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Why Is My White Gold Jewelry Turning Yellow?

Updated on June 19, 2013

You might be surprised and even shocked to find that the beautiful piece of jewelry you recently bought is losing its attractive white luster and it’s looking decidedly yellowish. Your first thoughts might be that you’ve been sold something other than white Gold, that you’ve been bamboozled, hood winkled, or even or outright cheated.

Rest assured you have not. To understand what’s happening to the disappearing spark of your new jewelry we have to first grasp the nature of Gold and how it came to be from its natural yellow color to the much desired white color.

Gold in its natural form is yellow. Gold comes out of the ground as a yellow mineral. Gold is also the most malleable and ductile substance known. It can be flattened out to less than .00001 of an inch (less than .000065 cm), and a 1 oz. (28 gram) mass of gold can stretch out to a distance of over 50 miles (75 kilometers). This malleability make is easy to work with, but makes Gold a poor material for something that will be used every day, such as jewelry.

Understanding Karat Weight

24 Karat gold is 100% pure gold. 24k gold is too soft and malleable to make durable, long-lasting jewelry. Other metals are used to make gold less malleable, and more durable. These metals such as copper, silver, zinc, nickel , palladium, and platinum when mixed with Gold are called alloys. The amount of alloys used determines the amount of karat weight. 18k Gold is 18 parts gold and 6 parts alloys, (18/24) or 75% gold. 14k Gold is 14 parts gold and 8 parts alloys (14/24) or 58.3%. 10k gold is only 41.7 % gold (10/24) meaning that there are more alloys than gold content in the given jewelry. That is why some consumers don’t consider 10k gold jewelry to be gold at all, because the gold content is less than half of the total metals contained.

How white gold is made

Now that we understand how gold content is determined it is easily seen how white Gold can be achieved. White gold is simply yellow Gold to which other alloys have been added, usually, palladium, nickel, platinum or zinc. An 18k white Gold ring may be 75% Gold and 25% Platinum or Silver. Or it could be 75% Gold, 10% Palladium, 10% Nickel, and 5% Zinc.

Why does White Gold turn Yellow?

And now that we understand how white gold is made we can also understand why it seems to turn yellow. If you have a can of yellow paint that’s 75% full (18k) and add 25% (alloys) of white paint into it, you would end up with a lighter yellow, maybe even yellowish white. But you would not end with white paint. That is the same result you get when you add white metals to yellow gold. The end product is yellowish. In order to get that lustrous mesmerizing white color the end product must be electroplated with another metal, Rhodium. Rhodium is the platinum family and is very white, very shinny and very durable, but the electroplating process is not permanent.

Through everyday use, the Rhodium coating fades away exposing the true color of the gold underneath it, making it look to the owner of the jewelry, as if their jewelry is turning yellow. A quick trip to the jeweler will fix everything as it is a simple matter to re-coat the item and make look like knew again. White gold jewelry should be restored at least once a year.

There’s no way to prevent white Gold jewelry from eventually showing its true color, sort of speak. If the possibility of your white gold jewelry turning yellow concerns you, then you should consider purchasing only platinum jewelry. Platinum is naturally grey-white in color. It too is normally rhodium plated to give it that highly reflective luster, and needs to get restored at least once a year as well, but it won’t turn yellowish.


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