Is your white gold jewelry 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 emails from clients asking why their white gold wedding band or the prongs of their engagement ring are turning yellow.
TLDR; 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 gold is always yellow. In fact, white gold does not exist in nature. Pure, 24 karat 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 include copper, silver, nickel, palladium and zinc.
At Gardens of the Sun, we mix our own gold alloys with ethical 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 comes into play. A higher amount of copper will turn the gold to rose gold, and silver and palladium will turn it more pale.
Then how is white gold made?
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 won't use nickel anymore. Likewise, Gardens of the Sun does not use any nickel in any of our jewelry.
Many jewelers have shifted to using palladium in their white gold. Palladium gives the gold a gray tone and less of a warm yellow hue. When using traditional artisanal smithing methods, it can be challenging to get the temperatures high enough to properly melt the palladium.
When palladium isn't melted properly, it can affect the quality of the finished jewelry. That's why at Gardens of the Sun, we used silver and zinc as the base alloy for our white gold. In 2022 we introduced palladium white gold, alloyed at the refinery.
IS WHITE GOLD RHODIUM PLATED?
Natural white gold isn’t exactly white. Historically, jewelers want white gold which can match the color of platinum - a rare metal with a hefty price tag. But white gold based on zinc or silver still has a distinct golden glow. So to achieve this white metal look, white gold is plated with rhodium.
Just like how there are many shades of white, white gold can have different colors.
So why does white gold turn yellow?
As the rhodium plating is only a thin top layer, the rhodium plating tends to fade over time. This is especially true around prongs and corners, which get the most wear and tear.
As our white gold still contains more gold than "white" metals, the dominant color underneath still has a warm golden hue.
IS IT BAD IF WHITE GOLD TURNS YELLOW?
White gold doesn’t turn yellow because of oxidation and tarnish. It turns yellow because that is its natural color.
So, it’s not ‘bad’ at all if white gold turns yellow! In fact, some people are loving this natural look more.
HOW CAN I PREVENT WHITE GOLD FROM TURNING YELLOW?
Bad news is: you can’t prevent white gold from turning yellow. But you can slow down its process. This depends on how quickly the rhodium fades. And that 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, despite a few close calls with the reef or inside the barrel?
If you answered yes to any, or all, of the above, chances are your white gold ring is turning yellow, as the rhodium plating will come off faster.
WILL RHODIUM PLATING DAMAGE GEMSTONE?
Rhodium plating involves running the white gold with electricity in a special solution. This is a process called electroplating. The solution itself is usually sulfuric acid.
Now, most gemstones don’t conduct electricity and are fine with sulfuric acid. But some gemstones like opal, lead glass filled rubies and emeralds can’t handle sulfuric acid. Before having your ring rhodium plated, ask your jeweler if plating will damage your gemstone.
WHY IS WHITE GOLD MORE EXPENSIVE THAN YELLOW GOLD?
Creating white gold jewelry involves additional steps and additional metals. That’s why, white gold is more expensive than yellow gold.
If your white gold jewelry contains palladium, remember palladium is a rare metal, and expensive. More expensive than a silver and zinc based alloy. Moreover, palladium is harder to work with than gold, so it’s more labor intensive.
There’s additional labor and materials involved for the rhodium plating process.
You can expect to pay $50 to $200 more for a white gold ring than a yellow gold ring of the same quality.
WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT GARDENS OF THE SUN ETHICAL GOLD?
We partner with 25 artisanal indigenous women miners in Indonesian Borneo. We pay them a premium for their pledge against the use of mercury and cyanide. Plus, the miners operate legally without deforestation.
In the process, your gold jewelry avoided releasing an estimated 44 kg of mercury into the world.
We personally know the miners
Single mine origin
We can pin-point the mining location on the map
The gold is sent directly from the miners to our Bali studio
Small scale operation
No mercury or cyanide
Plan is to eventually help rehabilitate and reforest ex-mining site
No conflict situations
No child labor
Supporting indigenous women
Annual scholarships for the miners children
An empowered organization of miners
Legal mining operation
Legal mining site
Women receive a premium price above the gold price
SO WHY CHOOSE WHITE GOLD JEWELRY?
White gold is a popular choice of metal, because it’s chic and elegant. Plus, it looks great with any gemstone color. But here are more reasons why white gold are great for engagement or wedding rings:
Rhodium plating makes it more scratch resistant
It suits both warm and cool-toned skin
It looks great when silvery with rhodium plating and a warm yellow in its natural color
Clear white gemstones and diamonds come out best against white metal
How do I get that white metal glow back?
There's no other way around it - your white gold jewelry will have to be re-plated to get that platinum shine again. It's not a complicated process and your local jeweler should be able to do it for you, either in-house or at one of their partners.
If you purchased your ring from us, you're welcome to send it back and we'll gladly dip that piece in rhodium for you. In fact, we've done it for many of our clients. The first re-dip is on us.