My white gold ring is turning yellow!
April 16, 2016
I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that a white ring has turned yellow or is tarnishing. Simple answer is that white gold will not turn yellow or tarnish to a yellow color under normal wear.
In the market today, virtually every white gold jewellery item is rhodium plated or is an alloy that is especially white.
Rhodium is a very white metal used to electroplate over white gold. The result is a whiter color, more highly lustrous finish, slightly harder metal and allows for a brighter finish in hard to polish areas such as beside small diamonds. However, it is not permanent. I have seen customers wear out the rhodium in under six months and some last more than six years. It really depends on the way the jewellery is worn and how well the rhodium bonds to the underlying metal.
So back to the question about why a ring seems to be changing color. White gold is created by adding one of several white metals to the gold. It could be silver, palladium or nickel to name a few possibilities. The problem is that not all will give the same shade of white. Some white gold mixes have a slightly yellow tone, while others may be slightly greyish. The variation of whiteness can be huge.
In the picture to the right, are three wedding bands. They are all 14K gold. The first on the left is yellow gold, the middle ring is an extra white alloy of white gold and the far right ring is a regular white gold that has not been rhodium plated. As you can see it is not as white as the middle ring.
The most common reason a ring seems to be looking more yellow is that the rhodium plating has worn off and the true tone of the white gold is showing through. With everyday wear and tear, scuffs and scratches make the gold look duller, adding to the overall more tired tone of the gold. In a vast majority of situations, a gold polish and cleaning using the buffing wheel and steam jet, will make the jewellery look like new. The other option is to polish and re-plate the ring with rhodium again.
In over 30 years in business I have seen about four cases of a yellow gold ring that was rhodium plated to look white. In each case, the customer did not understand what was done. This is a very deceptive practice without informing the owner in advance.
The take away point is that your jewellery is not turning yellow. It simply needs some upkeep or plating.