White Gold: What It Is & Common Styles

Updated May 12, 2021
White gold screw nut shape wedding ring with diamonds

White gold is a popular, precious metal made of a mixture of materials. In fact, the gold mixture is not always the same. Learn more about white gold to find out if it is a good jewelry choice for you.

What Is White Gold?

So what is white gold? Is it gold? According to the United States Geological Society, white gold always contains authentic yellow gold and other metals like nickel and palladium. White gold comes in different karats from 10-22. Since most metals are a shade of grey and gold is naturally yellow, the metal mixtures whiten the yellow. The resulting white gold alloy usually still has a yellowish tinge.

Is White Gold Real Gold?

According to the USGS, white gold does contain mostly gold with other metals mixed in to give it the white color. For example, white gold that is 18 karats contains 75% pure gold and 25% other metals.

Rhodium Plating

To make white gold sparkle, many jewelers use rhodium plating over the white gold. The rhodium plating tends to wear off over time and needs replacement every few years. To replace the rhodium plating, you can get the jewelry redipped.

A jeweler polishes a customers white gold ring

Precise White Gold

There is one exception. W.R. Cobb and Company created a patented white gold that does not require rhodium plating, Precise White Gold. The company claims that Precise White Gold jewelry does not ever lose its original color and shine. The Precise White Gold products also do not contain any nickel.

Types of White Gold Jewelry

Due to white gold's popularity, you can find just about any jewelry design. There are many pendants, necklaces, rings, earrings, and bracelets in both ornate and simple elegant styles. Many rings are also available in white gold, like wedding bands, anniversary bands, and engagement rings. This unique metal also gives you the option to buy two-tone gold jewelry items. Just a few popular jewelry items you might find available include:

White Gold bangle bracelet studded with diamonds

White Gold and Nickel Allergies

Many people are unaware that white gold may contain nickel. In the USA, nickel is a common ingredient in white gold jewelry. However, in Europe, nickel is limited for use in jewelry due to the high incidences of nickel allergies. Instead of nickel, jewelers use palladium in white gold. The possible nickel content may be a cause of concern for people with nickel allergies. Fortunately, some jewelers let customers know whether or not a white gold jewelry item contains nickel. If you have a nickel allergy, ask about nickel content before buying any piece of jewelry.

How to Care for White Gold

Precious jewelry like white gold needs a special touch. Learn the ins and outs of cleaning and storing white gold properly.

Cleaning White Gold

When it comes to cleaning white gold jewelry, simple is always better. Therefore, grab a mild soap and create a soap and water mixture. Use distilled water over tap water to avoid minerals and chlorine.

  1. Dip a cloth in the mixture and wipe down the jewelry.
  2. Use a cotton swab or cotton ball to get any tiny crevices.
  3. Rinse and wipe down with a lint-free cloth.

For simple metal bands or jewelry, you can allow them to soak for 5-20 minutes in the mixture.

Storing White Gold

Storing your white gold is also important to help it maintain its luster. To store white gold, you'll want to put it in its own area in a jewelry box. Additionally, make sure the box or container is stored in a dry area. Other care tips include:

  • Wipe jewelry free of lotions or perfumes before storing.
  • Wrap individual pieces before storing them to avoid scratching.
  • Remove white gold jewelry before swimming.

History of White Gold

White gold first became commercially available in about 1912 and popular in 1920. Platinum was still the preferred precious metal for jewelry settings. However, many people could not afford authentic platinum jewelry. White gold was introduced as an affordable alternative to platinum. White gold resembles platinum so closely that it is hard to tell the difference.

Over the years, white gold jewelry had highs and lows of popularity in fashion. It became popular again in the 1990s for all types of jewelry, including engagement rings. Today it remains a classic choice for engagement and wedding jewelry.

White Gold vs. Platinum

Since white gold came about as a cheaper alternative to platinum, it can be important to know the difference between them.

  • Price: White gold is generally cheaper than platinum.
  • Allergies: Platinum is hypoallergenic, while white gold might have nickel.
  • Durability: Platinum is more durable since the rhodium can wear off white gold jewelry.
  • Weight: Platinum is denser and heavier than white gold.

Luxurious White Gold

White gold rings are a great option for someone seeking an alternative to traditional yellow gold. The precious metal may also suit people who wear a lot of silver jewelry and want their wedding jewelry to blend in with those pieces. Admirers of platinum will appreciate white gold's price. The possible nickel content may discourage some buyers. However, white gold will always have a following due to its beauty and practicality.

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White Gold: What It Is & Common Styles