When you hear the word gold, you probably picture something yellow. That said, you’ve likely heard the term white gold before and know it’s not yellow. White gold is, in fact, gold, and it’s made from yellow gold. So the question is, how does something yellow become something white.
The base of white gold is yellow gold. The white color comes from a variety of alloys that are added to the yellow base. These alloys alter the color and also help make the gold stronger. By itself, gold is very soft, but when mixed with certain alloys it can stand up to daily wear. The alloys used to make white gold are white in color, which helps to mute the yellow base.
Some of the alloys most often found in white gold include silver, zinc, palladium, manganese, and nickel. Nickel is often found in white gold and it’s not uncommon for people to have a nickel allergy. If you are allergic to nickel, white gold is not a good option. Go with platinum instead.
TYPES OF WHITE GOLD
There are different types of white gold with different percentages of gold in them. The most common are 14 karat and 18 karat. You may run into 10 karat as well. 18 karat white gold, is 75% gold. In 14 karat 58% is gold, and in 10 karat 42% is gold. There is no such thing as 24 karat white gold. 24 karat is 100% gold, which means it is always yellow.
Because white gold has a yellow metal as a base, a bit of that yellow color will always remain present. Rhodium plating is a process often used to give white gold a bright silvery-white finish. Through the process of rhodium plating, a fine layer of rhodium is applied over top of a finished piece of white gold jewelry. Rhodium plating will wear off over time, allowing the subtle yellow color to show through after years of wear.
The top ring has recently been rhodium plated, the rhodium plating on the bottom ring has worn off.
If you really love the bright white shine of a rhodium plated white gold ring, you’ll want to have the rhodium plating redone every several years. It’s important not to have a piece of jewelry rhodium plated too often because your jewelry will be polished before the plating is applied. Over time this can wear down the metal, which can lead to cracking and breaking.
Unlike white gold, platinum is a white metal. It does not need to be plated or mixed with anything to stay white. If you’re worried about a piece of jewelry staying white, it might make sense to go with platinum instead.