I woke up this morning with that horrible “I’m getting a cold” feeling. The one where your neck doesn’t feel like it can hold your head up, and it’s continued all day. Perfect timing, just when I have a massive wedding even on all weekend!! So that long list of things that I wanted to have ready for EWE has had to be chopped down a bit, and today’s blog, is actually one I wrote quite a while ago for Making Jewellery Magazine, and is inspired by a question I often get asked at wedding fairs and events. "Why has my white gold gone yellow?"
The answer is usually that it hasn't actually gone yellow, just it's natural creamy white colour. The reason for this is because "most" white gold that is sold by the big name high street jewellers has been plated in another metal called "rhodium".
There are a couple of reasons that jewellers do this, in my opinion anyway. The first, I think, is a bit of a naughty one (but a reason that is strangely allowed) in that sometimes, jewellers will rhodium plate standard yellow gold, and sell it as white! I guess this is down to cost, as yellow gold is a tiny bit cheaper than white anyway, but it would likely be much cheaper to cast 1000's of an item in just the one type of metal, then rhodium plate the ones they want to sell as white gold.
The second, is the fact that in my experience at least, lots of people think that all "white" metals are the same colour, so maybe jewellers plate their white gold to avoid confusion over all the different colours and carats. Personally, I love the fact that all of the metals are slightly different colours as it gives so many more design possibilities!
I also often get asked about the difference between the other metals so I thought I would at least try to and explain things a little bit...
In the UK, any gold that you buy is an alloy of gold and a selection of other metals. This is because pure gold is far too soft for jewellery making, so it has to be mixed with things like copper and silver. The 375 mark on 9 carat gold tells you that only 37.5% of the metal that you call gold is actually pure gold. In 18 carat, there is 75% pure gold, hence the 750 mark. Copper and silver, on their own are harder metals than pure gold, so, the more gold, the softer (and more expensive) the metal.
That's the case for yellow gold anyway. White gold is where it all gets a bit confusing and the "toughness" is reversed! White gold is usually a mixture of pure yellow gold, silver and depending on the particular alloy, palladium or platinum. 9 carat White gold will have a lot more silver in the mix, whereas 18 carat will use the much more expensive palladium or platinum. As these are much harder metals than silver, an 18 carat alloy will usually have a higher melting point and be a fair bit harder than 9 carat. Because 9 and 18 carat White gold are essential two completely different alloys, the colour is quite different too, with 9 carat having a kind if milky colour and 18 carat being a darker grey that is closer to platinum.
Now, if that hasn't confused you enough, there's a third type of gold that I'm going to talk about too. Rose (or red) gold seems, at the moment anyway, to be just as popular, if not more, than white gold. It's funny how fashions change, as 100 years ago, it would have to be yellow, then white became popular, and at the moment rose gold seems to be "the" colour that everyone wants! Maybe this is down to how popular anything "vintage" has become. I'm not quite sure why but rose gold does really seem to fit with the romance of the theme.
Rose gold also has the advantage of being a little tougher than yellow gold due to the high amount of copper in the alloy, as this is what gives it the "pink" colour. It does come with a disadvantage though, and that is the fact that if you suffer with metal allergy, you might find that anything with a high copper content might irritate your skin.
So, there's another couple of metals to go, that I've already mentioned and that often get confused as the same one - platinum and palladium.
"Platinum" is the hardest metal and is regarded as the most precious because it's the rarest. This also makes it the most expensive. Lots of more traditional stone set rings have a good band, or shank, with just the stones set in platinum. It's colour is similar to 18 carat white gold in that it's naturally a dark grey, although like white gold, sometimes jewellers will rhodium plate it.
"Palladium" is the newest of all the precious metals and has actually only been classified as one for about the last 100 years. To be honest, it's pretty difficult to tell the difference between palladium and platinum. It's from the same family of metals and behaves in a very similar way, with one big advantage - cost! Palladium currently slots into to price ladder somewhere just behind 18 carat gold. On doing my research for this piece, just so I knew that I'm remembering my facts right, I read that both platinum and palladium are difficult to resize and will almost always leave a mark when soldered. Well, I'm really glad I didn't know this when I made my first palladium engagement ring, or I may have told that particular client that it wasn't possible to make it! Yes, they are both a little more difficult to manipulate than a soft metal like silver, but to be honest, I've never had a problem making either metal do what I want it to and I've resized and soldered loads of rings now without leaving any signs. I guess that just proves that you shouldn't always believe what you read online! Haha!