Every week I speak with a hand-full of customers about custom jewelry requests, and inevitably, each conversation includes some discussion of platinum. Platinum is one of the most expensive precious metals, and it is extremely desirable. However, it is good to be aware of the particular properties of this metal, and when its use is appropriate.
Platinum is the ultimate luxury metal, and in general, it is about twice as expensive as 18k gold. Platinum is a very pure metal with most good alloys containing about 95% pure platinum. In contrast, 14k gold contains 58.5% pure gold, and 18k gold contains 75% pure gold. Virtually all white gold jewelry items are plated with a super-white metal called rhodium in order to make them appear white. In truth, all white gold alloys look “yellow” to some degree due to their gold content. Eventually, rhodium platinum will wear off of white gold jewelry, and a faint yellow color will be detectable. Though it is fairly simple and inexpensive to have white gold jewelry re-rhodium plated, platinum is naturally white and requires no plating.
Along with its purity, platinum is extremely durable. Jewelry designs which contain small and precise detail work such as filigree and/or engraving will maintain their integrity longer when made with platinum. This is why antique rings made in platinum generally hold their shape and detail better than similar rings made up in 14k or 18k gold.
However, bear in mind that we are talking about half a century or so of wear here! For most practical purposes, 14k or 18k white gold is sufficient and will hold up almost as well as platinum. This is especially true for heavy weight pieces. I usually suggest to our customers that they consider using white gold for most purposes aside from filigree, engraving, or prongs. It is also important to note that platinum will take to scuffing more quickly than 18k gold. Many people complain that their platinum wedding bands look “dull” after a few months of wear, which is a result of this scuffing.