White Gold Isn't White Until It's Plated

White Gold Isn't Actually White (Until It's Coated)

White gold usually is dull rather than shiny and rarely is white. Rhodium plating gives white gold an appearance similar to that of platinum metal at a fraction of the cost.
White gold usually is dull rather than shiny and rarely is white. Rhodium plating gives white gold an appearance similar to that of platinum metal at a fraction of the cost. rustycloud, Getty Images

Did you know nearly all white gold is plated with another metal to make it the shiny white color that it is? Here's a look at what white gold is plated with and why it is plated in the first place.

Rhodium Plates All White Gold

It's an industry standard that all white gold used for jewelry is plated with rhodium. Why rhodium? It is a white metal that somewhat resembles platinum, forms a strong bond over the gold alloy, takes a high shine, resists corrosion and oxidation, and is well-tolerated by most people.

Why Plate White Gold?

White gold usually is not white. The gold alloy normally is a dull yellowish or gray color. White gold consists of gold, which is yellow, plus silver (white) metals, such as nickel, manganese, or palladium. The higher the percentage of gold, the higher its karat value, but the more yellow its appearance. High karat white gold, such as 18k white gold, is soft and could be easily damaged in jewelry. The rhodium adds hardness and durability, makes all white gold a uniform color and protects the wearer from potentially problematic metals found in some white gold, such as nickel.

The downside to white gold is that the rhodium coating, while durable, eventually wears down. While the gold underneath isn't harmed, it's usually unattractive, so most people get their jewelry re-plated. Because rings are exposed to more wear and tear than other types of jewelry, they may require re-plating in as little as 6 months.