On the fence about whether to go with sterling silver or white gold in your next jewelry purchase? Is one more trendy than the other? More innovative? More valuable? More traditional? It can be a head-spinning decision, so here are a few things to keep in mind.
Silver jewelry was long associated with a more bohemian look; think of the Navajo squash blossom necklaces in the pictures of rock stars in the 70s or the heavy medallion concho belts of the Southwest. And white gold jewelry might have had a touch of stuffiness clinging to it; remember those family pieces you inherited from a great aunt? But on today’s jewelry world, both in fine jewelry lines and fashion jewelry lines, those old images have been tossed aside, and truly innovative and unique designs now use the metals frequently.
You spot a friend entering a party with an incredible necklace. Instantly envious, you think to yourself… hmmm…sterling silver or white gold?
Composition and Appearance
Chemically speaking, sterling silver is 92.5 percent pure silver, with 7.5% of other metals added as an alloy for strength. The most common alloy is copper. And we all know that gold found in nature is yellow, so where does white gold come from?
There are several ways to create white gold, the best of which is an alloy of gold, copper, and silver. In order for a metal to be called “white gold”, it must contain at least 50% gold. The untrained eye might not pick up the difference, only you will know for sure (and, in an Instagram photo, your followers won’t be able to know if it is white gold or sterling silver jewelry).
Which is the more durable metal? For everyday use in something like an engagement ring or a wedding band, white gold would be the better choice. In men’s jewelry, the rough-hewn allure of silver evokes the romanticism of an earlier era.
Sterling silver pairs well with contemporary designs in jewelry that use leather or rubber in bracelets and rings. White gold is always a traditional and elegant pairing with white diamonds but it also highlights colored diamonds. A pink diamond is well complemented in a white gold setting. Lady Gaga is sporting a new white metal engagement ring of what could either be a large pink diamond or a pink sapphire. White gold is also more expensive than sterling silver.
Rarity is derived from scarcity, and silver is found more abundantly in nature than gold is. If you’d like to treat the man in your life, the timeless beauty and refined air of white gold can be found in Di Modolo’s Falco 18k Gold & Diamond Cufflinks, a perfect gift to highlight a noteworthy occasion. Sterling silver can be equally sophisticated and innovative in men’s jewelry, and a perfect example is the Centauro Sterling Silver Black Diamond Chain Necklace.
How will you ever choose? Here are a few other differences between the two metals - sterling silver could require more upkeep, as it might tarnish. Over time, it can develop a dark patina. Some designs are meant to highlight patina, so in some instances, that quality is desired. White gold, on the other hand, can be easier to keep clean. And when it comes to the sturdiness required for everyday wear, like an engagement ring or wedding band, white gold is far more durable.
Nickel Allergy? Things to Know
Now that we’ve looked at the sterling silver vs. white gold distinction, it’s time to look at the possibility of an allergy from wearing jewelry made from these two metals. Some people may develop an allergic reaction, such as a reddish or itchy rash, after wearing earrings, necklaces, or rings. One of the most common triggers for this type of rash may be the presence of a metal called nickel. In fact, nickel is one of the most common allergens in the United States.
Despite this, nickel does have many favorable properties, which is why it enjoys widespread use in the making of many types of jewelry. It’s cost effective and has great strength. Nickel actually has so many favorable properties that it’s also used in some implantable medical devices as well as other items, such as eyelash curlers, buttons, scissors, and many other products besides jewelry.
Its adoption in jewelry is so common that it’s used in both white gold and silver. If you’re looking for jewelry with a low nickel content, keep in mind that there is no difference between sterling silver and white gold.
Silver being a comparatively softer metal, it’s typically alloyed with copper, which results in what is known as sterling silver. You’ll find that sterling silver jewelry is stamped with a “925”, which means that it’s made of 92.5% of pure silver with the remaining 7.5% coming from other metals. Nickel may form a part of the “other metals” group.
In white gold, nickel is used as the alloy but there’s good news for those who have a nickel allergy. White gold is plated with rhodium - a silvery white metal - which protects wearers from the nickel present in the gold. To ensure continued protection, the plating will need to be reapplied every few years.
When it comes to choosing between sterling silver vs. white gold, the latter may offer some protection for someone with nickel allergies.
What do You Prefer?
Sterling silver vs. white gold - Is one considered more traditional and one more modern? There was a time when traditional designs and jewelry would have leaned towards the use of white gold, and more contemporary designs incorporated sterling silver, but, in today’s jewelry world, all bets are off. Diamonds are set in sterling silver, and turquoise can be set in white gold. Your own lifestyle preference will help you decide which metal is a better fit for your needs and taste.