White Metals


Anniversary | Basic Care | Birthstones | Cultured Pearls | Gemstones | Gold Metals | How to Clean | Jewelry Organization | Summer Jewelry Care | White Metals


White metals’ cool allure has captured imaginations for centuries. You may prefer one kind of white metal, or you may be surprised to discover a new favorite among the wide range of white metals used in jewelry today. Each has its distinct advantages and some have unique looks and applications for jewelry.

Understanding the qualities of each different white jewelry metal can help ensure that the piece you select today will offer a lifetime of joy and satisfaction. Here are the different white metals:


Sterling Silver

The Look
Sterling silver is a versatile metal and can have a high polish, matte, brushed, satin, sandblasted, oxidized (chemically blackened), or antiqued finish.

Insider Details
Silver is a naturally soft metal and must be mixed with other metals to create an alloy; it is commonly mixed with copper. For jewelry to be labeled sterling silver, it must contain at least 92.5% pure silver.

Pros & Cons
Sterling silver’s versatility and affordability create limitless options for fashionable jewelry. While sterling silver can tarnish or darken, you can return silver to its natural finish with proper care and cleaning.


Platinum

The Look
Pure, rare, eternal – these qualities set platinum apart. Its finish can range from a bright polish to a soft matte texture.

Insider Details
Jewelry made with platinum will have markings of Platinum, Pt, or Plat, meaning that it contains at least 95% pure platinum. If marked “iridplat,” it contains 90% platinum and 10% iridium, another platinum group metal.

Pros & Cons
Platinum’s strength assures you that your most precious diamonds and gems will be protected and secured. Platinum’s purity makes it hypoallergenic and thus the perfect choice for those with sensitive skin. Platinum’s durability sustains very little metal loss over a lifetime of wear. Some wearers of brightly polished platinum don’t like the “patina” platinum that naturally develops with time, but the shine can be restored with regular re-polishing. Others may find platinum’s heaviness doesn’t suit certain styles.


White Gold

The Look
White gold gets its color by mixing yellow gold with alloys like nickel, zinc, and palladium. Due to the variety of the alloys used, white gold colors will vary. Sometimes, white gold is covered with rhodium plating to create a bright, pure white finish.

Insider Details
White gold is available in karatages up to 21 karat; it is not possible to have 22k or 24k white gold. Eighteen-karat gold is 75% pure, 14k is 58.5% pure, and 10k (the lowest karatage legally sold as gold jewelry in the U.S.) is 41.7% pure.

Pros & Cons
White gold is a more affordable yet still durable and precious alternative to platinum. It doesn’t tarnish like silver. But some rhodium-plated white gold can “yellow” over time and may need to be occasionally replated with rhodium.


Palladium

The Look
Palladium has garnered much attention from jewelers since it offers the benefits of platinum – bright white color, purity, and strength – at a more affordable price. Its strength makes it a favorite metal for elaborate, solid jewelry.

Insider Details
Palladium, like platinum, is a very pure metal. Look for 950 Palladium, which means that the metal used is 95% pure, and usually mixed with 5% ruthenium. Sometimes jewelers use a 90% palladium/10% iridium combination.

Pros & Cons
Palladium does not require plating to maintain its lustrous white color, and it is hypoallergenic. It will not tarnish. However, palladium is neither as rare nor as heavy as platinum.


Titanium, Tungsten Carbide, Stainless Steel:

Used for their durability in active accessories, like golf clubs, the metals are well suited to active consumers who will wear the jewelry on a daily basis and do not want to worry about its care and condition.

The Look
Titanium also has a unique property that allows it to be transformed, using heat or chemicals, into bright colors like blue, purple, and black. The metals are often used in inlay designs, with contrasting metals and patterns in rings and bracelets. Jewelry made from these metals usually features contemporary designs in rings, bracelets, cuff links, earrings, money clips, and necklaces.

Insider Details
Unlike the precious metals – platinum, gold, silver and palladium – these metals are not rare. Titanium is the ninth most common element found on earth; stainless steel was created in a laboratory. However, the metals are very pure. They have the benefits of being very strong and durable, but also light weight.

Pros & Cons
Titanium, stainless steel, and tungsten carbide offer affordable alternatives to precious white metal jewelry. They are non-corrosive and hypoallergenic. Jewelry made using these industrial metals is scratch resistant and will retain its polish longer than other metals. They cannot be used to make delicate designs. They are so tough that resizing rings is difficult.

For more information visit the official Jewelry Information Center.