Three common myths about white gold

13 Sep 2016

Delve into the myths and realities of white gold with the experts at Heirloom London

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Image gallery

You may have heard the term ‘white gold’ bandied about when it comes to jewellery. But what exactly is it? And is it a good option when choosing a piece of jewellery – especially an engagement or wedding ring?

Ruth Donaldson of Heirloom London takes a look at the three most common misconceptions about white gold.

1. White gold is a pure metal, like gold. FALSE

White gold doesn’t exist. It is gold mixed with a white metal to create a warm white/grey metal – the exact colour is dependent on how much white metal is added. To make it whiter, the surface is rhodium (a platinum group metal) plated to create a gleaming white finish.

Pictured next to a platinum ring (above), it’s easy to see the warm yellow gold of white coloured gold.

It is nearly impossible to produce truly white gold at high purity levels (i.e. 18 karats upwards).

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2. White gold is cheaper than platinum. SOMETIMES

When platinum prices were going through the roof, using a white gold setting could make an engagement ring significantly cheaper than the platinum equivalent. 

The good news at present is that platinum prices are lower than gold. This will not make a platinum wedding ring cost less than the white gold equivalent as platinum is a heavier metal, but prices should be more equal.

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3. White gold is a harder wearing metal. FALSE

Gold has different properties to platinum, and one of them is how it wears.  A gleaming white gold engagement ring is going to be rhodium plated (which basically means that a thin layer of rhodium is applied to the metal), and this will wear off. Depending on the thickness of the plate, this will take between six and 24 months. It will therefore require regular re-plating and this will cost anywhere from £30-80 a time. For pendants and earrings, the rhodium won’t wear as quickly.

If you want a ‘white’ metal, then platinum is almost always the best choice. It is naturally white, more enduring than gold and is not going to change colour. For engagement and wedding rings, I’d always recommend platinum, because the level of wear on the hand is so much heavier and platinum is far more enduring. But the skill is in the design and manufacture, and a beautifully made piece of jewellery is a joy to the eye regardless of whether it uses natural gold, or gold which has been whitened. Jewellery is there to be worn and enjoyed.

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