White gold is a rage among the new generation owing to its resemblance to platinum and cost-effectiveness. It has been a popular belief among youngsters that white gold balances well with diamonds on comparison with yellow gold.
Even in a technical point of view, white gold is more flexible and elastic which makes it easy to work with and turn them into beautiful and exquisite ornaments. However, when regularly used, white gold tend to turn yellow as time passes. Let’s take a few moments to understand the science behind these changes and how it can be prevented.
So, does white gold tarnish? No, White gold neither gets tarnished nor gets oxidized. However, white gold is prone to changes over time, just like any other metal. The main complaint about the quality and appearance of
white gold is their decolorization; they change to yellow with time.
However, this problem can be prevented by proper up keeping and preservation of the metal in a scientific way. Though white gold does not tarnish like silver, it is known to cause allergies for some people.
What is White Gold?
Pure gold is a deep yellow metal with a very intense metallic luster. It is a soft metal, which makes it unsuitable as a jewelry material since it goes out of shape with small pressure. The purity of gold is measured in karats and 100% pure gold equals 24 karats.
Though 24 karat gold is a popular choice of metal for jeweler making in certain parts of the world owing to its purity, many consider it too soft for daily use.
To make it stronger and more durable, pure gold is mixed with harder metals such as silver, palladium, zinc, nickel, platinum, or copper. 18 karat white gold has 75% gold and 25% other metals.
When gold is alloyed with silver, it gives a lighter shade to the alloyed metal, whereas copper gives a very dark hue. To obtain a silver-white shade, 24 karat gold is mixed with white metals like silver, nickel, or palladium which result in the formation of white gold.
To get a dazzling luster that is essential for jewelry, the alloyed white gold is coated with a thin layer of rhodium, which is a very expensive precious metal from the family of palladium and platinum.
Though a very shiny and lustrous metal, rhodium as such is not used to make jewelry, since it is very costly. However, white gold owes its brilliant shine to the thin layer of rhodium coated on it.
What makes White Gold Turn Yellow?
On prolonged use, it looks as if white gold also has the tendency to tarnish just like silver. However, this doesn’t really happen and the tarnished appearance on white gold is due to its yellowing.
The major component of white gold is yellow gold and 14K white gold comprises 59% pure yellow gold and 18K white gold has 75% of the pure yellow metal.
Though alloying with platinum or palladium helps in getting a silvery color, it is the rhodium coating that gives the final touch of pure white glow to white gold.
However, in most cases, this rhodium coating is too thin due to its very high cost and it starts wearing off after a few years.
As a result, the white gold loses its glow and turn yellow, which is the original color of pure gold. This fading can happen due to so many factors such as chemical exposure, cosmetics, body fluids, and other routine activities.
If the rhodium coating is very thin, the color change can happen too quickly, whereas a thick coat of rhodium helps in retaining the white color for a prolonged period.
How to prevent yellowing of white gold?
The yellowing of white gold depends on the extent of its exposure to harsh conditions and the thickness of rhodium coating on it.
If properly taken care of, white gold can remain as sparkling as new for years. However, on rough and regular use, yellowing can happen in a couple of weeks also.
Rhodium plating on white gold requires maintenance and frequent re-plating is necessary to keep its color intact. This will help in conserving white gold’s shining and luster and prevent further yellowing.
The re-coating process is not very expensive and can be done for free in many jewelry shops.
Does white gold cause allergy?
It may, depends on the alloy metal used. White gold, if contains nickel, can cause rashes, severe itching, and uneasiness in persons allergic to nickel.
In addition, to provide a metallic luster and polish, rhodium plating helps in preventing the skin from being exposed to nickel in white gold.
Hence, when rhodium coating vanishes, the skin comes in contact with the nickel-containing alloy which produce health-related complications in an allergic person.
Time to time re-plating of white gold or avoiding of nickel-containing alloy can help in overcoming such casualties. The alloys made with gold, palladium, or silver do not cause any such allergy.
The advantage and disadvantage of white gold
- Platinum and white gold look identical and white gold can be used as an economical alternative to platinum which is priced at 50% higher market value.
- Since it is an alloy, the durability of white gold is higher than pure yellow gold.
- It is less dense, which makes it scratch-resistant in comparison with platinum.
- The neutral look of white gold helps it to be in sync with precious stones in different colors, a quality which yellow gold lacks.
- Normally platinum contains 95-98% pure metal and the remaining 2-5% is occupied by rhodium and silver. So when it comes to purity and quality, platinum is a much better choice.
- To avoid yellowing, white gold requires rhodium recoating at regular intervals. Though this is a fairly inexpensive process, the coating and maintenance charges will add up to the overall cost of white gold, which makes it not so inexpensive in the long run.
- White gold made with nickel alloy causes allergic reactions to many people.
In a nutshell, white gold is a shimmery white alloy of yellow gold and metals such as silver, palladium or nickel, which is coated with a thin layer of rhodium. It serves as an inexpensive alternative to platinum and it does not tarnish or oxidize like cut-rate silver.
White gold owes its brilliant white luster to rhodium coating, which may diminish on prolonged use causing yellowing. This can be prevented by the proper up keeping of white gold together with rhodium recoating at regular intervals.
White gold has much more durability and value than silver and is less expensive than platinum. These qualities made white gold a front runner for jewelry making and it gained much popularity in the last few decades owing to its modern look and extraordinary value.
It is expected that white gold will remain an attractive alternative to expensive platinum in the coming days also.