Last updated on August 1st, 2022 at 11:44 am
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While it is in the name, white gold is not actually white in color! It is actually a light yellowish color covered with a different metal to give it that white, platinum-like appearance.
So, if you’ve been wondering whether white gold is plated, the answer is yes! White gold is plated in a thin coating of rhodium.
Read ahead to learn about why white gold is plated, the metal it is plated with, and the answers to any other related questions you may have.
To see the most popular types of white gold jewelry just click here.
Why White Gold Has to be Plated
White gold is made to imitate platinum but is a much cheaper alternative. Originally, white gold was much lighter than yellow gold, but the yellow undertones still shine through, and it is not as light or bright as platinum or silver.
White gold is an alloy made with a mixture of yellow gold and other silver metals like silver, nickel, palladium, or manganese. When white gold has a higher percentage of pure gold, it is a higher karat white gold; it is more yellow. Higher karat white gold is also more delicate, soft, and easily damaged. The silver metals added to the pure gold make it more durable. So not only would higher karat white gold be more yellow in color, but it would also be softer. For both of these reasons, having a rhodium plating on top of it would be essential. Both to strengthen the gold, as well as to give it its white appearance.
What Is Rhodium?
Rhodium is a reflective, bright white metal that resembles platinum. It is very rare and precious, which makes it quite expensive. White gold with rhodium plating does not require too much rhodium and won’t cost that much. However, you won’t see too much jewelry made with pure rhodium.
Rhodium has a number of qualities that make it an excellent choice for plating white gold. First, it is very hard. This means that it does not scratch easily. Rhodium also does not tarnish over time. It is also hypoallergenic, meaning that most people can wear it without causing any skin reaction. Lastly, it also resists corrosion and oxidation.
Why Does White Gold Turn Yellowish Over Time?
White gold may appear to turn yellowish over time, but the truth is that it was always yellowish, to begin with, but had a silver-white rhodium plating on top of it. Over time, the rhodium plating wears off, and the yellowish color of the white gold starts to peek out again.
The rhodium plating on white gold jewelry is extremely thin and can wear off due to exposure from frequent wear, contact with the skin and sweat, contact with chlorine or household chemicals, as well as any abrasion.
How Long Does Rhodium Plating Last?
Rhodium plating generally has a lifespan of between 12 and 18 months. After this time, the plating can be visibly worn, and your white gold jewelry starts to revert to its original yellowish color. Rhodium plating is also likely to last longer on certain pieces of jewelry than others.
For example, the rhodium on a wedding band can wear off very quickly because you wear it almost every day, and it faces a lot of wear and tear. Comparatively, a pair of white gold earrings only worn on special occasions and kept in a special jewelry box otherwise will retain its plating for a much longer time.
How You Can Make the Rhodium Plating Last as Long as Possible
You can keep your white gold looking shiny and white for as long as possible by taking very good care of it. For example, if you have to wash your hands, exercise, or do some work with your hands, take off your white gold ring and keep it aside until you’re done. The majority of the rhodium plating on jewelry wears off due to rubbing, so you should try to avoid any such situations.
You should also avoid wearing the jewelry while you shower, swim, or do any household work involving cleaning solutions and chemicals. Additionally, keep the jewelry away from perfumes, deodorants, and other scented products because some of the compounds in these products can weaken the plating on your jewelry and cause it to wear off prematurely.
When you aren’t wearing the jewelry, don’t just leave it lying around. Be sure to place it safely in a jewelry box or a linen pouch. If you are careful with the jewelry, the rhodium plating can last as long as 2 to 3 years without the need for replating.
How Much Does Rhodium Plating Cost?
Rhodium can be quite expensive, and you can expect to pay anywhere between $60 to $120 to get a simple engagement ring plated. As the size of the jewelry becomes bigger, more rhodium would be needed, and the price of plating would go up. The cost also depends on the quality of the rhodium plating, how skilled the jeweler is, how long the process ends up taking, and how the result ends up.
How Does Long the Plating Process Take?
The length of the plating process depends on the size of your jewelry and the complexity of the design. A heavy necklace with intricate filigree can take up to 3 or 4 hours to plate. It also depends on the skill of your jeweler.
If you want to get a simple wedding band plated, it can usually be done on the spot in under an hour. For larger jewelry pieces, you may have to leave the jewelry at the shop for a day or two and pick it up when it is done being plated.
If you’ve been wondering what makes white gold so bright, white, and shiny, the answer is its thin rhodium plating. A thin layer of rhodium is the perfect way to mask the yellowish color of white gold and make it closely resemble pure white platinum.
If you have some pieces of white gold jewelry that are beginning to yellow again, you can take them to a jeweler near you and get them replated so that they look as good as new.