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How Can You Differentiate White Gold From Silver?

Identifying which one to choose may seem like a pretty huge dilemma, but the key to purchasing the jewelry you are really looking for is by learning each other’s peculiarities.

Diamond Star Pendant in Silver
Diamond Star Pendant in Rose Gold

It can be really difficult to tell white gold from silver. When you’re browsing pieces, it is often hard to tell the difference.

White Gold and Silver differ in a lot of aspects, including differences in durability, design, physical markings and attributes, as well as affordability. These two pendants are made up of completely different metals. On the one hand, white gold is made of pure gold mixed with other materials that give it its white look. On the other hand, (sterling) silver is made of silver metal mixed with other metals as well.

Identifying which one to choose may seem like a pretty huge dilemma, but the key to purchasing the jewelry you are really looking for is by learning each other’s peculiarities.

Knowing the information you are about to read will not only save you money; more importantly, it will inform you what to expect from your purchase. After reading this post, you will certainly be equipped and ready to go for your online white gold or silver jewelry purchase. (See sterling silver necklaces best to give as holiday gifts.)

What’s in this post? Here are the essential topics to be tackled:

  1.    Main Components of White Gold and Silver
  2.    Physical Attributes (Durability, Appearance, Markings/Stamps)
  3.    Design
  4.    Affordability
  5.    Testing White Gold and Silver
  6.    Points to Consider When Choosing Between White Gold and Silver

Read along and learn how white gold and silver vary from one another.

Main Components: White Gold

White gold is made of pure (yellow) gold mixed with white metal, which could be palladium or nickel. These materials make the jewelry harder and whiter. They also give that shiny look to white gold.

Another metal being usually used in plating white gold is called Rhodium. This further adds to the beautiful finish of the white gold jewelry.  Some other metals being mixed with pure gold to create that elegant white gold jewelry include copper, silver, manganese, and also zinc.

Main Components: Silver

Meanwhile, silver jewelry—also known as sterling silver—is made up of silver itself, a precious metal that is white and shiny, mixed with other metals. Usually, silver is mixed with copper. The reason for combining silver metal with copper or another metal is to ensure that the jewelry made is sturdy and not too soft. Mixing metals helps prevent warping and bending of your beautiful new piece.

Differences in Physical Attributes

In terms of their physical appearances and remarkable tangible attributes, white gold and silver jewelry can actually be easily differentiated from one another.

White gold—due to the Rhodium plating—has a mirror-like shine. It has a clear appearance and a more durable finish. It can have intricate details as the material is sturdier. The shape of gold jewelry can be retained over time. Moreover, white gold remains shiny for a long period, and only needs to be re-plated with Rhodium every 2 years (or even longer).

Silver jewelry, on the other hand also has a shiny and glossy finish. Unlike white gold, silver is softer, which results to its change in shape after a while. This quality also tends for silver to only hold a few marking details. When a silver jewelry is new, its lustrous appearance entices anyone who loves shiny things. However, it easily tarnishes; a silver jewelry owner shall make sure to clean it more frequently to maintain its beauty.

White Gold


Mirror-like shine caused by Rhodium

Shiny and glossy finish

Durable finish; clear appearance

Tarnishes over time

Sturdy; can hold intricate details

Softer; can hold only few marking details

Original shape of jewelry can be retained over time

Changes appearance over time

Remains shiny for a long time (replating every 2 or more years interval)

Easily tarnishes and needs to be cleaned more frequently

Another valuable information that should be taken note of is the markings or stamping in your white gold and silver jewelry.

It is quite easy how to differentiate the stampings of the two. Essentially, these markings — also called as “hallmarks”— indicate the metallic content of your jewelry. If you check and see a number and “K” it means the item is white gold. “K” stands for “karat”. It indicates how pure the alloy is, or how much gold is mixed in the piece. Meanwhile, seeing a stamp that states “925” indicates that the item is silver, as this stands for “92.5% silver, and 7.5% other metals.”


White gold jewelry is often adorned with various (and more expensive) gemstones. Not only because white gold is more expensive and can be set with precious stones; it is also due to the durability of the material. Some of the stones that are usually found on white gold pieces are diamonds and rubies.

Silver jewelry, meanwhile, are often in the forms of rings and bracelets. Jewelers often adorn silver pieces with less expensive stones or gems, for instance, turquoise, amber, or hematite, and particularly cubic zirconium stones.

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Usually, people tend to buy jewelry pieces that are more affordable. But then, some prefer to invest in ones with higher value. It is up to you which aspects are more important in purchasing the perfect jewelry.

More expectedly, due to white gold’s extra durability and its property of not getting tarnished for a long period, it is more expensive than silver. As gold can also be adorned with different precious stones with higher value, its market price is always higher than the other.

For those who want to give their significant others a jewelry piece that is also elegant and shines nicely when worn, go for silver. Silver is a budget-friendly yet a beautiful alternative to white gold.

Then again, looking at all angles, try to also consider the cost of the piece in the long run. Even though white gold is more expensive, remember that you will only need to clean it at most every 2 years. You will likely keep it for a long while since it does not lose its form over time. As for silver, regular cleaning and shining are required as silver easily loses its shine. You may also likely to replace it once it has lost its form and/or appearance. So, think of what you prioritize more (long- and short-term considerations).

Testing White Gold and Silver

There are several ways you can do to prove if you have a real white gold piece, as well as to prove if your silver piece is legit. You can even do these tests at home!

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The quality of white gold, like pure gold, is evaluated through its karat. It is a way to measure its purity. You can test your white gold karat by purchasing a gold testing kit to use at home.

This kit will have materials such as nitric acid bottles with karat labels on each one, individually identifying the purity of the alloy being tested.

Here is a  general step-by-step process on how to use the usual testing kits available online. We highly recommend following the instructions included with the kit you purchase.

  1. Scratch the piece on the testing slab provided. If it is real white gold then there should be a gold mark left on the surface.
  2. Try pouring the nitric acid on the bottle indicating the lowest karat (in this case, 10 karats). If your white gold reacts and its gold color dissolves, then it means the piece is less than the nitric bottle’s label (in this example, it’s less than 10 karats).
  3. However, if the white gold piece does not react with the low level of nitric acid then try the higher ones, until it reacts. Just remember: if the piece only slightly reacts when nitric acid is poured, then the level of karat is either close or equal to the karat label; if it does not react at all, try the higher level of nitric acid as it may mean your white gold has higher karat.

However, if you want to test your white gold for free, you may do so by using one of your kitchen staples — white vinegar. First, make sure your white gold is clean from dust and other foreign particles, and place it in a flat container. Slowly pour a small amount of vinegar onto the piece, just enough to cover it. Wait for 5 minutes. If it does not change its color, then it is real gold. Thoroughly clean your jewelry with water afterwards.

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Although silver is dense and is one of the highly conductive metals we have, it is not magnetic.

Thus, one of the easiest ways to test if you have an authentic silver is by trying to attract the piece with a magnet. If it does not react then congratulations, you have a real silver.

Another cool thing to try is testing your silver’s thermal conductivity. As silver is known to be a great heat conductor, you may test it out by using an ice cube. Note, however, that this method is best for flat and/or round pieces. Place the ice cube above the jewelry, and observe if the piece quickly absorbs the coolness of the ice, thus melting the ice faster than usual (you may conduct a simultaneous test on a non-silver metal to see which one melts faster). If you are sure that your silver piece indeed absorbed the ice cube’s coldness, again you have a real silver.

Points to Consider When Choosing Between White Gold and Silver

After discussing the ins and outs of these two lovely types of jewelry pieces, it is about time you evaluate which one to buy. To further help you decide, here is a table to wrap up the list of differences of the two, as well as their strong points.

Points to Consider

White Gold


Main components

Made of pure gold plated with other materials usually with Rhodium, giving it that shiny look

Made of silver—which is naturally shiny—and mixed with other metals such as copper

Physical Attributes

More durable and can retain its form for a very long time

Softer and may change its form over time


Due to its durability, it can hold more precious stones and intricate designs

As it is softer, it can only take uncomplicated designs; can hold less precious BUT pretty stones, nonetheless


More expensive, depending on the quality of gold (karat)

Lower cost, although maintaining it (often cleaning in order to regain its lustrous shine) can also cost more as time goes on

Check out these white gold and silver pieces to help you decide whether to surprise your SO with a sophisticated white gold ring or a very chic and new silver bracelet.

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