Palladium vs. White Gold: What Are the Differences

Palladium vs. White Gold: What Are the Differences

Are you struggling to decide between a palladium engagement ring and a white gold engagement ring? No worries!

In this helpful Twirl Weddings guide, I will provide a detailed comparison of palladium and white gold. I’ll address common questions such as:

  • Why are palladium rings difficult to find?
  • ¬†How long does white gold jewelry typically last?
  • Is a palladium ring superior to a platinum ring?

Origin – Palladium vs White Gold

Palladium

White gold is a well-known metal in the world of jewelry, but not many people are familiar with palladium. When you visit popular engagement ring stores like Zales or Jared, you won’t often come across palladium jewelry.

Palladium belongs to a group of metals called the platinum metals group, which consists of six metals. However, only platinum, palladium, and rhodium are commonly used in fine jewelry, and only platinum and palladium serve as base metals.

The six metals in the platinum group are:

  • Platinum
  • Palladium
  • Rhodium
  • Osmium
  • Ruthenium
  • Iridium

Just like other metals used for engagement rings, palladium is obtained through mining. Interestingly, most palladium rings available today are not mined specifically for palladium. Instead, they are usually found alongside other metals in mines that extract nickel or copper.

Palladium was discovered in 1803 by an English scientist named William Hyde Wollaston. It was named after an asteroid called Pallos, which was also discovered around the same time.

Palladium is typically found in sulfide concentrates within igneous rocks. During the mining process, it is often obtained as a byproduct from the residue of other metals. The chemical properties of the metals allow them to separate from each other.

The majority of palladium mining takes place in Russia, but it can also be found in other countries such as the United States, Finland, Australia, Canada, and Zimbabwe.

To extract palladium, the metal is treated with a chemical mixture of nitric acid and hydrochloric acid, known as Aqua Regia. This solution encourages the metals to produce nitrates.

Palladium is not considered a conflict metal and has uses beyond jewelry, including electronics and dental tools.

White Gold

Currently, white gold is the most popular choice as a base metal for engagement rings and wedding rings. In the past, yellow gold used to be the top choice, and rose gold is currently trendy, although some people believe its popularity will diminish over time.

To create white gold jewelry, white alloy metals are mixed with gold. Gold naturally has a yellow hue, so the addition of these white metals gives it a silvery appearance.

White Gold Rings at James Allen

Shop at James Allen

The following are the white metals that can be mixed with gold to create white gold pieces:

  • Nickel
  • Palladium
  • Manganese
  • Platinum
  • Silver

There are also less common metals that have been used as alloys, such as copper and zinc.

The use of white metals in jewelry dates back to the 1700s, but white gold jewelry didn’t reach its peak until the 1900s. Interestingly, its popularity grew during times of war.

Before white gold became popular, platinum was the primary white metal used. However, it was prohibited for jewelry design purposes and reserved for military and governmental use due to its scarcity and high cost.

The demand for an alternative to yellow gold led to the rise of white gold. Not every white gold piece contains all of the mentioned metals. Usually, karat gold is mixed with one of the white metals, and different metals are preferred for specific types of jewelry.

For instance, white gold jewelry created by mixing gold with palladium is ideal for intricate pieces or white gold necklace chains due to its malleability.

Engagement rings and wedding bands, on the other hand, are often mixed with nickel. The combination of these two metals creates a stronger alloy, making it suitable for everyday wear of gold rings.

Appearance – Palladium vs White Gold

Palladium

The natural lustrous white color of palladium metal is its main attraction for many people. Unlike platinum or gold rings, both palladium and platinum rings do not require any plating to maintain their white appearance.

While it’s relatively easy to find platinum jewelry in physical stores, palladium jewelry is more commonly found online. Its appearance is radiant and can remain that way with proper care.

image: palladium ring

If you’re accustomed to the weightiness of platinum or gold rings, palladium may take some getting used to as it is considerably lighter. This is one reason why some people prefer other metals.

However, if you’re not accustomed to wearing rings, palladium could be a better choice due to its lightweight nature. The level of comfort ultimately depends on the individual.

If you decide to purchase palladium jewelry online, it’s important to choose a reputable retailer with a good return policy, just in case the item doesn’t meet your expectations.

Another reason why palladium is less popular is because it can be challenging to work with as a jewelry metal. While most bench jewelers are skilled in working with sterling silver, gold, or platinum, not all of them are experienced in working with palladium.

Working with palladium requires special care and expertise due to its unique composition and malleability compared to traditional white metals. This can present difficulties when it comes to repairing, soldering, or resizing a palladium engagement ring.

One advantage of palladium is that it is hypoallergenic, even for individuals with sensitive skin. Common metal allergies often stem from nickel, copper, chromium, or cobalt content, but palladium doesn’t cause such reactions.

White Gold

One of the most common misunderstandings I encountered while working at a jewelry store was customers confusing silver with white gold when browsing the jewelry cases. They would point to the white gold section and refer to it as “silver.”

Many customers were unaware that what they saw as silver was actually white gold. Despite its name, white gold has a silvery color. This color is achieved through a process called rhodium plating.

All white gold jewelry requires rhodium plating. Rhodium is one of the metals from the platinum group. Without rhodium plating, a 14K white gold ring would have a slight yellowish tint to its silver appearance.

White Gold Rings at Brilliant Earth

Shop at Brilliant Earth

White gold is often advertised as a hypoallergenic metal, although there are some individuals who may be allergic to it. This is because white gold contains reactive metals like nickel, which can cause allergic reactions. The amount of nickel used in creating a white gold ring is minimal and doesn’t affect most people. However, if you have an extreme sensitivity to nickel, you may experience a reaction.

Did you know that an allergic reaction doesn’t always manifest as an itchy rash? In the case of engagement rings and wedding rings, it can cause your finger to turn green. Many people assume that a ring turning their finger green signifies it is fake, but it’s actually a skin reaction to the base metal.

This can occur with gold-plated jewelry as well. Once the gold, rhodium, or platinum plating wears off, the base metal comes into direct contact with the skin, triggering a reaction.

If you have high sensitivity, you may encounter this issue even with genuine white gold jewelry. Opting for 18K white gold may reduce the likelihood of a reaction since it contains a lower percentage of white metal alloy.

Cheap base metals are more likely to contain reactive metal alloys. This is frequently seen with inexpensive plated engagement rings and wedding bands found on platforms like Amazon.

Price and Value – Palladium vs White Gold

Similar to gold, palladium also has a spot price that fluctuates.

Currently, the spot price of palladium stands at $1883 per ounce, while gold is priced at $1822 per ounce. However, it’s important to consider the overall value of these metals beyond just their price tags.

When choosing a metal for an engagement or wedding ring, it’s crucial to consider how well it holds up for everyday wear, whether it can be easily worked on, and if it requires regular maintenance.

Minerals are classified on the Mohs Scale of Hardness, which measures their ability to withstand scratches and dirt. This scale provides an indication of how easily the surface of a mineral can be scratched.

mohs hardness scale

White gold jewelry typically has a hardness rating of 3.5-4. If your white gold jewelry contains a higher gold content, such as 18K gold rings, it becomes even more susceptible to scratches.

As we know, pure gold is too soft for use in jewelry and ranks at 2.5 on the Mohs Scale in its purest form. Mixing gold with white alloy metals enhances the durability of white gold jewelry, making it more resistant to scratches.

RECOMMENDED: Where To Buy White Gold

On the other hand, palladium is a harder metal, ranking at 4.8 on the Mohs scale, making it more resistant to scratches compared to white gold.

Unlike palladium, the rhodium plating on white gold jewelry is not permanent and will gradually fade over time. The rate of fading varies from person to person, and it tends to occur more frequently in engagement rings and wedding rings due to the natural oils present on our hands.

To maintain the lustrous appearance of rhodium-plated jewelry, it is recommended to have the rhodium re-plated annually. However, in my personal experience, the rhodium fades more quickly, and I find it necessary to have it re-plated every six months. This fading is not indicative of the craftsmanship or quality of the ring itself, but rather a natural occurrence that requires attention.

To avoid the hassle of frequent rhodium re-plating, I suggest considering white gold rings that come with a lifetime repair warranty. It’s important to note that this is different from a manufacturer’s warranty, which typically covers design flaws and defects rather than regular wear and tear. Ensure that the warranty specifically covers rhodium plating.

For those interested in purchasing white gold rings, I recommend checking out James Allen. Their lifetime warranty includes coverage for all rhodium plating needs. Without such a warranty, the cost of rhodium plating can range between $40 to $120 each time when done by a local jeweler.

If, like me, you find yourself needing rhodium re-plating every six months, it’s essential to consider the potential increase in the overall cost of your ring over its lifetime.

Conclusion

So, when it comes to deciding which metal is better for jewelry, let’s lean towards the classics. It’s not that there’s anything wrong with palladium, but white gold offers more desirable qualities compared to palladium. Here are the reasons why you should choose white gold jewelry instead of palladium:

  • More options: White gold provides a wider range of choices compared to palladium.
    Gold content selection: With white gold jewelry, you can choose the desired gold content that suits your preferences.
  • Cost-effective: White gold is generally less expensive than palladium.
  • Jewelers’ expertise: Jewelers are more experienced in working with white gold, whereas working with palladium can be more challenging.
  • Weight: White gold jewelry tends to be heavier, providing a substantial feel.
  • Warranty availability: White gold jewelry is more likely to come with a warranty for added peace of mind.

While a palladium ring can indeed be a beautiful choice for an engagement ring, it may not be as practical for repairs and can be more challenging to find. If you’re specifically interested in palladium engagement rings, I recommend exploring Whiteflash, as they offer superior cut diamonds and a selection of palladium ring settings.

It’s essential to note that hardness and durability are distinct concepts. For example, diamonds are considered the hardest minerals, but they can still chip or break. Hardness primarily relates to scratching. Since you’ll be wearing your wedding band or engagement ring regularly, durability should be a key consideration.

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