White gold has become one of the most popular metals for jewelry in general and wedding and engagement rings in particular. It’s strong, lustrous and an excellent substitute for the more expensive platinum.
But what exactly is white gold and how does it compare to other metals?
- What is White Gold?
- What Does Rhodium Plating Do to White Gold?
- What is White Gold Worth?
- Maintaining White Gold
- Is White Gold Hypoallergenic?
- White Gold vs. Other Metals
- White Gold Pros and Cons
- Should I Choose White Gold?
- Where to Buy Quality White Gold Jewelry?
What is White Gold?
Lustrous white gold ring. Check Price Here.
Gold in its pure form is yellow, the classic, traditional metal choice that has been used for centuries to make jewelry. However, yellow gold can be tweaked and combined with other metals to display different colors.
Pure gold, i.e. 24 karat gold, is very soft and easily deformed. To make gold more durable and stronger, it’s often combined with other metals. All gold used in jewelry, unless stated as 24 karat gold, has been alloyed with other metals to increase its durability. This is how white gold is made also.
White gold is a yellow gold alloy, made by combining pure gold with silver white metals, typically manganese, palladium, nickel, silver or zinc. This combination with other metals enhances white gold’s strength and reduces its yellowness. The final step of creating white gold is to rhodium plate the alloy.
What Does Rhodium Plating Do to White Gold?
White gold alloys aren’t perfectly white. They still contain tinges of yellow or brown, leftover from the pure gold in the alloy. To hide that, the final piece of jewelry is coated in a thin layer of rhodium plating, which gives the white gold its stunning luster and beauty.
Rhodium is part of the platinum group of metals and is extremely rare and valuable. It’s also one of the hardest metals. When white gold is plated with rhodium, it not only makes the metal lustrous and reflective, but it also adds a layer of strength and durability to the white gold.
What is White Gold Worth?
The value of white gold largely depends on how much pure gold is in the alloy. Gold purity is calculated in karats, with 24 being the maximum. To know how much gold is in the alloy, all gold jewelry should typically be stamped with the accepted hallmark indicating the gold content.
White gold is typically worth the amount of pure gold in its alloy, which you can then check against the current price of gold on the market. The other metals in the alloy don’t tend to add or detract from the white gold jewelry in general.
To understand how a higher gold purity in the alloy affects its value, check the prices of these two rings. You’ll notice that there’s a significant price difference between them:
14K White Gold Band. Check Price Here.
18K White Gold Band. Check Price Here.
The 18K ring is much more expensive because it contains 17% more pure gold than the 14K ring. And in case you’re wondering how we worked that out, it’s because 18K contains 18/24 pure gold (which correlates to 75%) while 14K has 14/24 (which is 58%). When you check the difference in the amount of gold between these two types of white gold alloys, that amounts to 17%.
Always look for the hallmark or stamp that indicates how much pure gold the alloy has. All white gold pieces should be stamped as per legal requirements of the country of origin.
Maintaining White Gold
The trouble with any plated metal is that over time the plating tends to wear off, leaving the exposed metal beneath. This is why white gold tends to appear yellow with age, as it loses its rhodium plating and begins to reveal the original alloy color. Note that this rhodium plating wearing off is influenced by several factors, including things like how much exposure your white gold jewelry has, environmental factors and the pH level of your skin.
White gold requires periodic re-plating to keep it lustrous and reflective. Check Price Here.
To avoid this happening, simply have the ring re-plated when necessary. Often, this will need to be done every year or two and can cost about $50 to $100. Some retailers, like James Allen, offer free lifetime rhodium plating services for white gold rings purchased from them as per their lifetime warranty.
Is White Gold Hypoallergenic?
If you have metal allergies or sensitivities, choosing a hypoallergenic metal is important. However, white gold can be tricky because whether white gold is hypoallergenic or not depends on the exact alloy. Common metal allergens include zinc and nickel, which can sometimes be used in white gold alloys. If these are present, the white gold isn’t considered hypoallergenic.
However, rhodium is hypoallergenic and the rhodium plating on white gold works as a barrier between the alloy and your skin. As long as the rhodium plating is intact, your skin won’t come into contact with any allergens in the metal.
White Gold vs. Other Metals
So how does white gold stack up against other types of metals, including other gold varieties?
White Gold vs. Platinum
White gold was originally created as a less expensive substitute for platinum. The main difference is that platinum is naturally white and doesn’t require any plating. Another point of difference is that platinum doesn’t wear off or get scratched off the ring – instead, it simply displaces, which results in a patina over time. Gold, on the other hand, loses a little bit of itself each time its scratched and wears thin over time.
White Gold vs. Yellow Gold
White gold is more durable than yellow gold due to its rhodium coating and alloyed metals. Yellow gold is more susceptible to acquiring scratches and dents. This makes white gold a better option for busier lifestyles and active hands. In terms of aesthetics, yellow gold tends to complement darker skin tones and has a classic, traditional look that white gold lacks.
White Gold vs. Rose Gold
Rose gold has a soft color that looks stunning on all skin tones, and has a romantic, delicate look that looks especially beautiful in vintage settings. Rose gold is more durable than both white and yellow golds, because of the copper content in the alloy. However, as some people have copper allergies, rose gold isn’t considered a hypoallergenic metal.
White Gold vs. Silver
White gold is much more durable than silver and is easier to maintain and clean. Silver is affordable and is ideal for costume jewelry, but it tarnishes easily and may discolour and lose its luster with time and exposure. It doesn’t hold the same value that white gold does but it’s ideal if you want an inexpensive alternative to white gold.
White Gold Pros and Cons
Here’s a brief look at the advantages and disadvantages of white gold to summarize the above discussion.
- White gold is lustrous and highly reflective, even more so than platinum.
- It’s ideal for a modern sleek look, as opposed to yellow or rose golds which have a classic, vintage feel.
- White gold is perfect for a range of settings for all jewelry types and suits a variety of occasions.
- It’s more durable than yellow gold and maintains its shine longer than platinum, which acquires a patina fairly quickly.
- White gold’s rhodium plating flakes off and wears thin over time, meaning that the jewelry will need replating over time. Also, because the true color of white gold alloys is brownish-yellowish this will be visible as the rhodium wears off.
- Rhodium plating is an ongoing cost and effort, which adds up over time.
- Because white gold isn’t hypoallergenic, it may cause skin irritations for some people.
Should I Choose White Gold?
Choosing the right metal for you depends on your personal preferences, budget and lifestyle. There’s no right or wrong answer for this and it’s a decision that you will have to make.
In general, white gold is excellent if you’re after a highly reflective, durable metal. It’s less expensive than platinum making it a relatively affordable option and if you’re worried about the ongoing rhodium plating requirement, purchase from a site that offers this service for free, like James Allen.
White gold continues to increase in popularity and value and is perfect if you want a modern, sleek look for your jewelry. It’s especially popular for wedding and engagement rings.
Where to Buy Quality White Gold Jewelry?
Purchase white gold jewelry from a trustworthy retailer that offers high-quality products. Look for good after sales policies, excellent customer care, as well as customer reviews.
Based on our experience, we recommend the following retailers:
James Allen is known for their high-quality products and excellent customer service, offering a wide range of white gold wedding and engagement rings, as well as fine jewelry. Their groundbreaking Display Technology makes it easy to view each product carefully, and their lifetime warranty covers free rhodium plating for your jewelry.
Blue Nile offers a large inventory of platinum and white gold jewelry, with extensive men’s and women’s ring collections. Their pricing is competitive and customer service is top notch, with fair after sales policies.