Platinum vs. Palladium
Which Metal is Better for a Wedding or Engagement Ring
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At a Glance
- Platinum and palladium belong to the same white metal family and are 95% pure. Palladium is lighter, slightly stronger, half the weight and half the price of platinum.
Platinum vs. Palladium
When considering a wedding or engagement rings, there are differences in platinum vs. palladium in weight, hardness and color spectrum.
Platinum has been, for many years, the preferred and more popular choice for a white-metal wedding or engagement ring. Over the last few decades, however, more and more couples are choosing palladium. Both metals are similar in appearance and there is not a significant difference between platinum and palladium in context to how it appears on the finger nor how it will wear over time. The most defining issue for most people in whether to choose platinum or palladium is that palladium is half the price of platinum.
History in Jewelry Production
- Both platinum and palladium are considered among the rarest of metals on the earth's crust. Historically, palladium was discovered recently in the early 1800's, while platinum has been used historically for a very long time. Pre-Columbian indigenous people in Central America made artifacts out of a platinum and gold compound, and platinum was written about in Europe in the mid 1500's. Palladium was first used in jewelry in 1939 as an alternative alloy to be used with platinum. It has become particularly popular over the past fifteen years.
About the Platinum Group
- Both platinum and palladium are considered "noble metals" because they are naturally superior in their ability to withstand oxidation and corrosion. Also, neither will tarnish, both are hypoallergenic and both will remain white forever. These two metals are also part of what is considered the "platinum group" of metals, which include osmium, rhodium, iridium, and radium.
- Of this group, platinum is the heaviest of all the metals while platinum is the least dense of them. Platinum is about 75% heavier than 14K gold. Consequently, a palladium wedding ring will feel considerably lighter than a platinum wedding ring, but not much different when compared to a 14K gold wedding ring.
The most defining issue for most people in whether to choose platinum vs. palladium is that palladium is half the price of platinum.
- Proportionally, palladium is whiter than platinum. Like gold, palladium can be made into a very thin leaf. Palladium is just slightly whiter, and is also much lighter than platinum; which is the heaviest and densest of all metals used in jewelry. Palladium weighs about the same as 14K gold.
- In terms of hardness, both platinum and palladium are harder than gold according to the MOH scale. At the bottom of the scale is talc and at the top is diamond. Your finger nail would rate at 2.5, the same hardness as pure gold or pure silver. Naturally, platinum is rated at a 4 and palladium, a 5. However, when alloyed, platinum goes up to a 4.5 and palladium to a 5.75.
- However, these numbers in regard to hardness are only general estimates because alloy plays a role in hardness. How a particular precious metal is alloyed can be highly technical and proprietary. Both platinum wedding rings and palladium wedding rings generally have 5% alloy. In the case of palladium, ruthenium is often used for 4.8% of the alloy, with trace amounts of copper or other components added in order to ease casting and fabrication. Platinum is alloyed with ridium, rhodium and ruthenium.
Also related to alloy, the noble white qualities, and relative affordability, of palladium has made it one of the most popular alloys for white gold, particularly for those who prefer a nickel-free white gold.
Wear and Tear
- Both platinum and palladium will scratch, though palladium is about 10% more scratch resistant. Jewelers cleverly called the minute surface scratches a patina, Latin for "shallow dish". When scratched, palladium and platinum tend to "furrow" rather than chip. The metal can simply be put back in place on a nonabrasive polishing wheel. The ring will look as shiny as when it came out of its box.
- In sum, though there are many subtle differences between platinum and palladium, they are both excellent choices for both wedding and engagement rings. The key difference is price, and also some status. Platinum rings are also heavier, but once a ring is on your finger, its not likely to notice its weight. However, most people will prefer platinum over palladium, because palladium is not as well known, while platinum has a very strong brand cache.