Are you thinking about getting white metal jewelry? You’re not alone. However, you have more options than white gold and silver if you’re looking for a white metal band. Here’s a close look at some of the most popular white metals, including what sets them apart.
- Most durable: Titanium
- Most affordable: Stainless steel
- Best balance of price and quality: White gold
- Lightest metal: Titanium
- Most likely to need maintenance over time: Silver
- Best metal for resizing: White gold, platinum, and silver
- Rhodium plated: White gold
- Whitest metal: Platinum
- Grayest metal: Silver
- Best for men’s rings: Platinum, white gold, palladium, titanium, and stainless steel
- Best for women’s rings: Platinum, white gold, silver, and palladium
6 types of white metals
👉🏻While no metal is perfectly white, most companies offer a range of near-white and gray metals. The six most popular, which we’ll cover below, are white gold, silver, platinum, palladium, stainless steel, and titanium.
White gold is a consistently popular choice, especially among people looking for a white metal ring for their wedding. Most white gold uses rhodium plating, which helps to add whiteness and keep the metal free of most scratches. Rhodium is quite expensive, but electroplating helps keep costs low for consumers.
Other contents in white gold include elements like palladium and nickel. Most elements are durable enough to last in everyday wear, which adds to this choice’s overall popularity in the industry. While it’s available in several purities, the most common karats (purity levels) are:
- 10K: 10K is 41.70% gold. As it’s less than half gold, this is primarily a budget level, so you’ll often see it with fashion earrings.
- 14K: 14K is 58.30% gold. 14K is a popular choice among both luxury and budget brands. 14K is an excellent middle choice because it’s more valuable than 10K but more durable than 18K. Gold is inherently soft, so alloying it with something else makes it much more resistant to damage.
- 18K: This is the highest purity you’ll normally see in jewelry, with 75% pure gold. 18K is popular with luxury brands, and the higher gold content means it’s much more expensive than 14K. However, it’s not as durable.
While you may see 22K (91.60%) and 24K (100%) on occasional charts, you won’t find many jewelry pieces at these karats. Gold is too soft to make good jewelry at high purities, despite its attractive appearance.
For white metal jewelry, white gold stands out as a reasonably affordable choice. It pairs well in mixed pieces with rose or yellow gold. However, as most white gold contains nickel, it’s not hypoallergenic, and some people are allergic to these options. If you’re allergic to nickel, consider some alternatives to be discussed below.
Easily one of the best-known white metals, silver is a classic option for many buyers.
Silver is reasonably affordable, with a milky gray coloring that works well in fashion. Most silver jewelry is available in two forms: sterling silver and silver-plated.👨🏻🏫Like gold, silver is a little too soft to make good jewelry when it’s pure.
Sterling silver is an alloy of at least 92.5% silver. The remaining content is usually copper or zinc, although some companies also add platinum, manganese, zinc, or germanium. These can produce slight differences in the final coloring of the metal. 7.5% other metals are usually enough to toughen silver, so it makes good jewelry.
Silver-plated jewelry has a relatively thin layer of silver over a solid base, often copper. The outside is silver, which provides the best visual effect, but it’s not as valuable as sterling silver because most of its weight is in cheap metals.
Unlike gold, silver can tarnish and corrode if exposed to pollutants. Interestingly, oils on human skin can help protect silver, so wearing silver jewelry is one of the best ways to protect it. (Essential oils and similar products, however, are not good.)
Like white gold, silver is not hypoallergenic because it can include copper and nickel. You may be able to find a manufacturer offering sterling silver with other metals, but that usually takes more work to find.
Platinum is a rare and expensive metal and the whitest option on this list. If you’re looking for the palest white color possible in jewelry, platinum is the way to go.
Platinum’s cost comes with several advantages that help justify it, though. This metal is easily one of the most durable options on the market, highly resistant to tarnishing, and ideal for daily wear.
Platinum pieces are usually 95% pure, with just a little alloying to make them stronger. Platinum doesn’t scratch in the same way as other metals, either. Scratches move the metal around, pushing it slightly out of the way, so a little polishing is all it takes to make a platinum piece look new.
Platinum alloys best with the metals in a six-metal group around it while other alloy elements for platinum may include copper. Unlike white gold and silver, platinum generally doesn’t have nickel alloyed in, so it’s hypoallergenic and unlikely to trigger any skin allergies. The lack of nickel makes it one of the safest options, especially if you’re buying for someone else and want to ensure it won’t trigger any skin issues.
Although not as famous as platinum, palladium is an excellent option in its own right. It’s especially popular for men’s jewelry, where it shines similarly to white gold without requiring extra plating the way white gold does. Palladium also holds up quite well over time.
Palladium is almost as durable as platinum, and tends to be 95% pure in jewelry. Similarly, it’s hypoallergenic and probably won’t trigger any metal allergies, which enhances its appeal.
The most significant difference between platinum and palladium, outside of price, is weight. Platinum is dense and heavy, while palladium is a lighter metal. Being lighter means that palladium is easier to wear for a long time and won’t weigh fingers or ears down the way platinum can.
Stainless steel may not be most people’s first choice for jewelry, but as far as practicality goes, it’s worth considering. As a casual metal, stainless steel works well for fashion pieces that want a grayer appearance, especially if it’s to match with steel or chrome. It also makes for cheap but durable wedding options.
Stainless steel is far more common among men’s pieces, but you can order them for women as well.
Despite its gray color, stainless steel polishes well and can be nearly as bright as platinum. It’s impressively durable thanks to its combination with chromium, carbon and other contents, so it resists things like chemicals, heat, and corrosion with no real trouble. It’s also hypoallergenic, and it’s safe to wear even in places like the shower.
Consider this metal if you’re looking for something tough enough to withstand active outdoor lifestyles.⛺ Stainless steel is also reasonably light for its size, so it’s a popular choice for larger pieces that would be too expensive if you tried to use other metals.
Titanium is one of the better-known options in the white metal category, with a natural silvery-white color that makes it popular for both men’s pieces and fashionable jewelry.
Titanium isn’t as dense as platinum, so it’s lighter, but it’s exceptionally durable. It’s occasionally too durable, as people occasionally have to destroy a titanium ring outright to rescue people in emergencies (and casual tools aren’t enough for that). If you don’t mind that risk, this is the ideal metal for active outdoor use.
💡One other downside to the durability is that titanium can be hard to resize. Anyone who expects their ring size to change significantly may want to look at another metal.
Titanium may not resist tarnish or rust as well as some other metals, but it does last a long time if you take minimal care of it. It’s hypoallergenic to the point people will use it for artificial body parts and nearly impervious to scratching.
Comparing white metals
Here’s how the different white metals compare to each other. You can use this to decide between the metals based on the qualities that matter most to you.
Color and purity
Platinum is the whitest of the metals on this list, which can be important if you need a pale look for anything you’re doing. Palladium and white gold are the next-best options in color alone. Grayer options include titanium, stainless steel, and, naturally, silver.
Titanium is an impressively pure metal, with some sold at 99% pure. Unlike other metals, titanium is strong enough on its own and doesn’t need alloying. However, some variants are 90% pure instead, with the alloying providing more durability.
Platinum and palladium are also very pure, usually 95%, while sterling silver is a little lower at 92.5%. White gold is the least-pure option, with some options being less than 50% pure metal.
Stainless steel is technically pure as an alloy but mostly doesn’t have precious metals mixed in, so its purity is irrelevant for valuation purposes.
Platinum is the most expensive of the options on this list, followed by palladium. White gold comes after these two, with its price varying significantly depending on its karat rating. Note that white gold requires regular rhodium treatments to maintain its look, and those can add to its price once a year or so.
Titanium, silver, and stainless steel are all more affordable options, with stainless steel being the most budget-friendly choice. It won’t look as fancy as more expensive metals, but it gets the job done if you want a nice shine.
Also, remember that material isn’t the only factor to consider when it comes to price. Many companies price their jewelry based on three main factors: weight, complexity, and the inclusion of other valuable elements (usually gems).
Complexity matters here because jewelry that takes longer to make will always be more expensive, even if it has the same amount of material as, say, a smooth ring. Similarly, larger pieces are always more expensive than smaller ones. This is why earrings tend to be much more affordable than rings, even when they’re of the same material.
You can use these traits to your advantage by looking for jewelry that’s thinner or plated, which can provide the appearance of fine jewelry at a much lower price. For titanium, a little is all you need for an impressively durable piece.
All of the metals on this list work for regular daily wear.
Titanium and stainless steel are the toughest options, ideal for active outdoor use and environments like rock climbing.⛰️ Neither breaks or scratches easily, although stainless steel may need more polishing occasionally. Palladium and platinum are also quite durable, but not to the same level as titanium.
Silver and white gold are the softest options on this list, even if you use silver-plated jewelry instead of sterling silver. It’s better to remove these for any vigorous activities, as you may damage them.
Durability has a secondary consideration in the form of resizing. White gold, silver, and platinum are all relatively soft and easy to resize to fit a changing finger. Jewelers may charge a nominal fee to do this, but in most cases, they can do it without significant difficulty.
Titanium and stainless steel are significantly harder to resize properly. Both of these are among the most durable materials on the market, and that very durability makes them difficult to reshape without specialty equipment. Many jewelers do not have the right equipment, so they’ll need to send it off to someone else for resizing.
In short, resizing them is possible, but not quick. Expect to pay a lot more to resize a tougher ring.
Platinum is the densest option on this list. It’s noticeably heavier than any of the other metals, so it’s not a good choice for larger pieces like necklaces. Of course, platinum’s price also discourages using it for large pieces, so that tends to work out.
Stainless steel, palladium, and titanium are all lightweight options that are easy to wear.
⚠️Remember that density does not directly correspond to toughness in these metals. Titanium is both one of the lightest options and one of the strongest, so its comparatively low density is not an issue for most buyers.
Density is a secondary consideration for price. A denser material requires more of it for a ring of a given size, which significantly increases the price. This is one of the many reasons that platinum is so expensive.
We’ll go into this more below, but stainless steel and titanium require the least maintenance aside from the occasional polishing. Platinum and palladium are in the middle of the road, as usual, while silver and white gold require noticeably more care to maintain their appearance.
Five of these metals are fine to store in regular compartments, but silver requires special storage to minimize tarnishing. You may need to buy a special container to protect your silver.
Platinum, palladium, titanium, and stainless steel are all hypoallergenic, which means they do not easily trigger common metal allergies. People can still be allergic to these metals because human bodies are complicated, but such allergies are extremely rare.
Silver and white gold are normally alloys and frequently have nickel or copper in them. Both of these metals, nickel, in particular, can cause allergic reactions. That’s why these metals are poor choices for anyone with metal allergies. However, some manufacturers are moving entirely away from using nickel.
Exact alloy compositions can vary, so talk to the seller if you’re interested in a silver or white gold piece but want to avoid nickel.
How to store and maintain white metals
Some metals require significantly more care to store or maintain. All metals require the occasional cleaning, but some require specialist equipment to get the best shine.
Platinum, palladium, stainless steel, and titanium are all easy to clean. A little warm water and gentle soap are enough to get most dirt and debris off, restoring their natural shine. You may want to get a professional cleaning once a year, but that’s largely optional unless you notice a major scratch.
However, remember to store these pieces separately. Remember, any material can scratch itself. If you have two titanium rings in the same box, one can scratch the other. This is why you should store jewelry pieces separately no matter how tough they are.
Many jewelry stores offer boxes or other storage items you can use to hold jewelry. If you’re buying many pieces, look for a small chest or jewelry armoire. These will make it much easier to store and organize your jewelry, regardless of what metals you’re buying.
White gold requires a little more care than simple metals. You can use the same technique of warm water with soap to scrub off basic debris, which solves most issues. White gold doesn’t tarnish, so you don’t need to worry about that.
However, getting the best effect for white gold requires an annual rhodium plating process. Doing this requires special equipment, so you should make an appointment with a trusted jeweler.
Like the other metals, store white gold jewelry in a separate container to prevent scratching.
Silver requires the most effort for cleaning and maintenance. Sterling silver will naturally oxidize over time, turning to a darker, blackish color with exposure to the air. Jewelers can remove this tarnishing, as they have the specialty equipment to do so.
For storage, try to keep silver in areas with as little exposure to light and air as possible. Also, silver tarnishes easier, so remember to take it off in any area where you may expose it to chemicals.
Which white metal is right for you?
The main factors to consider when deciding between white metals are price, color, and durability.
Most people start their buying journey by setting a budget. Stainless steel is easily the most affordable option, but a silver-plated piece is also available at a low cost. Titanium is a little more expensive but still workable on most budgets. White gold and palladium trend towards the higher end, especially for 14K or 18K gold, while platinum is easily the luxury choice.
White gold stands out on the pricing front because it’s not as expensive as platinum when you buy it, but the need for regular treatments to maintain its hue can add a lot to its cost over time.
For color, platinum offers the whitest hue, meaning you need to budget a lot if you’re going for that look. White gold and palladium are also quite white, which makes them excellent second options if you want a paler hue but don’t want to pay full price. You can save more money by accepting a shade of gray, where titanium, stainless steel, and silver usually fall.
For durability, titanium is an outstanding choice. Stainless steel is even cheaper and almost as tough, which makes it the top budget pick. Palladium and platinum are also quite durable, while silver and white gold are on the soft side even with the alloys supporting them.
White metal jewelry is brilliant and attractive, which is why it’s one of the most popular options after regular gold. Even better, white metals are available in a wide range of hues, durability levels, and price points. Whether you’re looking for a budget-friendly option or something that pops, white metal is a good choice.
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