White Gold Vs Silver: Their Differences And Similarities
Angelica Frey | August 11, 2023
Angelica Frey | August 11, 2023
Both white gold and silver are bright, cool-toned metals with a white cast. However, they’re two entirely different chemical elements and sport quite a few differences in terms of pricing, texture, chemical and physical properties. This guide will outline the main differences and similarities between the two metals. Both white gold and silver have wide applications in fine and fashion jewelry, and choosing between the two ultimately comes down to personal preference.
Sterling silver jewelry is one of the defining jewelry trends of this year, both as a reaction to the prevalence of yellow and rose gold in the past decade, and as a throwback to late 1990s, Y2Kfashion. Silver jewelry featuring VRAI created diamonds allows you to incorporate sculptural, timeless pieces adorned with diamonds into your everyday jewelry rotation.
What Is White Gold?
White gold is an alloy made of gold and a small percentage of other metals, usually nickel or palladium, copper, and zinc. Pure gold (100% gold) is notated as 24K, while white gold usually comes in 14K (also known as 585) and 18K (also known as 750) alloys.
White gold started being widely used during World War I: the US Government had declared platinum as a strategic material needed for the war effort, so it could not be used for civilian application. This jump-started the trend of white gold engagement rings. The bright, cool-toned sheen of white gold is achieved through rhodium plating. Unplated white gold has a more neutral-toned, almost cream-colored gleam. While white gold is hypoallergenic, those with nickel sensitivities should avoid white gold jewelry that contains nickel.
What Is Sterling Silver?
Sterling silver is an alloy of 925 parts silver and 75 parts copper. Visually, white gold and silver are quite similar, but silver is softer than gold and prone to scratches. In addition, it tarnishes over time, which can be easily taken care of with silver polish. One advantage of silver over gold is its more accessible price point, costing $0.66 per gram (as opposed to $58.76 for gold at the time of publication). Sterling silver is also used as the base of gold vermeil, which is a substitute for solid gold.
Silver jewelry is one of the defining trends of 2023. “Gold fatigue after years of the same boheme necklace layers, stacking rings and mid-size hoops” are the reasons Marie Claire points out regarding the return of silver jewelry as a trend. Silver also suits more sculptural, maximalist shapes both in terms of color cast and in terms of cost.
Silver and its white cast have a modernist appeal that makes you focus more on the shape of the jewels than on its color: think of the difference between a silver and a gold cuff bracelet. Silver has a lighter and airier feel.
- Prone to scratching
- Prone to tarnishing
- More maintenance-intensive
White Gold Pros:
- Doesn’t Tarnish
White Gold Cons:
- Needs periodic replating
- Prone to scratching
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White Gold vs Silver
Despite their similar appearance, white gold and silver have different characteristics that make them both covetable and valid options for jewelry.
Both white gold and sterling silver are alloys. The alloys used for white gold vary, but the most common ones are copper, zinc, and nickel. Sterling silver is made of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. The mention of white gold and sterling silver being alloys is important when talking about their durability. In their purest form, both metals would be too soft.
White gold is more durable and stronger than sterling silver. White gold is also resistant to corrosion and impact.
Silver can scratch, bend, and break with wear and tear. This is why it’s quite rare to find engagement rings cast in silver.
The sheen of white gold is bright and mirror-like. This feature that gives white gold its distinct color and feel is actually due to rhodium plating.
On its own, white gold has a cream-toned cast, and you need to re-plate your white-gold jewels periodically to preserve this characteristic. Some people actually prefer unplated white gold, and I personally hope to see more of it in the future.
The color of silver has a more markedly gray undertone, and it is not as bright as white gold. Silver is prone to tarnishing and oxidizing, which makes the metal appear dull and darker.
In July 2023, 18k gold costs $1,432.61 per ounce, while sterling silver goes for $23.24 per ounce.The gold-to-silver ratio is the current price of an ounce of gold divided by the current price of an ounce of silver. For centuries, this ratio was 16:1. In the summer of 2023, the gold:silver ratio oscillated between 60 and 84. It peaked at 104:1 in the spring of 2020.
White gold and silver are both hypoallergenic in nature unless they’re alloyed with nickel. Nickel is one of the most common metal allergies.
White gold can be alloyed with nickel but the rhodium plating prevents direct contact between nickel and skin.
Sterling silver is, in theory, 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper, but sometimes nickel is used as well.
Care and Maintenance
White gold and silver both require maintenance. Compared to other types of gold, such as yellow gold and rose gold, white gold needs some extra care as the rhodium plating will eventually wear off.
Every few years, your white gold piece will require a reapplication of rhodium plating by your jeweler, which easily restores the white finish. Without the reapplication, your jewelry will lose its white cast in favor of warmer undertones. For our 18k gold jewelry, VRAI offers a lifetime care package, which will take care of re-dipping your white gold engagement rings and wedding bands with white gold.
Silver, on the other hand, requires regular cleaning and polishing to prevent tarnishing. While sterling silver is prone to tarnish, it will never rust. For day-to-day upkeep, you can use a mix of lukewarm water and dishwashing soap and then polish the silver with a soft toothbrush. To stave off tarnishing, keep your silver jewelry in dry, airtight containers.
White Gold vs Silver: Frequently Answered Questions
White Gold vs Silver vs Platinum and Palladium: What’s the Difference?
White gold and silver are not the only two metals with a white cast. In fact, platinum and palladium are two durable white metals that are also widely used in engagement rings. Platinum was once deemed “the only metal fit for a king” by Louis XVI.t’s denser, stronger, and less brittle than white gold. Due to its density, it is recommended for men’s jewelry. Palladium is strong, light, hypoallergenic, and it does not tarnish. It appears to be more luminous than platinum and white gold. Both palladium and platinum will develop a patina over time, which will give the jewelry a matte look.
How Can You Tell the Difference Between White Gold and Silver?
While both white gold and silver have a white cast, there are subtle differences between white gold and silver. The gleam of silver has a grayish undertone, while white gold remains pure white or has a creamy cast. White gold is an alloy of gold, which is naturally yellowish, with other metals, and owes its white cast to rhodium plating. When plated, white gold has a mirror-like appearance, while silver is more lustrous and gleaming. White gold retains its sheen, but must be replated with rhodium every two to three years. Silver, by contrast, tarnishes quite easily, but the appropriate cleaning materials and cloth can restore it to its original luster.
While white gold and silver can appear quite similar to the untrained eye, the differences become more apparent once you learn what to look for. White gold has a pure white, if not creamy cast, due to gold’s naturally yellow undertones.This slightly yellow tint is usually concealed by having white gold plated in rhodium, a silver-colored metal in the platinum family.
Silver, by contrast, has a slightly grayish gleam. Over time, white gold will lose its white cast, and will need to be replated with rhodium to have its brightness restored. Silver will tarnish and will need to be hand polished. Silver also scratches more easily than white gold, and its gradual loss of luster is due to the marks coming from daily wear.
Do Platinum and Silver Look Similar?
Compared to silver and its slightly grayish hue, platinum has a shinier and brighter appearance. Plus, due to the fact that it’s naturally white and cool-toned, platinum retains its original color and won’t need re-plating. Still, it develops a patina over time, which a jeweler can easily take care of.
Is White Gold Better Than Sterling Silver?
White gold and sterling silver each have different advantages. Both, for instance, are hypoallergenic, unless white gold is alloyed with nickel. Sterling silver is much more affordable than white gold, and for many, it’s a great option for everyday jewelry. However, silver is prone to tarnishing and is much more susceptible to tarnishing and bending than white gold. We recommend white gold for wedding and engagement rings, but earrings and necklaces cast in silver work perfectly well. You can easily take care of the tarnishing by polishing and cleaning your silver jewelry with the proper tools.
Can You Wear Silver and White Gold Together?
You can absolutely wear silver and white gold together. Some believe that the tarnishing of silver can affect the appearance of their white gold jewelry when worn together, but gold is a non-reactive metal, so it won’t be tarnished by proximity to silver. However, the tarnish of a piece of silver can physically transfer to gold jewelry by physical contact, and the two metals, which are of different hardness levels, can get scratched by being worn together. Style wise, white gold has a pure white hue, while silver has a slightly grayish tint, but together they can still create harmonious combinations.