White Gold


Dustin Edwards

An example of the use of white gold
in earrings. Image taken from

This webpage project was created for a gemstones and gemology course in the 2006 spring semester at Emporia State University. The assignment was to learn webpage creation, as well as present a summary of our knowledge regarding gemstones and their properties and uses.

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White gold was first introduced in the 1920's. It was achieved by adding alloys to yellow gold, such as nickel, palladium, platinum, and zinc. It was introduced as an affordable platinum substitute for engagment and wedding rings. It was not only a cheaper alternative to platinum, but a stronger alternative to silver. White gold is fashionable and desirable, used to enhance diamonds and colored gemstones. However, it is hard market to regulate because there is no legal definition or industry standard for white gold alloys.

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White Gold Recipes

White gold is made by alloying other metals with yellow gold. Most commercial alloys are gold, nickel, silver, and zinc, however platinum metals are used as well. In order to remain white in color, white gold is only available up to 21 karat gold. More than 21 karat of gold will result in the familiar yellow tint.

There is no set recipe or formula for creating white gold so many different varieties exist. In the alloying process, nickel and palladium are the top two bleachers of gold; silver and zinc are the next two best elements to bleach yellow gold white. Yellow gold can also be turned white by plating it with rhodium. If copper is added to the alloy mix, then the piece usually has to be plated with rhodium. Some bench jewelers believe when gold is alloyed with nickel, it usually has a colder white color, yet tends to be harder to work with. Others think palladium has a warmer white color and tends to be soft and more maleable. Palladium usually makes up 10 to 12 percent of the alloy. Because palladium has a higher specific gravity than nickel, a setting of the same overall size will weigh more with palladium and make the setting more expensive.

The World Gold Council is trying to establish guidelines. Visit http://www.gold.org/jewellery/technology/colours/white_guide.html for more information.

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White gold alloys are a good way of imitating platium. However there are some drawbacks to some recipes of white gold that contain nickel. Some people have allergic reactions to nickel that can cause skin irritation and swelling, as pictured below. Also, pieces merely plated rhodium will wear and show the true color of the underling metal in time. Rhoduim plating may last as long as 4 and 5 years, but this depends on the amount of time worn and conditions the piece is subjected to in everyday settings.

Allergic reaction to wearing
white gold with nickel alloy. Image
taken from

GreenKarat is only one dealer who provides the alternative nickel-free white gold settings. For details see http://www.greenkarat.com/detail.asp?product_id=WBPD001.

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References and Links

World Gold Council, Jewellery Technology Gold Jewellery Alloys,

CanadaJewels, White Gold, www.canadajewels.com/pages/whitegold.htm

Arden Jewelers, Yellow and White Gold Information, www.mygemologist.com/gold.html

This page was created May 2, 2006; last update May 5, 2006. This page belongs to Dustin Edwards ©, and comments should be sent to dustinedwardsgm@hotmail.com.

Return to the GO 340 student webpages, www.emporia.edu/earthsci/amber/go340/students/stupages.htm.