Both white gold and yellow gold are very popular when it comes to jewelry, but is one better than the other? Let’s see how yellow and white gold are different and how you should decide which to buy.
White Gold vs. Yellow Gold Karats: Are They Different?
One of the most common concerns of people is whether white gold karats are comparable to yellow gold karats. The answer is “Yes.”
If you look closely at how white gold is made, you will realize that it is just yellow gold that is mixed with other metals.
The yellow gold used in jewelry is made in the same way, and the difference is only in the mixture of the additional metals used.
For example, white gold has more zinc, whereas yellow gold usually contains more nickel.
Regardless of what metals are added to the gold alloy, its purity is measured in the same way.
For example, if a gold ring is 18 karats, this means that out of a maximum of 24 parts, 18 parts are pure gold and the rest is something else.
But 18K white gold and 18K yellow gold both have the same purity.
How Is White Gold Different from Yellow Gold?
First, as already mentioned, white gold is mixed with zinc, which makes the alloy look whiter than the typical yellow gold alloys.
However, even with zinc mixed in, white gold still has a yellowish tint. What makes white gold really different is its plating, which is made of rhodium.
Rhodium Plating and White Gold
Rhodium is a white metal that is used as a coating in jewelry and is actually the metal that gives white gold its color. Not only that – rhodium also makes white gold more durable by covering the softer yellow gold alloy with an additional protective layer.
Since rhodium is expensive, it can add to the price of white gold jewelry and make it more expensive than yellow gold pieces.
Downsides of White Gold
While white gold looks great when it is new, its rhodium plating wears off with time. When the rhodium comes off, the lower yellowish layer of white gold becomes visible.
How long it will take for the plating to disappear depends on how often you wear your jewelry.
The good news is that you can always have your white gold replated with rhodium to restore the original color of the jewelry. Keep in mind, however, that this service can cost around $25-$35 or more.
Is Yellow Gold Better?
Although white gold is not perfect, yellow gold has its own problems. Gold is a soft metal and the higher the karat of your gold jewelry is, the more easily it will get scratched.
You can always have yellow gold polished, but polishing removes a layer of the metal along with the scratches.
In contrast, when white gold gets too many scratches, you can always polish them out and have the piece replated with rhodium, restoring the jewelry’s surface layer.
Lower karat yellow gold is more durable, but if you are allergic to the nickel in gold alloys, a 10K or even a 14K piece may not work for you.
White Gold vs. Yellow Gold: Which Should You Buy?
Both yellow and white gold have their downsides, and while white gold has a slight edge when it comes to durability, neither is a perfect choice in this respect. That’s why you should make your choice primarily based on color.
If you have a diamond of a lower color grade (such as K or L), for example, have it set in yellow gold so that the diamond’s yellowish tint doesn’t stand out as it would in white. If you want to see what such diamonds look like, take a look at this selection of K/L-color loose diamonds.
In contrast, if your diamond is graded Colorless (D-E-F grades) or Nearly Colorless (G-H-I-J grades), it would be a better idea to have it mounted in white gold, which will add to the stone’s white brilliance. You can see examples of Colorless diamonds here, and this here is a selection of Nearly Colorless diamonds.
If you need guidance on how to pick a diamond, read our diamond buying guide.
If you want something more durable than white gold, consider platinum, for which white gold was actually created as a substitute.
Platinum is a lot more expensive, but it doesn’t scratch as easily, and even after you polish it many times, you don’t need to have it replated, unlike white gold.