Have you checked out your white gold jewelry lately? Is it slowly fading to a yellowing shine? Don't stress; it's not that your sebum or sweat is staining it, nor is it because you got a low-quality piece of bling. And you're not alone! We got letters from customers asking why their gorgeous white gold wedding band or the prongs of their engagement ring and studs are turning yellow. The quick answer is: it's normal. Now, sit back with a cup of tea and your yellowing-yet-still-beautiful jewelry in your palm, and keep reading for the longform answer…
What is white gold anyway?
Pure, 24-karat gold is always yellow. In fact, white gold does not exist in nature. In general, pure gold is too soft to be used in jewelry and that’s why it’s mixed with other metals that make it durable enough to be worn daily. These metals are usually copper, silver, nickel, palladium and zinc.
At Gardens of the Sun, we mix our own gold alloys with recycled and new gold, and add metals like copper and silver to it. We use 18 karat gold, which means that 18 out of 24 parts – or 75% – is pure gold (hence why in some countries,
it gets a 750 stamp rather than an 18k stamp). That remaining 25% is where the mix of metals come to play – a higher amount of copper will lead to rose gold, and more silver will make it more pale.
Top ring is pure 18 karat white gold, the bottom ring has been rhodium plated.
Then how do you make white gold?
Back in the day, people used nickel to give white gold its shiny white metal look. However, many people (myself included!) are allergic to nickel and most quality jewelers don't use nickel anymore. That said, we import our solder material from the UK and it may contain trace amounts of nickel. Unfortunately, we can't control everything.
Nowadays, many big jewelers use palladium in their white gold, which gives it a grey tone. We’ve tried working with palladium, but because we use traditional artisanal smithing methods, we can’t get our temperatures high enough to properly melt the palladium! That’s why we use only silver and zinc in our white gold, rather than palladium. When this is the case, most jewelers will opt for rhodium-plated gold, which basically means the gold is dipped in a thin layer of rhodium. That's when we get that white metal look.
So why does white gold turn yellow?
Just like all things, rhodium tends to fade over time. This is especially true around prongs and corners. As our white gold still contains more gold than silver, the dominant color underneath still has a pale greenish yellow color with perhaps a warm golden hue. How quickly the rhodium fades depends on a bunch of factors – are you active? Do you fidget with your rings when you're nervous? Are you an obsessive polisher? (Like some of us at the studio here…). Do you wear your jewelry when you jump into the pool or let it come in contact with household cleaners? Do you surf and forget you've got jewelry on and have had at least three close calls to losing your bling in the barrel? If you answered yes to any, or all, of the above, chances are your white gold ring is turning yellow even now as you read this.
So how to get that white glow back?
There's no other way around it – your white gold jewelry will have to be re-plated to get that white platinum shine again. It's not a complicated process and your local jeweler should be able to do it for you. Otherwise, send it to us and we'll gladly dip that piece in rhodium for you. In fact, we've done it for many of our customers.
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