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Silver vs White Gold: which metal should you choose?

For brides-to-be eyeing the white metal wedding band look, you might be wondering: should I choose for a silver or a white gold ring band? 


Silver may be the go-to ring for budget reasons (it can be many times cheaper than white gold!). But silver vs white gold - this question doesn’t just beg budget talk, but the ultimate question of how long you want to wear the rig, how you want the ring to look and how you plan to wear it. Because even though both boast a white metal look, they’re different when it comes to wearing them day to day.  


With both options readily available, how do you know if you’re a silver or a white gold gal?

What’s white gold? 

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White gold is a metal alloy made predominantly from gold with a mix of zinc, silver, nickel, palladium and/or copper (the exact mix depends on each jeweler). Gold has a very rich and intense yellow color, so a mix of metals are needed to alter its finished look - make it less yellow and more pale. Gold on its own can’t be made into jewelry, because it’s a very soft metal (bite it and it’ll have teeth marks!). Other metals in white gold give it durability and color. 

What’s silver? 

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Silver is a metal which is found alongside other metals and has a natural white metal look. Similar to gold, silver is a soft metal and is brittle. It doesn't need the addition of other metals to adjust the color. It does, however, need to be alloyed with other metals for strength and durability. More on alloys below. 


Alloy 


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White Gold

We use silver and zinc in our white gold alloy. Zinc is naturally rust resistant, a strong metal, has a bluish-white color, and very stable. It’s the perfect metal to be combined with white gold. Since gold has a very deep yellow hue, adding up to a quarter of zinc and silver just isn’t enough to transform the color. Your ring will have a yellow undertone and has to be rhodium plated. Gold with a lower gold content (like 9K, which contains 37.5% gold) tends to be whiter in color, since it has a higher content of other metals. 


Silver 

Practically almost all silver jewelry is sterling silver, which is the pretty name for silver alloy. By default, anything with 92.5% silver content is called sterling silver. If you see the number 925 on your silver piece, then it’s sterling silver. The other 7.5% is usually a mix of copper, zinc, and traditionally nickel. 


A dash of copper in the mix adds a substantial amount of durability to the ring, even though copper develops a thin layer of green patina over time (think Statue of Liberty, which was made out of copper and is now a green sculpture). Zinc adds durability too, and nickel adds sparkle. We don't use any nickel in our sterling silver. 


But don’t confuse sterling silver with fine silver! Fine silver has 99% silver, which makes it a lot softer but less likely to tarnish. We use it in our Hidden Gems collection so that the metal can grip the tiny pieces of rough gemstones. 


Color


White gold

White gold can be very shiny and bright, matching the shine of a platinum metal. But this shine actually doesn’t come from the gold or the alloy, but from the rhodium plating. Rhodium plating gives the ring that beautiful reflective shine and resistance to scratches. Without rhodium plating, white gold will have a yellow undertone (which some people might love).  

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A white gold ring with a salt and pepper diamond slice

Silver 

Silver is shiny and lustrous, with a slight hint of grey. It’s not as bright as white gold. Silver is easily textured and stylized with various oxidation methods. Over time, silver tends to develop a patina. 

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A sterling silver stack ring with kite cut beryl and salt and pepper diamonds


Price


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White gold

White gold is pricey, but less expensive than platinum (another precious metal even more valuable than gold, often used as a collector’s choice in jewelry). Your jeweler may charge more for white gold than yellow or rose gold, because of the rhodium plating or the addition of palladium in the alloy, which is more expensive than yellow and rose gold alloys. 


Silver

Silver is a cheaper alternative to gold. Because silver is more abundant than gold, it has less financial value. 

  • FUN FACT

    There’s a thing called gold : silver ratio to set the price of these metals. For centuries, the gold : silver ratio was 16 : 1, meaning that a chunk of silver costs $100, a gold chunk of the same weight will sell for $1,600. Nowadays the ratio has increased to 60 : 1.

  • Is silver or gold a better investment for fine jewelry?

    When it comes to investing in fine jewelry, its value goes way beyond the metal. The gemstone and the design of the jewelry can raise the value. The rarer the gemstones, like a natural saltwater pearl or a natural blue diamond, the higher the value. Likewise, vintage pieces may command a higher price simply because it's a one of a kind, historical piece. Investing in fine jewelry is just like investing in art.


    But when it comes to silver versus gold, gold takes home the medal. For jewelry pieces, gold matches the value of high quality stones. It’s also more durable than silver and can maintain the setting’s shape and shine for a much longer time. So for those treasured gemstones and heritage diamonds, gold is a better investment that will outlast silver. 


Scratch resistance 


White Gold

White gold is stronger and more durable than silver. The combination of metals like zinc give white gold its form and durability. Without it, pure gold is just as soft as pure silver. Additionally, white gold is also rhodium plated, which gives it a shiny top layer. 


Silver

Silver on its own is malleable and soft. Even as sterling silver, silver scratches quicker than white gold. Over time, you’ll see silver rings having natural marks from daily wear. 

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Does it tarnish?

(aka gets darker or changes color over time)


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White Gold

Similar to silver, gold on its own doesn’t tarnish. There’s little to no chemical reaction happening between pure gold and the environment, but other metals in the alloy react to the environment. That’s why, the lower the karat and the higher the alloy content, the faster it can tarnish. 


Silver

Silver on its own doesn’t tarnish, but the other metals in the alloy might. You’ll see how silver jewelry develops patina (a dark grey to black film formed on the surface) as it reacts to the environment. In this case it’s actually metals like zinc or copper which are susceptible to tarnishing. 


Unlike rusting, which can ‘eat up’ the physical form and is irreversible, tarnishing doesn’t physically damage the silver. Silver tarnishes quicker than gold. 


Maintenance 


White Gold

White gold alloy is well protected by rhodium plating, even though rhodium plating itself won’t last forever. After a few years, the rhodium plating will fade and need reapplication. When you see yellow tinge peeking through, you’ll know it’s time to re-do that rhodium plating!  


Silver

Silver alloy tends to tarnish rather quickly, so it requires regular cleaning and polishing

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Lifestyle


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White Gold

White gold rings are great on their own as a wedding band or together with your dream gemstone. Since white gold is rhodium plated, it tends to maintain its shine for much longer than silver. You’ll avoid your ring looking dull, especially against the sparkle of your gemstone. White gold is also more durable thanks to rhodium’s protection. But then again, if you want something low maintenance, we suggest you opt for yellow or rose gold since rhodium plating wears off over time. 


Silver

Silver rings can be much more affordable than white gold rings - partly because of the quality of the gemstones or diamonds used in it. But the ability of silver to withstand daily wear is subpar compared to white gold. If you wear your silver jewelry every single day, blotches and tarnishes will become visible with time.


That being said - a worn out silver ring can have a lot of charm. Like an old, yellowing book, some marks of time in your silver ring show signs of being well loved. 


Silver jewelry needs some TLC and regular cleaning. If you don’t mind polishing it every now and then, or like the idea of a roughed-up look over the years, silver can be your metal of choice. 


Still feeling doubtful about which metal to choose?

 

Send our Customer Happiness Rockstars an email, and ask away any questions you have!


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