Platinum, Palladium, White Gold or Sterling Silver?
There’s a lot to consider when buying a ring (the size, stone, finish and colour) but selecting the correct metal may be the most important decision in planning your piece. The metal is the base that holds all the elements together and will help determine its longevity and look over time.
Of the white-coloured metals, the most common are Platinum, Palladium, White Gold and Silver. Each metal has its own advantages, sturdiness and cost. To help with your decision making we’ve delved into each – so you can find the best option for your ring!
Platinum was a popular choice for jewellery until the 20th century when during World War I and II, it was deemed a strategic metal used for rifle and engine parts thanks to its strength and durability. It was forbidden in jewellery. Alternatives were needed. At that time 18ct white gold became took it’s place Over the last few decades it has remerged as an option for jewellery, particularly for wedding and engagement pieces.
It’s around 30 times rarer than gold which has historically made it more expensive, however with rapidly increasing gold prices, platinum’s pricing is currently comparable to 18ct white gold*.
The colour of platinum is bright with a cool grey colour and is can be compared to the lighter colour of sterling silver. Platinum metals were created during the supernova explosions, formed by nuclear fusion, and dispersed into clouds that our earth formed in. When you own a piece made of platinum, you are wearing a material that was created by the Big Bang!
Platinum also doesn’t tarnish or oxidise so it won’t change colour over time. Because of its hardness, any details or embellishments will appear more crisp and precise. Over time, platinum may wear and scratch with use but these imperfections can be polished out by a jeweller.
Platinum is an excellent choice if you are looking for a special ring that will stand the test of time. Its beautiful colour and hardness make it an incredible combination of looks and strength. Because platinum is such a tough metal not all jewellers are able to work with it. It takes specialised knowledge and equipment so it’s always best to ask your consultant if the artist you like is able to work with Platinum. Due to all these factors, platinum rings may sit in a higher price bracket. We can always get the artist to quote for you.
Palladium is a naturally white metal. White gold is achieved by adding palladium to yellow gold to “bleach” out the yellow tones.
Historically, palladium has been used for vehicle manufacturing because of its hard wearing nature. It’s colour and qualities are extremely close to that of Platinum. Although its density is half of Platinum’s, making it approximately half the weight. Palladium is also harder than Platinum making it harder to scratch, so both metals are also extremely strong and great for everyday wear.
Palladium, like Platinum, requires particular experience and tools to work with it. Because of this only a handful of our jewellers can work with it.
Gold has always been a standard when it comes to wedding and engagement jewellery. Its strength, rarity and longevity make it an excellent choice for a special ring.
White Gold is created with yellow gold and combined with a mixture of silver, zinc and Palladium.
For this reason, 9ct white gold is often whiter than 18ct white gold as there is a greater quantity of additional alloys to whiten it. 18ct white gold is naturally deep grey, so oftentimes jewellers will whiten it with rhodium plating to brighten the colour. This plating will rub away over time and will require regular re-plating as part of its maintenance. At e.g.etal we prefer to celebrate the natural nature of the metal so if you see a piece that’s 18ct white gold, that will be its natural colour.
When considering a white gold ring it’s important to decide whether you would prefer 9ct or 18ct white gold. Due to the larger amount of alloys, 9ct white gold may be harder, but not stronger than 18ct white gold. When describing the differences between the two, the easiest way to understand them is that 9ct white gold is like glass: it’s strong, however it is more brittle. 18ct white gold is like plexiglass, more agile and able to withstand knocks and bumps.
Silver is a strong metal, bright in colour and with a lower price point, it is the most common of the white metals and for great reason. Sterling silver is often a natural choice for a variety of jewellery pieces and looks great with various surface finishes, colours and styles.
When considering a silver ring you’ll need to look at how often it is intended to be worn. Sterling silver, whilst it is a strong material it is not intended for a lifetime of everyday wear. This is because sterling silver can be brittle and can wear down or break if put under stress. Sterling silver is also prone to oxidisation – this naturally happens over time, when a piece is exposed to air and humidity, a brown/black oxide can begin to appear on the surface. You may have seen this with your own jewellery, for example if there are a pair of earrings you haven’t worn for a long time you will notice a patina. Fortunately oxidisation is nothing to be concerned about and is often easily removed with a silver polishing cloth.
If the ring is for a wedding or engagement ring or intended to we worn for a lifetime, our suggestion would always be to consider white platinum, palladium or white gold rather than sterling silver.
Each of these metals has their own advantages but it’s important to take all these things into consideration when planning your piece.
Alternative White Metals
Alternative metals that may be worth considering are Titanium and Stainless steel.
Both are incredibly light, their colour is a slightly darker grey than 18ct white gold. They are hypo-hypoallergenic so they are a great choice for someone with metal allergies. They are also extremely light. Like with Platinum and Palladium, not all jewellers are able to work with these materials but it’s often worth asking. e.g.etal artist Phoebe Porter has a range of rings in these metals which you can find here. One thing to keep in mind with these materials is that they cannot be resized.
Love with Abandon, Handle with Care
Whilst platinum, palladium and 18ct white gold are the best choices for longevity these can still be impacted if they’re met with hard surfaces or worn in a rough manner. The simple action of running your hand down the steel railing at your train station every day can damage your ring. Your ring is precious. And while we do encourage everyday wear, no ring is indestructible. It’s important to have your ring looked at or cleaned regularly. At e.g.etal we offer complimentary on the spot cleaning for any pieces from the gallery and if a piece needs checking or maintenance, we can arrange for the artist to take a look.
If you have a piece in mind or would like to discuss an idea please feel free to contact us.
*At the time of publishing: May 2021