White Gold - Isn't that an oxymoron?

Posted on February 16, 2012 by Barbara Polinsky | 1 Comment

Yes, in fact it is.  The use of white gold was first embraced after World War I as an alternative to the more expensive platinum.  There truly is no such thing as white gold since gold in its purest form is yellow. 
Hoover and Strong commercial casting grain

White Gold is achieved by alloying pure gold with at least one white metal. There are numerous white gold alloys but most commonly pure gold is mixed with nickel, manganese or palladium. Because the metal mixture contains pure gold which is bright yellow, the resulting white gold alloys have a yellowish tint which is not very pleasing to the eye.


It is common practice to plate white gold jewelry with Rhodium to offset the yellow shade of the alloy, adding brilliance and a more refined finish to the piece.   Rhodium is a bright white precious metal in the Platinum family.  It is actually ten times more costly than gold and even more expensive than platinum.  Rhodium is hypoallergenic, has a great resistance to corrosion, tarnishing, scratching and abrasion.


Depending on how often you wear your jewelry, the rhodium plating may wear down in areas. Rings generally wear more quickly than earrings and necklaces. Rings may or may not need to be touched up in a few years.  Its a quick process that is routinely performed at repair shops and manufacturing facilities.  


Caring for rhodium-plated jewelry is easy.  Clean it with a mild detergent mixed with a little water, rinse well, and dry thoroughly. It may also be cleaned with a silver-polishing cloth. Don't use liquid jewelry dips because the chemicals used can cause the plating to wear off more quickly.   If possible, avoid rubbing rings directly against other surfaces.

William Hyde Wollaston  (1766–1828) Discovered both palladium and rhodium.  I love the above image of his scientific diary.  For more about Wollaston and his fantastic contributions to science, please see this article in the Platinum Metals Review  


Posted in Informational, jewelry care, plating, rhodium, white gold



1 Response

Barbara Polinsky
Barbara Polinsky

March 22, 2014

Hi Heather, Thanks for your question. Yes, it is very possible that it is actually white gold and the maker didn’t or forgot to mark it. The only way to know for sure is to have it tested which is a quick and easy process that can be done by a local jeweler or a company that pays cash for gold. You could even test it yourself with a kit you can purchase online http://www.amazon.com/Professional-Platinum-Testing-Kit-Instructions/dp/B002HJOCI8 the fancier kits include a scratch tester http://www.amazon.com/4-Piece-Needle-Gold-Silver-Testing/dp/B000OVPGCC/ref=pd_sim_t_3 which is the control. I hope this helps… Good luck!

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