Does White Gold Tarnish? – Practical Guide

white-gold-heart-necklace-chain by annabelle-worrall

Does White Gold Tarnish? – Experience & Expert Guide 

One of the most beautiful pieces of jewelry you can get yourself or significant other today is without a doubt a glowing white gold wedding ring or jaw-dropping necklace as I’ve happily gifted it to my siblings more than once.

The only challenge you may face is that a lot of attractive rings and chains tarnish. Does white gold tarnish, and if yes, what to do about it is what you’re gonna discover in this brief jewelry guide.

White gold is a metal alloy that generally tarnishes when the coating metals wear off and fine gold is exposed. The tarnishing is gradually, especially at ring jewelry corners. This is a natural process of oxidation as the chemical elements react to different contacts whereby solutions are possible.

Before establishing how to best deal with this fact, let’s get some definitions right. This way you can fully understand what tarnishing, white gold, and jewelry are to choose, gift, or keep your rings, pendants, and earrings glowing for good.

Why White Gold Tarnishes

Modern pieces of jewelry are made of different metal properties, gemstones, and pearls mainly. The preferred jewelry metal is still gold, precisely fine gold in various karats (K) whereby the higher the karat number, the better the sealing and quality is.

The reason why then white gold jewelry tarnishes lies in the exact composition and coating.

What Does White Gold Actually Mean?

White gold is in fact different types of metals mixed together in gemology better known as metal alloys. The white gold alloy consists of 75% pure gold (18K) and the remaining 25% of other metals.

The 25% metal composition part used to be zinc and nickel. However, due to the negative health side effects of nickel, most jewelers do not use any nickel in their pieces anymore.

Today other metals of the so-called platinum metal group like platinum and especially palladium, as well as rhodium, are widespread alloys in making white gold rings, pendants or earrings.

Other popular gold alloys are e.g.:

  • Rose gold – a fine gold and copper compound (aka red gold)
  • Colored gold – a fine gold and silver mixture
  • Green gold – a fine gold and copper, silver, and cadmium mixture

Benefits of White Gold

The advantage of white gold using the above metal mixtures is that fine gold by itself is a rather soft precious metal that is therefore naturally not ideally for jewelry to wear regularly. 

Mixing it with rhodium (coating finish) or palladium in the mix whereby palladium possesses a geologically higher hardness scale as officially measured by Moh´s hardness scale.

Moreover, these then lead to more strength of jewelry accessories while at the same time reducing your consumer price tag for otherwise expensive high karat pure gold.

Moreover, white gold jewelry rings have that sparkling look yellowish fine gold is unable to reproduce, thanks to the addition of e.g. palladium which is of bright hue like platinum or silver.

Another essential key point to understand is the fashion trend of white gold wedding rings mainly due to the rhodium coating in them, which magically turns the otherwise yellowish rings into stunning wedding gift rings. Other metal additions aren’t able to do so effectively.(Source).

These are the major benefits of why white gold is used in pieces of jewelry from birthstone rings, lavalier necklaces to huggie earrings today.

Drawbacks of White Gold

The number one disadvantage of white gold chains, wedding bands, or an engagement ring is the fact that it tarnishes.

The metal mixture, as a natural result of a chemical reaction, fades away over time with either our skin, which produces sweat that reacts with the metals. Or the reaction is triggered by home products interacting with your fine piece of jewelry.

The likely outcome is either a yellow or dark film over your ring finger, respectively affected areas of your body (anklet, earrings, pendant necklace, etc.).

How Long Does It Takes Until White Gold Is Yellow or Black?

How long it takes until your precious white gold wedding rings turn yellow or black is typically defined by the quality of the gold-plating as well as the type of use it is exposed to. Typically, white gold can therefore last a few months or years when adding proper cleaning maintenance.

What is gold-plating?

With gold-plating we describe the process of taking fine gold as a base metal and mixing it into a metal alloy with e.g. rhodium in order to give it on one side the special glowing appearance on the other, strengthening it for durability and other desired jewelry characteristics.

Gold plating in itself is a chemical procedure that is harmful to the environment, but guarantees the jewelry to be protected from simple scratches, bending, as well providing you with a reasonable price in comparison to fine gold.

How Long White Gold Lasts

White gold alloys can last from 1 up to 5 years or more depending on the exact gold-plating and everyday use. The more often the jewelry is worn, the more likely it will not last. However, the metal mixture can prolong way longer before tarnishing by regularly applying homemade jewelry cleaners.

Can You Wear White Gold in The Shower?

Since white gold is a compound you cannot wear it in the shower without it turning yellow or dark. This is a result of the oxidation going on when the metal mixture’s chemical elements get in contact with water.

To avoid jewelry discoloration do not take your white gold-plated necklace, rings, bands, or earrings into the shower and in that regard to the bath or swimming pool. They will tarnish, therefore do not wear white gold when showering.


They will tarnish as the rhodium, palladium, and especially copper that is used in coating or mixing the gold fade away over time and display the undesired coloring.

Alternatively, you can buy fine jewelry like pure gold, silver, or popular tungsten engagement rings that do not tarnish at all.

These, except tungsten jewelry, are usually much more expensive than affordable white gold pieces which are quite a trend nowadays.

How To Keep White Gold From Tarnishing

The best way to keep white gold wedding bands and other fashionable jewelry accessories from tarnishing is to maintain them well by applying different homemade or professional cleaning methods to replate the piece.

Replating means to take e.g. a white gold engagement ring  to a professional jeweler that can put a new rhodium layer coating.

The replating will of course cost, depending on the wear-off. It is advisable to not repeat this process too often as the quality of the ring may over time suffer from the ongoing wearing off of the metals contained in the ring.

Does White Gold Scratch?

Typical white gold is usually resistant to a simple scratch since it contains palladium(4.8 of 10) or platinum (4-4.5 of 10),  which are according to Moh´s metal hardness scale mid-strong metals compared to for example 18K fine gold which possesses a low hardness scale of only 2.75 out of 10.

In contrast, the hardest natural jewelry known is diamond with a perfect hardness scale of 10 out of 10. Therefore, white gold does not scratch easily with its medium hardness scale, due to the palladium that it contains in order to create a white gold alloy.

Nevertheless, over time you can scratch your beloved pendant, hoop, or channel setting band when the piece is used daily, in direct contact with other metals rubbing against it, or simply exposed to weather, moisture, water, and so forth.

On average use by, for example, you commuting to the office and back or visiting our friends and family nothing should occur to your amazing white gold anniversary rings and sparkling chains.

Avoid chemicals at home or at work as well as any fluids to prevent a chemical reaction. Lastly, prevent rubbing your ring or another precious piece against any hard-surfaced object that is of a harder material than white gold – and you’ll be enjoying your jewelry for a long time.

How To Get White Gold White Again

First, get your pretty white gold jewelry collection or single masterpiece wedding ring replated by a jeweler of choice. Second, he or she will first analyze the damage, and third put a thin layer of rhodium. Fourth, she´ll polish it and finally, you´ll have your white shining ring back again.

Obviously, the replating process of getting your jewelry back to white shine involves a bit of investment on your side.

However, it is most of the time worth the expense since your statement ring, pave band or collar may possess real value exchangeable at a pawn shop and more importantly is of emotional significance to you and or your spouse.

Is It Normal For White Gold To Tarnish (Conclusion)

It is normal for white gold jewelry pieces to tarnish over time as the metals contained in them are exposed to corrosion unlike pure gold rings, earrings or pendants, bands, etc.

Nevertheless, pieces of jewelry prone to tarnish are popular with consumers, since they are much cheaper than fine silver, gold, or platinum. It’s all good, though once you purchase them make sure they contain palladium (usually they do) and the rhodium coating finish is there as well (common).

White Gold & Jewelry Care

For the next step is to use your favorite fashion pieces according to this jewelry guide you are currently on. Meaning no showering or swimming or acid exposure to avoid staining and wearing them off.

The last step is to immediately clean them after contact with sweat or fluids of any kind and should the unavoidable happen after a year or two (translates: tarnishing), then replate them back to the original glow through a skilled or certified jeweler.

You can definitely have lasting joy and maximum sparkle with your favorite white gold wedding bands, bracelet, or princess-shaped ring without minor tarnishing – just make use of this quick jewelry guide overview on white gold tarnishing and solutions.

Bill Dominic

Bill is an art history and business graduate. Moreover, he loves to test, compare, shop jewelry & fashion items for his 5 sisters, girlfriend, nieces when not enjoying a great novel.

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