When considering an engagement ring or a wedding band, many choose to steer away from yellow gold as it simply doesn’t highlight white diamonds as well as a lighter colored metals. Once you’ve decided that a whiter metal suits your taste, the options are generally platinum, white gold, and palladium.
All three metals can be fine choices that will compliment any white diamond, but there are some important differences. In the following article, we’ll try to sketch out some of these, so you can make an informed decision on what types of metal is best for your diamond ring.
While terms like ‘gold medal’ and ‘gold standard’ still indicate gold’s traditional superiority, platinum is by far the leading white metal in engagement rings and bands. Platinum’s dominance is well deserved—it’s not only the most durable, rarest, and heaviest of the three metals considered here, it’s also the most expensive. It’s shiny, pale, gray-white finish never wears out, needs only minimal cleaning with everyday soap and water, and will age to a silver patina that many find appealing.
Ounce for ounce, platinum currently isn’t that much more valuable than gold, but platinum rings tend to be more expensive, for a number of reasons. First of all, platinum is more dense than white gold, so more platinum is needed to produce the same sized ring. Platinum alloys used in jewelry are also usually 95% pure, whereas white gold is often around 75% pure, so any given piece of jewelry will require more raw platinum.
Platinum is also difficult to work with, and the labor cost is often 20% higher than with white gold. Finally, platinum cannot be reused and re-melted as easily as gold—scraps and filings must be sent to a refiner to be reused, which can be quite expensive.
One final thing to consider when choosing platinum is serviceability. Platinum is extremely strong and durable, but because it is less malleable and has a higher melting point than gold, it is more difficult to repair or resize.
Gold in its purest form is a familiar, lustrous, golden yellow, but pure gold is too soft for most fine jewelry. Therefore, it is almost always alloyed with other metals to make it more durable. White gold is also an alloy, but the metals used for strengthening (usually silver, nickel, zinc, or palladium) have the added benefit of lightening the color to a white finish. While white gold may appear silvery, there will always be a tell-tale hint of a golden hue to the metal.
White gold, like all gold, is available in a range of purities. Pure gold is 24 karats, with lesser purities indicated as a percentage of 24—for instance, 14 carat gold is 14/24th pure gold, or 58.3%. Naturally, 14 karat gold is less expensive than 18 karat gold, and white gold is available in the same purities, and at the same kinds of price points, as yellow gold.
White gold rings are generally plated with rhodium, an extremely hard element that both protects the gold and enhances the white finish of the metal. This protective rhodium plating will, however, eventually wear away and have to be reapplied. The process of re-plating is relatively inexpensive, and many jewelers will actually offer this service for free to their customers.
One issue particular to white gold is allergic sensitivity. Some people are sensitive to nickel, and if the rhodium plating begins to thin even slightly, you may experience a skin reaction.
Palladium is one of the earth’s rarest metals, and though it has been used in jewelry since 1939, it has only recently become a popular alternative to white gold and platinum. Palladium is extremely strong and never tarnishes, and it doesn’t need any special plating for protection. Because it naturally stays white, it doesn’t require any regular maintenance or care.
Officially recognized as a precious metal in January 2010, palladium used in jewelry that weighs more than one gram is now required to be hallmarked. Similar to platinum, palladium is nearly pure when used for jewelry, and without any nickel, it is considered hypo-allergenic.
Palladium is much less dense than platinum, which accounts for a big part of its popularity: price. Because less weight of the raw material is needed to make the same sized ring, palladium rings are substantially less expensive than white gold or platinum. But palladium’s density is also one of its potential drawbacks.
Some people feel that the lighter weight of a palladium band simply feels ‘unsubstantial,’ and prefer the more solid feel of platinum or white gold. If possible, try to compare the feel of similar palladium and platinum rings—you might find you prefer the feel of palladium.
Finally, since palladium is still fairly new on the market, not all jewelers and artisans are familiar with working with it, and as a result, you may find that your options are somewhat limited. Also, due to palladium’s inherent hardness and lack of malleability, repairing, including resizing, can be difficult, if not impossible.
Diamond Estate Jewelry Buyers purchases previously-owned platinum, white gold, and palladium rings set with large carat diamonds. If you are looking to sell your wedding or engagement ring, please contact us today for a free verbal appraisal and immediate cash offer.