Why is My White Gold Ring Turning Yellow?

Why is My White Gold Ring Turning Yellow?

3 minute read

If your engagement ring is white gold, you may have noticed a slight yellowish tinge to the silver color of the metal. To some people, this may set off alarm bells, or questions related to the authenticity of the gold. Rest assured; your ring isn’t plated, nor is it faulty. If you’ve noticed your white gold ring turning yellow, it’s simply due to the nature of gold.

Let’s explore gold, why a white gold ring turns yellow, and how rhodium plating plays a role in all of this.

What Does 14kt Really Mean?

Any understanding of why a white gold ring turns yellow and behaves the way it does should begin with a definition of the word karat. Karat is a measure of the purity of gold, not to be confused with carat, which is the weight of a diamond. In the karat system, pure gold is defined as 24 karat. So what is 14 karat and what does that mean? Substitute the word karat with parts, so 14 karat becomes 14/24 parts of gold.

karat scale

Now, some basic rules on the process of creating different gold colors: more copper in the alloy gives you pink gold; more silver gives green; more nickel or palladium gives white. Sort of. In 14 karat and above, the majority of the metal alloy is gold and therefore yellow. The color will always have some inclination to the yellow shade. Pink and green cover the color well because of their darker tone, whereas white shows gold’s yellow more obviously.

Consider a cup of coffee. It starts as dark brown. You decide to add creamer, which is white. What is the resulting color? A light shade of brown. Certainly not the true color of coffee, but also not the pure white of the creamer. Adding nickel or palladium to gold is no different than adding creamer to coffee. It simply makes the alloy less yellow, not white.

Why are the White Gold Rings in a Jeweler's Case so White?

All the white gold you see in a jewelry store is plated with a white metal called rhodium. Rhodium is an element on the periodic table, just like gold and platinum. In fact, rhodium is in the platinum family and shares some of the properties of platinum. The property jewelers like it for is the color. It is a naturally white metal. It is also very precious and usually trades at prices similar to gold and platinum, but can sometimes greatly exceed them as well when supply tightens.

What Makes a White Gold Ring Turn Yellow?

Rhodium plating does wear off in time, exposing the metal beneath. How long that takes depends on the person wearing the jewelry and the conditions they put the jewelry in. The rule of thumb: the more the jewelry rubs on things, the faster it wears. Rings tend to wear the fastest, while earrings seldom need the rhodium replaced. On average, rhodium plating on a ring will generally be nearly or completely gone within one year's time.

polishing a ring

It's important to maintain the rhodium plating of your white gold rings to ensure that yellowish tinge is covered, and your rings look as beautiful as when you first bought them. Full-service jewelers like Day's Jewelers can replace the plating on your ring in-store. The process usually takes about 2-3 days.

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