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White Gold, Platinum or Silver? A guide to white metals

Updated: Oct 17, 2022

Platinum, White Gold, and Silver all look very similar to the eye. However, these three metals are all quite different, with different properties.


Wait, how can gold be white?

Platinum, Palladium, and Silver all naturally have a shiny white appearance. Yet pure gold has a yellow appearance. So how can they all be "white"?


Except for fine jewelry (fine gold and silver), all jewelry metals are not pure metals but a mixture of metals. These are called alloys. The precious metals are simply too soft, when pure, to last the test of time as jewelry. We add other metals such as copper, silver, and rare-earth elements to improve the hardness and durability – these additions can also change the color.


In large quantities, adding palladium and nickel to Gold makes the resulting alloy white. Zinc is also added. Similarly, adding a large amount of copper turns gold a rose color.


So how much gold, platinum, and silver are in each piece of jewelry?

Hallmarks or Stamping tell us the proportion of each precious metal in a piece of jewelry when it was tested by the company or an assay office (depending on the country).


It is always important to check the Hallmark or Stamp when buying jewelry. Read here.


For white gold, we commonly see 10K, 14K, and 18K standards (41.7%, 58.5%, and 75% Gold by weight, respectively). Platinum is typically sold at 950 Fineness (95% Platinum by weight). Sterling silver is the most common, at 92.5% Silver by weight.


Common Questions

Why would I choose platinum or white gold over silver?

Which is shinier? How long will it last?

Which is more durable?

Which one tarnishes less?

Do any cause a skin rash (contact dermatitis)?

Do both form a "patina"?

How much do they cost?

How can I tell the difference in the shop?

Be Careful! Plated Jewelry


White gold is often plated with a thin layer of metals such as Rhodium to give it an even brighter appearance. While this may look very nice to start with, it will not last forever. Over time, the plating will wear away and eventually expose the metal underneath. In the case of white gold, the color may be noticeable.


Any reputable jeweler will be able to tell you if the piece is plated or not, and it is always good to ask to avoid surprises.


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