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Is your dream engagement ring set in white gold? Does your white gold jewellery look like it’s lost a bit of its sparkle? Maybe your white gold ring is turning yellow?
White gold has a brilliant, bright shine that reflects light beautifully and brings the sparkle out in diamonds. However, like all jewellery, white gold does require some maintenance to make the most of its stunning features.
Pure gold is a rich, lustrous yellow in colour, but it is also very soft, so it’s not a great choice for jewellery that will regularly be worn. Nearly all of the gold jewellery you will find is actually alloyed, or mixed with, stronger metals to increase the hardness, durability, and weight, making it suitable for regular wear. This is where karat comes in. 24K gold is pure gold - no alloy. If a ring is 18 Karat gold, that means that it is 18/24ths gold. The percentage of gold content in stamped jewellery is as follows: 18K (75%), 14K (58.5%), 10K (41.6%), and 9K (37.5%). An 18K ring has more gold content than a 10K ring, though the 10K ring may be harder and stand up to greater wear and tear, assuming it’s good quality.
In a yellow gold ring, the alloy is likely a blend of gold, copper, and a white metal like silver. Rose gold uses an alloy that includes a higher percentage of copper, giving it its pinkish hue.
A white gold ring will use at least one white-toned metal, such as nickel, manganese, silver, zinc, and/or palladium. Remember, although it is a mixture with a significant amount of gold in it, though it will look more “white” than yellow, it will always have a yellow cast.
While nickel and palladium are added to white gold to lighten the colour, the yellow hue of the gold will always remain. Imagine taking a pot of yellow paint, and adding white paint – it will lighten and become closer to white the more you add, but it will always have a slightly yellow undertone.
A plating of rhodium is applied to the white gold to achieve a genuinely white finish. This rhodium plating covers the entire surface and disguises the yellow hue of the white gold, making it more closely resemble platinum.
Rhodium is a precious metal that is part of the platinum family and is one of the rarest and valuable metals. It is silvery-white in colour and is very durable. Rhodium is also very reflective, which helps give white gold the brilliant shine it is so well known for.
Like all fine jewellery, white gold does require regular maintenance. Where yellow gold tends to become scratched and need polishing to restore its bright shine, the rhodium plating on white gold is more durable and scratch resistant. While high-quality rhodium plating will stand up to daily wear, over time it will begin to wear off and the yellow hue of the white gold will show through. At this stage, rhodium plating can be reapplied, and your white gold jewellery will sparkle like new again.
Many variables affect how long your rhodium plating will last, and it can differ for each person. The way our bodies’ chemistry will impact the plating is unpredictable, and everyone will find their rhodium wears differently, but there are steps you can take to keep your ring sparkling longer. To help prevent build-up that leads to wear, take your jewellery off before showering, applying makeup, perfumes and hairspray. Always remove your jewellery before handling household chemicals, and before entering the pool or hot tub. If your job requires that you wash your hands often, remove your rings before washing your hands. For more tips on caring for your white gold and prolonging the life of your rhodium plating, check out our blog on jewellery care.
If you have more questions about white gold, or if your white gold jewellery is in need of some TLC, we invite you to come by our store. Our master goldsmith, John Berg, can re-rhodium plate your pieces and return that sparkle that made you fall in love with them. We also encourage you to stop by anytime for a complimentary cleaning and check of your jewellery.