White gold looks just like platinum, stainless steel, or even sterling silver to the untrained or inexperienced eye.
Unfortunately, your inability to tell the lustrous shine of white gold apart from other white gold may make you susceptible, and you may end spending your money on a low-quality white metal that is not white gold.
At the same time, you may end up with white gold, but not the high-quality white gold you thought you were paying for.
Whichever the case, you don’t want to spend your money on a low-quality metal piece, hence this guide.
Here, we’ll share important insights on everything you need to know about the quality of white gold and, most importantly, the features that make high-quality white gold. Hopefully, this information will take you closer to choosing the best white gold jewelry.
But first, the basics of white gold:
Brief introduction of White gold
White gold is one of the alloys of gold, which means that it is the version of gold that gets its color characteristics from being mixed with other metals. White gold is made from yellow gold mixed with white-colored metals like silver and palladium, resulting in an off-white metal that is technically white gold.
But white gold, as we know it, has a lustrous white finish and stands out because of its bright sheen. Well, the truth is that white gold is not naturally occurring, and even after alloying, you don’t get the brilliant white finish.
After the alloyed gold is plated with rhodium, the lustrous white gold finish comes about. Both alloying and rhodium plating enhance the durability of the white gold, adding to its strength.
Pure gold is very soft, and the creation of the three main versions of gold (white, yellow, or rose gold) is only possible through alloying of the gold. The three versions of gold result from metal alloys like copper, silver, palladium, and zinc; in different proportions.
Rhodium plating is an essential process in the creation of white gold. The use of rhodium to plate white gold and to give white gold that nice lustrous finish comes from the fact that rhodium is one of the precious metals belonging to the platinum metal group.
The thickness of the rhodium plating varies, but adding that nice finish to white gold enhances its durability and strength while also protecting the gold underneath.
Like the other gold alloys, white gold is available in 3 main types – 10k white gold, 14k white gold, and 18k white gold, with 41.7%, 58.5%, and 75% pure gold, respectively.
The gold and metal alloy proportions determine the color of the ‘white’ gold and the level of tinge that the unplated white gold. The white gold with the higher gold percentages is more valuable, and the 14k and the 18k white gold are the most valuable options.
What Determines the Quality of White Gold Jewelry?
Now that you know about the basics of white gold, let’s take a look at some of the things that determine the quality of white gold jewelry.
Well, as mentioned above, white gold is made from yellow gold that is mixed with other metals like palladium, silver, zinc, copper, and even nickel in some cases.
The white gold alloy will still have a yellowish hue, which is why it is plated with rhodium.
So, what are some of the things that determine the quality of jewelry made of white gold?
Well, the most important factor to note when it comes to determining the quality and the value of white gold is the karat. The karat represents the unit of measurement of the quality of gold jewelry, and it’s used to determine the purity level of the gold.
Karat or karatage indicates the percentage purity of the alloy, more specifically, its proportion in comparison to the other metals added to the white gold mixture.
And because gold isn’t cheap, the higher the karatage of gold, the more expensive the white gold will be per gram.
2. Nickel Content
The presence of and the percentage of nickel present in the white gold alloy is the other important factor that points to the quality of the white gold jewelry.
The reason for this is that many people are allergic to nickel, and this means that they prefer gold alloys made with absolutely no nickel to avoid irritation or rashes.
Despite this knowledge, jewelry makers still incorporate trace amounts of nickel when making white gold because it is a cheaper and very durable metal that reduces the cost of production while producing durable versions of gold.
In such cases, it’s recommended to use a thicker coat of rhodium on the white gold because this will delay the wearer’s exposure to the nickel in the white gold that is the base metal underneath.
3. The thickness of the rhodium plating
This is the other factor that determines or points to the quality of white gold. Often, the white gold with a thicker layer of gold is preferable because it slows down how fast the plating layer wears out, and subsequently, how fast the yellowish layer beneath is exposed.
Note that once the layer of rhodium wears out and the yellowish base metal is exposed, the white gold would have to be taken back to the jewelers, where it would be re-plated.
Therefore, it makes sense that the rhodium-plated white gold with a thicker layer of rhodium is preferable to the white gold plated with a very thin layer of rhodium.
Naturally, you’d pay more for the white gold that is plated with more rhodium, but then you’d enjoy the best value for your money.
Karats of White Gold
So, how is the karatage of white gold determined, and what does the karat stand for?
Well, karats represent the unit or the number that points to the purity level of the gold. The karat number is stamped on the white gold, and it allows for easy interpretation of its purity and overall value. The karat is represented by the letter K or KT, although K is the most common denotation for karats.
If you come across a white gold ring with an 18K stamp, what that means is that the ring is made of 18 parts out of 24 parts of gold or 75% pure gold.
The same gold can also be stamped with a 3-digit number that denotes the percentage purity of gold in parts per thousand. In the case of 18K white gold above, which has 75% pure gold, it can also be denoted by the 750 mark.
The other alloys of white gold, like 22k, 14k, or 10k gold, will have the 917, 583, and 417 marks, respectively. And to convert the three-digit number into the karats equivalent, you’d have to multiple the 3-digit number by 0.024.
What karat white gold is best?
The best white gold is the 18k white gold.
Karat Testing for White Gold
- Nitric acid test
The nitric acid test allows for the determination of the karat quality of gold chemically. And nitric acid is the chemical used for these tests, meaning you need to be extra careful when handling the jewelry.
These are the three things to expect from the test:
If the gold being tested dissolves and loses color, it means that the karat number for that jewelry is less than what’s indicated on the test bottle.
If there is a slight color change and no disappearance, the karats of the test sample are close to what’s on the bottle, and if there is no color change at all, then the piece’s gold purity level is higher than what’s indicated on the bottle.
And, there you have it. If you are interested in buying white gold jewelry and need some information about white gold, we hope that this article answers all your questions.
Tiger is a fashion&jewelry lover. He is also a fashion jewelry manufacturer that help thousands of small business to grow and also do business with some big fashion jewelry brands. He is a truly metal expert and he will share some information you are looking for.