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White gold discoloration

Ed. note; This is an interesting but long thread, and only one of many. Before you get too confused, you might want to start with our FAQ on Rhodium Plating and White Gold to get an overall understanding of what white gold means today. :-)

 

Q. I purchased a white gold ring in September of 2000. At the time it had a raised portion on each side of the center stone that was gold and my fiance and I wanted it to be white gold, not two-tone. Anyway, the jeweler said she could plate only that portion with white gold so there would be no gold. Now, in August not even a year later, the ring is turning what I would consider gold (yellow). It is turning gold on the bottom of the band (that shows on the palm side of your hand) where it was supposed to be "pure" white gold.

Do you have any suggestions why this might be happening? Do you think the whole ring may just be plated? What can we do as a consumer to correct this with the jeweler?

Thanks for any advice.

Ellie Smith
- Daingerfield, Texas


 

A. I wouldn't know whether the ring you got is the ring you saw; and I wouldn't know if the original ring was fabricated of yellow gold in some parts and white gold in others, or whether it was yellow gold throughout, and selectively plated with rhodium.

White gold is "whitish", but never the brilliant glittery color of rhodium. But if what you are seeing is actually "yellow" my bet would have to be that the band is rhodium-plated yellow gold and the plating is wearing off.

As far as I know, it is shoddiness to rhodium plate yellow gold because the gold color starts showing through quickly. But it does not violate federal standards because the intrinsic gold worth is still there; so I guess you need to talk to the jeweler about his guarantee.

It can certainly be easily replated with rhodium. Good luck.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

 

Q. I, too, am experiencing yellow casting on my white gold wedding band. When I returned to the jeweler to ask about it, I was told that it would have to be replated with rhodium. This should have been explained to us when the ring was purchased. It should have been explained that the ring was plated and also that there would be maintenance involved. I have only had my ring for a year and a half and it looks as if I purchased it from a gumball machine! It looks as though it is a sterling silver ring that is yellow gold plated and the yellow plating is wearing off. YUCK! If I am charged $20 every time my ring needs to be replated, over time, this will really add up. Had I known I would have this problem, I probably would have opted for a yellow gold wedding band.

My question is this. Does all white gold eventually turn yellow or is this just my tough luck? My grandmother's white gold band is 50 years old and she has never experienced this problem.

Why is this happening now in current times (from what I have been reading)?

Jennifer Jones
- Davenport, Iowa


 

A. Ellie & Jennifer, yours is a common complaint we hear all the time.

Much of the white gold being sold in America is a nickel based alloy. It is cheap, has good repairability, and is "whiter" in color than your grandmothers ring. However your grandmothers ring probably used a palladium based alloy which is far superior in terms of wearability and long term beauty and cost more gram per gram. Most white gold today has a rhodium plated surface of about .25 -.50 microns (ref. a human hair is 100-125 microns),sometimes even less. While rhodium is very reflective, hard as nails and almost tarnish proof, the plating is way too thin for good long term wear and will discolor over time (porosity in the rhodium layer).

More often than not the buyer is not told at the time of purchase about the plated rhodium and "assumes" that this is the true color of white gold. About 18 months later the truth starts to reveal itself. Exposure to common household chemicals react with the exposed nickel based white gold and turn the ring to a silver-gray color.

No laws were broken by the way. Unfortunately, you don't have many good choices. Your jeweler can replate it in rhodium and you will be faced with this problem again in a year. You could find a different setting for the stone in platinum or palladium. The next best alternative would be to find a plating service to replate your ring with a layer of platinum or palladium 1.0-1.5 microns followed by a layer of rhodium 2.0-3.5 micron in thickness. You probably could get about 5-7 years or more of good wear before replating would be required again. This will cost about $85-$110. It could be worse, if you get sensitized to the nickel in your ring, skin rashes and discoloration of your finger will be your constant companions.

By the way there are numerous jewelry stores in America who do tell their customer about the rhodium plating. Other stores sell only palladium based alloy white gold without rhodium plating.

Hope this helps, good luck!

David Vinson
Metal Arts Specialties

Leonard, Michigan


Ed. note: The following, from one of this site's supporting advertisers, goes a long way towards explaining the situation with white gold and rhodium plating. You may wish to contact them for further information, advice, and possible services on white gold and rhodium plating issues--

metal arts specialties


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Q. Hello, I brought a white gold ring, and don't want to have it plated every 5 months; can I have the ring rhodium removed and just have a yellow gold ring?

Christian Rogers
employee - Cambridge, England


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A. Are you sure it's yellow gold not white gold? If it's white gold, which is should be, it will remain white (at least grayish). If it's yellow gold it should not have been rhodium plated in the first place. Maybe the white plating can be mechanically removed by a jeweler, but it's not real easy.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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Q. Hi, I have a set set of white rings that are 50 years old actually almost 51. I have had no problems with my rings until the last 6-12 months. Last year I purchased a ring guard,white gold. I have noticed in the last 6 months or so the ring guard has turned to dark grey (looks dirty) and there is some discoloration on the band and engagement rings also although not as much. I have worn my wedding rings for these 51 years and do not clean with them on. I also have a 18 k white gold ring that has tarnished like silver It is 40 years old. The jeweler did keep my engagement their in order to fit the ring guard. This is very disturbing.I have to wonder is my jeweler honest. Please advise.

Carol Childress
consumer - Columbiana, Alabama


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Q. Hi, I purchased an 18k gold setting for my diamond about three weeks ago. The first time they did not set my diamond in it properly. The second time they used a bigger head and the diamond is set perfectly. This was done on Friday.. on Monday I noticed an ugly yellowish brown color coming through on the inside channel of my ring. This ring has an antique style channel with 50 small diamonds. I brought it back and they told me it was dirt. I knew it wasn't dirt and I was very upset, but left it for the hour to have it fixed. I picked it up and it was about 20% better. The problem is the yellow brown color is on the "gold" behind the diamonds and all in side the channel (apparently a hard ring to plate if needed). I am a straight up person and if they wanted to tell me it needed to be plated that would have been fine... but don't tell me it's dirt. I am thinking of bringing it somewhere else and paying to have it fixed then trying to get the money for that from the store where I purchased it or going to small claims. I have thought about returning the ring but I love it so much and it's one of a kind. My question is why is my ring turning colors after three weeks? Could it be that since they had to mess with the diamond so many times that the plating wore out quicker? Also what if the plating is discolored behind the diamonds (50), I'm not sure how plating works but is there a way to get behind there and brighten it up? The other question is should I be questioning the ring quality from this in-mall style (MAJOR JEWELERS) jewelry store? Thanks for any help you can give :).

Linda

Linda Lockwood
Customer - Islip Terrace New York


+++++++

Wow-- this is all very surprising to me, and a bit disappointing.... I have only had my white gold engagement ring for less than 3 months, and it is already turning yellow in certain areas. My band is a pave band with a princess center stone. Do all of the diamonds have to be removed to have these processes done to the diamond? I am so annoyed our jeweler did not tell us this about the white gold. My mom's engagement ring is also white gold, and in her 30 years of marriage, it has never turned yellow!

Angelique Ruiz
- Houston, Texas


(2007)

A. As time goes on I am learning more and more about this issue. It turns out that in fact there is a voluntary industry standard scale for white gold color, Angelique. The article "White Gold Alloys: color Measurement and Grading" at www.goldbulletin.org/downloads/Henderson_2_38.pdf is a bit detailed and heavy, but it clearly explains everything anyone would want to know about white gold color and the ASTM D1925 standard. Your mom's ring was apparently of Class 1 color and yours is not. You should ask the jeweler what color class it is; s/he probably won't know, but it's a start.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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thumbsup2I previously posted an entry about my white gold ring turning yellow. I had it flashed (w/ rhodium) to regain the bright white gold color again. And I haven't had any problems since. I think I know what was causing the discoloration, however. I am an avid swimmer and someone suggested to me that the chlorine could be affecting the discoloration of my ring. I stopped wearing my ring to the pool, and sure enough, I have not had any discoloration. Just a suggestion for any of you avid swim fans!

Angelique (Ruiz) Johnson [returning]
- Dallas, Texas


+++++++

Q. I have the same problem with my 18K white gold ring and it is only four months old. I was told by a few people that it's just my chemical make-up reacting to the gold and that is why it turns yellow. Is this a myth then?

Rhoda A. Smith
- Dickson, Tennessee


+++++++

A. Rhoda,
While there may be some small truth in the claim that the body chemistry of some people is harder on rings than other people, jewelers use that fact as a trick to justify poor quality. To emphasize how bogus it is, ask the jeweler to administer a "body chemistry test" on you and have the results notarized by an accredited laboratory to see whether you are the problem or the ring is the problem,. As David Vinson alluded to earlier on, the low quality of much of today's jewelry is the actual problem.

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

+++++++

Q. Hi. My boyfriend recently proposed to me. The ring he gave me is part of a set. When he got the set, both rings were the same color, white gold. He took the engagement ring to get it sized, got it back & proposed & all of that.

Last week we took the wedding band out because I wanted to see it & realized that the set was now two different colors. The band, of course, still the shiny color of white gold. The engagement ring, now almost a yellowish tint but still not the color of yellow gold. My fiance gave up a lot for these rings, traded his very nice truck for a MUCH less nicer one, for this to happen. my mother & father have had their rings for 26 years, my mother has had hers polished & stuff several times over the years & they are all still the same color as before! I would just like to know what exactly happened here & if the problem is fixable. I'd like to have white gold rings again, but I don't want them to change colors again as the years go on.

Rachel Cdeleted
buyer - Picayune, Mississippi


+++++++

Rachel,
Please tell the jeweler that the ring set is clearly defective in that it's not a set anymore before you are even married. Demand from them what color the rings are claimed to be per www.goldbulletin.org/downloads/Henderson_2_38.pdf. You have every right to raise hell if you don't get satisfaction. Maybe your local TV station has one of those troubleshooter guys who would like to visit the jewelry store with you and broadcast the jeweler's explanation of why an engagement ring doesn't even last the betrothal period. I'd love to watch that newscast and I'm sure that others would too!

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

April 8, 2010

In regards to Mr. Ted Mooney's response to Rachel where he told her to bring a news anchor to some jeweler's store. Mr. Mooney, I worked at a jewelry store for two years, and I sold what I was told to sell. We were not given much information, we didn't know much about what we were selling. We are there because we can sell anything to anyone who will sit and listen. We care about our customer's satisfaction but cannot control the merchandizers and individuals who make the decisions that truly control what it is we sell. So before you bring the pitchforks and news cameras I urge all those reading to pay heed to what Mr. Mooney is saying on matters concerning the science behind rhodium plating and white gold, but I urge you to ignore his ramblings concerning jewelry store associates. I believe Mr. Mooney to be a bit bitter and that he should keep opinions like this which reflect poorly on him to himself and stick to the scientific facts which he seems to know a great deal of.
My regards to all those reading,
L.L.

Ludwig Ldeleted
- Seattle, Washington


April , 2010

Hi, Ludwig. I've never had a personal problem with jewelry so I hold no "bitterness". I have no stake in Rachel's situation -- just simple empathy for a heartbroken young couple explaining their suffering and looking for a solution to a problem that the jewelry industry has known about for many years and outright refuses to fix.

Rachel's fiance sold his nice truck to buy her an engagement set she could show to friends and families to share the excitement of one of the most pleasurable phases of life, and the quality of the ring is so low that before they are even married the set doesn't match. She, and the hundreds of other terribly disappointed young women who have posted here, deserve satisfaction. They're not getting it from the jewelry industry, and they're not getting it from the politicians owned by lobbyists, so we can only hope that if the store doesn't make it right that they'll get it from the media.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey

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A. Let me try to clear things up a little bit. Having read all the tags I find it quite funny that everyone is shocked that their "White Gold" is turning yellow. First off let me say that there is no such thing as "White Gold" in nature. White gold is purely a human creation! The only naturally occurring gold in nature and at all is "yellow". But how do we get white gold you ask? There are two methods. The first method: the ring, chain, etc. could be made out of a gold alloy, which is just yellow gold mixed with another white metal(that occurs naturally in nature) such as platinum, silver, or palladium. Now as you mix the gold with certain metals you will get different outcomes. For instance if you have a gold-silver alloy, there is a chance that the silver in the ring will tarnish, dulling the entire look of the ring. The best choice is a Gold-Platinum alloy, although more expensive you will have it for generations to come and without the fear of the top layer "rubbing off" exposing the yellow gold underneath. For a little cost effectiveness use a gold alloy made of a metal in the platinum family, such as palladium. This will give you the same benefit of the Gold-Platinum alloy but allow you to keep a little more money in your wallet/purse.

The second method: is for the entire piece of jewelry to be made out of yellow gold and then have it plated with a naturally occurring white metal, such as platinum, palladium, or Rhodium. This method usually costs less, but then you have the problem of the top layer wearing off exposing the gold underneath, causing you the additional maintenance this kind of jewelry needs(having it replated every few months or years).

The first method of the gold alloy works the best, but is not 100% fool proof! You should be aware that the higher the karat the more the piece of jewelry will have a "yellowish" tint to it. For 14k jewelry this works great because you have about 55% yellow gold and 45% of the other metal, such as platinum, this balance gives you a nice white metal color. If you get an 18K ring or other piece of jewelry it will have about 75% yellow gold and 25% other white metal, again I'll use platinum. Since there is such a high content of yellow gold in 18K jewelry, the jewelry will have a yellow tint since only 25% of the jewelry is a white metal. That is why most 18K white gold is made out of yellow gold that is just plated, so it will have a nice white color to it, but with the chance of the plating rubbing off.

Its such a shame how jewelers try to trick their consumers by not disclosing everything to them. To be honest if you like "white" colored jewelry just get it made out of platinum, yes its more expensive, but you will never have a problem in your life with it! Now that you are all educated consumers, don't let anyone else fool you when buying jewelry!

Robert Visic
- New Brunswick, New Jersey


August 12, 2008

Q. My fiance and I were engaged in December after knowing each other all our lives, so when he purchased an engagement ring, it was the happiest day of my life. Happiness has since turned into misery... I have had my ring only 8 months, and the rhodium plating has worn off twice! (This last plating has lasted only 2 months.)

Is it reasonable for me to demand a new setting for my ring in platinum or palladium, or would I be out of line? I want this done for me at no cost since my ring has a lifetime gold warranty. My fiance didn't purchase this ring with the intention of sending it off to be "re-rhodiumed" every 2 months, and I feel that it's unfair that (1) I will be unable to wear my ring for roughly 6 months of the year due to "shop time" and (2) I may not even get to keep the original ring that was purchased for me if I choose a new setting.

I know there are no legal rights on the matter, but reasonably, what are my options here?

Sarah Floyd
buyer - Dayton, Ohio.


August 13, 2008

A. Hi, Sarah. The first thing to decide is whether you hate the plating or just the frequency of it. You can get the ring properly rhodium plated and the plating will last much longer, a long time -- I don't know exactly how long, but probably a few years.

As mentioned in the FAQ, the reason some people like rhodium plating is that there is nothing that is anywhere near as bright and shiny. So you could switch to platinum, but it will look quite dull compared to rhodium plating. Even the most understanding and sympathetic jeweler could not do a trade though, as platinum costs about 3x as much as 14 karat gold.

Regards,

pic of Ted Mooney Teds signature
Ted Mooney, P.E. RET
finishing.com
Pine Beach, New Jersey
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