Silver and white gold have many things in common: They are popular metals for jewelry, and they both have a similar color. However, these metals will behave differently and affect a piece of jewelry's value differently.
Characteristics of Silver
Silver is a basic element although it is rarely found in its pure form. Usually, silver jewelry will be sterling silver. This means that the metal piece contains 92.5 percent silver and smaller amounts of other metals like copper.
Silver has a very recognizable color. The metal will be a grayish white with a nice sheen. Silver is considered to have cool undertones, so it looks best to gemstones and enamel colors in the blue, green, and purple color families. Silver looks best on people with cool skin tones, which will have an undertone of pink or blue.
Silver is relatively hypoallergenic. This means that silver is safe for those with easily irritated skin or with metal allergies. Sterling silver is the best, however, since some less pure forms of silver can cause mild irritation or even leave green marks on a person's skin. These marks will easily wash off, but they can still be annoying, especially if they form under necklaces or larger jewelry pieces.
Caring for Silver
Silver is, unfortunately, difficult to care for. It should be stored in a container with low humidity. If possible, silica gel should be used to keep moisture out of the air. Silver should also be stored in airtight containers or wrapped in plastic bags or plastic wrap. This process will help keep silver from tarnishing, but the only sure way to keep silver from tarnishing is to keep it from coming into contact with any air whatsoever. Silver that does tarnish should be polished with a soft rag and a jewelry polish that has been formulated for silver. Silver chains or other complex items may be difficult to polish at home and may require professional cleaning. On the other hand, the dark gray patina that develops on silver is seen by some as a mark of character. A silver tarnish can make small details and engravings more clear. While the level of tarnish that a person wants on their jewelry is an individual choice, generally speaking, highly polished and shining silver is more desirable.
Silver is somewhat harder than gold. This means that it is less susceptible for nicks and scratches while it is being worn. This also means that it is harder for jewelry makers and designers to create intricate designs with silver. While silver jewelry can still have very detailed engravings on it, silver does not lend itself to delicate forms, and most silver jewelry will have a heavier look to it.
The Value of Silver
Silver is considered a precious metal, but it is often priced at less than gold. This makes silver jewelry much more affordable and appropriate for everyday wear. A person who wants high-quality jewelry without breaking the bank should consider silver designs. However, in terms of investment pieces, silver is less of a sure thing than gold, and it can be harder to resell or exchange silver jewelry pieces.
Characteristics of White Gold
White gold, while containing some gold, is actually a mixture of gold and other metals. At first glance, it looks a lot like silver, but there are several characteristics that set it apart.
White Gold's Color
White gold is a whitish metal much like silver. However, white gold generally has a softer white that can even range into a light, white-yellow tone. Since white gold is an alloy and not a pure metal, the color will vary, and a person looking for white gold pieces will find the color to be more versatile. A whiter shade of white gold will still generally be classified as a cool color. However, white golds with slightly more gold will be neutral or even warm tones. White gold does not have the grayish tones that silver has, and white gold will also generally appear brighter than silver.
Wearing White Gold
Like silver, white gold is extremely gentle on the skin. In fact, gold is generally considered to be the best metal for those with sensitive skin, and white gold does not differ. White gold will not cause irritation for most people, and it also will not cause the greenish marks that can result from some silver jewelry. However, it is important to pay attention to the other metals that are used in white gold since they will have different effects.
Caring for White Gold
One reason that gold is valued is that it does not oxidize in air or moisture. This means that gold jewelry retains its shine and sparkle without needing to be sealed away or cleaned regularly. White gold retains that property and may only need light cleaning from time to time.
White Gold's Hardness
Gold is also valued because it is a very soft metal that is extremely easy to work into different shapes. Since white gold is usually at least 50 percent gold, it is still much softer than most other metals and is easier to shape. White gold is often seen in filigree, a type of jewelry in which thin, delicate lines of metal form small, intricate designs. However, white gold is still harder than pure gold, so it will not scratch as easily.
The Value of White Gold
Since white gold is an alloy, it is available in different purities. The purities that have a higher percentage of gold will generally be more expensive and valuable that other ratios. However, since different levels of gold will also change the color of white gold, in this case, a higher gold purity level is not necessarily desirable. White gold is, however, more valuable than silver, and it is often treated similarly to real gold in terms of liquidity.
Different Types of White Gold
Just as white gold can contain different levels of gold, it can also contain different metals. Most white golds actually contain a mix of gold, silver, and copper although the copper color is not visible. This is the highest quality type of white gold. However, some white golds contain other white metals, like nickel. White golds containing nickel can cause mild irritation to some, which may result in a rash. White golds with nickel are also generally harder and stronger than other types of white gold. If skin sensitivity is at all a concern, confirm that the white gold does not contain nickel before buying a piece of jewelry.
Is Silver or White Gold Better?
Each metal has its own benefits and drawbacks. While white gold tends to be more valuable and easier to care for, it is also more expensive to buy and may contain irritating metals. When in doubt, evaluate a piece of jewelry based on its design and aesthetic appeal instead of its specific metal.
Finding Silver and White Gold Jewelry on eBay
eBay has a large selection of jewelry in both silver and white gold. From eBay's main page, find the list of item categories on the left and click the link for Jewelry & watches. Then find the link for the Fine Jewelry subcategory. From this page, a shopper can use the navigation menu on the side of the page to narrow down jewelry options by metal types. Simply click on the check box for Sterling Silver or for White Gold to see eBay's offerings for each metal. If a shopper is interested in either metal for jewelry, they can click on the see all link located next to the Metal category heading. When they do this, a pop up menu will appear. This menu will allow a shopper to choose to see both White Gold and Sterling Silver items. Shoppers can also use eBay's navigation menu to sort results by jewelry type, price, brand, condition, and the main gemstone or gemstones used in the piece.
While silver and white gold look similar, they are actually quite different. Each metal is best for different applications and types of jewelry, so take the time to compare the desired characteristics of a piece of jewelry to the characteristics of silver and white gold to find the best possible metal.