Has your once bright white gold engagement ring or wedding band crossed to the dull side? Does it look a tad *gasp* YELLOW? Don’t panic! There’s a perfectly good reason, it’s easily remedied, and this blog will explain it all!
Right from the get-go, we need to make something clear – gold is not naturally white! After refining, 24 karat gold (it’s purest form) is an orange-yellow color. Lesser karat gold is alloyed (mixed) with other metals to make it less expensive and more durable.
White gold is produced by man and became popular during WWII as a substitute for platinum (which was being stockpiled by the government for military use). Prior to WWII, platinum was the go-to choice for white metal jewelry. When suddenly it was not available, jewelers were forced to find a substitute. They discovered that by mixing white metals like nickel, palladium, or zinc with natural yellow gold, they could lighten the color enough to give the appearance of a white metal.
Once these processes were perfected, “white” gold became widely accepted and even more popular than it’s predecessor due to its affordability. It’s not that platinum is that much more expensive than gold… they’re actually pretty similar price per ounce. It’s the fact that it takes over twice as much platinum than gold to make anything because it’s so dense!
So let’s talk more about the composition of white gold. If you’re starting with yellow gold and mixing other stuff in, it’s only natural that some of that yellow cast is going to hang around. Think about your morning coffee. It starts dark brown/black and when you add cream it turns a lighter brown, not white like the cream. Or maybe think of paint. You can have yellow paint and add white to it, but you’ll never have stark white paint. The same goes with gold. You start with yellow, add some white metal, and you get a lighter shade of yellow.
So why don’t you see a yellow cast to all those beautiful white gold rings in our case? Because of our rare and beautiful friend, Rhodium.
Rhodium is one of six platinum-group metals, a family of noble precious metals that also includes platinum, ruthenium, palladium, osmium and iridium. It was originally discovered in the early 19th century by an English chemist and physicist named William Hyde Wollaston on the heels of his discovery of palladium.
As one of the noble metals, rhodium is known for its superior resistance to oxidation and corrosion, even when exposed to extreme moisture. Because of rhodium’s bright color and many valuable properties and characteristics, it’s perfect for adding a durable, lustrous finish to other metals, including “white” gold. Rhodium is applied with a process called electroplating. This entails immersing the piece into an electrolyte solution (plating bath) containing dissolved salts and ions of rhodium metal and other chemicals. A DC electrical current is then introduced into the bath to apply the rhodium coating to the substrate via electrodeposition. Source: www.sharrettsplating.com
That got real technical, real fast. Sorry ’bout it.
Long story short: There’s a very thin layer of beautiful (and expensive) brilliant white metal covering up your yellow-y white-ish gold.
And this brings us back around to the answer to the question, “Why is my white gold ring turning yellow?”
Yes, rhodium is a durable metal, HOWEVER, rhodium plating deposits a very thin layer and this layer can be worn away to reveal the metal that lies beneath. That’s why your ring over time may turn yellow. The good news is, your family at Bremer Jewelry does rhodium plating on-site, it only costs $30 (per piece) and depending on the amount of wear and tear on the ring we can typically have it done within 2-7 days.
How long should my rhodium plating last?
There is no single answer to this. It depends on how often you wear the ring, how rough you are with it, what you let it come in contact with and yes sometimes even the pH levels of your own body acid (we’re serious). Some people find they need re-plating every 6 months. Some people every 6 years.
Will rhodium plating affect my diamond or other gemstones?
No. The electroplating process requires a current to pass through the metal for the plating to take effect (rhodium then binds to the elements in the piece which conduct the current). Diamonds and gemstones do not conduct electricity and therefore are safe from the plating. Our goldsmiths are true EXPERTS at rhodium plating.
Can my yellow or rose gold ring be rhodium plated?
Yes! Any metal that conducts a current can be electroplated with rhodium. So if you are over that rose gold ring you loved 5 years ago or are just ready for a change, rhodium plating is an option! However, you may find that more frequent re-plating is required to maintain the brilliant finish on metal that is a darker shade of yellow or rose.
Are there any alternatives to white gold?
Platinum is a wonderful (and our favorite) alternative to white gold. It is heavier than gold, more durable than gold, will not fade, does not require re-plating (because it’s naturally white in color), provides stronger, more secure mountings for diamonds and gemstones, and will not lose metal over time like gold does (phew… that’s a lot)! If you scratch, scrape, or dent platinum, the metal is merely displaced and can easily be polished back to it’s original luster. Most of our engagement ring styles are available in alternate gold colors and platinum. If you see a white gold ring on our site or in our store, we can easily price it for you in platinum! If an all-platinum ring is not in the cards for you, at least consider choosing a platinum head for your engagement ring. The platinum prongs will provide a much more secure setting for your diamond or other precious gemstone!
All this being said, is white gold worth the hassle?
If you love the look of white metal but platinum is not for you, white gold is a beautiful choice. Just keep in mind that it will likely require more maintenance than platinum over time.