White gold is a popular alternative to yellow gold, silver or platinum. Some people prefer the silver color of white gold to the yellow color of normal gold, yet may find silver to be too soft or too easily tarnished or the cost of platinum to be prohibitive. While white gold contains varying amounts of gold, which is always yellow, it also contains one or more white metals to lighten its color and add strength and durability. The most common white metals that form the white gold alloy are nickel, palladium, platinum and manganese. Sometimes copper, zinc or silver are added. The purity of white gold is expressed in karats, the same as with yellow gold.
The Color of White Gold
The properties of white gold, including its color, depend on its composition. Although most people think white gold is a shiny white metal, that color is actually from the rhodium metal plating that is applied to all white gold jewelry. Without the rhodium coating, white gold might be gray, dull brown, or even pale pink.
Allergies to White Gold
White gold jewelry typically is made from a gold-palladium-silver alloy or gold-nickel-copper-zinc alloy. However, about one in eight people experiences a reaction to the nickel-containing alloy, usually in the form of a skin rash. Most European jewelry manufacturers and some American jewelry manufacturers avoid nickel white gold, since alloys made without nickel are less allergenic. The nickel alloy is most often encountered in older white gold jewelry and in some rings and pins, where the nickel produces a white gold that is strong enough to stand up to the wear and tear these pieces of jewelry experience.