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How to Tell the Differences Between Silver, Platinum and Palladium

To the untrained eye, certain Precious Metals may be hard to identify. Intuitively, we have a general idea of what Precious Metals look like but we may not have looked deeply enough to identify the nuances that make the metals what they are. Silver, Platinum and Palladium all share a similar color but being able to tell the differences between the three can help you understand whether you are buying genuine items or not. Whether you buy Silver, Platinum or Palladium at a store or online, it is important to know how to tell the differences between these three Precious Metals.

Can you Spot the Difference?

Look at these three examples below. It may be difficult to determine which metal is which without the product name. Very similar in color, the only differences between the physical look of the coins is the shading. The Canadian Maple Leafs pictured below are genuine products without color enhancements. 

The Basics of Silver, Platinum and Palladium

In order to be able to tell the differences between these three Precious Metals, it helps to understand the basic features of each.

  • Silver – How do you know when you spot real Silver? Silver is a common Precious Metal that can be found in the forms of bullion, jewelry, silverware and much more. Silver can be tarnished and have corrosion. It is also softer than Gold and other Precious Metals and is very malleable. It is not uncommon for new investors and Silver collectors to ask 'how to tell if Silver is real'.
  • Platinum – Platinum is harder and very resistant to scratches and corrosion. American Platinum is rarer than Silver so Platinum products will not be as abundant. Platinum's melting point is also significantly higher than Silver, making it more durable. You can often find Silver products that do not have a Platinum counterpart.
  • Palladium – Palladium is also highly resistant to corrosion and scratching. It is one of the most durable Precious Metals on the market today, while also being soft and ductile. 
Even though these metals may have a difficult time passing the eye test, buyers can determine the differences between the three metals with a little help.

Determining the Differences Between Silver, Platinum and Palladium

Silver stands out because it is the most common metal. Since it is the most susceptible to scratches and corrosion, seeing signs of these flaws is a good indication that it is Silver or a combination of different metals. It is no coincidence that more jewelry is being made with Platinum and Palladium. Silver is also less dense than Platinum and Palladium.

How do you know you spot real Platinum?

Other than a whiter and brighter appearance, not much differentiates the physical look of Platinum from Palladium or Silver. Platinum is highly resistant to scratches and corrosion. Buyers can also tell the differences in their density. “Silver and Platinum have different densities, and if you calculate the weight as well as the water displacement of your article of jewelry, you’ll be able to calculate an equation that gives you the rough estimate of how much Platinum is present. Platinum will be approximately 18 grams/cc, while Silver is lighter at approximately 10 grams/cc.” (Sell Gold HQ)

For Palladium, the key comes with the weight and not the color. The “difference is Palladium is about half the weight of Platinum.” (Larson Jewelers)
The eye test may not be enough to determine the differences between Silver, Platinum and Palladium, but knowing the density and having a little basic knowledge of the three Precious Metals can help you better identify each of these three metals.

Helpful Resources

How to Invest in Precious Metals (2:38)

See how Gold, an ancient storehouse of wealth, plays a vital role in modern investment portfolios. Watch Video

The Precious Metals Guide: Insights & Services

Written to acquaint you with Precious Metals investing and all the ways APMEX helps you succeed. Read more

Market Updates

Monitor the performance of Gold and Silver with daily market commentaries. Learn More

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