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While gold has been prized for millennia, white gold first became available in the 1920’s, as an affordable alternative to platinum. Since then, white gold has grown steadily in popularity as an option for engagement rings. Today, white gold engagement rings are even more popular than yellow.
The purity of gold is defined by karats, a measurement system based on 24ths. Pure gold is 24 karats, meaning 24 of its 24 parts are gold. Because pure gold is too soft to be used in jewelry and most other applications, it is alloyed with harder metals like copper, zinc, or silver. Fine white gold jewelry is typically 18 karat (meaning 18 of 24 parts gold, or 75% pure gold) or 14 karat (58.5% pure gold).
However, no alloy, when mixed with white gold, will produce a finish white enough to be used as a substitute for platinum. For this reason, all white gold is plated with a thin layer of rhodium, which is near colorless and highly reflective. Rhodium is a precious metal more expensive than gold or platinum, so its addition should not be seen as a negative. Rhodium is more durable than gold, which means rhodium plated white gold resists scratches better than yellow gold. Finally, rhodium is hypoallergenic (like platinum), which means it should not irritate sensitive skin. The only downside to rhodium plating is that it does wear off over time. As rhodium wears, more of the white gold will show through (which has a warmer color than rhodium). A white gold ring might need to be recoated in as little as five years, but can also last many times that. To increase the lifespan of rhodium plating, avoid harsh chemicals and detergents when possible. The process of re-plating in rhodium can be done quickly by a jeweler, at relatively minimal expense.
Because all white gold is plated, there is no visual difference between 14K and 18K white gold (unlike yellow gold, where 18K has more saturated color than 14K due to the higher concentration of gold). Because 14K has a higher proportion of hard metal alloys, it is also more durable than 18K white gold. For these reasons, 14K is a very compelling option in white gold engagement rings.
Over time, the tiny scratches acquired from normal wear will form a patina on gold jewelry. This patina will have a lustrous but dull finish. Buffing with a soft, dry cloth will restore some of the reflective quality (if desired); re-plating with rhodium will fully restore white gold jewelry to like new condition.
White gold is a suitable choice for virtually any color of diamond. If the diamond contains a significant amount of color, that color can stand out more in a white gold setting, as compared to yellow or rose gold. The colorless appearance of the white gold metal offers no ability to camouflage a slightly colored diamond.
Every Lumera white gold engagement ring is stamped 14K or 18K, and is rhodium plated.
Some of our most popular White Gold styles: