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White Gold: Facts, Care Tips, Alternatives and More!

Choosing white gold...

When choosing engagement rings or wedding bands, the options can be overwhelming:😅 settings, diamond and gemstone cuts, and fit are just a few of the choices couples have to make. One of the biggest decisions is choosing what kind of metal you’d like for your ring. Are you a platinum fan? Yellow gold? Or, are you really not sure what to choose because you feel you don’t know enough about ANY of them?

There are plenty of options to choose from, but white gold is always an excellent pick when purchasing jewelry. Let’s discuss the origins of white gold and what you need to know to ensure you buy the right piece and make it last forever.

White Gold Wedding Bands on Champagne-Colored Cloth

The popularity of white gold in the jewelry industry

White gold is popular for many reasons, including its color, durability, and versatility:

White Color

White gold is prized for its beautiful, white color. White gold alloyed with nickel is instantly bright, whereas white gold with palladium has a slightly less intense natural shine. However, both can be coated with rhodium for added whiteness.

This white color has recently become a symbol of marriage👰🏻 in recent years, and many people opt for more affordable white gold engagement and wedding rings in lieu of pricey platinum.

High Durability

Despite being an alloy, white gold is a very durable metal. Although it’s not as strong at platinum, white gold has the perfect toughness for daily wear jewelry. Later, we will discuss metal “purity” and how it affects white gold’s durability as well.

However, each time white gold is scratched, it loses a little bit of gold. To prevent excessive loss of white gold, rhodium re-coating and properly storing your jewelry when not in use are important steps in caring for your piece.

Versatility

Stackable

For many wearers, the more white gold, the better! Unlike yellow gold—which can appear too flashy in large amounts—white gold looks great no matter how much of it you wear.🤩 Stack white gold bangles together for an elegant yet bold statement, or wear multi-layered white gold necklaces for a unique look. Simple white gold engagement rings paired with matching white gold wedding bands also make a very elegant statement.

Pairs well with other metals

White gold is layered perfectly with other metals. Because of its white color, it can pair with rose gold, yellow gold, or even other colored metals. In addition, white gold compliments any gemstone, but it looks particularly bright with diamonds and vibrant colored stones like tanzanite, morganite, and sapphire. White gold bracelets or bangles mixed with other metals can also brighten up an outfit for any occasion!

Trio Bangle Bracelet in 14K White, Yellow and Rose Gold (Blue Nile)
Click to view this trio bangle bracelet.

Utility: looks great in every style

White gold is fairly durable and can take a bit of wear and tear. As such, it’s perfect for daily wear that doesn’t include overly strenuous activity (outdoor labor, recreational activities, etc.). As long as the wearer cleans and maintains white gold pieces, they will last for years to come!

Good for both casual and formal wear

Finally, white gold fits any occasion. While it’s a popular choice for engagement rings and wedding bands, white gold is also great for more casual wear. Whether you choose to dress up or live in jeans and t-shirts, white gold earrings or a white gold necklace are a perfect way to add a bit of class to any outfit.

What is white gold?🤔

So what exactly is white gold?

Here are a few facts and common questions about white gold.

Is white gold REAL gold?  And, how is white gold made?

White gold is absolutely real gold!  

However, it is an “alloy”, meaning it’s a mix of standard gold with other metals. This mixture gives the new alloy its white shine, which rivals that of platinum!

Additionally, white gold jewelry often has a layer of rhodium on its surface to provide an even brighter shine, but this does not affect its purity or durability.

The big difference between types of gold—including different types of white gold—is purity. Later, we will discuss white gold purity and how to know how much actual gold is in your piece.

When did white gold become popular?

White gold first appeared in jewelry in the late 19th century. While searching for an alternative to platinum, several companies experimented with gold alloys to see if they could replicate the bright white shine of the more expensive metal. Although many manufacturers tried their hand at mixing white gold, David Belais was one of the first people to patent his formula for 18K gold: a mix of gold, zinc, and nickel.

However, white gold didn’t become popular until the 1920s. In fact, much of white gold’s popularity is attributed to the rise of WWII in the 1940s, when the military’s need for platinum left the public seeking a reliable, white alternative metal to use in jewelry.

In the 2000s, white gold became a popular option for engagement jewelry, and it has maintained this acclaim since then.

Is white gold affordable?

When it comes to price, white gold is an affordable alternative to platinum. Although platinum is heavier and more durable, white gold can be refurbished over time to maintain its white hue. For half the price and minor maintenance, white gold proves its value over platinum for anyone working with a tight budget.💰

White Gold Purities and Their Prices

White gold typically costs the same as yellow and rose gold, with slight price differences depending on metal purity. Although these alloys require different mixed metals to attain their color, each item’s gold purity is what defines the item’s price.

What is “purity” and how does it affect my options for white gold?

Since white gold is an alloy, it can have different purity levels depending on how many other metals are included in its makeup. Jewelers measure purity in “karats”, and pure gold is 24K.  This 24K white gold is exceptionally soft, so it is mixed with palladium, silver, zinc, nickel, or other white metals to create a much stronger gold that can withstand daily wear.

Gold comes in varying purities, but 👉🏻the most common are 18K, 14K, and 10K white gold. In addition, 18K white gold is the most prized out of all purities used in jewelry, as it is very durable compared to 10K and 14K white gold. Here is a chart from our Metals 101 guide to help you better understand the types of white gold you may encounter when shopping around:

Karat Gold Purity (Percentage) Uses in Jewelry
24K 100% Not typically used in jewelry production due to softness
22K 91.60% Not typically used in jewelry production due to softness
18K 75% Used in fine jewelry by most luxury brands
14K 58.30% Used by luxury and affordable brands for fine jewelry because it is slightly more durable than 18K
10K 41.70% Used by affordable brands for earrings and other jewelry despite being less than 50% gold

White gold maintenance and care tips

Like any metal, white gold has suggested methods for cleaning and maintaining its color and shine. 

How to clean white gold

While white gold is fairly durable, you still must take care of your piece to ensure it lasts. Maintaining white gold pieces is rather simple and inexpensive! Many jewelers offer cleaning solutions for gold jewelry, but it can also be done at home with household products.

To clean white gold, first, fill a small bowl with warm water. Add a mild soap to the water—Dawn works great—and stir.

Next, add your white gold jewelry to the water and let it soak for 15–20 minutes. Once time is up, remove the white gold and use a soft bristled brush, such as a soft toothbrush, to lightly scrub the surface of each piece. This is also a great time to get under any gemstones, designs, or engraving.

Finally, carefully rinse each piece and lightly dry it with a soft, lint-free linen cloth.

Storing white gold

When not in use, store white gold pieces in a soft, cloth bag or fabric-lined case. Doing so will lower the chances of scratching the white gold’s surface. If using jewelry bags, it’s also helpful to store pieces individually, rather than leaving them in the same bag. Storing them separately avoids scratches or nicks from pieces rubbing against one another, and necklaces or earrings won’t become tangled.

Professional cleanings

Despite the ease of cleaning jewelry at home, it is recommended you take your white gold piece—or any other jewelry items—to a jeweler for a professional cleaning at least once per year. While a home cleaning will take care of most debris, any piece with prongs, gemstones, or intricate designs in the metal will benefit from the high-pressure cleaning process provided by a jewelry store. This cleaning will remove any remaining patina, hair, or other particulates, and the piece will shine like new. 📝This also gives jewelers a chance to check for any chips, scratches, or loose prongs to keep your piece intact!

Gold Jewelry Cleaning Tools: Soft Bristled Brush

Rhodium care

Unlike yellow or rose gold, many white gold pieces are actually rhodium plated. Rhodium adheres to the surface of white gold through a process called electroplating. The rhodium covers the champagne color of standard white gold and replaces it with a brilliant white shine. Rhodium will also add another layer of protection to the surface, keeping the white gold free of most scratches and marks.

However, rhodium-plated white gold does require a bit more maintenance. Over time, the thin layer of rhodium will wear away, and the white gold’s natural color will start to show. Luckily, most jewelers are equipped to reapply that layer of rhodium in house, so you can easily fix the problem by taking it back to the jeweler.  

A layer of rhodium lasts 6 to 18 months on average, depending on the amount of wear and chemicals the piece is exposed to over time. Many jewelers also offer a complimentary yearly refinish as a thank you for buying a piece from their location!

White metal alternatives🤶🏻

If white gold doesn’t seem like the metal for your needs, consider these other white metals that may fit the bill:

Platinum

As previously discussed, platinum is a common alternative to white gold. Platinum is typically as bright as white gold, but it does have a light silvery tone to its glow. It’s rare, hypoallergenic, and rather valuable, which means it typically has a much higher price tag as well!

Platinum is denser and more durable than white gold, and this has a lot to do with its purity. The platinum used in jewelry is 95% pure, and many jewelers denote this value by stamping 950 somewhere on the piece. As a result, when platinum is scratched, no metal is lost: instead, the metal just moves a bit. This scratching process causes an antiqued look or “patina” over time, which some people actually prefer when compared to polished platinum.

Platinum Leaves Ring: Vintage-Style Ring Sold on Etsy
View more details about this platinum ring.

So, is platinum better than white gold? Not necessarily, and choosing between the two all depends on how you spend your time. If you work in an industry that requires working with your hands—medical, construction, etc.—you may want to consider investing in a platinum piece. While white gold will provide an equally brilliant shine, platinum may save you money in the long run as it will not require as much refurbishment and recoating if you are less careful with your jewelry.  

However, do not mistake platinum’s durability for invincibility: you should still treat each piece with care to prevent scratches or dents and ensure a lifetime of wear!

Palladium

Palladium is a somewhat recent alternative to white gold, but its white luster and durability make it a smart option. Similar to white gold, palladium rose to popularity as platinum was reserved for military use during WWII.

Much like platinum, palladium is typically 95% pure (with 950 stamping on each piece). The other 5% of this alloy is ruthenium. Palladium is also hypoallergenic, so it’s great for wearers with skin sensitivities.

Palladium 950 River Wedding Band by esdesigns / Etsy
Check this palladium ring.

Palladium is just as bright as white gold, but it does not have any plating and will maintain its shine its entire lifetime. Additionally, palladium is just as hard as platinum but much lighter⚖️, so it’s a durable alternative to the dense platinum.

If you’re the kind of person who prefers something unique and cutting edge, palladium may be the best option for your jewelry needs.

Silver

The most affordable white metal is silver, and it is a common choice for daily wear jewelry. Although not as bright white as the other metals, silver still remains in the white-ish category of shine.

Jewelry is usually created with “sterling” silver, which is just a way to designate purity. Sterling silver is 92.5% pure, a standard set by Tiffany & Co. in their products. Today, most silver is stamped with 925 or SS to indicate its purity.

Silver Ring for Men: Flat Brushed Satin Matte and 4mm Wide
Check the silver ring here.

While silver is a beautiful metal, it is susceptible to tarnish and corrosion. Whereas white gold, platinum, and palladium can withstand pollutants in the air, silver will eventually darken in color. However, this is easily remedied with proper cleaning and storage techniques.

Still unsure which metal is right for you? Here’s a chart to compare white gold vs. platinum, white gold vs. palladium, and everything in between:👇🏻

White Gold Platinum Palladium Silver
Color Champagne white White White Grayish white
Extra Maintenance Requires rhodium replating every 6-18 months None None Requires regular polishing/cleaning to avoid patina and corrosion
Value $$ $$$ $$$$ $
Density Average Heavy Average Average
Hypoallergenic Depends on alloy Yes Yes No

A timeless beauty for modern romance

White gold is a beautiful metal that can symbolize many things, but for most it evokes thoughts of the purity and strength of love and marriage.🥰 When it comes to wedding jewelry, white gold is a timeless option that provides all of the elegance and appeal of more expensive metals for a fraction of the price.  

Furthermore, white gold blends with anything, and it will pair as perfectly with yellow metals as it will with rose gold. If you’re considering white gold for a special piece of jewelry, make sure you take into account your own daily activity levels and commitment to cleaning and storage. Like most metals, white gold’s shine will only last as long as it’s taken care of!