White gold boasts a beautiful white finish from the rhodium plating, and its finish is also the reason why most people looking for shiny white diamond jewelry often opt for white gold.
But is white gold nickel-free or hypoallergenic? Should you consider white gold jewelry if you have sensitive skin?
Does 14k white gold have nickel?
To understand if white gold has nickel or not, let’s first take a look at the basics of white gold.
So, what is white gold?
Originally developed to imitate the naturally white platinum metal, white gold is a gold alloy that contains 75% pure gold and 25% of zinc and nickel. Essentially, if the piece is made of or features an 18 Karat stamp, it means that it is made of 75% naturally pure gold.
To create white gold, pure gold, which is naturally yellow, is mixed with white metals like silver, zinc, and nickel. By mixing the gold with white metals, the resulting gold metal is only slightly whitish. The reason why pure gold is mixed with other metal alloys is that pure gold is too soft to be used in jewelry, and it is only hardened with the metal alloys. The alloys ensure that the gold doesn’t bend out the shape on its own while remaining strong and durable. Now, for the shiny white finish you could be looking for, the yellowish-white gold is plated with white rhodium.
Rhodium plating not only adds that white finish to the gold because it is from the platinum family, but it also protects and coats the jewelry for that nice white, lustrous sheen.
So, does white gold contain nickel?
Well, the answer to this is that it depends. There are cases where the white metal added to the pure gold is palladium, silver, or zinc, rather than nickel, but many manufacturers incorporate nickel. The rhodium plating may also have traces of nickel. If you are wondering if white gold has nickel or not, the answer is maybe.
Does 18k white gold have nickel?
Yes. Some 18k white gold contains nickel, but there also is nickel-free 18k white gold. Essentially, the white gold jewelry made to European standards for the production of white gold is made of palladium and pure gold rather than nickel.
However, the white gold that is made in North America and some other parts of the world are often made with nickel – this variation is also known as nickel white gold. This white gold jewelry is then plated with rhodium for that brilliant white and color.
That said, most of the 18k white gold jewelry on the market contains nickel, and if not plated, it might not be the best option for you if you are allergic to nickel.
Why does white gold contain Nickel?
The reason for the addition of nickel to the white gold has to do with the fact that pure gold is too soft in its natural form, and it has to be mixed with other metal alloys to strengthen and harden the white gold.
Note, however, that the percentage of pure gold varies depending on the type of gold, which is why the 10K gold jewelry means the highest risk of nickel allergies than higher karat gold jewelry like 18K or 14K gold.
Also, nickel is used in place of other metals because it a white metal, and it helps in creating that white gold color. Higher karat gold will only have trace amounts of nickel, but only for the higher quality, solid white gold pieces of jewelry.
That said, it’s worth noting that nickel allergies are the most common types of metal and jewelry allergies, and people with nickel allergies will have a red, itchy rash formed on the skin on the areas where the skin was in contact with the jewelry. The good news is that the reaction with the metal is not ant painful; it’s only a bit uncomfortable and irritating.
- White gold allergy
Also called contact dermatitis, white gold allergy results from reactions to nickel that presents as a rash. In other cases, it may be caused by a buildup of debris.
As mentioned above, most people who react to gold jewelry have nickel allergies. The reason for this is that the nickel and nickel salts in the metal cause contact with the skin, especially as the white gold jewelry starts eroding. The sweat and water only speed up the reaction process, and interestingly, it will only happen regardless of the cost of the piece of jewelry. So, as the white gold metal wears out, nickel’s reaction and the reaction with the salts will result in an allergic reaction that results as contact dermatitis.
But nickel is not the only reason for the allergies. The other reasons for the allergies are as follows:
- The buildup of bacteria– bacterial buildup results from the accumulation of lotions, soaps, as well as dead skin that gets stuck and also caked under the ring and the crevices of the stone’s settings. The dirt, moisture, and other chemicals results create an environment that would potentially cause the irritation of the skin.
- Soap and Moisture Irritation– There are cases where the soap you use, along with moisture, could result in allergies. You should consider using a mild soap that is skin-friendly. You also need to avoid using the harsh soap or leaving traces of the soap after washing your hands. And if you notice that your skin doesn’t like a certain soap, you should consider using a different soap that suits your sensitive skin.
How to wear white gold jewelry safely
If you have to wear white gold jewelry, you can do that safely by following these tips:
- Invest in hypoallergenic jewelry
The safest route to skin-safe jewelry is to buy jewelry made of nickel-free materials. Often, these kinds of jewelry would have the hypoallergenic and/or Nickel-free label attached to them, meaning that the jewelry is free of allergens, and if there are any metals that would cause allergies, they are in trace amounts and will not cause allergic reactions.
Some of the hypoallergenic metals used in jewelry include titanium, platinum, and sterling silver. If you still want to wear gold jewelry, you should opt for the higher karat gold. Also, consult the jeweler about the jewelry items that are free of nickel.
- Opt for the higher karat gold jewelry
An effective solution for avoiding metal jewelry allergies would be to buy higher karat gold jewelry. The reason why this is a good option is that such jewelry would have minimal traces of nickel. Just be ready to spend more on the higher quality pieces of jewelry – 10K and 14K gold jewelry wouldn’t be the safest option for you if your skin is too sensitive because these gold alloys contain more nickel than the 18K gold jewelry.
- Apply clear nail polish
Though it isn’t an ideal remedy for fine jewelry, it works if you need a quick fix solution to get you out of a pinch. Just apply the clear polish to the portion of jewelry that is always in contact with the skin.
- Choose rhodium-plated white gold jewelry.
The rhodium plating will give you an extra layer of protection from nickel while also enhancing the strength and durability of the jewelry piece.
White gold, like yellow gold, is made using metal alloys, specifically metals like silver and copper.
White gold will almost always contain nickel, meaning that if you struggle with nickel allergies, white gold jewelry may not be the best option for you.