Jewelry made from white gold has been a popular choice of accessories for a very long time.  Since World War II, when white gold was introduced just as platinum usage had shifted to more military concerns, white gold has brought a simple, elegant flair to any piece of jewelry. So, it may be surprising for the owner of a piece of white gold jewelry to find it suddenly turning a dull yellow color after some time. So what is the cause for this?

What Is White Gold?

First, let’s discuss what white gold consists of. White gold is an alloy made by combining pure gold with other metals, such as nickel, zinc, or silver. It typically comes in a ratio of 75% gold to 25% other metals, though varying amounts can exist depending on the availability of the metals or custom design specifications. The resulting mix makes the gold much stronger than it would be in its pure form, as gold alone is a fairly soft metal.

Though the gold alloy has a nearly white color, there is always a slight yellowish tint. Because of this, the gold alloy mixture is then covered with a plating made from rhodium, which is a metal in the platinum group. Doing so gives white gold its signature tint and chromatic appearance. It also makes the alloy even stronger and helps protect it from damage due to the elements and everyday wear. The rhodium is applied in a thin layer, so the durability of the piece of jewelry is still mostly dependent on the purity of the gold used in the base alloy. 

What Causes Discoloration In White Gold?

When you see a yellowish tint in your white gold jewelry, it’s not because of poor quality. Instead, you see the inner layer of gold alloy under the rhodium plating. Because rhodium is applied in such a thin layer, usually only a few microns thick, it can wear off over time. The reasons for the loss of your rhodium plating vary:

  • Excessive sweat
  • Individual body chemistry
  • Strong household cleaning chemicals
  • Excessive abrasion or physical damage

Rhodium plating normally lasts between 12 and 18 months before it becomes noticeably diminished. The amount of time it takes for the plating to begin wearing away also depends on the type of jewelry it has been applied to. Pieces like earrings that don’t see much rubbing or abrasion will last far longer than rings or bracelets, and pieces that are worn every day will not last as long as pieces that are only worn on occasion. 

What To Do When Your White Gold Discolors

Thankfully, there are simple solutions to this issue. You can have a fresh coat of rhodium plating added to your jewelry. The process is quick, taking around 90 minutes to be completed by a jeweler.

Otherwise, you should take steps to ensure that your white gold jewelry is protected from discoloration. Because the rhodium plating is worn away by being rubbed off, it’s best to avoid situations where your jewelry can be abraded. If you’re in a position where you need to wash your hands frequently, remove rings and bracelets before applying water and soap to your skin. Don’t wear white gold jewelry while at work in adverse conditions, such as hot kitchens, swimming pools, or any job that potentially exposes you to harsh chemicals. Finally, you should never wear your white gold jewelry in the shower, where hot water and abrasive soaps can strip the rhodium plating easily. 

If you’re looking for that special piece of white gold jewelry to add to your collection, talk to the professionals at Greis Jewelers. For over 40 years, we have provided high-quality jewelry and even higher-quality customer service to the metro-Detroit area. Come and see the difference. Get in touch with us today.