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White Gold

Although we usually think of gold as yellow it can be made into numerous different colours by mixing with other metals to form alloys. One of the most popular gold variations used in jewelry, especially anklets, bracelets and engagement/wedding rings, is white gold. This is often paired with diamonds or, especially when used in rings, simply left as a plain metal band.

Infinity Rings and necklaces are also sometimes made from white gold as an alternative to silver. Or for a totally different use, it's also a popular material for teeth grillz.

What Is White Gold?

White gold is an alloy formed from a combination of yellow gold with another metal. The metals normally used in the process are nickel or palladium. The result of this blending is an alloy that is not pure white but more silvery-grey in appearance.

White gold was initially developed as an affordable alternative to platinum but today is desirable in its own right regardless of the price. You can buy a wide variety of white gold jewelry such as wedding bands, earrings etc. It's also frequently used in chains to hold other pieces of jewelry such as charms and pendants.

Purity

As with yellow gold, the white alloy is graded in karats that indicate the amount of gold in the item. Since white gold is an alloy it is by definition a mixture - white gold contains "real" gold, but there's no such thing as 100% pure, 24 karat white gold. Usually the proportion of yellow gold in the alloy varies from 10 to 21 karats with the most frequently seen items on the market today being 14k white gold. 14 karat means that the fraction of gold in the alloy is 14/24 = 7/12 which is about 58%, so just over half

Nickel vs Palladium

Originally most white gold was made with nickel. This sometimes caused a problem as a significant number of people (especially women) are allergic to nickel when placed on the skin. In Europe nickel-based white gold is largely being phased out as a result of the EU Nickel Directive.

The usual alternative to nickel is palladium. Palladium based white gold is not as firm as the nickel alloy version and needs to be treated somewhat more carefully.

A number of companies are researching possible alloys that retain the hardness of nickel without the allergy problems. However today most white gold you can buy will be made with either palladium or nickel.

White Gold vs Platinum

At first glance white gold can appear superficially similar to platinum and this is one of the reasons for its popularity. So which is better, white gold or platinum? Both have advantages and disadvantages - for example platinum is harder wearing and often whiter than white gold, however platinum is also usually heavier and normally has a significantly higher price tag.

White gold, especially when used in rings, is often given a coating of rhodium to improve its appearance and strengthen it in line with platinum. This coating can wear off over time leaving the jewelry looking scuffed and even turning yellow. If this happens then a professional jeweller may be able to reapply the coating for you. Since platinum is naturally grey in colour it doesn't suffer from this problem although still obviously needs to be treated with care.

At the end of the day, whether to buy white gold or platinum is a combination of taste, practicality and budget. Many people still prefer white gold simply because it is gold with all the emotions and symbolism that produces. Go with what's best for you.