Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Let's talk about platinum

Platinum. It's rare, it's dense, it's white, and it's expensive.
Is it better than gold?
What about white gold?
What are the differences?
What should you look for?

This is what platinum crystals look like.
Isn't it pretty? I would wear this as-is on a ring or pin.
Did you know that metals make crystals too?
It is true. Every mineral has crystalline structure and several crystal forms it can take.
Platinum has a cubic crystalline structure.
In the wild, it is mostly found in flakes or small grains.

What looks better?
If you like white metal, platinum is a great durable choice.
Platinum is soft but tough and dense.
That means you can scratch it pretty easily, but that the scratches don't actually remove the displaced metal. This is different from gold. When you scratch gold, you lose that amount of gold and it can wear thin more quickly.
When you scratch platinum, you move the metal around. When you scratch gold, you take the metal away.
The scratches are more apparent on platinum and it scratches more quickly because it is softer than gold.
Once platinum gets a lot of scratches, it develops a soft patina.
 Scratched platinum ring

What about white gold?
White gold is yellow gold that has other minerals like palladium, silver, and platinum mixed in to make it whiter.
Even after processing and adding other metals, white gold is still a little yellowish.
So most white gold jewelry is plated with rhodium for a whiter, shinier finish.
What is rhodium? IT'S PLATINUM.
Did I just blow your mind?

Check this picture out: 
1. yellow gold
2. white gold with rhodium plating
3. white gold no plating

The Six Platinum Group Metals
Platinum jewelry can be made up of six transitional metals in different proportions. When we talk about platinum, we rarely talk about pure elemental platinum.
The six metals are ruthenium, rhodium, palladium, osmium, iridium, and platinum.
They are all pretty similar.
I'm whipping out the periodic table on your asses.

So why buy platinum if white gold comes with platinum on it?
Excellent question, grasshopper.
There are pros and cons of each metal and you have to decide what you want.
The coating on the white gold will wear off, and then when you scratch the gold underneath, it can get thinner and wear away.
You can have the plating redone for under $50 usually, but that is a recurring expense.
White gold is lighter and cheaper than platinum.
Platinum shows wear faster but doesn't lose as much metal when you polish it.
Refinishing white gold means replating and polishing and lots of shops do this.
Refinishing platinum means heating and polishing and takes an experienced platinum worker.

One question that you should ask yourself is: do I want my ring to be shiny shiny or soft looking?

If you want a hard shine, go for rhodium plated white gold.
If you want a soft finish and can afford it, go for brushed or sandblasted platinum.
When you get a non-shiny finish on platinum, the scratches are much less noticeable and blend into the design.

Shiny white gold ring plated with rhodium

Sandblasted platinum band

Brushed platinum band

What looks better with diamonds?
This is a personal aesthetic decision, but I like a non-shiny finish on a solitaire or triplet so the diamonds can stand out and sparkle more in contrast. But if you are doing a pave setting and have multiple small diamonds, I think shiny looks better so the whole thing is just one sparkly mass.

 Diamond solitaire with brushed platinum band

Pave diamonds in a white gold band

If you are storing a piece of platinum jewelry, keep it in its own bag so the rest of your jewelry doesn't scratch it.
It won't rust or tarnish, but sometimes when it gets tons of scratches it will look dull and tarnished. If you are ok with it, leave it and it won't get darker. If you want it shiny, time to bring it in to a professional.

1 comment:

  1. Really good article - you know a lot about platinum labware and other metals! It's always good to know this stuff when you go shopping.


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