The difference between Gold and Platinum.
The Difference between Platinum and Gold. Is Platinum really better than Gold? How strong is platinum really? These are just a couple of questions I’m going to tackle in this short but sweet post.
To answer these questions we have to understand a little history of Precious Metals, how it’s used and why we like it so much. I’ll also be taking a dive into the Molecules that make up these metals to see how they behave under force.
Gold has been used for thousands of years for making Jewellery. It’s very colour suggests Luxury, expense and shine. Gold in its rawest form is soft and very malleable, meaning it’s very easy to make things with. Gold is so soft if you had a 999 fine gold bar 2mm thick and a few centimetres long you could easily bend this with your own fingers. Because gold is so soft it’s usually mixed with other precious metals like silver to bring the gold content down to make the metal a little stronger. For example 9ct Gold in the Uk has a Hallmark code of 375. Simply this means that there is 375grams of fine gold per 1000grams of metal. Meaning there is 625grams of other metals per 1000grams like silver mixed with the gold. The more gold is added the higher carat of Gold the metal contains.
Gold is also a metal that doesn’t rust, corrode, stain or change colour. It’s also a great conductor so it’s used in wiring and circuit boards. Polished Gold is also a great heat reflector to keep objects cool.
My point is that Gold has so many different uses and is unlike any other metal on earth.
So why do we all want Platinum now for our Jewellery?
Over the years white metals have become more popular. Sterling silver has always been popular for making Jewellery and Silver cups ect.. its very soft and malleable and even has healing properties. The problem with silver is that it’s quite a dirty metal, its softer than 18ct gold, it Tarnishes easily and is much more readily available than gold meaning its cheap. In older Jewellery silver was often used to set in the diamonds and then the rest of the band would be gold. Because silver is soft this made for the perfect metal to set in precious stones like Diamonds into Jewellery without too much risk of breaking the stone when setting.
During the early 17th Century Platinum was discovered but wasn’t used in Jewellery until the late 17th century due to the difficulty in working with its high melting point. Platinum soon became a popular alternative for collets and settings due to its harder wearing qualities.
As the years go on white metals became more popular and white gold was introduced, a blend of Gold and white metals to bring the carat down but keeping the metal as white as possible. Due to White gold not really being completely white, its then finished with a plating of rhodium. In recent years palladium is now mixed with the Gold to give a much whiter finish, reducing the need for plating as often. This is really where platinum comes in. Platinum doesn’t need plating at all, so this and its Harder wearing qualities makes for the perfect combination for an Expensive luxury engagement ring that will stand the test of time.
There is however another side to Platinum that isn’t well-known to the average buyer or sales person. Platinum is a great metal for use in jewellery making, when polished correctly it has a brilliant shine. Its a very dense metal, so it feels heavy and substantial. Platinum is harder wearing than all the other Precious metals too so it will last you longer. But …. Platinum is still a soft metal. Its will still scratch, it will still break, and it will still go out of shape when hit hard enough. In fact in some cases platinum will have heavier or deeper marks compared to at 18ct ring put through the same stress. This doesn’t mean its not a hardwearing metal but it does mean its just as venerable to damage.
Taking a closer look into the structure of platinum reveals that all the molecules are very tightly compact, as you would expect from such a dense metal. However when Platinum is struck with an object with force the small molecules move slightly. They move in the direction of the force implemented. This means that if you had a Platinum ring and you went to the gym and picked up dumbbells with a metal mesh grip you would be marking the metal and you’d be able to see it. It works the same for flat smooth objects too. If you had a platinum ring and at the Gym you picked up dumbbells with a completely smooth metal grip. This would mark the platinum but over a greater surface area, meaning you wouldn’t really notice a mark even though it has marked, much like a Planishing hammer. My point is that platinum will mark and scratch like other metals.
So why is Platinum harder wearing then?
Simply put, Platinum is harder WEARING because the particles and molecules move! Your noticed I empathise the word harder WEARING as opposed to Harder metal. Platinum isn’t a hard metal … its a harder wearing metal compared to Silver, Gold and Palladium. Because the particles move and don’t chip off as much, they just move about. Meaning you may have a few marks and scratches over the years but most of the platinum is still there. The particles of 9ct Gold or 18ct Gold on the other hand don’t move as much so they chip off more easily. Have you ever noticed how older Gold rings seem to be thinning round the back of the shank? This is where most of the wear and tear happens. I’m not saying a platinum ring wont do this of corse, because it will, but over a longer time. The question should be, what metal is actually harder.. 18ct Gold or Platinum. The answer is, there both as hard as each other. Platinum will last longer but will incur more marks over time. 18ct will incur less marks but will wear down over a shorter period.
So what metal is better?
I dont really think one metal is better than the other. There are advantages for having both.
For Platinum, we don’t need to have it Re-plated every 12 months. Its as shiny as other white metals when polished and finished correctly. White gold can be just as durable on the correct piece of jewellery. So really it comes down to personal taste and professional advice. Check them both out before you decide and base your decision on what you feel comfortable with given the facts.
Thanks for reading.