What White Gold Really Is
White gold is not just a different kind of gold. It is actually made from yellow gold mixed with a white metal such as palladium or nickel. Usually, when the resulting alloy is used to make jewelry, it is covered with rhodium to give it an even whiter appearance.
Rhodium Plating: Making Yellow Gold White
Rhodium is a rare metal that is resistant to corrosion.
We already know that white gold is plated with rhodium, but it can also be used to coat yellow gold and make it look white. So, if you take your gold ring or another piece to a jeweler, you can have it plated with rhodium for a fee.
Turning yellow gold white sound pretty easy, right? In reality, rhodium plating doesn’t always work out as hoped.
Problems with Rhodium Plating
The biggest issue with rhodium plating is that you never know whether it will stick to the surface of the jewelry.
Whether a piece of jewelry could be plated depends a lot on the exact contents of the alloy used to make it. Some yellow gold alloys just don’t work out, and it is hard to tell beforehand how successful the plating process will be.
Another problem is that the plating may not stick in the crevices of the jewelry. In such a case, the piece may need to be plated again. This problem could be exacerbated if the jewelry has an intricate design, with ornaments or other shapes that are hard to plate.
How Durable Is Rhodium Plating?
As with any coating, rhodium plating doesn’t last forever. It will wear off with time, and the more often you wear your jewelry, the faster the rhodium layer will go away.
Also, each time your jewelry is professionally polished, the top layer is removed by the polishing tools, little by little, until the yellow layer beneath shows up.
The solution: When the rhodium plating wears away, you can always have your jewelry replated.
Related: Check out this selection of gold jewelry.
Can Rhodium Plating Be Removed?
So, what if you don’t like how your newly whitened gold looks? Can you get rid of the rhodium plating?
The answer is, “Yes.” You can always ask the jeweler to polish out the rhodium layer, and your jewelry will again be yellow.
Just make sure you don’t have it replated and polished too many times over as the polishing process may also wear down the yellow gold layer.
Should You Have Your Yellow Gold Plated with Rhodium ?
Whether you prefer white or yellow gold comes down to personal choice. Rhodium plating can be very useful if you want to see how your ring’s gemstone will look in white but don’t want to remount it.
You may also want to have only the prongs of your ring plated. This could be a good idea if you have a white diamond in the setting and you don’t want the yellow prongs to detract from the stone’s color.