The differences between gold and platinum
- Gold and platinum are widely used in engagement and wedding rings.
- Both gold and platinum are valuable, attractive and versatile.
- The secret to choosing between these two precious metals is to understand differences in their value, appearance and required care.
When it comes time to purchase a ring, choosing between gold and platinum can be difficult because they have many similarities. They are both valuable, beautiful, resilient and versatile. Both precious metals complement a variety of styles, gems, and skin tones.
Being familiar with the history behind these two precious metals and understanding their differences in value, appearance and required care will help you know how to choose between gold and platinum.
Gold mining has been around for more than 7,000 years
Archeologists still regularly unearth golden artifacts, including jewellery. Some of the oldest gold rings, bracelets and necklaces that have ever been found were discovered in a Bulgarian cemetery in the early 1970s. The gold in these pieces of jewellery was mined and crafted between 4,600 and 4,200 BC – which is hundreds of years before the Egyptian and Roman Empires began!
Gold can be found on every continent, but most of it is concentrated in Africa and India. This precious metal is rarely found in a pure state. Instead, it is almost always mixed with other metals and minerals and must be refined in order to be useful.
During the refining process, gold is heated multiple times and often also mixed with an alkaline cyanide solution to remove secondary metals, minerals and impurities. Gradually the refining process produces pure gold, a dense but soft and malleable precious metal with a bright yellow colour.
A little over 50% of all refined gold goes into jewellery. The rest becomes gold bullion and coins, as well as the electrical connectors that are used in some industries.
Gold destined for the jewellery market is generally mixed with other precious metals to form gold mixtures or alloys. Jewellers make these alloys because gold in its pure state is soft and can be easily scratched and deformed. Gold mixtures, in comparison, are much stronger and can resist the bumps and scratches of everyday wear for more than a lifetime.
The Purity of Gold is Measured in Karats
The karat metric is used to measure the purity or percentage of gold in a particular piece of jewellery. Each karat represents 1/24 part of the whole. Pure gold is said to be 24k because all 24 parts of the whole are pure gold, whereas 18k gold has 18 parts of pure gold and 6 parts of other metals.
Beware not to confuse Karat with a K which is used as a gold purity metric and Carat with a C which is a unit of weight used for diamonds and other precious stones.
Most jewellery has 24k, 18k, 14k or 10k of pure gold in it. Each of these levels of gold purity has specific advantages and disadvantages, which are as follows:
24k gold – This is 99% pure gold. It is rarely used in jewellery, because its disadvantages outweigh its advantages.
Advantages: Highest level of purity.
Disadvantages: Soft and easily damaged. Bright orange-yellow colour that doesn’t always blend well with other colours. Most expensive.
18k gold – 18k gold is composed of 75% gold and 25% other metals, for instance zinc, copper and palladium.
Advantages: Rich yellow colour. Scratch-resistant and durable.
Disadvantages: Slightly malleable, but it is only susceptible to be damaged if the ring is made too thin.
14k gold – 14k gold has 58.5% gold and 41.5% other metals.
Advantages: Descent yellow colour. Strong, not easily damaged.
Disadvantages: Colour lacks in richness and saturation. The large percentage of metals other than gold can cause skin irritation.
10k gold – 10k gold is made of only 42% gold and 58% other metals.
Advantages: Strong, not easily damaged. Low price.
Disadvantages: Poor yellow colour. It can trigger skin allergies. Low value.
We only sell and recommend 18k gold jewellery in order to give our clients the best possible value. Jewellery that is 75% gold and 25% complementary metals captures the natural rich colour and luster of gold, while also being reasonably priced and strong enough to withstand normal usage for many years.
For decades, 18k gold was only available in the colour yellow, but today you can also find it in the form of rose gold and white gold.
Yellow Gold: The timeless and prestigious choice
How is yellow gold made?
Gold is naturally yellow. Natural gold’s beauty and strength are enhanced by blending it with small amounts of zinc and copper. The amounts of zinc and copper can be varied to make the gold a lighter or darker shade of yellow.
What are yellow gold’s advantages?
Yellow gold is well-loved because it never loses its colour and goes especially well with matte skin. It is also resistant against the wear and tear of daily life.
Does yellow gold have any disadvantages?
In rare cases, people who are allergic to metal can react to one of the components in yellow gold. Yellow gold is, however, the most hypoallergenic of all gold variations and it is unusual for someone to have an allergy to it.
What type of care does yellow gold require?
Yellow gold needs to be cleaned and polished occasionally, but does not require any special care.
Yellow gold is timeless. Fashions change, but yellow gold maintains its prestigious beauty and is often matched with diamonds to create stunning engagement and wedding rings.
Rose Gold: The modern and romantic choice
How is rose gold made?
Copper is used to transform naturally yellow gold into beautiful shades of rose. Darker shades of rose gold are made by mixing 75% gold with 25% copper, while the lighter shades are made by decreasing the copper and adding in a small percentage of a white metal, such as silver.
What are rose gold’s advantages?
One of rose gold’s best advantages is that it has a contemporary beauty and modern style. It is also great because it never loses its colour and is strong to resist scratches and deformation.
Does rose gold have any disadvantages?
Similar to yellow gold, there are some people who may have an allergic reaction to one of the components in rose gold, but this is rare.
What type of care does rose gold require?
It doesn’t require any special care and only needs to be cleaned and polished occasionally.
Rose gold is particularly feminine and when combined with pavé set diamonds, it creates especially romantic engagement rings.
White Gold: The simple and popular choice
How is white gold made?
Yellow gold is turned almost white by mixing it with white metals, such as palladium and silver.
Since white gold is never completely white, rings and all other jewellery made from white gold are given an external coating of rhodium. This coating gives them a glossy white colour, as well as extra strength and durability.
What are white gold’s advantages?
White gold is currently the most popular precious metal for engagement and wedding rings. It goes well with any skin tone and most gemstones. It is strong and damage-resistant.
Does white gold have any disadvantages?
White gold rings often develop a light yellow tint over time. This happens because the rhodium coating slowly wears away revealing the slightly yellow gold underneath. Thankfully, this tint can be easily removed by applying a new coating of rhodium. A ring that is worn frequently will probably need to be re-plated with rhodium once every few years.
What type of care does white gold require?
White gold requires occasional cleaning and polishing, as well as a new coat of rhodium whenever it begins to look yellow.
White gold has earned its popularity by having a simple, but modern beauty. It can be combined with other colours of gold and a wide variety of gemstones to make elegant engagement and wedding rings.
We are happy to provide a lifetime of rhodium services to all our clients who purchase a white gold engagement or wedding ring to help them keep their jewellery looking its best.
Recycled Gold and Fairtrade Mining
The majority of the world’s gold mines are located in Africa and India. Unfortunately, some of these gold mines often have a negative impact on the environment and the communities around them, for example:
- Proceeds from the gold mines sometimes fund civil wars.
- Gold miners usually work long hours and receive little pay.
- Many gold miners and their families do not have access to education and basic health care.
- The gold mining process frequently damages the local landscape and ecosystems.
- Gold mining produces a variety of heavy metals and toxic chemicals that often leak into the atmosphere and surrounding groundwater.
It is important to note that gold mining activities are employing many rural people in the poorest regions of the world. That’s why it’s important to buy gold from mines that are using fair practices and focus on improving people’s lives.
In order to decrease the negative aspects of gold mining, we have chosen to only use recycled gold and gold from ethical mines in our jewellery.
The recycled gold that we use has the same quality as freshly-mined gold. All metals, including precious metals, can be melted down and recycled without any loss of quality. Gold can actually be considered a renewable resource.
By recycling any gold you might have at home you can help us decrease the negative impact of mining and save on the purchase of a new jewellery.
Platinum: The strongest and most durable alternative
Platinum is a dense, but malleable precious metal. History suggests that it was first mined in Ecuador about 2,500 years ago. At that time, indigenous people used it for decorating figurines and making jewellery.
In the 1700s, platinum made its way from South America to Europe where scientists spent years experimenting with it before it began to be used for household items and decorations.
In the late 1800s platinum began to be popular for jewellery. It was used for rings, bracelets, necklaces and even a crown. This crown was made for Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother to use for her husband’s coronation. The entire frame of the crown was made of platinum and then covered with close to 3,000 diamonds.
Platinum jewellery was almost forgotten during World War 1 and 2, but in the last few decades, it has been steadily regaining ground in the jewellery market. Once again brides and grooms are exchanging platinum rings that represent the strength and endurance of true love.
Is pure platinum used in jewellery?
No. Pure platinum is too soft to be used for jewellery. However, platinum only needs to be mixed with a very small amount of other metals in order to be hard enough for jewellery.
The purity of platinum is measured in 1000 parts and in general, the platinum used for jewellery has 950 parts of platinum and 50 parts of other metals. This means that platinum rings have a greater percentage of precious metal than the 18k gold rings which have 750 parts of gold and 250 parts of other metals.The most common metals to be mixed with platinum are palladium, rhodium, iridium and other platinum group metals, as well as common metals, such as copper and cobalt.
What are the advantages of platinum?
Among all precious metals, platinum is the most precious, as well as the strongest and most durable. Platinum’s exceptional strength makes it ideal for holding gemstones.
Platinum also has the benefit of being hypoallergenic and beautiful. Its naturally white colour never fades or becomes discoloured.
What are the disadvantages of platinum?
Although platinum is strong, it is prone to scratches and in rare cases can even be deformed if the ring is made too thin. Platinum is also usually more expensive than gold.
Why is platinum more expensive than gold?
More than 1,000 tons of gold are mined every year, but only a little over 150 tons of platinum are mined in a year. This scarcity makes platinum more expensive than gold most of the time. There are periods, though, when the jewellery market changes and platinum becomes cheaper than gold.
Platinum rings also tend to be more expensive than gold because more pure platinum is used in each ring and platinum is a heavy metal. You can have two identical rings – one made of gold and the other of platinum. The platinum ring will weigh more than the gold one and so it will cost more.
What type of care does platinum require?
Platinum only needs routine cleaning and polishing, unless it becomes scratched. Thankfully scratched platinum is relatively easy to repair. Jewellers are able to buff out small scratches and fill deeper ones with fresh platinum.
As platinum ages, it often develops a soft patina. This patina is a dull gray film caused by normal oxidation. This film changes the way that the platinum interacts with light and leaves the ring slightly darker than when it was new. The patina on platinum is not ugly, but it can be removed by regular polishing.
Platinum is a stylish choice for wedding and engagement rings. It goes well with solitaire diamonds, as well as a primary diamond and entourage gems. If you like the qualities and beauty of white gold but don’t like the idea of needing to replace the rhodium, consider purchasing a platinum ring. Platinum rings are durable, have the same colour as white gold and they never become discoloured.
Hallmarks on gold and platinum engagement rings
As you look for the perfect engagement or wedding ring, it is important that you be aware of the hallmarks located on the inside of the ring’s band.
Hallmarks are small symbols that guarantee the purity of the precious metal used in the ring.
The number of hallmarks that a ring has depends on its country of origin. The United Kingdom, for example, requires hallmarked rings to have three symbols, while here in Belgium we usually only put one.The three most common hallmarks on a ring provide the following information:
- Sponsor – The symbol of the person or company who submitted the ring to be hallmarked. Along with other possibilities, the sponsor can be the ring’s manufacturer, an importer or its retailer.
- Assay Office – The symbol of the assay office that tested the precious metal and gave the ring its hallmark.
- Standard of Fineness – This symbol is the hallmark that is primarily used here in Belgium. It is perhaps the most important hallmark of all because it indicates the fineness or purity of the precious metal.The standard of fineness measures the purity of the precious metal content in 1000 parts.
Platinum rings generally have a greater percentage of platinum than other metals. Their standard of fineness mark is usually 950 parts of pure platinum out of a total of 1,000 parts.
There are a few secondary symbols that can also be put on a hallmarked ring. The two most popular secondary symbols are for the year that the ring was hallmarked, as well as for the type of precious metal that the ring is made of.
The symbol used to represent the year of the hallmark is always a letter. S represents the year 2017, T is for 2018 and U represents 2019.
The symbols that represent the type of precious metal in a ring vary. A lion represents silver, a crown symbolizes gold and platinum is represented by the sovereign’s orb, a globe that has a cross on top and is encircled by gems.
White Gold vs. Platinum: Which should you choose?
White gold and platinum are currently very popular for engagement and wedding rings. Both of these metals have a captivating modern beauty.
They go well with all skin tones, styles and the wide majority of gemstones. Best of all, they represent the preciousness and endurance of true love.
If you are having a hard time choosing between white gold and platinum, there’s a way that you can take advantage of the best aspects of both of these precious metals and that is to consider a ring that has an 18k white gold band and platinum prongs.
This combination of white gold and platinum provides great value. The strong platinum prongs are ideal for holding gemstones, while the white gold band is beautiful and wears well. A ring like this comes with our lifetime guarantee of rhodium services.
Platinum and gold make beautiful engagement and wedding rings – rings that will express your love for eternity. As you continue to consider which ring to choose, remember that we will be happy to answer any questions that you have.