Your Essential Guide To White Gold Engagement Ring Settings

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If you are still choosing between metals, currently shopping for a white gold engagement ring setting, or already wearing one (congratulations, btw!), I’ve created this guide as a resource for you!

We will cover everything from the basics, to maintenance, and even answer questions like, why does white gold sometimes look yellow over time? Does white gold really change color?

White Gold Engagement Ring Settings

A Super Quick History Lesson On White Gold

IN THE PAST

White gold is relatively new to the jewelry scene, it came into fashion, in the US, around the time of WW2. Up until then, platinum was the white metal of choice for fancy jewelry. But as part of the war efforts it was deemed a “strategic metal” and banned from non-military use.

With platinum unavailable, white gold quickly rose to take it’s place. The lower price point and extra malleability of white gold proved popular. Even after the restrictions on platinum were lifted, white gold maintained it’s status on top.

TODAY

According to a survey conducted by The Knot, a majority of people surveyed chose white gold for their engagement ring.

A pie chart shows that white gold is the most popular metal choice for engagement rings.
White Gold was by far the most popular choice for engagement rings according to The Knot’s study. A white gold engagement ring setting was chosen by 54% of respondents (followed by 14% choosing rose gold, 13% yellow gold, 13% platinum, and 6% silver)

Is White Gold The Best Choice For An Engagement Ring?

Only you (or your loved one) can decide if white gold is the right option for your engagement ring. I’m not here to tell you what is best for you. My goal with this guide is to give you all the information you need to make a smart well-informed decision. ♡

What is White Gold?

GOLD ONLY COMES IN ONE COLOR

Gold, as in the naturally occurring metal, #79 on the periodic table of elements, only comes from the earth in 1 color:

That deep red-based yellow we call pure 24K gold.

5 baby-sized rings and a bracelet made of pure 24K gold are arranged on a wooden box in front of a marble wall.
Pure 24K Gold. This is the only color natural gold comes in! White Gold is pure gold + whiter metals.

Pure, 24K, gold is considered too soft for most jewelry, especially an engagement ring that gets worn all the time. To make it more durable it is mixed with other kinds of metals. The combination of gold and at least one of the following:

  • copper
  • zinc
  • nickel
  • silver
  • palladium
  • manganese

are called alloys. As you add these other metals to 24K gold, it becomes less pure and you get:

  • 75% Gold + 25% Other Metals = 18K Gold
  • 58.3% Gold + 41.7% Other Metals = 14K Gold
  • 41.7% Gold + 58.3% Other Metals = 10K Gold

HOW IS WHITE GOLD MADE?

White Gold is made by melting together pure gold and 1 or more of the other metals mentioned above.

If you want a more in-depth technical (and visual) answer, you can watch goldsmith Jan Hendrik Viljoen actually make white gold!

When combined, the new gold alloy is both whiter in appearance and stronger. Strong enough to handle the wear and tear of being worn as jewelry!

There isn’t a single “recipe” that goldsmiths follow to make white gold. There are a number of different alloys being used today.

For example, Kay Jewelers, shows a diagram depicting an alloy of gold, silver, and palladium.

Gabriel & Co makes settings popular with independent jewelers. They provide a gold alloy chart on their website so you can see exactly what (and how much) goes into their white gold settings. Their white gold engagement ring settings are a combination of gold, copper, nickel, and zinc.

David Klass, a designer beloved by pricescope, weddingbee, and reddit users alike, is known for using a nickel-free palldium and gold alloy.

Each alloy has it’s own pros and cons, characteristics, and color. That was just a small sample of the different kinds of white gold alloys that are used. If you are looking for a specific alloy or want to know out of curiosity, ask your jeweler for more specific information on what they use.

IS WHITE GOLD THE SAME AS ______?

  • Is white gold the same as platinum? Nope, white gold is not the same as platinum. Platinum is a totally different element than gold. And while visually, white gold and platinum may look similar they are different metals.
  • Is white gold the same as silver? Silver is sometimes one of the metals that is combined with gold to make white gold. So, white gold can contain silver but that does not make them the same.

Does White Gold Change Color?

The very first thing to do if you suspect your white gold is changing color is to give it a good scrub.

To clean your white gold all you need is a soft toothbrush and a dash of dish soap.

If you want to get fancy, a steam or ultrasonic cleaner will give your white gold a deep clean.

Once you’ve got the dirt and grime cleaned up you may just find that your white gold is not actually changing color afterall!

Does white gold turn yellow?

White Gold does not actually change color over time. The super shiny bright white finish we associate with white gold actually comes from a thin coating of rhodium. Most white gold alloys are naturally a warm, creamy, slightly yellow color.

So as the rhodium plating wears off over time your white gold jewelry will look like it’s changing color. But it’s not really the white gold that is changing. All The layer of rhodium is wearing off and the true color of the white gold is showing through.

Rhodium Plated White Gold

What is Rhodium?

Rhodium is a naturally occurring element in the same metal group as platinum and palladium. It is one of the rarest and most expensive precious metals.

When it’s not being used as a super thin coating over white gold you can find it hanging out in your car’s catalytic converter.

Does white gold change color? The white gold ring looks like it is changing color because of the reflections of it's surroundings.
The mirror like finish of rhodium plated white gold reflects it’s surroundings.

Why are white gold rings rhodium plated?

One of the main reasons white gold is rhodium plated is because it whitens and brightens white gold by covering up the alloys natural warmth.

The silvery white color sets off diamonds and other gemstones brilliantly, and it’s super scratch resistant, to boot. That kind of hardness is why it’s not used for entire jewelry pieces! Rhodium just isn’t flexible or malleable enough for that.

The other more naturally white metals like platinum and palladium are more expensive. And silver isn’t as durable. Rhodium plating gives engagement rings the same look without the downsides.

DOES WHITE GOLD TARNISH?

The final reason white gold is rhodium plated is to prevent the white gold alloy underneath from tarnishing. Pure 24K gold does not tarnish. But, depending on the specific metals used in the alloy, lower karat white gold potentially could.

With that being said tarnish on white gold, especially when it’s being worn often, isn’t something to fret over. The gold content of 14K and 18K white gold is high enough that it does a nice job of preventing it.

IS WHITE GOLD HYPOALLERGENIC?

Pure gold is hypoallergenic, but as we know white gold isn’t pure. One of the common white gold alloys, also includes a common allergen, nickel. Rhodium plating can help reduce the chance of a reaction but a better option would be a nickel-free white gold engagement ring instead.

DOES WHITE GOLD SCRATCH EASILY?

Rhodium is so hard, that it also helps prevent the white gold from getting scratched.

But…

it still scratches eventually. I know, if you are like me and want things to stay perfect forever that’s not a fun fact.

The bottom of your ring, on the palm side of your hand, will get lots of little scratches from normal life.

HOW TO MAINTAIN A RHODIUM PLATED RING

Unfortunately, because rhodium the plating is so thin it won’t last forever. Wearing your ring, taking your ring on and off, and the occasional bump will all slowly remove the rhodium over time.

Some people find they are able to wear rhodium plated white gold for years without ever noticing it wearing away. Others see the color difference in less than year. While you can’t control what your body chemistry does, there are things you do have control over.

Some of the things you can do to help maintain your ring’s rhodium plating are:

  • prevent your jewelry from rubbing up against other metal jewelry (or diamonds!).
  • take of your jewelry when sleeping
  • remove your rings before swimming in chlorinated pools

REDIPPING A WHITE GOLD RING

The good news is getting your ring replated with will have your white gold looking brand new again.

Getting a white gold engagement ring replated or “redipped” with rhodium should cost around $60 dollars in the US.

Before you go shelling out any cash though, check and see if the jeweler you purchased the piece from offers complimentary or discounted replating. Or if you bought a warranty, it often covers this service as well.

What Does White Gold Look Like?

WHITE GOLD’S TRUE COLOR

On it’s own unplated white gold has a creamy vanilla tone. I would desribe it as a sort of dreamy and romantic look. It would look totally chic paired with a rose cut diamond.

It’s not until you put it right next to whiter metals that it really looks yellow.

To see what I mean for yourself, check out these pictures from

La More Design

The white gold still has a very soft looking finish after polishing. After rhodium plating it has an almost chrome like mirror finish.

To really see the variety of tones white gold can take on look at this metal alloy comparison of rings at Moissanite Co.

Is all White Gold Rhodium Plated?

Unplated White Gold

EMBRACE THE NATURAL WARMTH

There are a number of jewelers that don’t use rhodium plating on their rings. Sometimes it is because the warmth of unplated white gold fits their aesthetics. Other times it is because they use an alloy that is already quite white on it’s own.

Personally, I would not recommend choosing unplated white gold unless you’ve seen it in person. Rhodium is so common, that you may have never seen the natural color of white gold. You may find that you love the natural look suits you perfectly or that the tinge of yellow drives you crazy.

THE WHITEST WHITE GOLD ALLOY (WITHOUT RHODIUM)

If the usual unplated white gold is just too yellow, and rhodium is too high maintenance (and you don’t love platinum’s patina…),

But your heart is set on a white metal, the absolute hands-down best choice is Mark Morell’s 19K white gold.

It’s absolutely drool worthy! (You’ve got to scroll down a bit to see, but it’s worth it).

This 19K white gold is cool as a cucumber, with no hint of warmth, and looks so similar to platinum. I certainly can’t tell them apart, can you?

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