Fedi in oro bianco e giallo
Fedi in oro bianco e giallo di Niessing

What is the difference between yellow gold and white gold?

What is the difference between yellow gold and white gold? Obviously, the color. But you want to know more. It’s a good idea, because there are a lot of differences between yellow gold and white gold. And even the valuation, in case you want to sell a jewel, can vary, both for yellow gold and for white gold. So, besides the color, what are the differences between yellow gold and white gold? And does white gold cause allergies?

Anello chevalier in oro bianco
Schreiber white gold chevalier ring

Let’s start with a fact: the gold that is extracted in the mines or in the straws found in the sand of some rivers is yellow. In nature there is no white gold, which is a human invention. White gold is produced by combining yellow gold with other metals. But, let’s open a parenthesis: almost all yellow gold jewels are also alloyed with other elements. Gold in nature is 24 carat, but it is also very malleable. 24-karat gold jewelry is easily deformed and is used only by very few jewelers, especially in countries such as India. In general, however, gold is used for jewelry that is melted with other metals, such as copper or silver, which make it more solid.

Spilla in oro giallo e bianco con diamanti e perla barocca al centro
Brooch in yellow and white gold with diamonds and baroque pearl in the center by Buccellati

How much pure gold is there in a jewel? The answer is easy: the carats indicate it. For example, an 18-karat gold ring will have 750 parts of pure gold and 250 parts of other metals. Or, a jewelry with 14 karat gold will have 585 parts of gold and 415 parts of other metals. And with 9 carats the percentage of pure gold drops to 375 parts or, if you prefer, it is 37.5%. Of course, with less carats of gold the value will also be lower.

Anello in in oro 24 carati martellato
Hammered 24 carat gold ring

And what about white gold? The same concept applies to white gold as well. But, unlike yellow gold, it is melted together with white metals, to form an alloy that makes it lose all or almost the yellow color. In short, it is a purely aesthetic choice. Although, in truth, up until a few decades ago white gold was not so popular. In the last century, those who wanted a ring with white metal often chose a platinum jewel. A metal that, however, is also more difficult to work and rarer (as well as more expensive).

Bracciale in oro bianco, diamanti e zaffiro blu
Bracelet in white gold, diamonds and blue sapphire by Gismondi 1754

White gold has become very popular, and is used, in particular, for engagement rings. But, as we wrote at the beginning, not all white gold is the same. To be precise, there are white gold jewels made with at least fifteen different alloys. The main white gold alloys are obtained by adding nickel, in different percentages, or palladium and silver, but also copper and zinc. To these we must add rhodium, a metal that is very often used as an external patina, to make the jewel more shiny and whiter. Over the years, or due to a few scratches, this patina can be damaged. But just take it to a jeweler to make the jewel rhodium again.

Anello in oro bianco rodiato e diamanti della collezione Milano di Pomellato
Ring in rhodium-plated white gold and diamonds from the Milano collection by Pomellato

Does white gold cause allergies? It is very difficult for gold to cause a skin allergy. But it is not uncommon for the metals contained in an alloy with gold to cause some skin reactions. This happens more easily with jewelry that has a low percentage of gold, essentially those with a lower carat.

Anello trilogy in oro bianco e diamanti
Trilogy ring in white gold and diamonds

Is a white gold jewel worth less than a yellow gold one? The answer is no. The value of a jewel can be determined by the shape (for example, if it is of a famous brand), by the stones with which it is composed, for example diamonds or precious gems, and by the percentage of gold contained in the metal. That is, from karat gold: an 18-karat white gold jewel contains the same amount of gold as an 18-karat yellow gold jewel.

Bracciale Love in oro bianco e 10 diamanti
Love bracelet in white gold and 10 diamonds by Cartier

For which types of jewelry is white gold recommended? The answer is easy: for everyone. But, in particular, white gold makes diamonds stand out, as long as the stones have an excellent color, essentially they are classified from D to G. A diamond with a color from H to K or L (i.e. with a very slight tendency to yellow or gray) will probably stand out more on yellow gold: it will appear whiter. But the more colored diamonds, from the Light Yellow classification onwards, will once again be appreciated better on white gold.

Anello Atlas X in oro bianco con diamante di Tiffany
Atlas X ring in white gold with diamond by Tiffany

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