Sterling silver, white gold, and platinum are the best white metals used in jewelry, which is why we consider this article the battle of the white metals.
Essentially, sterling silver, white gold, and platinum are metals that boast a lustrous white finish which is not only highly regarded but also the best metal options for anyone who is not into colored metals like yellow gold, bronze, rose gold, copper, etc.
But what are the differences between these metals? Which of the three is better than the rest, and which one would we recommend as the ideal white metal for you?
Well, to understand the differences between these three metals, we’ll look at each of the three individually to determine their difference and what makes some better than the others.
So, let’s get into it!
What is sterling silver metal?
Sterling silver is one of the most popular metal alloys used for jewelry. It is an alloy of silver, made of 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% copper, hence 925 sterling.
Although the ideal situation would mean having jewelry made of pure silver, 99.9% pure silver is beautiful but too soft to create durable jewelry or jewelry worth your money – pure silver as jewelry would only be ideal if you didn’t have to wear the jewelry daily and only if you want to keep the silver pieces stored away.
To create a more durable version of silver, copper is added to it, and this alloying makes it harder, a lot more durable, and also easy to work with.
The best thing about this is that the alloying makes it easier to work with the sterling silver in jewelry. The 92.5% sterling silver is the reason for the 925 hallmark sign that is often stamped on the sterling silver jewelry.
The downside of this is that the alloying with copper means that the sterling silver piece will tarnish much faster, and you’d have to clean it more frequently.
Pros and cons of 925 sterling silver
- Sterling silver is durable and stronger than pure silver
- Sterling silver boasts an elegant grayish-white sheen
- The cool color of the sterling silver blends well with most gemstones
- Easy maintenance
- Sterling silver jewelry tarnishes over time and develops black or dark grey specks.
- It requires regular cleaning
What is white gold metal?
Although the name can be misleading, and you may think that there is a version of gold that is naturally white, the truth is that white gold is one of the 3 alloys of gold made from the combination of gold with other white metals in different proportions.
The other alloys of gold are yellow gold and rose gold (pink) gold, but white gold stands out from these three because the end result of the alloying process is an elegantly designed white metal. White gold is an alloy of pure gold or 24k gold and other white metals like palladium, or silver, among other metals.
This alloying of gold with white metals is necessary not only in the creation of white gold but also for the hardening of the gold to create a durable version of gold and equally durable jewelry.
As a result, white gold is not only more lustrous than sterling silver but is also harder and stronger, and this metal will not tarnish.
But that is not all – the creation of white gold doesn’t end with the alloying of gold with other white. After alloying, the resultant gold alloy is not the lustrous white metal that we know white gold of, but an off-white metal.
The white, lustrous white gold that we all know and love comes about from the plating of the ‘white’ gold alloy with rhodium. Rhodium belongs to the same precious metal group as platinum, and it boasts the same white, lustrous finish as platinum, hence its use in creating white gold.
Thanks to the plating with rhodium, all versions of white gold look the same on the surface. However, the types of white gold differ depending on the composition of the pure gold element that is alloyed with the other elements. 14K white gold contains 58.3% pure gold and 41.7% white metals alloyed to it like platinum, manganese, palladium, and/or nickel.
In other instances, white gold is created from the alloying of pure gold with metals like zinc, copper, and silver. In most cases, however, white gold is made from gold alloyed with palladium and silver to create a high-value and skin-safe white gold.
However, there are few jewelry makers who alloy gold with copper, zinc, and nickel before plating it with rhodium – when this happens, the white gold jewelry might irritate the skin when the rhodium layer wears out, and the nickel present in the alloy gets in contact with the skin of the person with metal allergies.
Note that plating of white gold with rhodium not only gives it that nice color and shine while reducing incidences of allergies but also enhances the durability level of the white gold pieces that are created.
Pros and cons of white gold
- Elegant sheen and finish that enhances the value of white gold jewelry
- White gold is mostly safe on the skin and hardly causes allergies
- It is durable and strong
- The white, lustrous finish of white gold makes this gold alloy one of the best metals for diamonds to be encrusted on
- The rhodium-plated layer wears out after some time, often after the 2-year mark.
- Once the layer of rhodium wears out, the exposed base metals may cause an allergic reaction.
What is platinum?
Platinum is a precious metal and a chemical element that is largely used to make jewelry. It is non-reactive durable, and the most interesting aspect about platinum has got to be the fact that platinum is rarer than gold.
As a result, it is very costly. Another thing to note about platinum is that it is a naturally hard metal, unlike gold or silver, and this precious white metal is used to create jewelry at about 95% purity level, which is why platinum jewelry pieces are quite expensive.
It’s also slowly gaining popularity because it is tarnish-resistant, doesn’t corrode, and also is malleable to allow for use in creating jewelry in different styles and designs.
Pros and cons of Platinum
- Platinum is very durable, thanks to the fact that it is a hard and dense metal.
- It is highly resistant to scratching
- Corrosion, tarnish, and damage-resistant
- It maintains its shine for a very long time, and it will develop a patina years later, and the patina somehow makes the platinum piece look even better.
- It is beautiful
- It enhances the sparkle of the diamonds
- It is quite expensive
- Though durable and lasts many years, some people dislike it because it is heavier than most other white metals like white gold or sterling silver.
What are the differences between sterling silver, white gold, and platinum?
So, how do these three white metals compare?
Sterling silver vs. white gold vs. platinum- Price
Out of these three white metals, sterling silver is the most affordable option of the bunch, primarily because it is the most common metal out of the three. Platinum is the most expensive of the three because of its rarity and the fact that it requires minimal maintenance.
White gold is also relatively expensive, depending on the purity level of the gold, with 18k white gold valued higher than 10k white gold.
Unfortunately, white gold needs to be replated after about 2 years because the plated layer of rhodium over the gold wears out with time, and this adds to its overall cost and may even affect its value.
Sterling silver vs. white gold vs. platinum- Color
Sterling silver has more of a grayish-white color but also features an elegant sheen to it, along with a cool undertone that complements most types of gemstones allowing them to pop. It tarnishes, though, and when this happens, the sheen is lost, and a dark grey color pops instead.
White gold, though a yellow gold alloy, is plated with rhodium for a nice, white, mirrored finish. Unfortunately, the expensive layer of rhodium will wear out, and you may notice a yellowish tinge on the white gold piece after some time.
Then you have platinum which boasts a naturally bright, greyish-white lustrous sheen that lasts a long time and only needs to be polished. It also develops a patina after some time, a feature that many people are fond of.
Sterling silver vs. white gold vs. platinum-Durability
Platinum is a very hard, dense, and heavy metal that easily lasts a lifetime with minimal maintenance. It also doesn’t really scratch easily and needs minimal maintenance and care. And even with gemstones set on platinum, you wouldn’t have to worry about them falling out too soon.
On the other hand, white gold and sterling silver are relatively durable but also extremely susceptible to scratching, and this means that they need constant care.
When white gold gets scratched, the inner base metal layer of ‘yellowish-white gold’ is exposed, and this doesn’t look good on a piece that is supposed to be lustrous white. Sterling silver also tarnishes easily and is not the most durable metal because of its softness – but you only need to clean and polish it, and it will look as good as new.
So, if you want the most durable ring and don’t mind the extra weight, platinum would be the ideal option for you.
Sterling silver vs. white gold vs. platinum- Popularity
Between the three, sterling silver and white gold are undoubtedly the most popular white metals used to make different kinds of jewelry. But even between sterling silver and white gold, sterling silver is much more popular because it is the most affordable precious metal (alloy) used in jewelry making.
Choosing between these three metals can be a little challenging, but your decision is ultimately determined by your needs and budget.
If you don’t mind splurging on a low-maintenance, very durable, and beautiful metal that is valuable, might last forever, and develops a nice patina but is relatively heavy, opt for platinum.
If you don’t mind replating the jewelry every few years, white gold would be ideal, and if you are on a tight budget and need something simple, we recommend sterling silver.
Tiger is a fashion&jewelry lover. He is also a fashion jewelry manufacturer that help thousands of small business to grow and also do business with some big fashion jewelry brands. He is a truly metal expert and he will share some information you are looking for.