Interested in a good, sturdy white metal for your jewelry ? Then you’re likely looking at white gold and you’ve found white a few pieces you’d love. But is there more than just white gold or platinum available ? There is, and it’s called palladium ! This is actually a less known white metal, at least in comparison with platinum and white gold.
So let’s take a look today at white gold vs palladium, see how they differ, and whether it’s worth getting your jewelry in palladium instead of white gold. First let’s explore what each metal is.
What is white gold in jewelry ?
White gold is a gold alloy of pure 24k gold with various amounts of silver, copper, zinc, platinum, or palladium to get it to a nice pale yellow color. Higher karat white gold (like 22k white gold) will be more yellow than mid-karat white gold (like 14k or 12k) because there is more pure gold in this alloy.
The whiter the gold, the less pure gold there is, and the more alloy metals are added. Why is gold alloyed like this ? The original reason was for safety and strength. Pure gold is very soft, a very poor choice for any sort of jewelry. It is easily bent out of shape can you risk losing any gem you set in this gold.
So, stronger metals have been introduced into the mix, to get an alloy that is mostly gold but is far, far stronger and sturdier than pure gold. Depending on the other metals in the alloy, the final gold piece can come out looking yellow, pale yellow, rosy, or almost completely white.
White gold is very pale yellow, like a warm silver, before it gets a rhodium plating.
What is palladium in jewelry ?
Palladium is a type of metal that is far stronger than gold but just a bit softer than platinum. That being said, it’s not the usual option for jewelry simply because it’s kind of rare and expensive. It was only introduced in the jewelry world back in 1939 so it’s still fairly new in comparison to other metals.
Now let’s take a look at white gold vs palladium and get a better sense of their differences.
1. White gold is the go-to traditional metal for jewelry
Whenever you look for jewelry you notice that there’s a large amount of white jewelry available, and most of it is not silver, it’s rhodium-plated white gold. Well this is because gold (the yellow version) was the go-to jewelry metal for the longest time. It was associated with wealth, royalty, elegance, and general wellbeing.
But since the early 1900s the gold color took a turn and white gold became the dominant metal for nearly all jewelry. This, paired with the rise in popularity of diamonds has created what we usually imagine when we think of a diamond ring, or a tennis bracelet.
So white gold was the natural successor of yellow gold, partly because it’s still gold and partly because it’s been very well marketed as the new, shiny improvement on the traditional yellow gold. Don’t get us wrong, white gold has been around for a long time, but it wasn’t as popular before.
So what about palladium, why isn’t it popular ? Palladium is far less known in jewelry, and because white gold tends to be the highest demand (and offer) anything else (like palladium) doesn’t get much attention. So palladium is a perfectly good metal but it’s simply not the first choice for most people, because white gold is good enough for most, so they don’t consider another metal type.
2. Palladium is more expensive than gold
Another reason palladium isn’t as well known is that, well, it’s expensive. Very much so, actually about 40% more expensive than gold ! One gram of palladium is worth $83.91 as of March 23rd 2022. On the same date one gram of pure gold is worth $62.08 and that’s quite a difference.
This simply makes palladium a less popular opinion, as to most people it doesn’t bring much of an improvement on the traditional white gold, so it does not seem to be wroth the extra price.
Read also: Sapphire VS Blue Diamond
3. White gold is naturally yellow, palladium is bright white
Another key difference between white gold and palladium is color. Specifically the natural body color that these two metals have. Palladium is a bright white, silvery metal that is very similar to platinum in appearance. And like platinum, palladium is still very white even after several scratches because that is its color all the way through.
White gold is naturally pale yellow, because it has quite a bit of pure gold in it. When bright white gold you see in most jewelry is plated, usually with rhodium. That plating can and does wear off after several years, and you will need to get the jewelry re-plated. This also means that any time you get a severe scratch on your white gold, it will reveal the pale yellow body color under the white rhodium finish. Don’t worry though, most scratches don’t go that deep.
4. Palladium is rarer than gold
Let’s say you do in fact want to get your jewelry set in palladium, no matter the cost. You’d have to either be patient, or be prepared to pay extra because palladium is simply rarer than gold. It’s also rarer than platinum ! So while you totally can get your jewelry set in palladium, you will have to find a jeweler that will do this for you and have the required material.
5. White gold is heavier than palladium
Palladium, for all its toughness and rarity, is actually a very light metal. The same way stainless steel is very light yet incredibly strong, the same way palladium is stronger than white gold and still lighter. About half as light, so this makes any jewelry you buy set in palladium feel quite light.
This can work in your advantage as you won’t have to pay for as many grams of palladium as you would for white gold.
6. Palladium is much tougher than white gold
Palladium is a very tough metal, hard to work with and hard to bend into shape. This is another reason it’s not as popular as white gold. Working palladium is difficult, and most jewelers either don’t work with it or offer it at a premium price simply because it’s so difficult.
This also means your palladium wedding band will not scratch or bend out of shape as easily as a white gold wedding ring.
So is palladium better than white gold ?
Yes, in many ways palladium is better than white gold. It is sturdier, stronger, brighter and lighter in weight than white gold. But palladium is also much more expensive, more difficult to resize and work with, and you won’t find as many palladium jewelry pieces as you’d like.
So in short yes, from a technical point of view palladium is better than white gold. But white gold is also a very good option, at least good enough to make most people not even consider getting a different kind of metal because white gold offers color, toughness, and availability.
Can palladium rings be resized ?
Yes, palladium rings can be resized but at a premium price. The metal is very hard to bend and work with, so it’s only reasonable for the jeweler to put a premium price on palladium rings, especially resizing them because it implies more effort than other metals.
Of course the amount of resizing also matters. If it’s just a small adjustment, like half a size or just one size, it’s very possible to do. But if it’s 3 and a half sizes smaller or larger, then it’s quite difficult and in some cases it might simply be better to get a whole other ring in the correct size.
Does palladium tarnish ?
No, palladium does not tarnish at all, just like gold. Neither does white gold, regardless of a rhodium plating.
Is palladium radioactive ?
No, palladium is not radioactive and not toxic in its natural state. Palladium used for jewelry is not toxic and not radioactive. The only radioactive palladium is irradiated palladium, used only in the medical treatment of prostate cancer. Your palladium wedding band is not radioactive.
I’m the main author for jewelrymaterialguide.com. I started this site after we did tons of research before our wedding and noticed that there is information about rings, jewelry, and so on that is really hard to find on the internet.