Platinum vs. White Gold

platinum raw nuggets illustration

Platinum is indeed a noble metal, it is the king of metals and the metal of kings. Platinum is superior to yellow gold in almost every aspect and vastly superior to white gold. Its purity symbolizes marriage. Platinum’s neutral color is perfect for setting colorless diamonds. Nearly twice as dense as gold, a platinum ring has a pleasant heft and solid feel on the finger.

Platinum is so rare that all the platinum ever found can fit into a large room. In comparison, all the gold produced from the dawn of civilization can fill a 30-story building. Platinum jewelry contains 95% pure platinum making it hypoallergenic. Gold jewelry has less than 75% of pure gold, the rest is mostly copper and silver. Nickel-alloyed white gold used in cheap jewelry is toxic. 

Platinum is much denser than white gold, and it has an invaluable solid feel. When it comes to bespoke production, platinum is the king. Platinum has a high melting point and excellent malleability that makes it perfect for hand fabrication. Platinum alloyed with ruthenium has a superior hardness that allows for the highest level of precision and finishes.

White gold is easy to cast, but it is difficult to forge by hand due to its low melting point, softness, oxidation, burning, marmiting, and solder porosity. A bespoke jewel usually requires a large number of parts soldered together. Unfortunately, white gold solder quickly deteriorates when it is repeatedly heated. That in turn, prevents a jeweler from assembling as many elements as required by design. A platinum piece, on the other hand, can have an unlimited number of solder joints.

White gold requires repeated “dipping” to stay white, but platinum is naturally white, so no plating is required. Platinum is self-burnishing, which means its surface compresses with age instead of shedding the top layer. Unlike the battered appearance of worn gold jewelry, aged platinum has a dignified appearance. After its surface is evenly dented and punctuated by microscopic dings, it acquires a permanent and highly desirable patina. Old platinum pieces have a look similar to brightly polished vintage silverware, a unique glistening look best described as “shabby chic.”

White Gold is the bleached impostor

Created during the Second World War, when platinum use in jewelry was restricted, white gold became a cheap platinum substitute. The rich yellow color of pure gold is bleached to a yellowish grey by mixing gold with palladium or nickel.

Palladium belongs to the platinum group of metals – a group of six noble metals with similar chemical and mechanical properties. All these metals are non-reactive and do not oxidize. Alloying gold with palladium rarely causes trouble.

Nickel, on the other hand, can cause severe skin allergies affecting roughly 10% of the population. Sensitivity to nickel is the common cause of a condition called contact dermatitis. Nickel use in jewelry was officially banned by the European Union in 2009 but remains widespread in the US, which can explain our low math scores.

Virtually all white gold jewelry and watches are coated with rhodium, a bright white metal similar to chromium in color. Rhodium plating gives white gold its unnaturally white finish. Eventually, the plating wears off, revealing the underlying surface’s warm tint.

Platinum price

Despite all its advantages, the current platinum per-ounce price is significantly below the gold price. The gold prices began to overtake platinum prices right after the global financial crisis of 2008. Two identical rings, one platinum, one gold, will have different weights because platinum has a higher density. The gold ring, on the other hand, weighs less, so its cost is lower than the platinum ring.

Example:

18K gold ring weighs 15 grams. It has 11.3 grams of pure gold which has a net cost of $573 at the current price of $1,577 per ounce (February 2020). The same exact ring in platinum weighs 20 grams or 19 grams of pure platinum. Its net cost is $593 at the current platinum price of $970 per ounce. (February 2020). 

The precision of platinum work

Hand forging platinum is easier and less expensive than using white gold. Casting platinum is labor-intensive. It requires special equipment and skills which complicate production and affects its total cost. When a jeweler tells you that a platinum mounting costs more than gold, you can bet you are getting a piece of casting.

When it comes to custom benchwork without using CAD or molds, platinum work is less expensive. You pay slightly more for the metal, but the labor cost is significantly less.

White gold vs platinum color comparison by leon mege

Platinum allows a bench jeweler to achieve a higher degree of precision. Sharp edges, precise angles, well-defined curves, and clean joints are hallmarks of a hand-forged platinum piece. Working with platinum is a pleasant experience for a bench jeweler. The result is always far superior to anything crafted in white gold. A happy jeweler makes a beautiful ring, and a grumpy jeweler makes a clump of metal.

Platinum vs Gold Hardness Chart

Metal hardness on the Vickers scale. The higher the number the harder the alloy. The chart does not specify the difference in hardness between casting and cold-forged metal.

 110 Platinum 5% Ir Very soft, rarely used
 135 Platinum Cobalt 4.5% Production, casting
 130 Platinum 10% Ir Casting
 190-216 White gold 18K Pd Casting, limited benchwork
 150-210 Yellow gold 18K 17%Ag/8%Cu Casting, bench work
 220-230 Platinum 5.0% Ru Bespoke work
 220 White gold 18K Ni Hard and toxic
 350 White gold 14K Ni Extremely hard

 

Fascinating facts about platinum:

  • Platinum jewelry made its debut in the United States in the early 1900s.
  • Unlike gold and silver, platinum can be used for redemption. First Peter 1:18-19 – “For you know that it was not with perishable things such as silver or gold that you were redeemed from the empty way of life handed down to you from your forefathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect.”
  • Platinum is not on the list, so we can safely assume it’s OK to use it.
  • The world’s most precious gemstones and diamonds, including the famous Hope diamond and Dresden Green, are set in platinum.
  • During the Second World War, platinum was declared a strategic material and banned in the United States for civilian use.
  • Platinum is hypoallergenic and has many medical and dental applications.
  • Platinum is used as a catalyst in the manufacture of silicone breast implants.
  • In 1557 Italian physician Julius Scaliger described a metal found in Central America by Spanish conquistadors that wouldn’t melt.
    He called this new metal “platina,” meaning “little silver.” Conquistadors thought that that the metal was an unripe gold.
  • In 1888, platinum was discovered in Canada in the nickel-copper ores of Ontario.
  • Platinum has been known to Europeans since the 17th century.
    However, it was not commercially produced for two centuries until technological advancements came along.
  • Until 1820 all of the world’s platinum came from Colombia, where hormigas culonas are considered a delicacy and an aphrodisiac. Fried ants, that’s what hormigas culonas are, is Colombian Viagra.
  • The Imperial State Crown of Great Britain contains platinum along with gold and silver.
    Queen Elizabeth II owns it and used it for her coronation.
  • In 2019 only 190 metric tons of platinum were produced worldwide, compared to 3,300 tons of gold or 1.87 billion tons of steel.
  • All the platinum ever mined in the world could fit into a single room unless you live in New York, where it probably fills the entire apartment.
  • All of the platinum ever mined until now weighs 10,000 metric tons.
    It would barely fill 300 cubic feet, less than half of the water in a medium-size swimming pool.
  • A Spanish shipwreck with cannons containing platinum alloy supposedly was found in the Caribbean.
  • South Africa is producing more than twice as much platinum as all other countries combined.
  • In 2019 European jewelers consumed 5.5 metric tons, Japanese 8.5 tons, North Americans 6.5 tons, and Chinese 35.5 tons of platinum.
  • There are 3 to 7 grams of platinum in a typical catalytic converter depending on the manufacturer and car model.
  • As the number of Tesla’s electric cars and trucks increases, their rise contributes to a massive drop in demand for platinum in the automotive industry.
  • The world’s top platinum and palladium supplier wants to develop a battery using platinum to reduce the threat to the autocatalyst market posed by electric cars.
  • For a very long time, platinum was discarded as a metal that was too hard to use.
  • Platinum reserves in 2019 consisted of 69,000 metric tons worldwide.
  • Some anti-cancer drugs contain platinum because of the metal’s non-reactive properties.
  • Half of the annual production of platinum is used for industrial purposes, and only 30% is consumed as jewelry.
  • Platinum’s melting point is 3,221.6°F (1,772°C). Its boiling point is 6,920.6°F (3827°C ).
    Platinum will not boil in the middle of a sunspot, a chilly 6,380°F (3,527°C).
  • Platinum density (specific gravity) is 21.45 g/cm3, heavier than gold and more than twice as heavy as silver.
    There is always more platinum in a platinum ring than gold in a gold ring.
  • Platinum is 4.3 on the Mohs scale, which is harder than the gemstone fluorite (4) and almost as hard as turquoise (5).
  • Platinum’s purity symbolizes the sanctity of marriage. A platinum engagement ring owner is three times less likely to get a divorce.
  • The first-ever platinum coins were struck in Russia in 1828 when Czar Nicholas authorized three denominations: 3-, 6- and 12-rubles.
    Only eleven 12-ruble coins are known to exist today. One of them was recently sold for $164,600 at an auction in Tokyo.
  • Alfred Cartier claimed that he was the first to figure out how to make platinum jewelry.
    We seriously doubt that claim, but we bet that the jeweler who was the first worked for him.
  • Louis Cartier was the first to introduce the combination of platinum and diamonds in garland-style jewelry.
  • In 1898 Louis Cartier designed a line of platinum jewelry and, in 1907, introduced the world’s first platinum watch.
  • Platinum jewelry first appeared around 1780 in the court of Louis XVI of France.
    He was so impressed with platinum that he proclaimed the white metal the only one fit for royalty.
  • Platinum is one of six noble metals: platinum, palladium, ruthenium, rhodium, osmium, and iridium – together known as the platinum group.
    Based on the strictest definition, a noble metal has a filled electron d-band (whatever that means).
    According to this definition, gold, silver, and copper are noble metals. Go figure!
  • The opposite of a noble metal is a base metal. Not all corrosion-resistant metals are noble metals.
    Titanium, niobium, and tantalum are very corrosion-resistant, yet they are not considered noble metals.
  • Platinum is strong, malleable, and very durable, which makes it suitable for hand fabrication.
    Its neutral color is ideal for holding colorless diamonds without casting a yellow tinge.
  • Before the 15th century, South American natives could not even melt platinum, yet they were using it. Platinum bongs, perhaps?
  • Until 1924, when it was discovered in South Africa, Russia was producing more than 90% of platinum.
  • The Art Deco movement fueled the rise of platinum’s popularity. From the beginning of the 20th-century, platinum became the metal of choice for the finest jewelry.

How do you say “platinum” in other languages:

Albanian : Platini
Arabic : بلاتين
Armenian : Պլատին
Basque : Platino
Belarusian : Плаціна
Bengali : প্লাটিনাম
Bosnian : Platina
Bulgarian : Платина
Catalan : Platí
Chuvash : Платина
Corsican : Platinu
Croatian : Platina
Czech : Platina
Danish : Platin
Dutch : Platina
Haitian : Platin
Hebrew : פלטינה
Hungarian : Platina
Icelandic : Platína
Ido : Platino
Indonesian : Platina
Interlingua : Platino
Italian : Platino
Japanese : 自然白金
自然 白金
Korean : 백금
Kurdish (Latin Script) : Platîn
Latin : Platinum
Latvian : Platīns
Lithuanian : Platina
Lojban : jinmrplati
Low Saxon/Low German : Platin
Luxembourgish : Platin
Macedonian : Платина
Malayalam : പ്ലാറ്റിനം
Manx : Platinum
Norwegian : Platina
Norwegian (Nynorsk) : Platina
Occitan : Platin
Polish : Platyna
Portuguese : Platina
Quechua : Qullqiya
Romanian : Platină
Russian : Платина
Serbian : Платина
Serbo-Croatian : Platina
Sicilian : Plàtinu
Simplified Chinese : 自然铂
Slovak : Platina
Slovenian : Platina
Spanish : Platino
Swahili : Platini
Swedish : Platina
Tajik (Cyrillic Script) : Платина
Tamil : பிளாட்டினம்
Thai : แพลทินัม
Traditional Chinese : 自然白金
Turkish : Platin
Ukrainian : Платина
Vietnamese : Bạch kim

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