Platinum vs Palladium vs White Gold: Which is Better?

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White jewelry is a trendy choice for wedding rings.

Three popular options are platinum, palladium, and white gold.

They have a similar white sheen but are different in many ways.

  • Is palladium worth more than gold?
  • Is palladium the same as platinum?
  • Which is better, platinum or white gold?

These are just three of the questions that you probably have in mind.

Now, let’s take a closer look at the comparison between platinum vs palladium vs white gold.

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What is platinum?

Platinum is a metal with the atomic number 46 on the periodic table.

It is a malleable precious metal with a silvery white color. This is no surprise as its name has a Spanish origin, meaning “little silver”.

Platinum mines are not widely available. Its production is mainly concentrated in South Africa. This region makes up around 80% of worldwide mining. The yearly output is just around 170 tonnes.

It has a very high density at 21.45 g/cm3. Only iridium and osmium top it.

It is ductile like rhodium, which is used for coating many jewelry like white gold.

Platinum is highly inert, meaning it has a high inclination to not enter into chemical reactions. It is hypoallergenic and considered safe for human body tissues.

It is a very important metal for industry in the 21st century. It is used in biomedical devices, catalytic converters, lab instruments, dentistry and jewelry.

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What is palladium?

Palladium is a metal with the atomic number 46 on the periodic table.

It is a rare precious metal with a silvery white color. Yearly mining output is around 210 tonnes.

It belongs to the Platinum Group Metals.These are platinum, palladium, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium and osmium. These metals have similar chemical properties.

Palladium was discovered in the early 19th century by the English chemist William Hyde Wollaston. The name comes from the asteroid Pallas, which was named after an epithet of Athena, the greek goddess of war and wisdom.

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What is white gold?

White gold is not a chemical element like platinum or palladium.

It is not found in nature. It is an alloy of gold with other metals.

Pure gold is too soft for jewelry. This is why we alloy gold with stronger metals to increase durability.

Gold is mined from yellow deposits with red tints. Its symbol is Au from the Latin word Aurum.

It is an element like Platinum and Palladium with an atomic number 79.

White gold is made of real gold with white metal, hence its color.

It has a white luster akin to silver or platinum.

The added metals can be zinc, nickel, silver, palladium or platinum. The mix depends on the karat and producer preferences.

The purity of gold is measured in karats The same measuring practice is used no matter the alloy color. There are yellow gold and rose gold alloys widely used in jewelry. The purity in these are also denoted in karat.

The most popular karats are 10k, 14k and 18k white gold.

These have 41.7%, 58.3% and 75% gold in their composition, respectively.

White gold pieces are often coated with rhodium.

Rhodium is one of the Platinum Group Metals, as stated above. It is brittle and shiny like silver.

It sits on the periodic table at atomic number 45 and the symbol Rh. It is a rare, corrosion-resistant and noble metal which does not easily participate in chemical reactions.

This rhodium layer protects the inner white gold alloy. It also gives a more homogeneous white luster.

Rhodium is a hypoallergenic pure metal. Thus, this rhodium plating increases safety for people with sensitive skin.

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Platinum vs Palladium vs White Gold: Pros and Cons

1. Color & Shine

Platinum is slightly brighter than palladium. And unplated white gold comes behind the latter.

However, when white gold pieces are plated with rhodium, it jumps ahead of platinum.
Beware of different finishes, light intensity and direction in photos while deciding on your final choice.

2. Durability

Palladium has 4.75 on the Mohs Scale of mineral hardness. It is harder than platinum, which has a 3.5 grade.

Rhodium plated white gold tops the first two metals with a hardness of 6.

Unplated plain white gold is much softer, around 3-3.5 on the hardness scale.

Thus, rhodium plated white gold engagement rings will show superior scratch resistance than the other two alternatives.

Of course, this is valid only as long as the thin layer of rhodium stays in place.

Platinum, palladium, gold and rhodium do not corrode or tarnish.

They do not rust. Rust is an oxidation of iron and iron alloys. None of our metals have iron in their composition.

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3. Weight

Platinum Palladium Gold
 Density(g/cm3)  21.45  12.02  19.3
 Melting point (oC) 1768.3  1554.9  1064.18

When we compare the densities of platinum, palladium and gold, we see that platinum comes first and palladium last.

Thus, when we only think of the metal part, for the same shape and volume the platinum ring will weight more than its white gold and palladium counterparts.

4. Hypoallergenic properties

Platinum, palladium and gold are all hypoallergenic metals for jewelry. They are considered safe choices for people with sensitive skin. They do not enter into chemical reactions easily.

Platinum and palladium rings are close to pure metal, thus they are better options.

Things are a bit different with white gold. These white alloys may include nickel or another allergenic metal in their composition.

Even if nickel or similar metal does not exist in the mix directly, they may be found in trace amounts. In this case, there is still risk for metal allergy.

However, rhodium plating is a complete game changer for white gold jewelry.

First, it brings a uniform look and an even brighter sheen than platinum.

Second, it protects the gold core from outside effects.

Last but not least, it makes a perfectly hypoallergenic jewelry piece as its very inert. It is a noble metal that does not pose any harm to the human skin.

Rhodium plated white gold, platinum and palladium are fine options for engagement rings. Unplated white gold pieces may be risky, yet they are often plated thanks to its significant benefits.

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5. Price

Prices of platinum, palladium and gold are all traded daily worldwide.

They fluctuate with supply and demand dynamics.

These are subject to change from seasonalities, natural catastrophes, wars, sanctions, pandemics and fashion style of the day.

At the time of writing, gold is trading at about double the price of platinum. Palladium is seeing prices 20% higher than gold’s.

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The Verdict: Which one should you choose?

Platinum, palladium and white gold engagement rings are often compared as they have similar bright silvery sheens.

Besides this resemblance in appearance, they all have pros and cons.

Platinum shines more than palladium but it is softer.

White gold, which is the least pure of these precious metals, has less luster but this changes with rhodium plating.

This thin layer of rhodium increases its white brightness above platinum, giving it a more homogeneous look. Secondly, it protects the inner alloy as it is much harder. Thirdly, it is an ideal hypoallergenic metal for jewelry which is considered extremely safe.

On the downside, these benefits exist only while the plating rests intact. With daily wear, the coating will disappear, and the inner gold alloy will come into contact with the skin.

Metal allergy may occur, if the skin gets exposed to allergenic metals like nickel. But, skin irritation may only happen after a certain period and a minimum level of absorption has been reached.

The solution is a re-plating session at your jeweler. This is an easy and fast process that will resurrect the rhodium layer, restoring the shine and brightness.

This outer rhodium part elevates white gold wedding ring’s hardness above platinum or palladium rings.

Yet, the latter two do not demand a reviving coating because they do not have one!

They may get scratched occasionally, like every piece of jewelry, though this is more a displacement of metal. This is called patina for platinum.

Some prefer their jewelry with a patina and some want the initial lusterous look. This is a matter of personal preference.