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If your wedding band or engagement ring is made of white gold, you need to take extra care of it because it can discolor. Unlike other quality metal jewelry, white gold not only loses its color over time but also scratches easily, depending on what karat you are wearing.
However, you can keep white gold’s gleam and silvery finish for a long time by taking some precautions. Before we discuss them, let’s look at the few basics of white gold:
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Is White Gold Natural?
White gold is made by mixing yellow gold and alloys, such as palladium, platinum, silver, nickel, and zinc. The jewelry is then plated in rhodium, which gives it a bright shine.
At the core of all the alloys is pure gold, which is soft. When other metals are mixed with it, the jewelry becomes stronger. This gives it a modicum of protection from scratches.
On a side note, if you plan to give someone a white gold ring, make sure they are not allergic to nickel because it can cause itching and a rash.
Why Is White Gold Plated in Rhodium?
We have talked about how rhodium gives white gold a beautiful shine. It hides the original yellow tinge of white gold and gives it a reflective sheen. Typically, white gold jewelry is plated with around 0.5 microns or more rhodium, depending on how thick the metal is.
Does White Gold Tarnish or Discolor?
In case you are wondering, these terms have a different meaning. When talking about jewelry tarnishing, it loses its quality and luster and becomes vulnerable to the environment. On the other hand, discolor refers to jewelry losing its shade.
White gold is a durable, high-quality alternative to platinum and sterling silver. In terms of price and hardness, it is superior. However, white gold does change its color over time. You will probably see it turning yellow, which isn’t something to worry about because this can be easily fixed.
The good news is that white gold can be re-plated, but there’s a limit. There will come a time when your ring or bracelet will undergo change, which will damage the original look of your jewelry.
What Changes the Color of White Gold?
It may seem like your white gold ring is tarnished, but it’s simply the yellow color showing from underneath. When white gold is exposed to chemicals, it changes to its original state. Pure gold is quite malleable, so it is mixed with alloys. This process protects the color and prevents it from getting scratched.
The yellow color usually appears when rhodium wears off. From perfumes to sweat and daily wear, many things can discolor white gold. Since the rhodium plating is too thin, the jewelry might discolor in less than six months. Hence, we recommend re-plating your white gold jewelry every 6 to 12 months.
Does White Gold Respond to Chlorine?
When exposed to chlorine, white gold discolors pretty fast. As mentioned earlier, white gold is made with a mixture of multiple alloys, two of which include nickel and palladium. When the rhodium plating wears off, chlorine attacks the alloys, and that’s when the jewelry starts to wear off.
When the ring starts to discolor, it develops a yellow tinge. Under extreme exposure, white gold might even start to show signs of distress, such as cracks. For example, if you have a ring with prongs and notches, the exposure will open up the sides and speed up the corrosion. Dirt and chemicals will seep into the boundaries and leave you with a vulnerable ring.
This chemical reaction is called stress corrosion, and it takes place microscopically. As a result, the alloys become more susceptible to bromine, chlorine, and their salts. Moreover, stress corrosion makes the bond between metals weak, making the jewelry breakable.
Palladium belongs to the platinum family. If you choose white gold jewelry with a high palladium ratio, you will be able to protect it from corrosion. However, adding this alloy in white gold makes the jewelry expensive.
Protecting White Gold Jewelry If It Is Accidentally Exposed to Chlorine
If you went swimming and forgot to take off your white gold jewelry, here’s what you should do if it starts to discolor:
Re-Plate It in Rhodium
Rhodium is a strong and tough metal, so it won’t wear off easily. However, if it is exposed to chlorine, you might see some fading. The good news is that you can get the jewelry re-plated, and it will last longer than the first plating.
Don’t Wear Your Jewelry to the Gym
Don’t forget to remove your jewelry before swimming, working out, primping, showering, cooking, cleaning, and moisturizing. As mentioned earlier, white gold corrodes when it comes in contact with chlorine. Chlorine tarnishes not only white gold but also yellow gold and solid gold.
Get It Polished
Apart from getting your white gold jewelry re-plated, you can also get it polished at any jewelry store. This will make the jewelry last longer and give it back its original look.
We can safely say that white gold does not tarnish. However, the rhodium does wear off, which exposes the alloy and pure gold underneath. This is how white gold loses its color and becomes vulnerable to stress corrosion cracks.
If you are thinking of buying white gold jewelry, we recommend you pick a 14K ring or bracelet as it is the strongest quality gold compared to 10K and 18K jewelry. So, why not buy 18K as it contains more gold ratio? However, jewelry with more gold ratio is more malleable. On the other hand, 10K white gold is of low quality, and the high ratio of alloy in it can cause rashes.