Difference between Sterling Silver and White Gold
By Theydiffer - August 3, 2016

A jeweler or jewelry collector wouldn’t have a hard time telling the two precious metals apart. For the budding collector with the untrained eye, we have you covered. Read further to know more.


Getty Images/EyeEm/Lukasz Banasik

Sterling silver is used in a lot of jewelry such as necklaces and rings. It is 92.5% pure silver and the rest is 7.5% copper. Anything more than 92.5% purity would make sterling silver too soft to serve its many purposes. This also allows sterling silver to retain its precious metal look and its ability to be shaped or crafted into the most intricate and beautiful designs. However, copper has been known to increase the possibility of corrosion as it reacts to oxygen in the air. Other metal substitutes are used to increase resistance to tarnish. Sterling silver is strong enough for practical uses and is the finest grade of silver that can fit this purpose.

Sterling silver is not very expensive and costs a lot less than other precious metals like gold, but many fakes are out there. One recommended way of knowing the real deal is to rub a piece of white cloth on the piece. It’s the real thing if there are black marks on the cloth. This is caused by real sterling silver being exposed to air and becoming tarnished.

Getty Images/Tetra images/Jamie Grill

White gold is also silver in color, and is somehow erroneously called as such by many jewelers. In truth, it is gold alloyed with a white metal such as nickel, palladium, or manganese. White gold gets its “silvery” white color when combined with white metal alloys. It is then plated with rhodium, a tremendously hard element, to give it strength and a lustrous shine.

Used primarily for rings, white gold can also be found in bracelets or chains. The color of white gold pieces can go from soft white to a light, almost yellowish-white tone, to a grayish-silver, and to a more gold-like appearance.

One of the reasons why white gold is more expensive than sterling silver is that it does not react to oxidation in the air. This makes it retain its shine and only need some cleaning from time to time. Also keep in mind that although nickel makes white gold stronger, it’s known to cause skin irritation.

Sterling Silver vs White Gold

So what’s the difference between sterling silver and white gold?

Sterling silver normally has a 7.5 % copper content to make it strong and durable. Other metals are used to reduce tarnish and corrosion. White gold, on the other hand, is a combination of gold and other white metals such as nickel. Many consider it the most popular “silver” metal (despite the fact that it is not silver) and it is more expensive than sterling silver. Sterling silver is the most affordable white metal on the market today.

Sterling silver is more prone to tarnish and corrosion because it reacts with oxygen in the air because of its copper content, thus requiring more cleaning. White gold is resistant to corrosion because it is commonly rhodium-plated. It only needs periodic cleaning to maintain its shine.

Known to cause allergic reactions particularly in the ear, many people cannot wear sterling silver jewelry. White gold is practically hypoallergenic, thus most people can wear earrings made of this metal  without any worries.

Comparison chart

Sterling silverWhite Gold
Made up of 92.5% silver, 7.5% copperMade up of gold and other white metals
Least expensive silver metalMost expensive “silver” metal
Known to cause allergiesHypoallergenic
Prone to tarnish and corrosionDoes not corrode and tarnish