Olympic gold is the only medal Argentina captain Luciana Aymar has not won, and the seven-time world player of the year admitted victory in the final would give her 'eternal glory'.
However, arguably the greatest player in the history of the women's game bowed out having won two silvers and two bronzes in her four Olympic appearances.
A cagey game was settled midway through the second half as world number ones the Netherlands scored two penalty corner goals in relatively quick succession from Carlien Dirkse van den Heuvel and captain Maartje Paumen.
Even the legendary Aymar could not inspire world champions Argentina into a fightback as the Dutch collected the third Olympic gold medal in their history.
Earlier in the day, Great Britain's women emulated the groundbreaking side of 1992 in becoming only the second team to win Olympic bronze with a 3-1 win over New Zealand.
The squad showed impressive fortitude to bounce back less than 48 hours after most of the players left the pitch emotionally distraught having lost a close semi-final to Argentina.
But the burden of expectation did not weigh heavy as, spurred on by a vociferous 16,000-strong crowd, they dominated the game against New Zealand - even if they had to wait until 10 minutes into the second half for their nerves to ease.
Reading striker Alex Danson scored her fifth of the tournament as she dived in to convert a well-practised penalty corner routine, Leicester defender Crista Cullen joined her on that tally with a set-piece of her own and Wales international Sarah Thomas rounded off the scoring from another corner move.
Stacey Michelsen scored late on for New Zealand who have had a fantastic tournament.