Most of the fine jewelry that I've purchased or inherited is made of platinum because I was always told by my grand-mother, mother, etc., that is is a stronger, harder metal that lasts much longer. I've also been told by jewelry makers that platinum is much harder to work with because it is not as malleable as white gold/gold. The idea of platinum being 'harder' than gold was reinforced more when I learned that emeralds and other soft gem stones are often not set in platinum because it risks chipping the stones in the jewelry making process (which is why in Tiffany's for example, you will see an emerald ring that looks all platinum, until you look closely, and the prongs are gold).
But, I was in a boutique today and the sales person said that platinum is softer! I was stunned!
Why is a metal like white gold, that will literally "rub away" over time called "harder" than platinum, which will never wear down? I don't understand this. An article here:
explains that you can bend a platinum prong much easier than white gold because it is a softer metal, but that over time, you will have to get your white gold ring setting (the prongs) re-tipped because the metal actually "rubs" away. This seems very strange.
Actually, yes. I've heard that platinum is softer, which always confused me, b/c it seems you'd want a harder metal used, esp. in wedding jewelry that is worn daily. I'm still confused. But, from what I gathered, it is really preference and what is important to you b/c each metal has different properties.
Platinum is indeed the denser, softer metal, and it is in fact this property that causes it to retain its weight while karat gold "rubs" away over time. Here is the easiest way to explain it:
Metal, as is all matter, is made up of molecules. If you were to strike a piece of platinum really hard, it gives; the densely packed molecules simply get shoved around. Your ring might get bent out of shape, but all the molecules are still there. The original weight is retained. Gold is alloyed with different metals to make it harder, i.e., karat gold. If you strike a piece of 14K or 18K gold, it is too hard to give under the pressure. Therefore, you literally knock off microscopic scraps of the metal. Over time with wear and tear, enough of the molecules of gold have been knocked off so that it is no longer the original weight.
It seems counterintuitive, but that's why the softer platinum is actually safer for diamond jewelry. Many jewelers recommend platinum prongs to hold down diamonds. If you were to strike your ring really hard, the prongs might get bent out of shape, but they'll likely still hang on to your diamond. All you have to do is take it to the jeweler to get them reshaped. If they were gold prongs that were struck really hard, perhaps they would just snap off and your diamond would go flying! I don't think it's a likely scenario, but anyways, there's the explanation.
There is a difference between STRONGER and HARDER, platinum is stronger because it is softer.