Someone posed a question to me that I could not answer and I'm
hoping you all can help. I was asked how argentium sterling
compares to white gold and platinum with respect to color,
durability, and lustre. The person doing the asking is considering
having an engagement ring and wedding band made from argentium.
Argentium is similar to sterling silver in these respects.
For color, silver (either argentium or standard sterling or fine
silver) is BY FAR the whitest in color. It’s the whitest of any
Of the three you mention, though, it’s also the softest, and will
wear down the quickest. Engagement and wedding bands made of silver,
if worn all the time, will not last many years before being worn out,
unless they start out unusually heavy (which of course, is affordable
in silver) Most of the wedding rings I’ve made or worked on over the
years have been gold or platinum. But a few have been silver. In
general, the silver ones tend to dissappoint over time, simply
because they wear out faster than the marriages do…
White gold is the “stiffest” and springiest of the three. especially
with the nickle based white golds common in the U.S. The palladium
white golds are softer and less springy. Nickle white golds can vary
a lot in color depending on the alloy. These go from very white, but
darker in tone than silver, to a decidely yellowish or brownish (for
the palladium white golds) cast. For this reason, many white golds
are routinely electroplated with rhodium, a hard white member of the
platinum group of metals. The plating eventually wears off,
especially from high spots, but is usually easy to have replated when
desired. In general, you can consider most white golds to be the
least white of your three choices. As I said, some of them, are very
white, but on average, most have a soft slightly yellowish tone when
compared to silver or platinum ’
White gold is tougher and harder, by far, than silver This is why
you often see wedding rings made in these gold alloys, while you
almost never see commercially made wedding rings in silver. The white
gold rings can be expected to have a reasonable life span. But they
won’t last forever. Nothing will. Still, if you were to make
identical rings in silver, and again in the average white gold, you
could probably expect the white gold rings to last two to three
times as long. That’s a major difference.
white golds do have some drawbacks. The biggie is that in the U.S.,
the most popular white golds owe their color to the nickle in the
alloy, Some people are allergic to nickle, and simply cannot wear
these white golds. The problem is such that in the E.U., white golds
generally are made instead, with palladium as the source of the white
color in the alloy. The result is softer, and less white in color.
But allergies are not then a problem. Whether this restriction
against nickle white golds in the european union is an over
reaction, is a matter of debate.
Platinum, your third choice, is the most expensive and
traditionally, considered the most luxurious, highest quality metal.
Many goldsmiths used to working with all three, would agree. It’s
wonderful stuff. You have to know how to work it, as it can be less
forgiving of mistakes and careless technique. But well done, platinum
can be the longest lasting choice. Using that same example of rings
in silver or white gold, if you then make one in platinum, if it’s
well made, especially if hand made or forged, etc, instead of cast,
it could last two to three times as long as the white gold ring.
What that translates to is that a traditional modest weight ring in
silver might have a reasonable life span of five years, a similar
white gold one, ten to fifteen years, and the platinum one, twenty to
life… Now, there are not guarantees. I’ve seen platinum rings,
especially cast ones, destroyed or worn out in just a few years, and
some silver last quite a long time. But on average, these rules of
thumb are probably not too far off.
The big thing about platinum is how it reacts to abrasion. With
silver or gold, an abrasive particle (everything the ring comes into
contact with, including house dust), causes a scratch and in the
process, displaces a little metal and removes a little metal. With
platinum, while the metal still gets scratched, very little of it
actually is removed. If you imagine running a finger tip along damp
clay, you leave a furrow with a ridge on each side, and most of the
clay stays on the piece rather than on your finger. So the platinum
in a ring gets abraded away, worn away, much more slowly than would
silver or gold (silver wears a lot faster than gold too) That’s part
of why it can last so much longer. Plus, it’s less prone to forming
stress cracks over time, or with exposure to certain things (gold
really doesn’t like chlorine. So bleach, or chlorinated swimming
pools, etc, can cause damage to the metal). It’s not fool proof, of
course. Nothing is. And it’s harder to work well, and more costly.
But done right, it’s the kind of jewelry metals in the minds of many
goldsmiths. Stones properly set in a well made platinum ring will be
held safely, a good deal longer, than in white gold.
For color, platinum is very white, but has a dark tone. So grey is
the better word than white. Next to silver or white gold, platinum is
noticably darker in tone. But it doesn’t have that yellow tinge that
white gold sometimes gets. Instead, it tends, due to it’s reaction to
abrasion and it’s relative softness, to develop over time a patina, a
final finish formed if a network of very fine scratches. Silver and
gold do this too, of course. But with platinum, it tends to be less
shiny, more matte, because those scratches build up, instead of
abrading away. White gold wears down, but tends to retain some
sheen, as that abrasion that’s wearing it down also polishes and
burnishes it a bit. But at that same time, the same abrasion wears
off any rhodium, giving you that faint yellowish dingy color. (unless
you used one of the stiffer, higher nickle alloys. Harder to work
with by quite a margin) Silver too, wears down, but doesn’t keep
quite as much of a sheen. Exposed parts that keep being abraded and
rubbed stay bright, but a little more matte than does white gold.
The color, of course, remains very white (except when it tarnishes,
which may be less a problem with argentium)
Sorry if that all rambles too much. hope it helps.