Platinum vs White Gold: Metal Choices for an Engagement Ring

You may have thought the choice was mostly about the diamond as you looked for the perfect engagement ring.

You had in the back of your mind that you wanted the soft silvery color of white gold or platinum. And that helped you to settle on the perfect diamond gemstone for your engagement ring.

But now it’s time to choose. For a soft, white, silvery color of setting, you need either platinum or white gold for your engagement ring.

Which is better? What are the advantages and disadvantages of each? What should you know about either platinum or white gold, but don’t yet know enough to ask?

After reading through this short article, you’ll have the information on which to base your decision. You’ll make the best decision for you and your beloved, and feel good about it.

You’ll be able to answer the following questions — for yourself and your beloved.

What We Will Cover

  1. Is platinum better than white gold?
  2. What’s better for our engagement ring, 18-carat white gold or platinum?
  3. How much more expensive is platinum compared to white gold for an engagement ring?
  4. Which is more expensive in an engagement ring, platinum or white gold?
  5. Which is more durable, platinum or white gold?
  6. Which is more beautiful?
  7. Which needs less maintenance?
  8. Is 14K white gold as good as 18K white gold, for us? Is it better?
  9. Is either platinum or white gold allergenic?

White Gold Engagement Rings

This section dives into the details of white gold and the points that you should be aware of when considering it for an engagement ring:

White Gold in a Ring, Like Any Gold in a Ring, Is Never Pure Gold

Your choices in gold for a engagement ring — and this includes white gold — are generally the following:

  • 18k (75% pure gold, 25% other metals)
  • 14k (58% pure gold, 42% other metals)
  • 10k (42% pure gold, 58% other metals)

A pure gold ring would be 24k gold. That’s not available, except for the most custom of custom designs. It’s not available for good reason: 24k gold would be terribly impractical for everyday use. It’s too soft. It would scratch and mar easily, and possibly even deform under hard hard use.

Even 18k gold, including white gold, can be too soft for everyday use for some people.

10k white gold, since it’s mostly not gold, is generally less preferred for engagement rings than 14k or 18k gold.

The majority of engagement rings sold are 14k gold, because it’s both beautiful and relatively durable. It’s a very common choice for people who prefer white gold. And the vast majority are 14k or 18k white gold.

What Are Those “Other Metals” in a 14k or 18k White Gold Engagement Ring?

The other metals to make the alloy for a 14k or 18k white gold engagement ring (or of course for a 10k gold ring, but we’re excluding those from this conversation since they’re usually not chosen for engagement rings) can include:

  • Silver
  • Palladium
  • Nickel
  • Zinc

These other metals make white gold stronger. They also impart to white gold it’s silvery white color.

White Gold Needs a Finishing Touch for Its Beautiful Color

And that finishing touch is rhodium plating.

That’s right, white gold engagement rings, like all white gold jewelry, is finished with rhodium plating. Bare white gold has a pale yellow color, because it’s still mostly gold. The rhodium plating covers that up entirely with the color of rhodium, which is a beautiful silvery color people think of as the color of white gold.

If you feel somewhat let down on learning that white gold is not a different kind of gold than yellow gold, then you’re the only one.

That’s precisely what leads some people who want a silvery color to look toward platinum.

It’s a little disconcerting at first, to realize that white gold is not a rare form of pure gold. (Gold is gold. There’s only one kind, and it’s yellow.) 

But the gold in the alloys known as white gold? That’s still gold. 18k white gold is 75% pure gold. And the plating? Rhodium has an incredibly soft and silvery appearance which can’t be duplicated in any other way.

White Gold Can Be Allergenic to a Small Number of People. Rhodium Plating Solves That

White gold can be alloyed with zinc, nickel, or silver. These metals can be allergenic to the skin of some people. Rhodium plating solves that problem, since it insulates the skin against any potential allergens in the white gold.

Rhodium Plating Needs to Be Renewed

Rhodium plating protects white gold from scratches, because rhodium is harder than white gold. However, Rhodium isn’t impervious to scratches and wear. It will scratch and wear over time. And so any white gold engagement ring will need periodic rhodium “dipping,” or replating.

How often will a white gold, rhodium-plated ring need replating? It’s impossible to say, because it depends on the activities of the individual wearing a given ring. But roughly speaking, rhodium plating lasts anywhere from 1 to 5 years on an engagement ring.

That realization can be a disappointing for some people. But it need not be. There’s one big advantage to the need to replate white gold with rhodium.

One Big Advantage to Rhodium Dipping (Replating)

It’s not a necessity. It’s a possibility.

The necessary possibility of renewing the rhodium plating on a white gold engagement ring means that the brand new, pristine appearance of your engagement ring is infinitely renewable, for a lifetime.

This periodic renewal of the engagement ring can be a powerful symbolic ritual in your relationship.

To look at rhodium replating of a white gold engagement ring as just maintenance, as if it’s like an oil change on a car, would be a mistake and a lost opportunity. It can symbolise rather a renewal of the white, hot, pure first love that you felt for each other.

Any rhodium plated white gold ring ring will literally never get old, because it’s renewed time after time with fresh pristine rhodium plating.

Consider this ancient shrine in Japan, the Ise Jingu Grand Shrine. The locals tear it down and rebuild it every 20 years. No one looks at this ancient shrine and considers it to be only 20 years old.

It’s been there for 1,300 years. It lasts so long precisely because it’s renewed on a regular basis.

You and your beloved can set a symbolic, recurring date on your calendar every year, or 3 years, or 5 years, for the engagement ring renewal.

Platinum Engagement Rings

This section dives into the details of platinum and the points that you should be aware of when considering it for an engagement ring:

No Need to Mix With Other Metals to Change the Color

Platinum just naturally appears a beautiful white color. And so, unlike white gold, there’s no need to mix it with anything else to change the color. Platinum engagement rings are 95% platinum and 5% other metals.

What other metals make up the other 5% of a platinum engagement ring? It could be any of the following, most usually: copper, palladium, rhodium, iridium, or titanium.

Because platinum is very durable, there’s also no need to plate it with rhodium or anything else.

Platinum Is Somewhat More Expensive Than White Gold

A quick example will give you an idea of the difference. Check out this ring on James Allen.

  • The platinum version of this ring (at the time of writing) is $1,790.
  • The 18k white gold version is $1,670
  • The 14k white gold version is $1,410

Platinum Is Non-Allergenic

The tiny amounts of other metals in platinum engagement rings, and the fact that they are also non-allergenic, make platinum an excellent choice for anyone who has allergic reactions to nickel or zinc.

Nickel or zinc are often used in white gold. But no nickel and zinc are used in platinum rings.

Platinum Will Develop a Patina Over Time

Unlike white gold engagement rings, platinum engagement rings don’t need to be plated in rhodium. Platinum rings are strong enough to stand up to daily use on their own.

But as platinum is worn over the years, it develops slightly different coloration known as a patina — an often prized aspect of vintage platinum jewelry.

Your ring will develop an individual patina all its own. It’s a rather whitish patina. It looks like a very faint satin finish, or a very light frosted finish.

What’s the Difference Between a Patina on a Platinum Ring and Scratching of a Gold Ring?

When white gold (or any gold) is scratched, a tiny amount of the gold is lost. (This applies to rhodium plating too.)

But when platinum is scratched, a tiny amount of platinum is simply moved. If you put it under a microscope, a scratch in platinum would look something like the path of a plow, or the scarring of a field if you dragged something sharp and heavy across it.

That Means There’s an Easy “Fix” to Platinum Patina — Supposing You Want to Remove the Patina

Because a platinum ring when scratched does not lose any metal, the finish can be renewed by a skilled, professional jeweler. All it needs is a professional polishing. Polishing moves the microscopic amounts of metal back into a smooth surface.

How often does a platinum engagement ring need to be repolished back to its original glossy look?

That varies. It depends on the kinds of daily use a platinum ring sees. It also depends on your taste. Some people love a patina look on their platinum ring.

If you prefer a perfectly polished “new” look, count on having it repolished around once per year, as a general rule.

Comparing Maintenance Costs of White Gold vs Platinum Engagement Rings

How much does it cost to have a white gold ring replated in rhodium, compared to the costs of having a platinum ring repolished.

The costs of either procedure vary from jeweler to jeweler. They also vary even more from ring to ring.

But the costs of either procedure, in a very rough estimate, are about the same. A ballpark figure is from around $60 to around $100.

The biggest difference will be in the frequency you choose to have the maintenance done.

Platinum engagement rings never require maintenance, and many prefer the patina look over time.

  • You could have it polished every 6 months.
  • Or every 25 years.
  • Or you could never have it polished, ever.
  • There would be no long-term consequences for the ring.

White gold rings (which are always plated in Rhodium) do require dipping (replating) at least every 5 years, and often every 3 years or even every 18 months. Of course you could skip the replating forever, but the consequences for the ring would be tough. It would show an extreme amount of wear, especially over time as the protective rhodium wore off. The soft gold underneath would wear at an even faster rate. White gold rings need rhodium replating:

  • At least once every 5 years
  • Usually 1 year to 3 years

Conclusion – White Gold or Platinum?

You’ve learned why platinum and white gold are both extremely popular choices for engagement rings. With either, you can get a beautiful white silvery finish. You’ve learned the key role that rhodium plating plays in making white gold renewable for a lifetime. You’ve also learned that platinum can be renewed — or can be allowed to age naturally.

Both are quite durable, although white gold needs a little help from rhodium plating.

The Main Thing to Remember – Buy Only From a Reputable Jeweler

  • James Allen
  • Blue Nile
  • Brian Gavin

How to Get Free Engagement Ring Cleaning

James Allen and Blue Nile each offer free 6-month cleaning and inspection of any engagement ring purchased from them.

Even when you’re not having your white gold engagement ring dipped (replated) in rhodium, or even when you’re not having your platinum ring polished, you can still have them cleaned.

Cleaning is not polishing. It is not dipping (replating) in rhodium.

But cleaning is cleaning. And that’s important for such a personal, delicate, beautiful piece of jewelry as a diamond engagement ring.

Of course when you send your engagement ring back to James Allen or Blue Nile for cleaning, they also inspect it, to make sure the mounts are still good and the diamonds are in no danger of falling out.