To Plate Or Not To Plate: White Gold Engagement Rings
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What is white gold?

All gold used for jewellery is made up of alloys. Eighteen karat yellow gold is alloyed with copper and zinc in proportions of 75% gold and 25% other metals; this is the same for producing and classifying the karat of white gold. White gold is an alloy composed of yellow gold and a white metal, such as silver, manganese, palladium or platinum and is a very popular choice for white gold engagement rings. Nickel was formerly used in Europe, but there are strict restrictions on its use because it can create an allergic skin rash. It is generally not used as an alloy unless you buy from an American source, where it is still utilised. The alloys will add strength and durability and, depending on which metals are used and in what proportions, will affect the final colour of the white gold.

Un-plated white gold

Un-plated or natural white gold can vary in colour from a yellow tone to a light grey colour with a soft yellow undertone. When this metal is highly polished, it has a natural look, and it is often used in organic white gold engagement rings because of its soft lustre in comparison to the brilliance of rhodium plated gold. Natural white gold can be engraved with leaves and flowers to create a very unique and personal engagement ring.

Old white gold

When white gold was first produced in the early 1900s, it was alloyed with nickel, palladium, platinum or zinc to imitate platinum, but as a much more affordable option. At this point white gold engagement rings were not plated with rhodium as gold was whiter than it often is today. Since manufacturers know that the gold will be plated, they use less white alloy because palladium and platinum are expensive, nickel is restricted, and a manganese alloy presents difficulties when working the metal. If you like the more natural lustre of white gold, it is possible to find designers who create jewellery using a whiter alloy.

Plated white gold

Most of the brilliant and shiny white gold today is plated with rhodium, one of the world’s most expensive metals. It is scratch resistant, but it is not hard wearing and it will need to be recoated every 12-18 months. This is a consideration when thinking about buying white gold engagement rings because it is possible the gold underneath will be quite yellow. The disadvantage of a rhodium coating is that if the white gold underneath has a yellow colour, then the plating will need to be done straight away. But if the white gold is whiter in colour, then it will last a lot longer before needing to be recoated.

If you do not want to have to keep recoating your ring, then ask your jeweller about the type of gold beneath the plating; if they do not know, visit one who does. It is a matter of personal choice whether you like the more natural lustre of white gold that is un-plated or the bright shiny appearance of the rhodium plating.

White gold has a sheer cool elegance that lends itself so well to bridal jewellery and explains why it is such a popular choice and continues to grow in popularity.

Frederick Holm writes for the F&L Designer Guides, which hosts a thriving community of independent engagement ring designers in the UK. Inspired by their journey of discovery in search of distinctive, one-of-a-kind white gold engagement rings, F&L now celebrates the works of their favourite designers and helps promote the notion of “Go Bespoke” as a more imaginative and interesting alternative to the limitations of High Street shopping.


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