White gold and silver are precious metal jewelry with gorgeous white exteriors. Though they look similar, they’re far from the same. Both jewelry metals have their advantages and disadvantages.
Do you like white jewelry and want to know which suits you better? Keep reading to learn more about white gold vs silver and which jewelry is better for you.
What exactly is white gold?
White gold is a gold alloy made of pure yellow gold and another metal. Alloys combine two or more metallic elements to provide further strength or resistance. Pure gold is soft and, for this reason, is alloyed with other metals to make it stand better against wear.
Also, mixing gold with metals like silver and palladium can give it that pleasant white hue. The jewelry is then rhodium-plated for a harder surface and brighter shine. Without the rhodium coat, white gold retains a slight yellowish tinge. For that reason, all white gold jewelry is rhodium-plated.
💡 Know Your Karats: The purity of gold is measured in karats. Pure gold is 24-karat, but with alloys, the karatage is lower. White gold can contain between 9-karat to 18-karat of gold. The other metals make it lighter colored and stronger.
What is silver?
Silver is a precious metal used for more than 5000 years to make coins, kitchenware, and jewelry. It is soft, lustrous, white, and because of its excellent electrical conductivity, it’s used in electronics.
When used for jewelry making, silver is either used in its pure state or alloyed with various metals to produce sterling silver.
Pure (or fine) silver isn’t 100% pure and contains trace quantities of other metals. However, it’s too soft to be used in that state, so it’s alloyed to make sterling silver, which is more popular. It has 92.5% silver, while the remaining 7.5% is usually either copper or nickel.
White gold vs. silver: what’s the difference?
With both metals being so close in color, it might be difficult to tell them apart. But with some assistance, you can. Here are the key differences between white gold and silver.
From closer observation, you’ll find that white gold has a brilliant, mirror-like white finish, while silver’s lustrous whiteness tends towards gray.
White gold gets its shiny white exterior from rhodium plating. Rhodium is a brilliant white metal in the same group as platinum. After some time, that outer rhodium coat will wear off, and you’ll need to have a jeweler polish and reapply a new coat.
You can also use the hallmark to tell silver from other metals. The silver hallmark is a small stamped symbol by which you can tell the purity of an article of silver. Real sterling silver is stamped with 925, STG, STER, or STERLING.
When considering your budget, it helps to evaluate the difference in cost of both metals.
Silver is the better choice for a smaller budget as it costs less. Though white gold is combined with several metals, it still contains gold. And gold is highly valued. The price of gold jewelry changes with the karatage, but it still costs more than silver.
If you desire a precious white metal but can’t afford platinum, white gold is your next best option. However, if you still can’t afford it, pieces of silver jewelry are equally gorgeous.
Gold and silver are two of the softest metals on earth despite their value. They deform and scratch easily, making their jewelry change shape over time when in their pure form. This softness makes it necessary for jewelers to alloy gold and silver with other metals.
White gold is mixed with nickel, palladium, and silver to give the whitish hue. Gold is usually still slightly yellowish after alloying with other metals. Jewelers coat the color with rhodium to bring the color to a brilliant white.
Sterling silver is an alloy of pure silver and copper. The mixture is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. In rare cases, other metals like tin or zinc might be used.
Coin silver is rare, but it’s a type of silver made with 90% and 10% alloy. With 99.9% purity, fine silver is softer and more easily deformed than the other kinds.
White gold stands up better against wear and frequent use. The rhodium plating protects the metal from scratches and wear. If you’re looking for sturdier jewelry for everyday wear, pick gold with lower karatage. They have a higher percentage of alloys, making the gold stronger.
Though pure silver is soft and liable to bending, sterling silver holds up better with frequent use. The inclusion of alloy metals gives it more strength and helps it hold up better against wear. However, it isn’t as durable and wear-resistant as white gold.
Most people are allergic to nickel, and it’s this nickel component in jewelry that causes the redness and itching. If you’re allergic, it’s best to avoid jewelry with nickel.
More often than not, silver jewelry doesn’t contain nickel. Notable jewelers make sterling silver with pure silver and copper. And fine silver only has a trace percentage of alloy metal. However, some people are allergic to copper, though reports of allergies are few. To protect your skin, inquire about the composition of your silver jewelry before you purchase it. If you’re also in the small percentage of the population allergic to copper, you should stay away from sterling silver.
On the other hand, nickel in white gold is more common. Nickel is silvery-white and mixed with pure gold to make white gold. The rhodium plating will protect you from the nickel, but that’s only till the plating begins to fade.
Care and Maintenance
White gold and silver require constant care to retain their beauty.
White gold’s rhodium plating eventually wears out with frequent use. As the whiteness of your jewelry leaves, you may begin to see the yellow-ish metal alloys underneath. At that point, you should visit a jeweler.
The jeweler will polish and replate your white gold to bring back the former shine. Depending on usage, this process will only happen between a few months and a few years. The more friction and abrasion your jewelry faces, the faster the coating will wear off.
However, silver requires more frequent cleaning because it tarnishes easily. Sterling silver tarnishes in the presence of air, moisture, and certain everyday chemicals. All this tarnishing is due to the inclusion of copper. Copper reacts, and your jewelry blackens over time. The good news is you can clean tarnish at home or take it to a jeweler.
White Gold vs Silver: Comparison Table
In this table, we highlight the key differences between white gold and silver.
|Composition||Made of pure gold alloyed with a silvery white metal, like silver, nickel, or palladium. Usually rhodium-plated..||Made from pure silver and another metal, usually copper. In rare cases, nickel might be used. Fine silver only contains a tiny percentage of alloy.|
|Appearance||Brilliant, mirror-like white because of the rhodium coat.||Shiny, lustrous, with a grayish tone.|
|Cost||Varies depending on the karatage, but is more expensive than silver. 10k gold costs $810.81, 14k gold costs $1142.71, and 18k gold costs $1458.29 an ounce each.||Much cheaper, at $24.84 an ounce.|
|Allergenicity||Usually contains nickel, which is a common allergen. Rhodium plating may prevent allergies, but only until it wears out.||Fine silver doesn’t contain nickel. And in most cases, neither does sterling silver. Cheap sterling silver jewelry is sometimes made with small amounts of nickel. Still, some people are allergic to copper, and its inclusion might prove troublesome.|
|Durability||Stronger and more scratch-resistant due to the outer rhodium coat. Can be worn frequently without issue.||Soft and easily deformed. Sterling silver, though stronger, isn’t completely tolerant of everyday wear.|
|Care and maintenance||Rhodium coat on white gold makes it scratch-resistant and gives white gold the mirror-like whit finish. However, depending on exposure to abrasion in use, it can wear off between a few months and some years and may need replating.||Tarnishes more easily than white gold. Should be polished regularly.|
White Gold and Silver: Which Should You Choose?
Both white metals make for gorgeous jewelry, but everyone has their preference. But how can you tell which is the better fit for you?
Here are some reasons why white gold could be the jewelry for you.
- You have a bigger budget. White gold is much more expensive. But if you can afford it, it’s worth it.
- You plan to wear it a lot. White gold stands up better against wear. It’s also more scratch-resistant, making it better for everyday use.
Here are some reasons why silver could be your preferred choice.
- Tighter budget. Silver doesn’t cost as much as white gold, but it still has lovely whiteness.
- You’re allergic to nickel. White gold sometimes contains nickel, but it’s rare to find silver with it. For this reason, it might be the better choice for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
If you have further questions about white gold and silver jewelry, we’re happy to provide answers.
Is white gold real gold?
Yes, white gold is real gold, but it isn’t entirely pure. Manufacturers design white gold to imitate naturally white metals, like platinum by mixing gold with alloys like palladium and silver. The percentage of gold in these alloys can vary from 58.3% to 75%.
Does white gold exist naturally?
You can’t find naturally occurring white gold. White gold is an alloy of pure yellow gold and white metals like silver, nickel, or palladium. Naturally occurring gold is reddish yellow. However, metals like platinum, rhodium, and silver exist naturally in that white form.
What tarnishes more: white gold vs. silver?
When compared with white gold, silver tarnishes more. The moisture and oxygen in the air attack the copper alloy used in sterling silver. Silver can also tarnish from exposure to sweat and other household chemicals.
White gold, on the other hand, is coated in rhodium.
💡 Did You Know? Rhodium is an inert and unreactive metal that protects your jewelry from scratches, wear, and tarnish. Eventually, this coat can wear off, but a jeweler can always help you apply another.
How to Identify Silver vs. White Gold
Silver is a warm gray metal and usually comes with a stamped hallmark, showing the percentage of purity. The hallmarks show stamps with 925, STG, STER, or STERLING. When the jewelry is 99.9% pure, the stamp is usually 999.
In contrast, white gold is typically unmarked and has a brilliant white appearance because of the rhodium coat.
Is white gold better than silver?
White gold does better when subjected to constant usage. It doesn’t scratch or bend easily. However, silver is a better option when you consider the cost. If you don’t have a big budget, it could be the better option for you. Silver is also more hypoallergenic than white, often containing no nickel at all, as opposed to white gold. However, do well to avoid it if you’re in the small percentage of people allergic to copper.
Different Strokes for Different Folks
Though silver and white gold are equally beautiful, everyone has something they love more. Perhaps you love white gold for its resistance to constant use. Or you pick silver over again for its pocket-friendly cost. Both metals are gorgeous and are a lovely addition to your collection, no matter your choice.
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