Many are aware of the different precious metals – silver, gold, platinum. White gold is another particularly popular choice of metal for jewellery, but what exactly is it? How is it made? And how does it differ from yellow gold? This article takes an in-depth look at white gold and its properties in jewellery.
What is white gold?
White gold is an alloy of gold. It is made up of pure gold, mixed with alloy metals that have a silvery-white colour, such as palladium and silver.
Why is it mixed with alloy metals?
In all gold jewellery, pure gold has to be mixed with harder metals for added durability and strength. On its own, pure gold is a very soft metal. Without the harder alloy metals keeping it rigid, pure gold would easily bend out of shape.
This is the case whether the jewellery is made from yellow gold, rose gold or white gold, because in any of these variations, gold on its own would be too soft.
In white gold, additionally, the silvery-coloured alloys help to create the desired white colour.
Why is white gold coated in rhodium?
Apart from the alloys mixed in with the pure gold, white gold jewellery is additionally coated in a precious metal known as rhodium. Rhodium comes from the same metal family as platinum.
It adds further strength and durability, and importantly, a really lustrous white surface sheen – making it the ideal metal to coat and protect jewellery.
White gold coated in rhodium | Image credit Wikimedia Commons
Why does white gold eventually start to look like yellow gold?
Over time, the rhodium coating becomes worn, revealing the yellow gold colour underneath.
Is this normal? Yes. Eventually, all white gold jewellery begins to show yellow gold colour. How quickly this happens depends on many factors such as the pH level of your skin, and what toiletries or household chemicals the jewellery comes into contact with. Even environmental factors, like how much pollution there is in your area, can influence how quickly the yellow gold begins to show through.
What can be done about it? This can be resolved easily by getting the jewellery re-coated with rhodium every so often. This can be easily done at most jewellers. The cost for recoating an engagement ring is around £25.
The difference in colour between yellow gold, rose gold and white gold
Is white gold real gold?
Yes. Even though it contains alloy metals, white gold is made from real, pure gold. You’ll be able to verify that your white gold jewellery contains real gold by looking at its hallmark.
In the UK, all jewellery over 1 gram in weight must be hallmarked to ensure it contains the exact amount of the certified precious metal stated.
A hallmarking is a small symbol stamped on the inside of a piece of jewellery that identifies it as a certified and authentic by the strict standards of The Government Assay Offices.
How do I know how much pure gold in my white gold jewellery?
The gold content of all gold jewellery – whether white, yellow or rose gold – is measured in “karats”.
Karat is often expressed with the letter K. For example, 9K or 18K gold.
All 9K gold jewellery items contain 37.5% pure gold, while 18K gold items contain 75% pure gold – regardless of the gold colour. The bigger the overall karat weight, the larger amount of gold is present.
To recap, the advantages and disadvantages of white gold are…
White gold is a beautiful, precious metal. It has the same appearance as platinum and silver, but has a more affordable price than platinum and is much more hard-wearing than silver.
It is the perfect choice for those who prefer a white, silvery appearance over yellow gold.
Its neutral colour and durability makes it the perfect setting for all gemstones. It looks beautiful and classic, suited to all outfits and events.
As white gold is made from a mix of pure yellow gold with alloys and coated in rhodium, overtime it will need recoating to maintain its colour.
Although this is an easy and fairly inexpensive process that can done by most jewellers, it could mean that you’ll need to be without your engagement or wedding ring for a period of a few days while it’s being done. Overtime, it will add to the overall cost of your jewellery.
Conclusion – is white gold for me?
Whether white gold is for you is ultimately a personal choice. Overall, white gold makes for a stunning choice if you love the neutral, classic look of silver or platinum.
It has much more durability and value than silver, but if you’re on a budget, it is less expensive than platinum.
Over the last half a century, white gold has become much more popular than classic yellow gold and is in fact the most often chosen metal for engagement rings. This attests its contemporary, versatile look, exceptional value and high quality feel.
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