When we think of precious metals, gold, silver and platinum often come to mind. However, white gold is another popular choice of metal for jewellery. As the metal is durable, aesthetically pleasing, and relatively affordable, it’s one of the top choices for engagement rings and wedding bands. But what is white gold jewellery and what makes is so special? In this article, we look into white gold and its properties in jewellery in more detail.
White gold is an alloy of gold. It’s crafted from pure gold mixed with alloy metals that have a silvery-white colour. In many cases, these metals are palladium and silver. After the mixing process, the metal becomes less yellow and more silvery-white. However, it still has a gold tint at this stage. This is rectified later on to create a piece of lustrous silver-white coloured jewellery.
In all types of gold jewellery, the gold is mixed with harder metals to add strength and durability. When used on its own, gold is a very soft metal. If it wasn’t mixed with harder alloys, pure gold jewellery would become dented, scratched, and bent out of shape. Regardless of whether the finished product is made from yellow gold, white gold, or rose gold, the pure gold has been mixed with harder alloy metals to ensure the piece retains its shape. As well as adding strength, the alloy metals help to create the desired colour of the jewellery. In the case of white gold, the silver-coloured alloys created the desired white colour.
After the pure gold has been mixed with the alloys, it’s coated in a precious metal known as rhodium. From the same metal family as platinum, rhodium adds further strength and stability to the piece. Additionally, it adds a shiny white sheen to the jewellery. With this in mind, it’s the perfect metal for coating and protecting white gold jewellery.
If your white gold jewellery starts to look yellow, don’t panic! It’s totally normal. Over time, white gold begins to look like yellow gold. This is because the rhodium coating becomes worn, revealing the natural gold colour underneath. However, as the gold has been mixed with silver-coloured alloys, it will never become as dark as pure gold jewellery.
How quickly the rhodium becomes worn will depend on a number of factors including the pH level of your skin, and what chemicals the jewellery comes into contact with. Certain environmental factors can also influence how quickly the yellow gold begins to show, such as the pollution level in your area.
If your white gold jewellery starts to turn yellow, the best thing to do is get it re-coated with rhodium. This can be done quickly and easily by most jewellers. Better still, it’s relatively affordable; the cost of re-coating a standard ring is around £25.
Although it doesn’t have the standard yellow colour, white gold is still real gold. As mentioned previously, white gold jewellery is pure gold mixed with alloy metals. If you’re unsure, you’ll be able to confirm that your jewellery contains real gold by looking at its hallmark.
In the UK, any jewellery weighing over 1 gram must be hallmarked. This is to prove that it contains the exact amount of the metal stated. The hallmark can be found stamped on the inside of a piece of jewellery. The symbol proves that the jewellery is certified by the Government Assay Offices.
Like any precious metal, white gold has advantages and disadvantages. Below, we explore these further.
The appearance of white gold is beautiful. It has the same appearance as silver and platinum but is more hard-wearing than silver and more affordable than platinum. If you want the strength and price tag of gold but prefer a white-silver appearance, white gold is a perfect choice.
As the metal has a neutral colour, it matches perfectly with all gemstones. Regardless of the gemstone colour, white gold jewellery has a classic appearance that is suited to all events.
One of the main disadvantages of white gold is that it begins to lose its colour over time. As it’s coated in rhodium, the yellow gold will start to show as the rhodium wears. This means that it will need re-coating to maintain its colour. Over time, this will add to the overall cost of your jewellery.
While re-coating is an easy and inexpensive process, it will mean that you’ll be without your jewellery for a period of time while it’s being done. While some people don’t mind this, others prefer to keep their jewellery on at all times – particularly if it’s an engagement ring or wedding band.
Whether white gold is for you is ultimately down to personal choice. If you love the neutral appearance or silver or platinum, white gold is a great choice. Unlike silver, white gold is hardwearing and durable. This means that it won’t easily become bent, scratched, or dented. As white gold is more affordable than platinum, it’s an excellent option for those with a smaller budget.
Over the past 20 years, white gold has become more popular than classic yellow gold. Today, it is the chosen metal for most engagement rings. The only downside to the metal is that it will lose its colour over time. However, this can easily be fixed by getting the piece recoated.