White gold and platinum are two of the most popular and durable metals used for engagement rings. While the appearance of the two metals are very similar, there are differences in the composition, wear, and care.
Gold in its natural form (24 karat) is a yellow metal. It is unusual to find jewelry made out of 24 karat gold because 24 karat gold is a soft metal and tends to bend or scratch easily. Most gold used in jewelry are blends of yellow gold and other metals.
To achieve white gold, the base material, yellow gold, is mixed in with other natural white metals such as nickel, silver, or palladium. Mixing in white metals will blend out the yellow tone and the result is a cool white toned metal.
White gold comes in a range of blends—10K (42% natural gold), 14K (54% natural gold) and 18K (75% natural gold). The higher the karat, the more natural yellow gold was used in the metal blend, and the more expensive it will cost. These metal blends are most commonly used to manufacture jewelry and yet literally have less actual gold content. While blending natural yellow gold and other metals lowers the cost of the piece, it actually makes these metal pieces harder and more durable.
As far as appearance, it would be difficult for even an expert to tell the difference between 10K, 14K, and 18K white gold by simply looking at it. The "best" blend is subject to personal preference. At Gema&Co, 14K is offered for a good balance of structural durability and comfort of wear.
Expected wear and care
White gold is typically coated with a clear top coat called Rhodium. Rhodium acts as the protective layer to white gold and will offer shine and resistance to scratches. Rhodium is expected to thin out over time from wear. On average, it is expected to re-coat white gold in Rhodium every 2 years if the piece is worn every day. If the piece had no Rhodium coating to begin with, the white gold may experience dullness and even yellowing over time if the piece contains high yellow gold content.
Platinum is one of the heaviest and densest precious metal used in jewelry and is a white toned metal. In its pure form, 100% pure platinum is relatively soft and would bear scratches easily. Platinum blends generally contain more of its base material, 95-98% platinum—with the remaining percentage being rhodium, ruthenium, or silver.
When platinum is alloyed with other metals, it transforms this metal to become extremely strong and malleable. Platinum blends are more pure in the sense that it contains more of its natural material than gold blends.
Platinum as an element and natural resource is more rare and there is less supply of platinum in the world than gold. With high demands from consumers, it makes the price of platinum slightly higher than gold.
Expected wear and care
No jewelry is completely resistant to scratches, and Platinum is no exception. Although PT950 Platinum is alloyed with other metals and is very durable, it is still a soft metal and will scratch easily with normal wear.
Platinum loses its new shiny look more rapidly than gold, but with proper care can retain its new look. Unlike Gold which is easily restored to a like-new appearance with just a few minutes of polishing and cleaning, Platinum is more difficult to polish and refinish than gold.
Platinum develops a patina, or small scratches and scuffs from normal wear. This patina is exclusive to platinum and is sometimes preferred or even desired. However, if patina is not favored, the platinum band can be polished at any time to look just like new. It is worth noting that every polishing session will slightly thin out the platinum since the top layer of platinum is essentially being removed each time.
The common comparison between new platinum and worn platinum is like a new shiny silver spoon compared to a used silver spoon that lost its luster and has developed many tiny scratches from use over time.