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How can you tell if white gold jewelry is going to discolor?


Ed. note; This is an interesting 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 :-)


Last year, my son and I had one of my deceased mother's diamonds set in an engagement ring for his now wife. We went to a local jeweler (this is a very small town and I felt that local reputation would be important to the only jeweler in town), chose the setting from a catalog and had the diamond set.

A few months later my son's fiancee started complaining about the ring looking yellowish. During this time, Hurricane Katrina had destroyed our town. We went back to the jeweler after they re-opened and they told us that the 14kt white gold "had absorbed the impurities in the water" causing it to discolor.

We then purchased a wedding ring online (Ross-Simons), they got married, and my daughter in law pointed out to me the stark difference between the two, the engagement ring definitely yellow-tinged compared to the wedding band. We then returned to the jeweler and tactfully asked if it was rhodium plated. They said no, and offered to "cut the shank in half" to prove it. They stated that all we need to do is come in every so often and have them "shock" it to get it back to a whiter color. They said there is nothing wrong with it and this is a natural phenomenon of white gold.

Is this true? My daughter in law is about to deliver their first child and I would like to get the diamond re-set for her to avoid this problem. How can I guarantee this won't happen again? Thank you!

Janet M. Hayes
consumer - Bay St. Louis, Mississippi


I think it's the jeweler who has absorbed the impurities in the water. Be grateful these folks are in the jewelry business and that it's keeping them out of the baby food business :-)

I'd take the ring to another jeweler and see what they say.

Ted Mooney, finishing.com
Ted Mooney, P.E.
Striving to live Aloha
finishing.com - Pine Beach, New Jersey


That jeweler is either dumb or a con artist. Nothing he has said is true. The bright white plate is so thin that it would take a very strong microscope to see it. Looking at an unpolished end with a 10X loop will prove nothing!

Put him on the carpet. Ask him what the makeup of this magic "shock" solution is. Have him put it in writing. Also ask him for the model number and the manufacturer of that ring, and I will see if it can be traced back thru a super jeweler in Pensacola, FL.

Go to another jeweler, buy another setting and ask him for a written guarantee of the white gold that he will use. Ask him for the % of the metals used to make the 14K white gold. He can get it if he wants to make a sale. Blind dumb luck would get you some value for a trade in setting.

James Watts
- Navarre, Florida


Hi Janet,
I agree with Ted completely. Some jewelry stores will tell you anything in order to pass the buck. If copper, nickel and zinc are used for alloying the gold there are a number of possible reactions that can take place. Body chemistry, exposure to household chemicals, atmospheric conditions, and the list goes on. I think metal assay certification should be mandated by law for all gold jewelry sales. There are more expensive "whitening" alloys available that are less reactive to certain conditions. Palladium, platinum and indium are a few. You can request these alloys when ordering your ring, but make sure you get written certification before you buy. I thought letter 24199 with response dated 9/9/03 is worth reading. Good Luck!

Mark Baker
Process Engineer - Syracuse, New York

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