Difference Of Sterling Silver Vs. White Gold

At first glance, it's hard for the untrained eye to tell the difference between sterling silver vs white gold. They're both silver in colour, but the two metals are quite different beyond their initial appearances. 

Many people are wondering if they should buy sterling silver or white gold. These two types of metal have their own set of pros and cons, so it is important to know the difference before you make your purchase. Sterling silver has a beautiful lustre that can't be replicated by other metals like platinum or white gold. It also doesn't tarnish as easily as some other metals, so this may be an ideal choice for those who don't want to worry about cleaning their jewellery often. White gold has its own advantages too though; it's much cheaper than sterling silver and is less likely to cause skin reactions in sensitive individuals because it does not contain nickel. 

White metals like silver and white gold are at the forefront of jewellery consumers’ minds. According to a survey conducted by National Jeweler, 35% of people said they prefer white gold over other metals, and 17% said that silver is their go-to. 

Although white gold and silver look similar, they have several distinct qualities such as their durability, cost, maintenance, and subtleties in their colour. In this article, we’ll compare white gold vs silver and explore their many unique characteristics. Before you know it, you’ll be on your way to choosing the best-fit metal for your jewellery. 

Sterling Silver vs White Gold. The two are both beautiful and precious pieces of metal that can create almost any kind of jewellery. You will find rings, necklaces, bracelets, earrings, and everything in between in sterling silver and white gold.

So what is the difference between the two of them and why does it matter? Do you think they look exactly the same or are you a jewellery expert who can tell every little difference?

Buying jewellery is never easy. Apart from deciding on the perfect gemstones, material and colour is another important consideration. It’s no wonder the process can be confusing and, for some, even feel overwhelming when comparing rose gold vs. gold, lab-created diamonds vs. natural diamonds, white gold vs. silver, etc.

For people who love the look of pure silver or white gold, there’s no denying that both offer a distinguished sort of panache to any piece of jewellery that is very different from other precious metal options like yellow gold.

However, there are pros and cons to each. If you already know which base metal you prefer, then, by all means, go with that. 

Silver

Silver is a natural element; however, it’s much too soft for jewellery metals because it can easily damage or change shape. The solution to this is to add alloy metals like zinc, copper, or nickel. Adding alloys strengthens the metal to make it durable for daily wear.

The purest silver is 99.9%, which is typically reserved for fine jewellery like engagement rings. You might wonder if all silver is sterling silver? Not quite. Sterling silver has 92.5% purity and is the most popular form of silver jewellery metal.

Silver jewellery

Silver is a precious metal that people use in everything from jewellery and tableware to electrical contacts and batteries. On its own, silver is a soft metal. For this reason, jewellery makers mix it with an alloy, typically copper, to give it added strength. Other times, they include nickel instead of or in addition to copper. 

If you buy a piece of jewellery, you’ll likely notice that it comes with a “sterling silver” label. Alternatively, you might see the number “925” stamped on the metal, which also indicates that it’s sterling silver. Sterling silver usually contains 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% other alloy metals (hence the “925” label). 

Because copper and silver are hypoallergenic, sterling silver is an excellent option for people with sensitive skin. That said, because of the copper in sterling silver, oxidation occurs over time, so it is important to polish your sterling silver jewellery occasionally to prevent discolouration.

Silver is a shiny, precious metal valued for its beauty and electrical conductivity and has been used to create coins, decorative pieces and jewellery for centuries. 

Regarding jewellery, silver is often alloyed with copper to add strength, since it’s a fairly soft metal. When silver is mixed with copper, it is called sterling silver. While shopping for sterling silver, you may notice a “925” stamped on the metal, which means that it contains 92.5% of pure silver and 7.5% of other metals. 

If you want to identify sterling silver, look for one of the following hallmark stamps:

  • .925
  • STER
  • STG
  • Sterling Silver
  • STERLING

White Gold

White gold doesn’t exist naturally because it’s alloy metal. This isn’t to insinuate it’s synthetic because it contains pure yellow gold coated in white rhodium. The most common composition of white gold is yellow gold mixed with silver and copper. Adding these metals creates a more durable and long-lasting material.

White gold is a combination of pure gold and other metals, called alloys, which help strengthen the product and create a white appearance. As with yellow gold, jewellers measure karats to determine white gold’s purity and authenticity. 

White gold jewellery is often 14 or 18 karats. To determine the percentage of pure gold within white gold, you need to divide the number of karats by twenty-four. This means that 14 karat white gold is 58.3% pure gold and 41.7% other metals, whereas 18 karat white gold is 75% pure gold and 25% other metals.

Often, the “other metals'' in white gold refer to nickel, silver, or palladium. The exact traits of a piece of white gold jewellery depend on which alloys are used in it, and how much of each alloy is present. Although 18 karats white gold is typically in high demand because it contains a higher percentage of pure gold, others prefer 14 karat gold since it’s a more affordable and durable option.  

White gold will always have at least 50% pure yellow gold. You can tell the purity of white gold jewellery by looking for the hallmark of one of the following stamps:

  • .750 = 18K gold
  • .587 = 14K gold
  • .417 = 10K gold

Some white gold contains nickel, which does increase the metal’s durability. But there’s a caveat: nickel is a known allergen that’s not conducive to all skin types.

What’s The Difference Between Silver And White Gold?

White gold is a mixture of pure yellow gold and other white metals, to give it a brilliant white appearance similar to silver. This is often coated with a metal called Rhodium to strengthen and give it an extra shine and long-lasting quality. Sterling Silver, on the other hand, is pure silver that’s mixed with copper to make jewellery and has a shiny white look like white gold. This is a budget-friendly alternative to white gold, although it does need polishing more frequently.

The choice between white gold and silver isn’t as clear cut as it once was. Many buyers today are choosing the beautiful look of silver even when they can afford gold, and others who thought they couldn’t afford gold are choosing the pure, shiny gloss that only white gold can offer.

A lot of people wonder what the difference is between silver and white gold. Due to their similar looks, it’s tough to tell the difference between the two materials at first glance. They're so similar, it's possible to think they are the same thing, or made of similar materials when this could not be further from the truth! It’s important to weigh out the pros and cons of white gold vs. silver before deciding between the two.

White Gold Vs Silver: Head To Head Comparison

Material Components

As soft metals, white gold and silver are similar in that jewellers need to mix them with other metal alloys so they are durable enough to undergo daily wear. However, the advantage of white gold and silver being so soft is that they’re both highly malleable, so they’re easy for jewellers to design into different shapes.

While at first glance silver and white gold may appear to have a similar hue, silver has a greyish-white hue, whereas white gold has a distinctly white shade. Both metals are hypoallergenic on their own, but other metal alloys can instigate allergic reactions for people with sensitive skin. Nickel is the most common metal allergen and is included more frequently in white gold than silver.

Both gold and silver are pure metals found in the earth’s crust. As they are quite soft metals, they are made into alloys to alter appearance and strength as required to make jewellery.

Silver and gold are both soft in their pure form so any jewellery crafted from these precious metals is going to be a combination of metals to hold the structure. Sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver and 7.5% an alloy, commonly copper. You can tell sterling silver and white gold apart by searching for the hidden 925 on the jewellery piece, indicating the sterling silver composition. White gold is yellow gold combined with an alloy such as nickel, silver, platinum or palladium. Consider a comparison of 18k of yellow gold with 18k of white gold: the yellow gold may be a combination of 75% gold, 10% copper, and 15% silver for example; the white gold on the other hand may show percentages of 75% gold, 20% palladium or silver or another alloy, and only contain 5% of copper. White gold is also often coated with rhodium plating to aid in its preservation.

Permanence

White gold can be more durable than silver because it has a higher content of strong metal alloys. Its durability depends on how pure it is, which you can determine based on the number of karats it has.

Silver tends to scratch more easily and may lose its shape with everyday wear. For this reason, many people choose white gold wedding bands over silver ones. Although silver doesn’t hold up as well with wear and tear compared to white gold, it can be a good option for pieces of jewellery that will be worn less frequently.

Durability

Pure silver and pure gold are soft metals that are not recommended for use in jewellery. As mentioned above, by mixing these metals, stronger, more durable metals are created which can be used in jewellery.

When shopping for a piece you'll wear every day, like an engagement ring, white gold is a much better bet for long-standing durability and resistance to wear. However, keep in mind that the hardness of white gold depends on its purity (ie: karats).

Silver is soft and easy to scratch and can change shape slightly with wear and tear, while white gold is resistant to both corrosion and impact.  

Sterling silver will last decades with proper care. These pieces can be worn in the rain or the shower without cause for major concern, but be sure to keep them away from chlorine, harsh chemicals, and even saltwater. Proper cleaning will help maintain its shine and keep your sterling silver good for thirty or more years.

Silver alone isn’t strong enough to withstand the daily wear and tear of jewellery items — especially engagement rings. That’s why sterling silver is typically the optimal choice for jewellery. The addition of metals like zinc and copper substantially increases the metal’s durability and strength.

With this in mind, it’s smartest to choose sterling silver jewellery if you want it to hold up long term. Additionally, sterling silver doesn’t easily scratch or tarnish. If you practice routine maintenance and cleaning, your silver jewellery will shine throughout your lifetime.

Compared to yellow gold, white gold is built to last. Thanks to the protective rhodium plating, white gold is highly resistant to scratches. Of course, this is entirely contingent upon the karatage you choose for your jewellery.

The strongest, most durable variation of the white gold will be the lowest karatage because it contains the highest alloy metal concentration.

For instance, 14K white gold contains 58.5% pure gold, with the remaining 42.5% being alloyed copper, zinc, or nickel.

By contrast, 18K white gold has 75% pure gold, with the remaining 25% containing an alloyed blend, including silver.

Which do you think is most durable? If you guessed 14K gold, you’re right, because it has less pure gold and more durable alloys.

silver rings

Maintenance And Care

Silver, similar to copper and its alloys bronze and brass, easily tarnishes when exposed to air and moisture. Over time, if it isn’t maintained, silver develops a dark patina. While some love the look of the patina on silver, admiring the depth and character that it gives to the piece, others prefer a shiny, lustrous item.

There are many ways to clean silver tarnish easily at home or using a commercial jewellery cleaner to restore its shine. Silver should be kept away from chemicals and should be wiped and cleaned to prevent dirt and grime build-up.

White gold is much easier to maintain than silver as it does not tarnish or oxidize. It requires minimal cleaning every now and then to maintain its lustre. However, over time the rhodium plating on the white gold can wear thin and the yellowish metal beneath will show through. Consequently, you will have to have the piece re-plated with rhodium every so often by a professional jeweller.

Both white gold and silver require some level of maintenance, as does all jewellery. 

Every few years, your white gold piece will require a reapplication of rhodium plating by your jeweller, which easily restores the white finish. Without the reapplication, your jewellery will be “yellow”. 

White gold and silver don’t keep their shiny appearance forever, and they both require different methods of maintenance. 

White gold often has rhodium plating. Rhodium is a metal in the platinum family and helps protect your jewellery from scratches. Over time, rhodium changes from shiny white to yellow. To get your white gold jewellery back to its brilliant original state, you’ll need to take it to a jeweller every few years so they can reapply the rhodium plating. Nevertheless, white gold is best for everyday use since it keeps its shiny white appearance for a longer time.

Silver jewellery needs more frequent cleaning and polishing to keep it from tarnishing. Although cleaning silver is a more significant time commitment, the advantage is that you can do it at home using products such as corn starch, vinegar, and lemon juice.

Silver, on the other hand, requires regular cleaning and polishing to prevent tarnishing. While sterling silver is prone to tarnish, it will never rust, so that's a plus. 

Whatever you decide, make sure to visit your jeweller twice a year for a check-up and professional cleaning. 

Curious to see how much jewellery insurance could cost you per year? It's less than you think. 

Having choices is at the forefront of jewellery shopping, so it’s important to understand the pros and cons of white gold and silver before making your decision. If you find yourself jewellery shopping online as you assess your options, you’re not alone—according to Obe rlo, online jewellery sales will amount to over $7.6 million in 2021.

White gold is a good option if you want a durable, low-maintenance piece of jewellery that maintains a bright white shine for many years. Silver is also a great option if you want something more affordable, prefer a greyish-white colour, and like the thought of caring for your jewellery at home.

The intrigue of buying jewellery is getting to personalise your choices to your lifestyle and preferences. You can’t go wrong with either of these precious metals, but it depends on how you plan to wear your jewellery. Ultimately, there’s a reason these are two of the most famous jewellery metals in the market: they’re timeless, durable, and versatile.

Frequently Asked Questions About White Gold

Durability. When shopping for a piece you'll wear every day, like an engagement ring, white gold is a much better bet for long-standing durability and resistance to wear. ... Silver is soft and easy to scratch and can change shape slightly with wear and tear, while white gold is resistant to both corrosion and impact.

Wearing solid gold jewellery, white gold or yellow gold, in the shower will not harm the metal itself, however, it can reduce the shine therefore it is not recommended. Showering with gold plated jewellery can eventually cause the gold layer to wear off completely, therefore you should definitely refrain from doing so

Where yellow gold tends to become scratched and need polishing to restore its bright shine, the rhodium plating on white gold is more durable and scratch resistant. While high-quality rhodium plating will stand up to daily wear, over time it will begin to wear off and the yellow hue of the white gold will show through.

Nevertheless, any white gold purchased, as say jewellery, will still hold its value. This value is tied to the fluctuations in yellow gold. One consideration in jewellery is that it may be harder to sell as certain styles and tastes may not be suited to everyone.

Because gold is a relatively soft metal, most jewellers mix it with other metals such as silver, copper and nickel to increase its hardness and durability. Elements such as sulphur and chlorine react with the other metals in the gold jewellery, causing it to corrode and turn black, thus blackening the skin underneath.
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