Platinum Jewelry Buying Guide
Today, we know platinum as one of the most durable, beautiful, and expensive precious metals for jewelry. Stronger and more resilient than other silver tone metals, it seems ironic that the name platinum originates from the word platina, which is Spanish for “little silver.”
Although we have mastered the art of platinum jewelry-making today, the metal used to be an annoyance to the native Central Americans in the 16th century. Why? Although beautiful, it was simply too hard to mine; unlike gold and silver, it would not melt from fire.
It wasn’t until the 20th century that jewelers were able to tame the resilient platinum and use it in jewelry. It’s no wonder why platinum wedding bands and platinum engagement rings have remained steadily popular since the 1990s – although they’re an investment, they’re made to last.
If you’re looking into choosing platinum for your wedding jewelry or for your everyday look, you want to know the different tips and tricks for how to buy platinum jewelry. To help you find the best platinum jewelry, we’ve put together a platinum jewelry buying guide.
Appearance of Platinum
Most people are familiar with the color of platinum – after all, the color is named after the metal. But what does platinum look like in jewelry? How do platinum earrings compare to white gold or silver ones? Here’s a guide to platinum jewelry vs. other silver tone metals.
Matte vs Mirror Finish Platinum
Platinum is naturally a brilliant, bright whitish-grey color that has excellent shine when it’s polished. Polishing it can give it a mirror-like shine, which can enhance the sparkle of any gemstone set in it. Polished platinum rings are the most popular choice for women, because they really bring out the brilliance of diamonds in an engagement ring.
You can also opt for a matte or brushed finish. Men usually prefer this look because it gives the metal a tough and industrial look. Today, it is the most popular metal for jewelry because of its versatility and durability.
Platinum vs. Silver
Sterling silver also has a grayish white color that shines brightly when polished, but it has more cool undertones to it. Sterling silver develops tarnish over time, which is easy to remove. Platinum also develops a patina over time that dulls the luster.
In both cases, some people like the tarnish. Silver tarnish can add depth to the ring’s details and give it an antique look, while platinum patina can make it look a bit older and make the diamond appear bigger.
How to tell platinum and silver apart visually: You can discern these two metals with the naked eye; platinum is much shinier and brighter than silver, and silver has a slightly more grey than white appearance that isn’t as brilliant.
Platinum vs. White Gold
White gold is the most popular metal choice for engagement rings because it looks very similar to platinum, but is a bit cheaper.
White gold gets its silver tone from mixing metals like silver, nickel, zinc, or other silver metals with pure gold. Usually, the pure yellow gold color can still peak through the alloy, so white gold is often dipped in rhodium, a very hard and shiny precious metal. Otherwise, it may use another valuable precious metal, palladium, to make it whiter.
How to tell platinum and white gold apart visually: It is almost impossible to tell platinum apart from rhodium-plated white gold. Rhodium and platinum are both shiny metals that are bright in appearance.
That said, white gold needs to be re-plated in rhodium every several years, to keep its shiny white appearance. If a white gold ring has lost some of its rhodium plating, the slight yellow tint from the gold will peek through, making it appear more warm in tone than platinum.
In white gold that uses palladium instead of rhodium, it will still retain some of the pure gold’s warmth, and in comparison, platinum will be much cooler in color.
Platinum from the United Kingdom will have hallmarks. The Hallmarking Act of 1973 introduced three mandatory platinum hallmarks in the U.K. for all platinum jewelry and other items weighing more than 0.5 grams.
A platinum hallmark contains three mandatory stamps, as well as three potential other stamps. The stamps that all U.K.platinum hallmarks will have are the following:
- A sponsor mark: Often a few letters, this stamp indicates the person or company who submitted the platinum for its hallmarking. Each maker has their own stamp.
- A fineness mark: This indicates the percentage of pure platinum in the piece.
- An assay office mark: This mark shows which Assay Office hallmarked the item and tested it. The four offices that test platinum in the U.K.are London (cat’s head), Birmingham (anchor), Sheffield (flower), and Edinburgh (castle).
Other platinum hallmarks are optional, and they may designate the year of the hallmarking, the international convention mark, or the traditional orb mark indicating a purity of 950 or 999.
In the U.S., hallmarking is not a legal requirement, and marks aren’t regulated. Some U.S. companies with large UK markets will get it hallmarked in UK Assay Offices, but otherwise, you want to use the purity stamp to inform you on how pure the platinum is.
Platinum in the United States that is at least 50% platinum will usually have a purity hallmark stamped onto it. This is not a requirement, however, so some platinum may lack the stamp. Platinum from some countries may not have a stamp at all, and old platinum jewelry may also lack a stamp.
A purity stamp will look something like “850 plat” or “850 pt.” This indicates that the piece is 85% pure platinum.
The most common platinum purity marks are:
- 850 (85% pure)
- 900 (90% pure)
- 950 (95% pure)
- 999 (99.9% pure)
If your platinum jewelry or other item is marked with only the word “platinum,” it’s probably 90-95% pure.
How to Tell if Platinum is Real
Due to the lack of regulation of platinum hallmarks in the U.S. and other parts of the world, it can be difficult to tell if your silver tone jewelry is real platinum. Here’s how to identify real platinum from fake.
- Look for a stamp or hallmark. Although platinum isn’t as regulated as gold when it comes to marks, platinum from the U.K. should have the hallmarks listed above, unless it’s really old.
- Platinum over 50% pure may have one of the purity stamps pictured above.
- If it says “platinum” on it, it’s likely real platinum in the range of 90%-95% pure.
- Test it with a magnet. Platinum, like silver and gold, is not magnetic. If a magnet is drawn to your silver jewelry, it’s not real platinum. If it has a magnetic pull, it may be white gold combined with nickel.
- Feel the Weight. Though platinum may appear similar to white gold and sterling silver, a good way to tell the difference is by weight. Platinum jewelry is twice as dense as gold, giving it a much heavier, more solid feel.
- Many people like the heaviness of platinum jewelry, and are willing to pay extra to achieve its weight.
- Scratch the surface. Scratch your platinum piece against a scratch stone (which you can buy in an acid scratch test kit), leaving a few marks on the stone. Put one or two droplets of the acid from the kit on the sample. If it reacts and dissolves, it’s not platinum.
If you’re still uncertain, and don’t want to risk damaging it with further tests, take your platinum to a jeweler, who can test it using a jeweler’s scale.
Platinum is a highly sought-after precious metal due to its unique traits. Platinum has a significantly high melting point of 3,215°F (1,769°C), which makes it desirable in the science and engineering industry. In addition, it has one of the highest room-temperature densities of all natural metals, which is what gives it its weight.
Platinum is hypoallergenic. Because it is a pure metal, it is a great alternative for those with allergies to silver or gold. Metal allergic reactions of the skin can come in many forms: itchy skin, redness of the affected area (earlobes is a common area), rashes from dryness, and swelling. With platinum, you don’t have to worry about any of these symptoms.
A fun fact about platinum is that it’s often used in dental implants, medical devices, and chemotherapy drugs because of its hypoallergenic traits.
Platinum is about 1.75 times harder than gold and silver, making it less susceptible to damage. Palladium is slightly harder, and rhodium is the hardest of these precious metals. However, rhodium is too hard to make solid rhodium jewelry, as it would become brittle and difficult to shape or resize.
Tungsten and hardened steel are harder than platinum, but again, they’re not ideal for creating intricate designs, and metals that are too hard risk shattering and they can’t be resized or repaired easily.
Platinum is an ideal balance of strength and malleability, making it excellent for fine jewelry.
Did you know that a platinum ring will stay the same color for a lifetime? It sure will. Platinum is one of those metals that require 0 upkeep to maintain its original color.
Unlike other metals, platinum does not expand or distort when exposed to heat. Platinum is corrosion-resistant, meaning that it won’t rust or interact with water and oxygen. It is also immune to tarnishing, although it will develop its own type of patina.
If platinum is scratched, there will be a mark on the platinum that can be polished off. Interestingly, unlike gold. When platinum is scratched, It will not lose any metal and it does not wear away over time. This means that its platinum content will be preserved.
Price of Platinum
Why is platinum jewelry so expensive? There are many reasons behind the high cost of platinum.
- Annually, only a little over 100 tons of platinum are produced. This is far less than most other metals, including precious metals. In contrast, over 250 tons of steel are produced every day.
- There is more platinum on the moon and in meteorites we’ve found than on the Earth!
- Platinum requires specific circumstances to form. It can only form in mines that have both copper and nickel ores.
- Nearly half of all the platinum taken from mines is used for industrial purposes.
- For example, the component in cars that helps filter harmful chemical emissions into the air (the catalytic converter) uses platinum.
- Women’s and men’s platinum rings are more pure than most other jewelry rings.
- Platinum is more difficult to mine and shape, requiring more skill.
Historically, platinum has cost the same amount as gold or more. The markets of precious metals fluctuate, but, for example, men’s platinum wedding bands cost more than gold ones these days because of its high demand and relatively low supply. This makes it a reliable investment.
How to Choose Platinum Jewelry
When buying platinum jewelry, you want to consider your budget and how reliable the seller is. The majority of our platinum jewelry is 95 percent pure platinum combined with 5 percent of other alloys, and generally this is an indicator of quality. Here are a few buying tips to make sure you’re getting the best platinum jewelry deals:
- For guaranteed quality in platinum make sure you look for a 950 plat, plat, pt, or platinum stamp. This will ensure you are getting the highest quality platinum. Being a very dense metal and heavier than most metals, it is commonly used as a secure diamond setting.
- To buy the best platinum jewelry for a fair price, do a price check on similar platinum items to the one you’re interested in. Platinum prices all tend to follow market fluctuations.
- Look at sales prices – are they too cheap? Platinum jewelry prices never dip below the price of the platinum’s worth in weight. If it’s too cheap, it could be fake.
- Look at the description of the platinum jewelry. Does it indicate its weight, purity, and other characteristics? Be wary of platinum jewelry with insufficient information.
- Ask the seller any questions you have about the product. They should be knowledgeable about their merchandise and display clear knowledge of what they’re selling.
Let’s look at some questions you may wish to ask.
Questions to Ask a Seller When Buying Platinum Jewelry
Asking questions is a good way to ensure you’re buying quality platinum jewelry. Some websites don’t provide enough information, but asking the seller questions can assure that you’re buying the product you want.
- Ask what the markings on it are if it’s not apparent.
- Inquire as to the origin of the jewelry – if it’s from the U.K., it should have the mandatory platinum hallmarks.
- Ask about any warranties or what the return policy is. The seller should be up-front with you and these policies should be listed on the website or in the store.
- Ask how long they’ve been in business or what their qualifications are.
- Ask about jewelry care and if their jewelry has any specific requirements (for example, some platinum jewelry is rhodium plated, and would require re-plating every few years).
- If there aren’t many product reviews or there is other missing information, don’t be afraid to ask the seller about it.
A good seller should welcome questions, as it shows a buyer’s interest in their platinum jewelry. If they get annoyed at your questions or take forever to respond, you should probably check out a different seller.
How to Clean and Care for Platinum Jewelry
Once you buy platinum jewelry, taking proper care for it can reduce the number of times you need to take it in to get professionally cleaned. It can help you get the most out of your platinum jewelry’s appearance and longevity.
Caring For Your Platinum Jewelry
- Remove any platinum jewelry before handling any harsh chemical that can cause damage to the platinum and any gemstones. These harmful chemicals include bleach and ammonia. For instance, some people like to put a little bleach in their dishwater. If that’s a cleaning technique you use, that’s fine. Just be sure to remove any type of jewelry that may come in contact with the bleach.
- Keep your platinum jewelry stored in a different area, away from other pieces of jewelry. Doing this prevents any scratches on your platinum from other jewelry you may have.
- Take your platinum bridal ring sets or any other jewelry made of this precious metal to a professional at least twice a year to be checked. For instance, if you have a platinum wedding ring, and your setting has loosened over time, your jeweler can fix that while checking out your ring.
Cleaning Your Platinum Jewelry
- Purchase a jewelry cleaning solution specifically for platinum jewelry (sometimes you’ll find cleaning solutions that say it’s made for gold and platinum jewelry, and that’s fine too).
- You can also make a mixture of mild soap and warm water to clean your platinum.
- Use a soft brush to scrub your metal gently.
- Rinse it off with warm water.
- Dry with a lint-free cloth
While we recommend that your jewelry should be cared for by a reputable professional every few years. A good general rule of thumb to keep, is to clean your platinum jewelry with soap and warm water and a light buff with a polishing cloth. That is usually all that is required to maintain the metal's luster.