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White Gold or Yellow Gold: Which One Should You Purchase?

Written by Annabelle
April 15, 2020

While gold in its natural state is a bright, sunny yellow, human ingenuity has created white gold and rose gold by combining gold with other metals. When purchasing jewelry, you might be wondering if you should get an item in white gold or yellow gold when given the option. We’ve provided you with the pros and cons here.

What Is Jewelry Gold?

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An Artcarved ring that clearly indicates it's made from 14k yellow gold.

In its natural state, pure gold is extremely soft and a very intense, bright yellow. While this is highly prized in certain cultures, it’s uncommon to find pure gold jewelry due to its lack of durability. Instead, most gold jewelry sold on the market is made from a combination of yellow gold and other metals that strengthen the mixture. The lower the gold concentration, the lighter the yellow color, and the tougher the metal. 

This is why you’ll see gold jewelry sold by “karat.” The term refers to the amount of gold in the mixture; a 10k gold item has 41.6% gold content, while an 18k gold ring has 75% gold. The higher the karat, the more expensive the item.

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Keep this handy-dandy chart in mind if you're gold jewelry shopping!

In addition to these percentage-based alloys that affect the color and durability of the metal, there is also white gold and rose gold. These particular mixtures were created to give gold a different color aside from yellow. 

How White Gold Isn’t Really White

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This white gold ring is missing its rhodium plating at the back.

A popular misconception is that the white gold jewelry readily available on the market is really that blinding, silvery-white color. In reality, white gold is a very pale greyish-yellow color since it’s an alloy that contains yellow gold with other pale metals to lighten its appearance. The combination of metals alone is insufficient to give it that desirable silvery look, however, so jewelry manufacturers plate white gold jewelry with rhodium, a rare precious metal that is very white. 

White Gold or Yellow Gold: The Pros and Cons

Now that you have an understanding of gold used in the jewelry industry, here are the pros and cons of buying white gold vs. yellow gold.

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An engagement ring before and after rhodium

White gold is extremely appealing thanks to its clean aesthetic, and its resale value in comparison to sterling silver is much higher. It’s also more durable than platinum, which is extremely expensive and scratches very easily. It has the ability to make diamonds look bigger, and provides a sharp, neutral contrast to colored stones since its white hue doesn’t interfere with their display. On the downside, white gold is commonly made with nickel, and the presence of this metal causes allergic reactions for a lot of people. It also requires more maintenance than yellow gold, as the rhodium plating will eventually wear off and reveal the original pale yellow color of the white gold underneath, causing discoloration. In terms of price point, it’s usually more expensive than yellow gold as the price is adjusted to include the rhodium plating used in manufacturing. 

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A vintage gold ring before and after sizing and polishing.

Yellow gold is a classic metal that has been used since antiquity, and there is no other metal that’s comparable to how it looks. It makes the skin look warmer, and brings out different tones in certain colored stones thanks to its hue. Depending on the karat, it can slightly darken over time and it can scratch, since it is a soft metal. However, upkeep is less expensive than white gold since it just needs to be polished and cleaned, and it’s always the cheapest option in comparison to white gold and rose gold jewelry. 

White gold or yellow gold? Now that you’re updated on the pros and cons of the two different metals, which one do you prefer? Comment below and let us know!

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