When is white gold not white gold?

When a consumer walks into a shop to buy an item of gold jewellery, if it is yellow or red then by checking the hallmark (if buying in the UK) they can tell at a glance, with the aid of a loupe, if it is 9K or 18K for example - the colour is fairly obvious. White gold is another story. Yes they can check the caratage just as easily, but what about the colour? Are they looking at the actual gold alloy or is a thin plating of Rhodium disguising the metal beneath?

First a few facts.

24 carat gold is yellow.

White gold is produced by adding a careful selection of white metals that 'bleach' yellow gold. Strong bleaching metals are palladium, nickel and platinum. Moderate bleaching white metals are silver and zinc.
This tends to historically produce two classes of white gold, nickel alloys and palladium alloys. The Nickel used to alloy white gold can cause an allergic reaction and is not used in many countries.

Because of the price of palladium, the palladium whites are the most expensive but also the whiter alloys.

Many low grade commercial white gold alloys do not produce an acceptable level of whiteness to the consumer, therefore it has become common practice for manufacturers to rhodium plate items of jewellery to give the nice 'ice white' colour that is associated with white gold.

Rhodium is a member of the Platinum family and a thin electroplated deposit is applied to the surface of the majority of white gold jewellery sold in retail outlets to enhance its appearance.

Many customers are confused by white gold and do not necessarily understand what they are buying when they buy an item of white gold jewellery.

When buying white gold jewellery here are a few questions that it may be advisable to ask:

1. Is it Rhodium plated?

2. How long will it be before the rhodium plating will wear off?

3. How white is the gold underneath the plating compared to the Rhodium and will it reveal yellowy brown patches as it wears?

The term 'white' when applied to gold does not, at the time of writing, have any official industry standard guidelines, therefore retailers and manufacturers are placed in a difficult legal position when a customer brings back an item of jewellery that has worn to its natural colour and complains.

A growing number of companies believe that high quality, un-rhodium plated 18K white gold is a naturally beautiful colour metal and are keen to encourage the acceptance of it. It blends in nicely with Titanium products and eliminates the disappointment experienced by people when their white gold ring starts to change colour when worn over a period of time.

Don't hide it - Keep it Naked !!

Article Author: Alan Hadley

GETi are the UK's leading brand of Titanium rings, hand crafted in the UK. www.geti.cc

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