If you are planning to buy white gold jewelry, one of your primary concerns would be the durability of the metal, and more specifically, whether the white gold piece of jewelry will retain its white finish or turn black after a number of wears.
And who can blame you, especially when you consider the number of gold jewelry in your possession that have all turned black?
In this article, we’ll take you through the basics of gold and white gold and the potential color changes that may occur weeks, months, or even years after you’ve purchased the piece of gold jewelry.
So, let’s get started; with the basics.
Does Gold turn Black, and why?
To understand the behavior of white gold, we first need to understand the behavior of gold and what to expect from it.
Regarding color changes, gold could turn your skin black, but despite the extent of the discoloration, the changes in color are not harmful. The color change will also not affect the strength of the gold jewelry, meaning that the discolored skin every time you wear the gold jewelry shouldn’t scare you.
But why does the gold jewelry cause discoloration? Doesn’t this go against all we’ve been taught about this precious metal and its favorable qualities?
Well, disappointing as it is, gold causes discoloration because of the following reasons.
- Metallic Abrasion
This is the primary reason for the discoloration from your gold jewelry—this abrasion cab result from the makeup we wear or cosmetics, and even clothing. Cosmetics, for example, cause abrasion when the compounds in them are harder than the metals used for the jewelry. These components will wear off the gold jewelry by rubbing off the softer metal in very small, fine particles.
The finely divided metals will, as a result, look more black than metallic, more like having jet back dust on the surface of the gold. So, when this gold dust comes in contact with absorbent materials or surfaces like clothing or your skin, consequently forming a black smudge.
To be safe from the black smudges, you may want to switch out your cosmetics. Alternatively, you could opt to wear cosmetics and other jewelry after applying makeup or lotions. Also, clean your skin with clean water and soap.
The other common reason for the black discoloration is corrosion. Naturally, metals corrode. The interesting bit about gold jewelry, however, is that gold in itself doesn’t corrode, but the corrosion is from gold’s primary alloys like copper and silver. When corroded, these two metals form dark chemical compounds, especially in moist and wet conditions.
The reason why the corrosion happens when the jewelry is on your skin has to do with the sweat, fatty acids, and fats that are released, causing the corrosion and the discoloration of your skin when these compounds are exposed to water/ warmth and air.
So, as expected, the corrosion problem is worse in semi-tropical and seacoast regions, especially where the chloride combines with perspiration, forming a more corrosive compound that causes the skin’s discoloration.
The other common cause of corrosion is smog fumes, which will attack jewelry gradually, causing turning that’s evident from the colored products rubbing off against your skin.
One of the important considerations you need to keep in mind when it comes to the possible corrosion of your jewelry is the ring’s concave surface inside the shank. This is often the collection point for contaminants and the trapped moisture, and in addition to the risk of corrosion, there’s also the risk of contact dermatitis.
Therefore, you should clean your ring regularly using warm water and soap, and avoid wearing the jewelry in hot, humid areas.
So, does white gold turn black?
Yes. But we’ll get into the details of this in just a bit. However, we first need to take a look at gold and the reasons why actual gold doesn’t tarnish. Interestingly, gold is one of the least reactive metals, and it will not react with oxygen, sulfur, or moisture.
But it is considered soft, and pure gold can’t be crafted into jewelry, and for it to be hard, reliable gold jewelry, metal alloys like copper and silver are blended into it. The addition of metal alloys is also important in adding or changing the color properties of the gold, which in turn makes for the easy creation of white gold.
This is a perfect but also an imperfect solution because of reasons like the extreme reactivity of the metal alloys, something that also results in the tarnishing and the discoloration of the white gold jewelry over time.
Essentially, what you may think of as tarnishing actually is the natural color of white gold coming through.
White gold jewelry is rhodium plated, hence that cold white finish similar to what you see in Platinum. This plating is resistant to oxidation, and as expected, it may keep the white gold white for a long time. Unfortunately, the rhodium plating layer isn’t thick enough to last a long time, and the layer will wear off after some time. The tarnishing will happen in patches, though. At the same time, we ought to mention the effects of the ultra-thin layer of white gold and the fact that the inner gold layer with the reactive alloys will be pushed to the surface, resulting in faster tarnishing. So, why plate white gold with rhodium? The truth is that in as much as the white gold formed from gold and copper is good, it lacks a later of protection, and the plating with rhodium offers the layer of protection to protect your skin from sensitivity reactions.
With constant exposure to moisture and other conditions that increase the reactivity of the metal alloys, a black film will form on the white gold piece of jewelry.
It is also believed that the reactivity of white gold or even yellow gold has to do with the high content of copper in the gold-copper alloy, something that results in the high reactivity of the white gold and the consequent tarnishing.
The upside is that these reactions don’t happen overnight, and it will be years before you notice tarnishing on your white gold jewelry, especially if you don’t wear it often and take good care of it.
There’s also the interesting belief that some people are naturally inclined to make jewelry rust/ corrode faster. Because of their chemical composition, metallic products may wear off or rust faster.
Overall, however, the speed at which your white gold jewelry is slow, and you won’t notice most of the changes easily, and you’ll only notice the black discoloration after the white gold piece has been exposed to the elements for some time.
How to prevent your white gold from turning black?
- Store your white gold jewelry separately from other metallic jewelry to lower the risk of discoloration.
- Keep the jewelry from acids and harsher harsh chemicals like chlorine. So, don’t swim with it.
- Take it off before housework any cleaning.
- Avoid fidgeting.
- Get it replated after some time.
- Finally, it’s important to keep in mind that your white gold jewelry will tarnish, regardless of how well you take care of it.
White gold jewelry is beautiful, and it will last a long time if well taken care of. The information above will help you take the best care of the jewelry, even as it helps you understand different things that you need to know about this jewelry.