Palladium vs White Gold: Which One Is The Better Choice

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Having a tough time choosing between a palladium engagement ring or a white gold engagement ring?

You're in the right place! 

In this Learning Guide, I'll compare palladium and white gold side by side and answer questions like: 

palladium vs white gold
  • Why is Palladium Rings So Hard To Find?
  • Does White Gold Jewelry Last? 
  • Is a Palladium Ring Better Than A Platinum Ring?

Palladium vs White Gold: Origin

Palladium

Most people who don’t know jewelry know about white gold. Many don’t know about palladium. Palladium jewelry isn’t commonly found at popular engagement ring retailers like Zales or Jared. 

Palladium is a natural white metal from the platinum metals group. There are 6 metals in the platinum group. However, only platinum, palladium, and rhodium are used in fine jewelry. Only platinum and palladium are used as base metals. 

The six metals in the platinum group are: 

  • Platinum

  • Palladium

  • Rhodium

  • Osmium

  • Ruthenium

  • Iridium

Like other engagement ring metals, palladium is mined. You’d be surprised to know that most palladium rings out there weren’t mined from palladium mines. Most  is found among other metal mines such as nickel-copper mines. 

Palladium metal was discovered in 1803 by an Englishman named William Hyde Wollaston. It was named after an asteroid discovery around the same time- Pallos. 

It is found in sulfide concentrates within igneous rocks. When it is mined, it’s usually from the residue of other metals. The chemical difference between the metals separates respectively. 

However, palladium is mined mostly in Russia. Other places it’s found include the United States, Finland, Australia, Canada, and Zimbabwe. 

The metal is placed into a chemical mixture of nitric acid and hydrochloric acid. The liquid is called Aqua Regia. The aqua regia encourages the metals to produce nitrates. 

Palladium isn’t considered a conflict metal and is also used in electronics and dental tools. 

White Gold

White gold is the most popular base metal chosen for engagement rings and wedding rings today. Yellow gold used to be the most popular and rose gold is trending, but many think it will fade. 

White gold jewelry is made by mixing white alloy metals with gold. Gold is naturally yellow, so the white metals give it the silvery appearance. 

The white metals that can be mixed with gold in order to create white gold pieces are: 

  • Nickel

  • Palladium

  • Manganese

  • Platinum

  • Silver

Less common metals that have been used as alloy:

  • Copper

  • Zinc

White metal had been used since the 1700s, but white gold jewelry didn’t hit its peak until the 1900s. Its popularity actually headed off during wartime, if you can believe it. 

Before white gold, platinum was the major white metal around. At the time, it was banned for jewelry design use. It was a scarce and expensive metal, only to be used militarily and by the government. 

They wanted a white metal alternative to yellow gold. Not every white gold piece contains all of the metals mentioned above. Usually, karat gold is mixed with one of the white metals. Some of the metals are better for different pieces of jewelry. 

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Gold that’s been mixed with palladium to create white gold jewelry is preferable for detailed pieces or white gold necklace chains because of its malleability. 

Engagement rings and wedding bands are usually mixed with nickel. The combination of these two metals is stronger. That makes it better for gold rings you’ll be wearing everyday. 

Palladium vs White Gold: Appearance

Palladium

The natural shiny white color of palladium metal is the main thing that draws people to it. Both palladium rings and platinum rings don’t have to be plated with anything to keep its white appearance. 

It’s pretty easy to find platinum jewelry in stores, but palladium jewelry is mainly found online. Its appearance is lustrous and should stay that way as long as it’s taken care of. 

If you’re accustomed to the heaviness of platinum or gold rings, palladium could be an adjustment for you. It’s considerably lighter than both. This is one of the reasons why people opt for other metals. 

But if you’re not used to wearing a ring, palladium could be better because its lightweight. It honestly depends on the individual’s comfort.

If you’re buying online, make sure you’re buying from an online retailer that has a good return policy and process, just in case it’s not quite to your liking. 

Another reason why it’s not as popular is because it can be difficult to work with as a jewelry. Most bench jewelers will have no problem working with sterling silver, gold, or platinum. Not every jeweler knows how to work with palladium. 

It takes a special amount of care to work with palladium, because its composition and malleability are different from the traditional white metals. 

That could present an issue when needing to repair, solder, or resize a palladium engagement ring. 

It’s hypoallergenic, even for the most sensitive jewelry wearers. The common metal allergies come from nickel, copper, chromium or cobalt content. 

White Gold

One of the biggest misconceptions I ran into working at a jewelry store was the preference of silver over gold engagement rings. Customers would point to the white gold jewelry case and say they wanted “silver.”

Many of them didn’t know it was white gold. Even though it’s called white, it’s a silver color. The silvery color is due to a process called rhodium plating. 

All white gold must be rhodium plated. Rhodium is one of the metals in the platinum group. Without rhodium, a 14K white gold ring would have a yellow tinge to its silvery look. 

Most of the time, white gold is advertised as a hypoallergenic metal. However, there are some that are allergic to it. 

Because white gold is mixed with reactive metals like nickel, it can cause reactions. The amount of nickel used to create a white gold ring is miniscule and won’t affect most. But if you are one of the few with extreme sensitivity to nickel, you could have a reaction. 

Did you know: An allergic reaction isn’t always an itchy rash. For engagement rings and wedding rings, it can turn your finger green. Most assume a ring turning your finger green means it’s fake, but it’s actually due to a skin reaction from the base metal. 

This happens to gold plated jewelry. Once the gold, rhodium, or platinum plating wears off, the base metal comes into contact with the skin.

If you’re really sensitive, you’ll encounter the issue with real white gold jewelry. 18K may decrease the likelihood since it contains less white metal alloy. 

If it’s a cheap base metal, it’s more likely to have a reactive metal alloy in it. This happens often with cheap plated engagement rings and wedding bands found on Amazon.

Palladium vs White Gold: Price & Value

Palladium has a spot price, just like gold. Today, the spot price of palladium is $1883 per ounce.

palladium price

The spot price of gold is $1822.

gold price

Aside from the price tag, it’s important to acknowledge the overall value of these metals. 

How do they stand up for everyday wear? 

Can they be worked on? 

Do they need routine maintenance?

All of these questions are essential when picking out a ring metal for an engagement or wedding ring. 

Minerals follow what’s called the Mineral Scale of Hardness. The Moh scale tells us how well a mineral stands up to dust and dirt. It gives an idea of the overall scratchability of the surface of the mineral.

Mohscale

Image by the National Park Service. Public Domain.

White gold jewelry has a hardness rating of 3.5-4. If your white gold jewelry contains more gold content like 18K gold rings, it’s even more vulnerable.

We already know that pure gold is too soft for jewelry. It actually reaches a 2.5 on the Moh Scale in its purest form. Mixing the gold with the white alloy metals is what makes white gold jewelry more resistant.

Palladium on the other hand, is a harder metal. It reaches a 4.8 on the Moh scale. 

The rhodium on white gold jewelry isn’t permanent and will need to be re-plated over time. The amount of time it takes to fade will vary from person to person. 

Fading rhodium happens more often in engagement rings and wedding rings due to the natural oils in your hands. 

The jewelry industry recommends you re-plate rhodium once a year. For me personally, rhodium fades quicker than that. I have to do it every 6 months. It has nothing to do with the craftsmanship or quality of the ring itself, only a necessary evil. 

That’s why I recommend buying white gold rings covered by a lifetime repair warranty. 

That’s different from a manufacturer’s warranty. Those only cover design flaws and defects, not wear and tear.  Make sure the warranty covers rhodium plating. 

I recommend buying white gold rings at James Allen. Their lifetime warranty covers all rhodium plating. Outside of a warranty, rhodium plating can cost between $40 to $120 each time by a local jeweler. 

And if you’re like me having to do it every six months, that will increase the overall cost of your ring throughout its life. 

Conclusion

So, which metal is better for jewelry? 

In the battle of palladium vs white gold, we’re going to have to stick with the classics. It’s nothing against palladium, but it doesn’t leave anything to be desired beyond gold and platinum. Here’s why you should choose white gold jewelry instead of palladium jewelry: 

  • More options in white gold than palladium

  • You can choose gold content with white gold jewelry

  • White gold is less expensive than palladium

  • White gold is commonly worked on by jewelers, palladium isn’t

  • White gold is heavier

  • White gold jewelry is more likely to have warranty

A palladium ring can be a beautiful engagement ring, but they’re not as practical for repair and even more difficult to find. If you’re interested in palladium engagement rings, I recommend checking out Whiteflash. They have superior cut diamonds and some palladium ring settings. 

People confuse hardness with durability, but they’re very different. A diamond is considered the hardest mineral in the world, but it can still chip or break. Hardness is only to do with scratching. 

And since you’re planning on wearing your wedding band or engagement ring most days, you’ll want to pay attention. 


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