White gold is the lustrous white gold alloy. It is made of at least one white metal, besides pure gold. Often, the white metals that are alloyed with pure gold include zinc, palladium, nickel, and/or silver. In other cases, copper could be added to the gold and the rest of the white metals. All the metals added to gold to create the white gold alloy not only result in the yellowish-white gold but also reduce the brittleness of the metal alloy while adding shape and durability to the gold.
But because of the copper and the rest of the metals added to the pure gold, the resultant alloy is not really white but often appears yellowish, with a greyish hue. So, why call it white gold, and where does the lustrous white finish on white gold come from? Well, to create white gold as we know it, the resultant gold alloy is coated in a lustrous white metal from the platinum metal group, called rhodium. In other words, white gold is more like the gold alloy plated in rhodium.
Unfortunately, it’s not always easy to tell white gold from other lustrous white metals, which is why information on how to tell white gold from other white metals like sterling silver or platinum right from the comfort of your home is quite important.
How to tell if white gold is real at home
Can you recognize white gold just by looking at it? Does white gold have tale-tell signs that you can pick up on? Are there things you can pick up on when you come across white gold to easily identify this gold alloy?
Well, here are some of the simple ways of identifying white gold:
- White gold is tarnish-resistant– one of the things that stands out from white gold is the fact a piece of the white gold ring will not tarnish, ever – this means that it will not be oxidized or develop the annoying dull, matte look, or the whitish surface finish. So, if your jewelry dulls or look whitish after some months of constant wear, there is a chance that the jewelry you are looking at is not white gold but sterling silver – though valuable and a derivative of pure silver, sterling silver is not tarnished resistant, and it develops a dull film over time. This doesn’t happen with white gold jewelry because the rhodium plating on white gold is tarnish-resistant, and also it doesn’t corrode.
- Platinum is much harder than white gold and also shinier– one of the easiest ways of differentiating white gold from platinum is looking at how the metals look when held up on a well-lit space. While both metals have a white hue, platinum is significantly brighter than white gold. At the same time, platinum is largely resistant to scratching but in case of scratches, a dull and somewhat likable patina will develop, unlike white gold which that is affected by abrasions and scratches after some months, and you may also notice color changes, with some yellow tinges showing up from time to time. Between these two metals, platinum’s patina doesn’t show up soon because of the durability of this metal when compared to the white gold jewelry.
- Differentiating white gold from stainless steel or platinum– the other thing you should know about white gold is that it’s not as durable or as tough as sterling silver. Essentially, stainless steel is highly resistant to scratches, and it lasts longer. So, if you are looking at stainless steel and white gold jewelry you’ve had for years, you will notice that the stainless steel pieces look as good as they did years back, while the white gold pieces will have a yellowish tinge after some time.
- Aluminum looks nothing like white gold– some people might argue that white gold could be confused with aluminum, but this is not the truth because aluminum is completely different from white gold. The primary differences between aluminum and white gold include the fact that aluminum is quite soft, and it starts to show signs of wear after a short period of time, which is why it cannot be used in jewelry making. Essentially, if the jewelry is made of aluminum, it will bend too soon, but these are not issues that you would struggle with if the jewelry is made of white gold.
Still not sure? Test the piece of jewelry using the small gold testing kit
To be completely sure about the materials used to make that piece of white jewelry, you might want to test the jewelry using a gold testing kit.
You can buy this kit online or from reputable jewelry or antique store. The best part about the gold testing kits is that they are designed not just for white gold but for white gold in different karatage/ levels of purity.
So, if you are not sure about the gold or the karatage, you might want to get the gold test kits.
The right way to Tell the Quality of White Gold
As mentioned above, white gold is made of pure gold that is alloyed with mainly white metals such as palladium, nickel, zinc, silver, and in some cases, copper. This metal mixture will have a yellowish hue, and to create the white finish of white gold, the jewelry is coated in a very thin layer of rhodium, resulting in the characteristic white gold look.
But given the fact that all the jewelry made of stainless steel, sterling silver, platinum, or white gold, have a white finish, how do you make identify white gold and the quality of the white gold in question?
For starters, the quality of white gold is tied to the metals that are alloyed with the gold. One of the metals that influences the quality of white gold is nickel, and the absence of nickel leaves you with the best quality white gold.
The thickness of the rhodium plating is also important, with the best quality white gold made of a thicker layer of rhodium, maintaining the white finish of white gold for a long time. A thin layer of rhodium results in lower quality white gold because the yellowish hue of the ‘white gold’ layer underneath is exposed too soon.
Unfortunately, you cannot tell much about the quality of white gold just by looking at the jewelry. You need to know more about the specifics of white gold, which is why the white gold karats play an important role in the determination of the quality of the white gold.
How to determine the karats for white gold jewelry?
Karat marks to look for – check for the karat stamps on the white gold jewelry, often K or Kt. 18k or 18KT white gold jewelry, for example, is made of 75% pure gold.
Often, the purity of white gold is determined using parts-per-thousand marking, which denotes the thousandths of the white gold alloy that is actually made of pure gold. So, 18k gold is also 750.
To test for this white gold, do the following:
Scratch the white gold piece, preferably on a part that won’t be noticeable easily. If it’s actually white gold, scratching will reveal the yellowish layer of gold underneath.
Acid test – start from the lowest karat testing kit, for example, a 10k test kit, and go up as you keep testing – you’ll run the test in the small scratched bit.
Note: If the piece loses color or dissolves, its karatage is lower than what’s labeled on the test bottle; a small color change means the karatage is very close to the label on the kit, and no color change means that the gold’s purity level is above what’s labeled on the bottle. Make sure that you read the instructions carefully for the right test and conclusion.
If you have been struggling to determine if the jewelry you own is made of actual white gold or not, the information above should guide you to determine the value of the jewelry you own.