White Gold vs. Platinum

White Gold vs Platinum – Basics

Many alloys exist and new ones are constantly being developed. Here is an overview of some of the most common ones encountered in the crafting of jewelry, with a focus on platinum vs white gold.

Basics-1 | Precious Metal Overview

Fine jewelry settings are created from precious metals. This page provides information about gold, white gold, rhodium plating, and nickel allergies, as well as fine distinctions between the more common platinum alloys. We will also cover platinum vs white gold and much more.

precious metal overview

Metal Allergies

When considering white gold vs platinum, remember that about 15% of people are impacted by metal allergy, a condition where the body perceives certain types of metals as toxins. Nickel, used in some white gold and copper alloys, causes the most trouble for those with metal allergies. The safest, most hypoallergenic jewelry for those who may have sensitive skin or known allergies is platinum.

Basics-2 | Gold Alloys

Gold is popular because it can be worked into almost any shape. Yellow gold jewelry of 18K and above does not tarnish and rarely causes problems for people with skin irritations. When considering white gold vs platinum, the wider availability and price point of gold compared to platinum alloys appeals to many people.

Heads Up: “White Gold” is Not Actually White

Gold alloys can be lightened in combination with light metals, but in most cases “white gold” is yellow gold coated with a plating of rhodium. This creates a hard white shell with good resistance. Over time, this plating can wear down, but re-plating is a fairly simple process depending on the condition of the piece.

In most cases, the frequency of re-plating is about the same as the frequency of re-polishing a platinum ring to restore it to original condition – though a high quality plating job can last longer than a polish on platinum due to the superior hardness of rhodium.

Common Fine Gold Alloys

    1. 18K yellow gold
    2. 18K white gold, rhodium plated
    3. 18K palladium white gold, not plated

Examples of yellow and white gold rings

1. 18K Yellow Gold

    • 75% Gold, alloyed with Copper, Silver, Zinc and/or Cobalt
    • Does not require plating
    • + Very workable
    • + Rarely causes skin irritation
    • – Will wear down, but over a long period of time with heavy wear

2. 18K White Gold (Nickel White Gold)

    • 75% Gold, alloyed with Copper, Nickel, Zinc and/or Palladium
    • Requires rhodium plating and re-plating over time, depending on wear
    • + Less workable, less ductile
    • – Causes skin irritation for people with nickel allergies
    • – Will wear down over a long period of time

18K Palladium White Gold3

    • 75% Gold, 25% Palladium
    • Requires rhodium plating and re-plating over time, depending on wear
    • + Very workable
    • + Rarely, if ever, causes skin irritation
    • – Will wear down over a long period of time
    • – More expensive than 18K nickel WG

Basics-3 | Platinum Alloys

When considering platinum vs white gold, remember that platinum is a versatile, eternal metal. It does not fade or tarnish and is ideal for those with sensitive skin because it is hypoallergenic. It’s the most durable metal for setting any kind of gemstone, which is why gold settings sometimes use platinum heads to hold their diamonds.

Platinum vs White Gold: The Main Difference

Platinum’s density gives it a unique quality. When platinum is scratched none of the volume is lost, the metal is merely displaced as ridges are raised on the edge of the scratch. As platinum is worn, it develops a patina-like appearance. It can be polished again and again because this is just moving the metal around, not wearing it down. Other precious metals lose material over time. Gold prongs wear down and rings can get thinner with wear. Platinum prongs bend but rarely break, and they do not wear down.

Common Platinum Alloys

    1. Platinum-iridium
    2. Platinum-ruthenium
    3. Platinum-cobalt

Examples of three platinum alloys

There are 4 platinum alloys commonly used in the USA. From softest to hardest:

    • 950 PLAT/IR = 950 parts platinum, 50 parts Iridium
    • 900 PLAT/IR = 900 parts platinum, 100 parts Iridium
    • 950 PLAT/RU = 950 parts platinum, 50 parts Ruthenium
    • 950 PLAT/CO = 950 parts platinum, 50 parts Cobalt

950 Platinum alloyed with Iridium

A medium-hard alloy which is malleable and well-suited for bench work, 950 PLAT/IR is good for both casting and handmade pieces. It is a top choice for soft or fragile gem setting. The greater softness requires a longer polishing process. It is also less scratch and bend resistant than harder alloys, but holds a stone better if an impact occurs, like a shock absorber. Over time it is very resistant to signs of wear. When visually comparing platinum vs white gold, 950 PLAT/IR is more gray than new rhodium plating.

900 Platinum alloyed with Iridium

A great combination of hardness and malleability, 900 PLAT/IR is easy to polish and has good white color. It is excellent for both casting and handmade work. Less pressure is required to set gemstones than with harder alloys. It is resistant to scratching and bending and over time, is very resistant to signs of wear. When visually comparing platinum vs white gold, 900 PLAT/IR is slightly more gray than new rhodium plating.

950 Platinum alloyed with Ruthenium

950 PLAT/RU is extremely hard. It has the highest melting temperature of all platinum alloys. Somewhat darker gray in color than platinum-iridium, it is less malleable, more challenging to solder and weld, and hard to burnish. Bench workers find it tough on burs, files and drills. Some setters recommend it for diamonds only, since more pressure must be imposed on gemstones during the setting process. It is extremely scratch and bend-resistant and extremely resistant to signs of wear over time. When visually comparing platinum and white gold, 950 PLAT/RU is slightly more gray than new rhodium plating.

950 Platinum alloyed with Cobalt

950 PLAT/CO has the lowest flow point of common platinum alloys, making it good for even, dense castings, but not for work by hand. This alloy tarnishes when heated, so it needs flux and pickling after soldering just like gold – unlike other platinum alloys. While it takes a fast polish, it finishes darker gray than iridium. It requires moderate pressure on gemstones during the setting process. Bench workers find it more “gold-like” and easy on the tools. It holds up to wear quite well over time. Cobalt is a ferrous metal not from the platinum group, so its scraps must be kept separate from other platinum scraps. When visually comparing platinum and white gold, 950 PLAT/CO is more gray than new rhodium plating and more gray than other platinum alloys.

Summary

950 and 900 PLAT/IR are the whitest and softest of the common alloys, excellent for production and setting. They solder and weld more easily than other platinum alloys. 900 PLAT/IR is a popular and traditional standard in the USA. The global platinum standard is 95% by weight, so producers with a global clientele frequently use 950 PLAT/IR. In any comparison of platinum vs white gold, the alloy will be slightly more gray than new rhodium plating.


Intermediate Platinum vs White Gold

Analysis

Analysis-1 | Platinum vs Gold Purity

Gold Purity

24K gold (100% pure gold) does not work well for jewelry because it is too soft. A more durable option is 18K gold, which is 75% pure gold. It has the rich yellow color of 24K gold where less pure alloys do not.

A Common Misconception about Platinum Purity

When people hear 950 PLAT described as 95% platinum, they assume that means 95% by volume, it doesn’t. The percentage is by weight. Platinum is the heaviest of these metals. Therefore, it requires far more than 5% by volume of a lighter metal to match platinum by 5% in weight.

Atomic Weights

Metal Atomic Weight
Platinum 195.078
Iridium 192.217
Ruthenium 101.070
Cobalt 058.933

Platinum vs white gold: common platinum alloys by volume graphic

Analysis-2 | Platinum vs Gold Hallmarks

Gold Hallmarks

18K gold is the most recognized global standard and will be marked ’18K’ in the USA and ‘750’ in Europe.

Platinum Hallmarks

    • 95% platinum is the world standard, marked “950” in most countries of origin
    • 90% platinum is a popular and traditional USA standard, marked “900Pt”
    • 50%-90% platinum may be marked “Plat” in other countries, but only 950+ platinum can be marked as “Platinum” in the USA

Analysis-3 | Hardness vs Durability

In discussions about white gold vs platinum, people often confuse hardness with strength, but these are not the same.

Hardness (HV): Often referred to as “scratch resistance,” hardness is measured using the Vickers Hardness Scale. This tests the hardness of a metal by pushing a pointed object into the surface with a specified load and gauging penetration. When testing white gold vs platinum, gold is often harder.

Durability (PSI): Tensile strength, or durability is measured in pounds per square inch. When testing platinum vs white gold, platinum is always denser and more durable.

Comparison Chart

Alloy Hardness Durability
18k Gold 125 HV 29,000 PSI
950 PLAT/IR 80 HV 40,000 PSI
900 PLAT/IR 110 HV 55,000 PSI
950 PLAT/RU 130 HV 66,000 PSI
950 PLAT/CO 135 HV 64,000 PSI

Gold is harder than some of the platinum alloys and will resist scratches better. Platinum is almost twice as durable as gold, is more ductile and has much greater longevity. For the body of a piece the differences are not critical. For the prongs, there are implications: for instance, white gold prongs will break. Yellow gold prongs will bend more, as will platinum, but platinum prongs are more durable over time. In any question of white gold vs platinum prongs platinum is recommended.


Advanced Platinum vs White Gold

Evaluation

Evaluation-1 | Other Alloys

When considering platinum vs white gold, the alloys above are the most common by far, but many other alloys exist.

Stuller’s X1 (extreme white) White gold is formulated to achieve a very good white color, without the need for rhodium plating. When considering white gold vs platinum, many people prefer an option like this, which is naturally white. It has a high nickel content, so it is not hypoallergenic.

White gold alloys using chromium and iron instead of nickel have been developed to address nickel allergies.

Colored gold alloys range from 8K to 22K in gold content and can be produced in color shades such as rose and red (greater copper content), green (more silver) and even purple (gold-aluminum). When considering white gold vs platinum, note that these choices are only available in gold alloys.

950 Palladium is similar to platinum alloys; 95% palladium alloyed with 5% ruthenium by weight. Like platinum alloys, it only requires occasional re-polish. However, it is not as white as more common platinum/iridium alloys and is priced similarly, and not many people work with it. When visually comparing white gold vs platinum vs palladium, newly rhodium-plated white gold is always more white.

Plat/S+ is another 950 platinum alloy offered by Hoover & Strong (the remaining ingredients are proprietary). Harder than other traditional platinum alloys, it was developed by the late Steven Kretchmer, who introduced tension-set rings in the USA, under the name SK Platinum.

950 PlatOro is 95% platinum and 5% gold by weight. Also from Hoover & Strong, it has high flow characteristics which keep porosity to a minimum. It is ductile, with similar hardness to Pt950/Ru.

New alloys are constantly being developed. As with precious stones, the variety of offerings and options available to the consumer in precious metals and alloys reflects the wide variety of taste among enthusiasts. In any decisions of white gold vs platinum vs palladium vs any other metal, the choice becomes personal.

Evaluation-2 | The Most Important Element

Above and beyond the question of platinum vs white gold, the way the piece was formed, the heat treatments, welding and soldering applied and the skill of the craftsman involved are all as critical to the final product as the alloy itself.

Seasoned craftsmen and metalsmiths may develop favorite alloys based on personal experience and preference, but no precious metal alloy is “better” or “worse” than others. In fact, the most important element is the way the piece is cared for. How the wearer cares for their jewelry will be more significant to how it holds up over time than any other factor.

Get quick answers to any question now: Ask our community of unbiased independent helpers.

Ready to find your diamond?

Find Loose Diamonds Here

Our thanks to John Pollard, educational specialist, and the photography team at Whiteflash for providing much of the content above.

Scroll to Top