What is white gold?
In its natural form, gold is yellow. It is rarely made into jewellery in its natural state because it is just too soft. It has to be mixed with harder metals for added durability and strength. Gold is made into an alloy (a combination of metals), usually seen in 5 karat, 9 karat or 18 karat. Without the harder alloy metals keeping it rigid, pure gold would easily bend out of shape – and that’s no good in jewellery. If the other metals in the alloy are mostly copper or silver, then the gold will remain yellow in colour. If the other metals are Palladium or nickel, then the resulting alloy is bleached to a white tone.
Rhodium plated white gold
Apart from the alloys mixed in with the pure gold to give it that white-ish colour, white gold jewellery is sometimes additionally coated in a precious metal known as rhodium. It adds further strength and durability, and importantly, a really shiny and bright white surface.
Natural white gold
White gold does not always have to be rhodium plated. It can be worn in its natural state. Yes, if you compare natural, non-plated white gold side by side to Rhodium plated gold, you will see a difference. But individually, natural white gold will appear white, unlike the usual yellow gold we are accustomed to.
Why does rhodium plated white gold eventually start to look yellowish?
Over time, the rhodium coating on white gold jewellery becomes worn, revealing the natural yellowish white gold underneath. This is normal. 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 natural colour begins to show through. It can be anything from a few months to a few years.
Rings are the most at risk for wear and tear as they come into contact with everything your hand does. Door and drawer handles, cutlery, sinks, pots and pans, tools. If the ring is rhodium plated, then the plating will wear off over time, revealing the true colour of the metal beneath. The plating on rings will wear really quickly but pendants and earrings will take a lot longer as they are not battered on a day-to-day basis with general wear and tear.
Before opting for Rhodium plated white gold, you do need to think about whether you are willing to bring your jewellery in to be re-polished and plated on a regular basis for it to be looking its best. It is not too pricey though. The cost for re-plating a ring is around US$20.
What can I do to make my rhodium plating last longer?
To help prevent rapid wear and tear, take your jewellery off before showering, applying makeup, perfumes and hairspray. Always remove your jewellery before handling household chemicals, and before entering a swimming pool. If your job requires that you wash your hands often, remove your rings before washing your hands. For more tips on caring for your jewellery, check out our jewellery care and maintenance tips
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 rhodium-plated 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 re-plated.
Any prices quoted in this article are meant as guidelines, and may change any time after the date of publishing.