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White or Gold Metal — Which is Right for You?

There’s usually no reason to choose between the metals — don’t you just love variety? But people do have solid reasons for why they choose yellow or white metal.

Since antiquity, gold in its yellow form has been the classic jewelry metal because of its warmth, luster and value. Small pieces can be delicate and lovely. Large pieces can flaunt the luxury factor.

Personal color preferences are often based on what people know looks good — or bad — on them.

But there are many metal options for people who strongly prefer one over another. Things to consider include personal color preference, skin tone, skin sensitivities, durability of material, weight of the metal, maintenance factors and, of course, price.

What I like

Personal color preferences are often based on what people know looks good — or bad — on them. Yellow gold can wash out some pale skin tones, yet warm up others. It’s usually just gorgeous on women with darker tones. Silver and white metals flatter most all skin tones, so platinum, palladium, white gold and silver are great options.

Preference also refers to how a metal works with the gemstones set within it. You are looking for “color harmony” — a visual experience that makes a piece of jewelry pleasing to the eye. Certain colors complement one another; others detract. Some can look boring together; others become pure chaos.

Consider how color complements and detracts in these jewelry examples. A white metal such as platinum or white gold will:

  • Enhance the beauty of a high-grade colorless diamond by blending seamlessly with it (white on white).
  • Bring out the unwanted yellow in a diamond graded faint to very light color.
  • Make a fancy vivid yellow diamond truly pop because of the contrast between the colors.

Does it have enough heft?

The weight of a metal can be an issue, especially when considering a watch purchase. Stainless steel, platinum and gold are heavier products, which may be something you like. Titanium and tungsten are great choices when looking for lighter, but durable, metals.

Keeping it clean

Sterling silver requires more maintenance than other white metals. It must be polished regularly to avoid tarnish and buildup that can cause long-term damage. Gold and platinum don’t tarnish, but skin oils, makeup, creams, aerosols, cleaning products and other substances can dull these metals. Mild soapy water and a soft cloth is often all you need to clean gold or platinum. Tungsten jewelry requires very little maintenance; the same goes for stainless steel.

What to know about gold

Gold jewelry comes in four distinct colors: yellow, white, rose and green.

Pure gold (as in 24K gold) is yellow, but it’s too soft to be used in most jewelry. To strengthen it, it’s combined with other metal alloys, such as copper and silver. As different amounts of alloys are used, the karatage, or proportion of pure gold per measure, changes. The most common examples include 18K, 14K, 10K and 9K gold. The more alloy used, the less pure gold content, so the lower the price.

In white gold, pure gold is combined with copper, zinc, nickel or palladium. To create rose gold, yellow gold is combined with copper. The color created is a softly glowing pinkish hue and a growing trend in jewelry. Green gold is a mix of gold with copper, silver and zinc.

Nickel is an element that’s causing allergic reactions in more people than before. If you’re allergic to nickel, make sure your white gold is rhodium plated. Since there’s no nickel in yellow, rose or green gold, these are good gold choices for people with allergies.

Bright white platinum

Platinum is valued for its purity, rarity and strength, and is considered the most precious metal used in jewelry. Platinum is stronger and more rare than gold. It’s naturally white and will stay that way with no color change. It’s also hypoallergenic, making it a good choice for those with skin sensitivities. Platinum jewelry is heavier than other metal jewelry — some people prefer the heft and solidity; others opt for something lighter. Platinum is available in finishes from shiny to matte.

Palladium is a related white metal. It’s not as heavy or dense as platinum, and is usually less expensive.

Make mine sterling

Pure silver is soft — too soft to be used for jewelry so it’s mixed with metal alloys like copper to boost its strength. Sterling silver is at least 92.5% pure silver and is stronger and more durable than pure silver. Sterling silver jewelry is stamped as “925,” differentiating it from silver jewelry that’s been mixed with a larger percentage of alloys.

Contemporary alternatives

Additional choices — and of special interest to men and women who love jewelry and watches — are titanium, stainless steel, tungsten carbide, cobalt and ceramic.

Titanium is a light but extremely strong metal, and is pure. It weighs a third less than gold, yet is three times stronger than steel, so it’s durable. It’s hypoallergenic and resists corrosion. Titanium jewelry is usually seen in gray, black or silver and can have a shiny or matte finish. Titanium rings can’t be resized, engraved or set with stones.

Stainless steel is easy to maintain — it resists rust and corrosion better than regular steel or other metals due to its chromium content.  The chromium — at least 10.5% — prevents rust or oxidation. Stainless steel is also strong.

Tungsten carbide also resists corrosion, is four times harder than titanium and dense. Its strength means it won’t bend, but this strength also means jewelry made of this metal — like rings — can’t be resized or engraved. It is brittle and may shatter under enough pressure.

Cobalt is a solid, naturally white alloy that won’t fade. It’s strong and durable and resists corrosion. This alloy is hypoallergenic, and because of this is also used in dental and medical implants. Cobalt rings can be resized slightly, up to ½ size.

Ceramic, as used in most jewelry, is a high-tech mix of ceramic materials and the element zirconium, a very strong metal. It’s often used with other metals in contemporary jewelry such as wedding bands and watches. It’s hard but brittle and may shatter under enough pressure. It’s hypoallergenic and affordable. A ceramic ring can’t be resized, but ceramic material can be engraved.

Everyone’s different, but will likely choose their preferred metal based on one or a combination of the reasons you’ve just seen. What will your combination be?

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