What is White Gold?

We get a lot of questions from customers asking about white gold.  Is white gold better than yellow gold?   Is white gold, real gold?  If it is, then why does my white gold ring now look yellow?

In this blog, we’ll answer all these questions and more and tell you some surprising facts about white gold.

What is White Gold?

Actually, there is no such thing as naturally white, yellow or rose gold. As we’ve written about before, almost all metals used in jewellery making are alloys, meaning they are a mixture of metals.

Alloy - a metal made by combining two or more metallic elements, especially to give greater strength or resistance to corrosion.

 A pure, noble metal (like gold, silver, platinum or palladium) is always mixed with other metals to improve it – often for durability and/or strength. 

Some metals (like pure gold) is very soft and, by mixing it with other metals it not only makes it more workable so it can be shaped and crafted into a beautiful piece of jewellery but, by mixing it with other metals, it is also made stronger and longer-lasting.

What differentiates white gold from other golds is that the alloys it is mixed with are chosen for their colour or, more precisely, their whiteness.

Other coloured golds, like yellow and rose, tend to be mixed with different alloys to achieve their colours. Therefore, white gold starts in the same way as yellow gold, only the alloys are different.

Often the main alloys used to give the whiteness to white gold are nickel or palladium.  These metals are used to “bleach” the naturally yellow gold. Others include silver or zinc.  Nickel and palladium are the whitest, although nickel can still appear grey/brown-yellow.  Palladium gives the strongest white colour, but it is very expensive.

Is White Gold, Real Gold?

Yes!  As we’ve mentioned, white gold starts in exactly the same way as yellow gold. 

White gold consists of the same amounts of pure gold as any other gold.  It is the alloys chosen to add to the pure gold that differs in white gold.

The actual amount of pure gold is indicated by its “carat”.  This is indicated by its hallmark.

9K, or 9-carat, gold comprises 37.5% pure gold with the remaining 62.5%  consisting of other metals.  This is the same, whether it is white gold or yellow gold.  

14K, or 14-carat gold, comprises 58.5% pure gold and the rest is alloys – in both white and yellow gold.

18K, or 18 carat, white or yellow gold comprises 75% pure gold and the remaining 25% is an alloy of other metals.

Why Does Some White Gold Look A Little Yellow?

Even when a white gold piece of jewellery is carefully alloyed with white-silver metals, it can still appear to have a slightly yellow tinge to it.  Therefore, white gold jewellery is always then rhodium-plated.

Can my faded white-gold jewellery sparkle white again?

Yes, rhodium plating the jewellery again should take care of this.  Your white gold jewellery will be re-plated with rhodium. 

If you’re interested we’ve written a blog post on rhodium plating here.

Rhodium Plating

Rhodium is a very hard and very white metal, similar to platinum, and it gives a beautifully lustrous and hard protective layer to white gold.

Rhodium plating is a simple process but will need to be done at your local jewellers’ workshop. 

It will come back looking as good as new.  The main inconvenience is being without your ring whilst the work is being done depending on the schedule of your jewellers’ workshop.

Why Does It Look Like The Gold On My Ring Has Worn Off?

Unfortunately, the rhodium-plating on white gold jewellery wears off over time.

Rhodium plating on gold is just that, a plating and , whilst modern methods of plating are very good, it can still wear off over years of use. 

It is totally normal for the rhodium plating to wear off.

Rhodium plating on rings can wear off quicker than other pieces of jewellery because we subject our rings to more wear and tear than other pieces of jewellery, for instance, a pendant or earrings. We use our hands constantly and wash our hands many times a day, particularly in these times of COVID-19 precautions, all with our rings on.

Even so, you shouldn’t need to re-rhodium plate your ring for a few years after it’s new. 

White Gold CZ Engagement Ring

Remember To Regularly Remove Your Jewellery.

For this reason, it is worth another reminder to always remove our jewellery at home.  Doing so really will keep our jewellery looking good for longer. 

Doing cleaning jobs around the house with our jewellery on won’t do it any favours. 

Many of us change into something more comfortable when we get home.  Remember to also remove your jewellery and pop it into a little dish or our jewellery box until we get dressed the next day.  It’s a habit well worth getting into.

Why does my white gold ring now irritate my skin?

Rhodium is a very inert metal and rarely causes any reactions.  Unfortunately people can have, or develop, sensitivities to nickel and even to gold.  Once the protective rhodium has worn a little, the metals underneath can cause a skin irritation.  It is always worth getting your ring (or other jewellery) rhodium plated again and see if this solves the irritation.  It often does. 

The Assay Office, Birmingham, mention on their website, “As a precautionary note when white gold is alloyed with nickel, nickel-sensitive consumers may react to the nickel in the alloy when the jewellery is worn. No limit has been set for the nickel content of items in direct and prolonged contact with the skin. The requirements in the regulations refer only to nickel release. There is no simple relationship between nickel content and nickel release – the amount of nickel released from a particular jewellery item may be influenced by a number of factors, so it is not possible to state which alloys will be compliant, based on their composition alone.” (Souce – Assay Office, Birmingham. https://theassayoffice.com/white_gold_labexpert)

Can I avoid having to get my ring rhodium-plated again?

We have found customers are so disappointed when the white lustre on their white gold ring starts to wear off.

At the moment the main cure is to get your item of jewellery re-rhodiumed.  However, advances in jewellery manufacture is such that whiter alloys are being used, to the point that white gold pieces maufactured in the furture may not even need to be rhodium-plated soon. 

Can you tell what my white gold jewellery has been alloyed with?

At the moment there is no way of knowing exactly what a piece of white gold jewellery is alloyed from, other than the manufacturer offering that information. 

However, developments may be afoot.  The Assay Office has acknowledged this and state in an article on their website, that is is important that the appropriate alloy is used, and there is talk of even grading white gold alloys into “grades of whiteness”.

Pros

  • Beautiful high-gloss appearance.
  • Suits cooler skin tones
  • Some believe white gold looks better with white stones, such as diamonds.
  • Other gemstones, such as Pink sapphires, look very good next to White gold.
  • White gold is cheaper than platinum or palladium
  • White gold can be alloyed with stronger metals than yellow gold and therefore can be harder

Cons

  • Rhodium-plating wears off over time – easily fixed but some can find having to have their jewellery re-rhodium plated a hindrance
  • For those with allergies, the alloys used in the white gold mix can irritate once the rhodium has started to wear.

To Sum Up

White gold is definitely real gold, and it looks great.  With regular maintenance and some care, it will last and will look good for a lifetime.

For those with allergies, we suggest taking extra care in ensuring your piece is re-rhodium plated as soon as it wears or, instead, take a look at silver, platinum or palladium as an alternative white metal.

Sources:

The Assay Office, Birmingham 

 

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