Daily Wire Tip: What is White Gold?

By on November 8, 2009
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Daily Wire Jewelry Making Tip

Question:

What is “white gold”?

Answer:

Ok, first things first. There is no white gold naturally formed. Gold can be found in green, pink and yellows, due to the mineral influence around it, but never white. Alloying yellow gold with a combination of silver, palladium, copper, and/or zinc makes white gold. Nickel is no longer regularly added due to allergic reactions of many people.

White gold will tarnish quicker than sterling silver! Due to the alloys present to make the ‘white’ color, white gold needs to be coated with rhodium to prevent tarnish. The rhodium will eventually wear off and the piece will then need to be professionally re-plated.

From my personal experience, I have made pieces using 14kt white gold wire, because a customer simply “had to have” 14k white gold. Because this white gold wire would need to be plated with rhodium after creating the design, and the stone wouldn’t be protected, it went “bare” and turned black within a few weeks! She has since had me redo all of these pieces using Argentium.

In conclusion, if you or your customer desires a really white metal that will stay bright for a long time, use Argentium silver. If they have a 14kt white gold “ego” issue, save yourself the aggravation and future headaches by being honest with them about what “white gold” really is.

Answer contributed by Dale “Cougar” Armstrong

Have a question? Submit your question here!

20 Comments

  1. avatar

    Katherine Schilling

    November 8, 2009 at 9:34 am

    I don\’t understand. My wedding band is white gold and I\’ve been married for 30 years. It has never tarnished?

    • avatar

      Ellen Johannessen

      January 27, 2016 at 1:08 am

      Could it be that your ring is in platina? It looks like white gold but it weights more than white gold and it stays bright all your life. It is more expensive than gold and it is less of it in the world than gold. Ellen

  2. avatar

    Patricia Whitlow

    November 8, 2009 at 9:57 am

    I have have owned and worn white gold jewelry for over 55 years and never had I had any problem with it tarnishing. I can not wear yellow gold, so white gold, palladium, and silver are all I can wear. I was surprised to see you say it tarnishes worse than silver. Believe me when I tell you this is not true. You must have purchased some bad material if this is the case.
    White gold jewelry is beautiful and wears well.

  3. avatar

    Elaine

    November 8, 2009 at 1:50 pm

    Very interesting. I am so glad I refused white god choosing silver over it.

    Cajun Lady (Elaine)

  4. avatar

    Claudia

    November 8, 2009 at 5:46 pm

    Thanks for this information as I have a customer recently inquiring about white gold, as opposed to sterling silver, for use in a ring.

  5. avatar

    Marie Love

    November 15, 2009 at 8:27 pm

    So glad I got this information. I’m not at the stage of using gold yet, but its good to know in advance, so that I don’t make a mistake that would have customers thinking I used an inferior material. Thanks

  6. avatar

    Dalecgr

    November 15, 2009 at 9:24 pm

    The reason white gold jewelry purchased from a jewelry store does not tarnish is because it has been plated with rhodium, as explained in my original answer.
    Dale/Cgr

    • avatar

      Glenn

      September 7, 2012 at 6:37 pm

      You are so right, Dale. I own a “designer” white gold ring from a jewelry store that I used to wear everyday. I’ve had to have it replated with rhodium once and I probably will have to again. From now on,if I can afford gold, I’ll let it shine in it’s natural state;otherwise it’s fine silver or other naturally white metals for me.
      Thank you for the valuable knowledge you share!

  7. avatar

    mary

    November 16, 2009 at 11:59 am

    Ladies~~Please read what Dale has written and stop and think for a minute.
    High end jewelry made from “white gold” is a mixture of alloys added to gold to enhance the “whiteness” and it will tarnish if not plated with rhodium to ensure it doesn’t do so. Now this is in regards to “jewelry store items” and not to the wire we use to make jewelry. Commercially produced jewelry items, such as wedding rings, etc. are dipped in rhodium for aid in preventing tarnish from forming. This is done long before the stones or diamonds are added to the setting.

    Any jeweler in the business will explain that to you. In a vast majority of cases you never see any signs of wearing through the protective covering to the gold underneath. I haven’t in my wedding rings and they are white and yellow gold and I have worn them for over 30 years as well.

    But we are working in wire and Dale explains that quite well.

    • avatar

      Donna K. Guyett

      January 31, 2012 at 9:57 am

      As an addendum to all of the above, I too have been wearing white gold wedding rings for 48 years and they have never tarnished. However, back then, nickel was predominantly used to alloy yellow gold into white gold and nickel does not tarnish. Today’s white gold uses less nickel, as Dale explained, and therefore could be subject to tarnishing more easily.

  8. Pingback: White Gold in Wire Jewelry - Good, Tarnish-Resistant Wire | Jewelry Making Instructions

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  10. avatar

    Donna

    January 31, 2012 at 7:15 am

    I learned about white gold having nickel in it before I began making jewelry. I have avoided it entirely for this reason, but it is interesting that this may be changing now. I’ll have to pay attention to it. I am a big advocate of Argentium though. I love it.

  11. avatar

    Robin Judd

    January 31, 2012 at 10:06 am

    Here here, thanks for standing up for Dale, Mary. Some people react oh too quickly without thinking or understanding what is written. Dale has been in the trade for a lot of years!!!!??

  12. avatar

    Mary Phillips

    January 31, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Thanks for the info. Nearly 40 years ago we got our wedding sets in white gold. They have worn well but it’s good to know what it really is we bought. I have not even considered using a white gold wire for wirework. If my customers want gold, they want everyone to know it’s gold (by color).

  13. avatar

    Suzanne

    February 7, 2012 at 9:05 am

    White gold jewelry years ago was mixed with different alloys that rarely allowed the yellow (natural color of gold) show. That combination of gold and alloys created a toxic fume when the jeweler did repairs on t he items. Over time those alloys were banned in some countries & eventually replaced with new alloys that if not plated will show a yellow cast. A jeweler can work on an older pieces and not have to replate but newer pieces must be plated when worked on.

  14. avatar

    Mary Ann

    June 6, 2012 at 11:43 am

    Thank you for this interesting information. I never chose white gold because I wanted the gold color as well. I’m very new to wire working but do like the Argentium.

  15. avatar

    rhoda weyr

    October 15, 2014 at 5:31 am

    You haven’t mentioned platinum at all. I know there’s no platinum wire (yet) … and it’s more expensive than anything else…. but my mother had nothing but platinum jewelry… her theory was that redheads couldn’t wear gold… it clashed. ^_^ (listen, I’m just reporting.) But if one MUST have an absolutely non tarnishing silver color, there IS platinum, right?

  16. avatar

    Gerde Marx

    January 11, 2015 at 2:47 am

    In South Africa Platinum is called white gold. Jewellery is manufactured in Platinum never tarnish and don’t need any coating. It is very expensive so most of the amateur jewellers don’t use it. It would be wonderful to be able to use Platinum wire but I don’t know if it is available anywhere.

  17. avatar

    Beverly Johnson

    January 19, 2015 at 9:35 pm

    I have quite a few pieces of white gold jewelry, including my wedding band, and none of it has tarnished. I like it and all precious metals.

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