Silver, White Gold, and Platinum: Easy Ways to Tell the Difference

Unless you are an expert appraiser or have spent years studying precious metals, it can be difficult to differentiate silver, platinum, and white gold jewelry. Though they are similarly shiny and metallic with hues of gray, these three metals have distinct properties that help tell them apart.
You may wonder why it matters. Aren’t these metals one and the same with only slight chemical differences? The answer is no; there is so much more to these metals once you look past their appearances. They are innately different in rarity, value, and use.

Whether you are in the business of buying or selling precious metals or are looking for a jewelry item to gift a loved one, knowing these differences will provide you with an advantage over those who don’t.

The Physical Differences Between Silver, Platinum, and White Gold

There are four physical distinctions which may help you determine what type of metal you are holding:

1. Color

While all three metals may appear silver at first glance, you will see a noticeable difference in color when you line silver, platinum, and white gold together. Silver has a duller gray appearance than the others. Depending on the alloy and plating used in its making, white gold can either have a creamy white color or a sparkling white cast. It also has a yellow undertone that, over time, will become more prominent. This yellow hue appears several months or years after polishing and depends on the jewelry piece’s wear and tear. It will require re-plating and re-polishing to return to its original white hue. Platinum has a shinier and brighter appearance than silver, and because it is naturally white, it will never fade to yellow like white gold eventually does.

2. Durability

Silver is a rather soft metal that wears down quickly, making it prone to tarnish. It will constantly need re-polishing. Thus, if you see any form of gray or white tarnish on a piece of jewelry, you can assume that it is silver.

Although both gold and platinum are strong and durable metals, platinum is about 30 to 40% denser than white gold, making it heavier and more durable. Platinum jewelry is often 90-95% pure platinum — it will stand the test of everyday wear more than the other two metals, which is why it is a preferred choice for jewelry such as engagement rings.

3. Scratching

Silver scratches easier than platinum or white gold, and while platinum is more durable than white gold, it is softer than an 18k white gold piece, and therefore, easier to scratch. However, both white gold and silver jewelry lose metal when scratched, but it is not the case with platinum. When platinum is scratched, it only displaces the metal — moving from one spot of the jewelry to another. This means that the net platinum weight of your jewelry will not change over time due to scratching.

Another thing to note regarding platinum is that the displacement of its metal on a piece of jewelry develops into what jewelers call a patina finish — an antique or worn look — that makes it more desirable to many.

4. Comfort

This was already mentioned but platinum is much denser than white gold, and since silver is lighter than both, you can quickly tell what piece you are holding just by examining their weight. And while weight is important in deciding which piece is more comfortable to wear, it will still depend on your taste. Do you prefer a heavier or lighter set to wear?

In addition, platinum is naturally hypoallergenic, meaning it will not cause any skin irritations for the wearer. While white gold and silver are not hypoallergenic, some metals used to alloy with them — such as nickel — are allergens that can cause hypersensitivity issues in some people.

Value of Silver, White Gold, and Platinum 

Before discussing cost, it is easier to note which metal is which by understanding their use. Being one of the most affordable types of metals used in jewelry, silver is the ideal costume accessory people rotate with their wardrobe. You also won’t find diamonds, rubies, and other precious metals set on a silver piece as jewelers prefer placing them on platinum or white gold. So, if you are looking for a more upscale anniversary present or an engagement ring, your best bet is to invest in either of the two latter metals. 

There is also the rarity to consider. As the rarest, platinum jewelry is the most prized of the three metals. It is around 50% more expensive than silver or white gold. In fact, people consider it to be 30 times rarer than gold even though gold and platinum have similar prices in gram. White gold — an alloy of gold — prices are higher than silver, but that price varies depending on the percentage of gold used in its making (a 14K white gold alloy has around 58% gold mixture). Silver is the most common of the three metals, meaning that silver prices are significantly lower.

Which Precious Metal Is Best for You?

If you are looking to buy jewelry and don’t know which metal to invest in, there is one simple consideration: As long as you have the budget, go for platinum. As listed above, platinum has a few more benefits than either white gold or silver. Needing less maintenance is also an added long-term bonus. If you want a less expensive piece that still exudes class and wealth, then white gold is an excellent alternative. Silver is your choice if you are looking for something affordable that you can wear to match with your outfits.

Knowing the differences between these precious metals gives you a good understanding of their value. If you are looking for a reputable establishment that buys and accept loans for high-end jewelry, bring your pieces to our office for a free market appraisal. To get in touch with our appraisers, you may also complete our online form or dial 480-991-5626 for Biltmore Loan Scottsdale.