Geology Home Page physical geology historical geology planetary gems
Roger Weller, geology instructor
platinum and gold
by Keesha Gordon
Platinum vs. White Gold
When deciding on a very special engagement ring many men and women both fuss over what they would consider the most important aspect of that ring, such as the size of the stone, preferably diamond, the cut, and the setting to be used. But there is another consideration to be made especially if one is not into yellow gold and that is a choice that is more common today than before. The new choice is whether to choose platinum or white gold. Believe it or not there is a significant difference between the two and there are pros and cons to choosing either.
So why has platinum become a new phenomenon in the jewelry industry? The answer is really quite simple and not as complex as some may think. The most important factor when choosing that perfect piece of jewelry has to be its “bling” factor. What that means is how much luster it exhibits and how much the piece stands out for everyone to notice. After all, women want others to notice their engagement ring and to some, its “bling” factor signifies how much the man actually cares for his woman.
Image of an engagement ring made of white gold available at Gillett’s Jewelers (http://gilletts.com.au)
Image of an engagement ring made of Platinum available at Elsa Jewelers (www.elsarings.com)
To begin with, the first important physical property of platinum that makes it appealing is it color. It is a white, silvery metallic looking metal that is easily polished without the need to add additional chemicals to maintain its appearance. In other words, unlike white gold, it never needs a rhodium coating polish to remain lustrous. With platinum its shiny luster is endless, no matter how old the piece may be and this is due in part to its ability to withstand corrosion and dullness caused by abrasions from normal wear and tear. When choosing this piece over white gold, it is important to note that platinum does not lose any metal due to scratches; therefore it rarely requires polishing to restore its original look. Its satin finish is indeed a lifetime physical characteristic (Aishwarya Nirmal, 2010).
Where exactly does platinum come from? Actually platinum is a very rare metal that is not easily found. Research indicates that it is primarily found in South Africa and Russia but that it can also be found in Zimbabwe, Canada and in some areas of the United States. This metal is a highly dense metal that is naturally occurring and is heavier and much harder than white gold.
This is an image of platinum
bars taken from the website article
written by Dachary Carey entitled “Where is Platinum Found?”
Owner: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Sample size: about 1.5 cm
Origin: Trinity River, Trinity Co., California, U.S.A.
Owner: Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County
Sample size: about 1.5 cm
his image was located on www.mineralatlas.com
In the article written by Dachary Carey entitled, “Where is Platinum Found?” he indicates that this metal can be found in ore, alluvial deposits, and in craters. According to Carey, platinum found in ore is the most common because it’s acquired during the process of mining for other minerals and is usually a by-product of such processes. He further explains that in addition to mineral ores, platinum is also sometimes found in alluvial deposits which are sands and gravels that accumulate on a river's flood plains. The river transports these sands containing the platinum, and then deposits them on the flood plain. Platinum in alluvial deposits may require less refining than platinum in ores, since it is found closer to a natural state. Dachary Carey goes on to state that platinum is found in greater quantities in and around craters and in moon rocks.
The scarcity and the rarity of this metal add to a very distinctive difference between platinum and white gold and that’s the price. Due to the fact that platinum is not as easily acquired as white gold this contributes to the higher price tag of platinum. Another reason for the higher cost is its ability to be crafted into jewelry. Platinum jewelry is made of 95% platinum making it less ductile and malleable than white gold. Due to the need to use a much higher heat melting point, platinum is much harder to cast than white gold (Nirmal, 2010).
Even though this metal is harder to find and more difficult to make into jewelry, many would say that it is well worth every dollar seeing as though it requires little to no maintenance at all. So, with all this information why would anyone that could afford platinum choose white gold? The answer could be that platinum may cause allergic reactions in some people due to its more pure properties. In this case white gold may take center stage as an option for those that have no desire to go with yellow gold.
What is White Gold?
White gold is an alloy of yellow gold that is mixed with white metals such as silver, nickel, palladium or zinc. Its physical characteristics are similar to that of platinum in that it is silver and metallic in color, and this color is achieved by the bleaching of the deep yellow color by the lighter colored metals. The amount of alloy mixed with the gold determines it “karat” which defines the purity of the gold (Daniel Parisi Jr., 2008). Over a period of time the white color which is in part achieved by rhodium coating, will fade to a slightly yellowish tint and require a re-coating or rhodium in order to maintain its shiny white luster.
In jewelry, especially rings this is a very common occurrence due to the chipping away of the coating during normal wear and tear. When this occurs parts of the metal itself is worn off causing the true appearance of the white gold (which in essence contains yellow gold) to fade and show true yellowish color. Because of this, it is recommended by some jewelers that the ring be re-rhodium polished every 12 to 18 months.
White gold begins to fade and the picture above is an example of a new product called Star White Gold offered by Arden Jeweller’s that is advertised as not needing to be re-plated. These images are from the Arden Jeweller’s website www.mygemologist.com.
Like platinum, in the past white gold caused a great deal of allergic reactions to some due to its high levels of nickel. But recent developments have been able to extinguish this problem replacing the nickel with rhodium and/or adding palladium to reduce to potential for allergic reaction.
Unlike platinum, white gold or gold is largely found in Nevada, Colorado, California and Alaska and most recently in large quantities in China (Paul Jorgensen, 2011). This contributes to the lower price tag of white gold. Contrary to that of platinum, white gold is more ductile and malleable making it an easier metal to craft into jewelry and easily making it a budget friendly choice.
The bottom line is there are two major factors to consider when deciding between these two metals when making the choice on an engagement ring. The first is exactly how much money is one willing to spend and two, does that bride-to-be have allergies to the infamous platinum. Just when men thought it was easy to choose that special ring there’s always one more thing to consider before making that financial move down the aisle.
Many would say that there’s an art to choosing the perfect engagement ring but many men would say there should be a class that offers lessons in that art.
White gold engagement ring setting vs. Platinum engagement ring setting
Images are from Bluenile Jeweler’s website; www.bluenile.com