Isn’t it annoying to buy an expensive lustrous white gold ring only to realize that it’s turning gold or some tinge of yellow? Why Is my white gold ring turning gold or yellow?
The truth is that none of us buys good-looking jewelry expecting it to turn color, and when it happens, it breaks our hearts.
As you cry over the loss, you might want to know why that happened, especially after spending a good chunk of your savings on the purchase.
This article holds all the answers you seek, while also giving you important tips on how to clean and take care of your white gold rings.
First, understand the white gold.
Before we look at why your white gold ring is turning color, in the first place, an understanding of what white gold is and how it comes to be is essential. After all, isn’t gold naturally gold/ yellowish?
So, why is white gold white anyway?
As you know, gold in its pure form is always yellow, and white gold doesn’t exist naturally in nature. Although the natural color of pure gold would make beautiful jewelry, the pure 24K gold is too soft, and it cannot be molded into any form, and definitely not into any kind of jewelry.
The only way to use gold in jewelry is by mixing pure gold with other metals, a process that creates alloys that are not only durable but also ideal for everyday wear. Some of the metals added to the pure gold include nickel, copper, palladium, silver, or zinc.
Mixing pure gold results in different kinds of gold, but the most basic form is the solid gold, whose quality and level of purity, and consequently, the value depends on the percentage of pure gold in the mixture.
The most common types of gold jewelry are 14k, 18k and there also is 20k and 22k gold – the latter is the most expensive form of gold, but this is not to say that solid 14k gold is cheap; it is anything but cheap, which is why most people wear the gold-plated jewelry pieces.
Gold jewelry will have different stamps, based on the percentage purity of the gold.
How then does white gold come to be?
How is your white gold rings made?
Well, mixing pure gold with different metals will very much affect the apparent color of the gold, although it always maintains that yellow tinge. For example, rose-gold come about when the metal added to the pure gold has a high percentage of copper.
White gold, on the other hand, results from a mix of pure gold and white metals like nickel, silver, or nickel. Previously, nickel was the go-to metal used by most jewelers, but because of allergies to nickel, alternative metals were sought, and today palladium is the most commonly used metals.
Palladium used to create white gold gives the gold a greyish tone and less of that warm yellow tone of gold. But other jewelers also use zinc and silver for higher-quality finishes.
But the process of creating white gold doesn’t end here, especially because the alloy created from mixing gold with silver, zinc, or palladium might not offer the high level of brilliance seen in the white gold, and leaving the gold-metal alloy mixture as is might not be the best thing for your to-do because this mixture is very much exposed and it will tarnish too soon.
In fact, the mixing process hardly ever leaves you with a shiny white finish since adding different metals to gold will start by leaving you with a dark brown, sometimes black, before it turns cream or off white – much like paint.
To counter these issues, adding a good amount of brilliance in the process, the gold mixture is plated electronically with rhodium, in the process called rhodium plating.
Rhodium plating involves the addition of a very thin layer of the rare and beautiful metal, rhodium. Rhodium is only one of the six existing platinum-group of metals, and it belongs to the group of precious metals such as ruthenium, platinum, palladium, iridium, and osmium.
Rhodium is the metal of choice for the creation of white gold because it boasts a superior level of resistance to both corrosion and oxidation, and it is also water-resistant. Rhodium is also brightly colored, and it adds a perfectly lustrous and durable finish to the ‘white’ gold.
The plating results in the application of a very thin and beautiful layer of a brilliant white metal that cover your whitish or yellow-y gold.
Now that we are on the same page about white gold and how it comes to be, let’s now look at the big question – why is the white gold ring turning yellow or gold?
Why is my white gold ring turning gold or yellow?
While rhodium is a very durable metal, the rhodium plating process only deposits an ultra-thin layer of rhodium. Unfortunately, the thin rhodium layer is inadequate, and that layer wears off slowly, revealing the whitish or yellow-y metal underneath, and that is why your white gold ring changes color after some time.
So, if you have been going hard on yourself, blaming yourself for that one time when you wore the ring to the swimming pool, you will be relieved to note that the color change is very normal and though you might have played a small part in turning the white gold ring yellow, it’s something that was bound to happen.
Keep in mind that white gold rings will not change color at the same rate, and there are factors that will result in faster color change, or rather, the loss of the thin rhodium-plated layer.
These include your level of activity, your habits like fidgeting when anxious, whether you wear the ring to the pool or when cleaning with harsh chemicals, and also exposure to seawater in the ocean.
How do I keep my white gold ring from turning yellow?
- Take the ring off when going to swim, either in the swimming pool or the ocean.
- Wear gloves if you must keep the ring on when doing house chores and when you touch harsh chemicals, including cleaning supplies.
- Avoid working out with your ring on.
- Keep the ring in a soft (velvety) pouch.
- If it’s scratched, get it to the jeweler for fixing,
Tips for cleaning and protecting your white gold rings
Cleaning and protecting your white gold ring might be a little more complicated than cleaning other kinds of jewelry, but you can do it. Just remember that you are not just cleaning the white gold ring; you are also preserving the rhodium plating.
So, here is how to clean and protect the white gold ring.
- Prepare your cleaning solution – mix mild soap with warm water, and no detergents with harsh chemicals or chlorine.
- Soak the ring in the warm, soapy water for a maximum of 30 minutes
- Rub the ring gently using a soft-bristled brush or a soft cloth to remove remnant dirt not dissolved by the soap
- Rinse off the ring using clean, lukewarm water to get rid of any soap residues
- Dry the ring using a clean, soft (microfiber) towel
Note: if your white gold ring contains gemstones, you shouldn’t soak it in water. Instead, you should dip your soft cloth in the soapy water, then gently rub the metal parts, and then wipe the gemstones carefully using a damp cloth. You could also use a polishing/ cleaning kit.
There is no specific timeline for how long a rhodium plating will last on your white gold ring, and the longevity of the white brilliance from rhodium will vary depending on how well you care for the ring, your lifestyle, and whether you expose the ring to harsh conditions that would wear it off or not.
There also are cases where your body’s PH will affect the plating.
So, while some people notice the color change in only 6 months, others have their white gold looking as good as new 6 or so years later.