Many people ask, what is the difference between yellow gold and white gold? What is white gold made from? Is yellow gold pure gold? Which is better? Here’s an explanation of the two gold colours’ differences, as well as the pros and cons of each one.
What is yellow gold?
Yellow gold – or simply, gold – is a precious metal that occurs naturally. This means that we can mine gold in the ground or pan it from rivers. Gold is a very soft metal and in its purest form, it bends easily out of shape.
That’s why jewellers who use gold in jewellery need to mix it with harder alloy metals, like platinum and copper. These alloy metal blends help to make gold more durable and keep its shape, which is ideal for jewellery items like rings.
What is white gold?
White gold doesn’t exist in its own right. In other words, you cannot find it in nature, it has to be made. White gold is created by mixing pure (yellow) gold with white precious metal alloys like palladium, platinum and silver. These give the yellow gold a whiter colour, as well as more rigidity.
Additionally, white gold is given a final coating of rhodium. Rhodium is a rare, hard silvery-white metal that’s very similar to platinum. It gives white gold jewellery a luminous-white sheen and protects the gold alloy underneath from scratches and dents.
Karats, purity and hallmarking
You may have heard the term “karat”, commonly abbreviated with the letter “K”. It is a measurement used to describe the purity of gold. This same measurement applies to both yellow gold and white gold (and in fact, any gold colour, including rose gold).
We measure carats on a scale of 24. The highest measurement is “24 karats” (or 24K) which represents pure gold. This means that 9K yellow gold or white gold contains 37.5% pure gold. In turn, 18K yellow gold or white gold contains 75% pure gold. The remaining percentages are a mixture of alloy metals.
18K yellow or white gold is more expensive than 9K yellow or white gold, because it contains more pure gold. Therefore, it is common for jewellers to offer both white and yellow gold jewellery in 18K and 9K, to suit different buyers’ styles and budgets. Jewellers selling gold jewellery in the UK must hallmark their items at one of the government Assay Offices. What this means is that the item’s gold karats are officially certified – and you, the consumer, know how much pure gold is contained in your jewellery.
Yellow gold pros and cons
- Unlike white gold and platinum, which both appear the same, the colour of yellow gold is very hard to imitate.
- Diamonds set in yellow gold tend to stand out more than those set in white gold, because of the colour contrast.
- Yellow gold is very easy for jewellers to work with. If you knock and damage your jewellery, a repair seam in most cases is very easy to disguise.
- Most people consider yellow gold is more classic or traditional, compared to the more “modern looking” white gold. That’s why in the recent years white gold has been the overwhelming trend.
White gold pros and cons
- Many people prefer white gold because of its silvery white colour. It’s less expensive than platinum, yet provides a far more valuable and hard alternative to silver.
- There is no price- or value difference between the actual gold present in white and yellow gold jewellery, as long the hallmarked shows the same carat weight. So for example, 18K white gold and 18K yellow gold will contain the same percentage of gold.
- However, white gold jewellery can be slightly more expensive than yellow gold jewellery, because of the manufacturing process it undergoes while being mixed and coated.
- White gold will also need periodic maintenance and re-coating. Whilst this isn’t expensive and can be done at almost any jewellers, the cost does add up over the years. (Some people therefore prefer platinum.)
Conclusion: White gold vs yellow gold
At the end of the day, choosing white or yellow gold is a question of personal preference. The most obvious difference between white gold and yellow gold is simply the way it looks. Some people prefer the unique warm glow of yellow gold. Others feel that white gold suits their skin tone better. If you’re not sure which one to go for, choose an item of jewellery that is available in both gold types and compare them side by side. If you feel more excited about wearing one item than another, that’s what you should choose.