again.
On a final note, in addition to differences in their strength and durability, there is also a noticeable difference in the density of gold and platinum. While gold is famously heavy, platinum is even heavier. In fact, a platinum ring will weigh about 50% more than the same ring in 18ct white gold.
Please feel free to get in touch if you'd like any more advice on the which is the best precious metal option for you. We'd be delighted to help.