I spent ten years selling jewelry and now I work for a jewelry trade
news center as their senior editor for jewelry design & retail
issues. I’m also a GIA Diamonds program graduate & Alumni member,
earning my GG.
One thing that really disappoints me is the inaccurate information
presented to consumers. Sometimes salespeople mean well but are not
knowledgeable enough to better address various topics. I know there
are others who will say whatever they think will close a sale,
regardless of anything else. Fortunately, I believe the latter aren’t
highly common. Unfortunately, I believe the former is.
I think you are smart to verify what the real answer is. I always
appreciate opportunities to help educate anyone, salespeople or
consumers, because I strongly feel everyone is best served by having
correct and the ability to make informed decisions! Plus
I kind of miss interacting with customers…
So, to answer your question, platinum is both MUCH harder and rare
It is a denser metal, if you hold two identically styled rings, one
made in platinum in one hand and one made in gold (white or yellow)
in the other, you’ll feel a significant difference in their weights.
Platinum’s density makes it a much heavier metal. It also makes it a
lot more durable than gold, meaning it will hold up to wear and tear
The denseness also means platinum is harder to manufacture jewelry
with it, it requires special casting equipment to take the high
temperatures needed to melt this metal. I don’t recall the exact
melting point, I think it’s something like 2000 degrees. Once it’s
cast, platinum also takes longer to “finish” - to attain a textured
or perfectly high polished surface. Obviously, labor and equipment
needed to work with platinum costs more.
Platinum was widely used prior to WWII but it was designated as a
strategic metal during the war. With platinum no longer available for
jewelry making, manufacturers turned to gold, alloying it with
nickel, silver and/or another platinum family metal, to make it look
like the restricted - and cherished - white metal. White gold became
popularly accepted and basically ended up as a substitute long beyond
the end of the war.
However, platinum does have a few superior aspects, eventually
bringing it’s use back into the mainstream market.
First, it’s pure. Platinum is alloyed, but only with other platinum
family metals - iridium, ruthenium, palladium, rhodium or osmium -
depending on what method will be used to make a given item and what
characteristics are best suited for that. That’s why you’ll see
stampings inside rings like 90%Pt 10%Irid. Also, platinum never
causes skin reactions because of it’s purity.
Gold is alloyed with a host of other metals, as I listed some before
for white gold. This is because pure, or 24k, gold is soft - you
could use a bar of it as sidewalk chalk! It isn’t dry like chalk, but
you can easily indent your fingernail into it. 14k signifies 14 parts
gold to 10 parts other metal (585), 18k is 18 parts gold to 6 parts
other metal (785) and so on. Some people do have sensitivities to
some of the metals used in alloying gold, especially nickel. White
gold alloyed with a platinum family metal costs more than when it’s
alloyed with silver and nickel.
Second, platinum can be worked into designs that gold does not lend
And third, because pure gold is bright yellow, and yellow is a strong
color, eventually it will “bleed through” the alloys used to make
white gold. Not so much that it’ll look the same as yellow gold
alloys but enough that if you held it up to platinum, you’d clearly
see the difference. This isn’t a huge issue though because a quick
buffing by your local jeweler will remove the yellowish tinge from
the surface. It’s due to oxidation, that’s all.
But all of these reasons are why platinum is known as “The King of
the Noble Metals” and also “The Jewelers Metal of Choice.”
To best explain how rarity factors compare between platinum and gold,
here’s a mental picture for you. If you took ALL of the gold EVER
mined and melted it down to refine it back to pure 24k, the end
result would be a cube that would fit into a football stadium. If you
did the same with platinum, you’d end up with a cube that would fit
into an average person’s living room! I still think that’s amazing!
An additional fact is that it takes four months to process platinum
ore. Again, cost factors are higher to do that.
Nonferrous metal prices from NY Merc Monday listed gold at $274.00
troy oz, and platinum at $586.60 troy oz. So there really are reasons
why platinum jewelry is priced higher.
Please realize though that per oz cost of metals are only part of
jewelry cost. Manufacturing expenses are just as important and vary
quite a bit depending on how a piece is made, how well it is made,
who made it and what part of the world they’re in.
Sometimes two items may look similar but are manufactured so
differently that their prices may at first seem confusingly spread in
range. This fact is sometimes twisted to make a certain item seem
like it’s a great value or one is overpriced. Yes, sometimes two
comparable pieces do turn out to fit that scenario but most of the
time there are reasons for the price variances and the lower priced
piece may not actually be the best value after all.
The last important point worth knowing is that your choice of metal
is really a personal one. Gold is an exceptional material, it
certainly isn’t inadequate for most jewelry uses! There are a few
situations where platinum is mandatory for a quality product - like
invisible settings, and some where it is smarter to use - like prongs
securing a substantial stone sitting high from a ring.
It’s best to remember what your lifestyle is and how you’re going to
wear a given item when deciding on both materials and designs. If
you’re into rock climbing and plan on a ring that’ll rarely come off
your finger, platinum is much better suited to your needs. If you’re
activity is more on the gentler side and you plan on a ring to wear
occasionally, platinum probably isn’t as needed.
No one should push you into platinum if you are satisfied with gold’s
attributes and have considered your durability needs. A truly good
jeweler will work with you to assess your needs and wants and explain
what the best options are to meet them. I would continue searching
until you find someone who takes interest in YOU, can answer all of
your questions, provide details and has a good education and history.
I’d be happy to confirm any further you receive, if you’d
like. Hopefully you’ll find a jeweler that passes any pop quizzes
with flying colors - or at least admits when they aren’t sure of
something and offers to find out the facts. When you find someone
like that who you feel comfortable dealing with, you can build a
lasting relationship with them and have a confident jewelry future
Good luck! Jeanette Marie Kekahbah