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White Gold - Can You Wear It Or Does It Cause A Rash?


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Many clients tell me, "I can't wear white gold, I am allergic to it!"


I am under the impression that not all jewelers make gold white the same way.


A background tutorial - gold is yellow by nature. That's how it's found. Prospectors would look for the flecks of 'color' in their slurry of water and river gravel. Pure 24kt gold has a lustrous, deep yellow color. Any other color of gold is unnatural and is a creation of mixed metals and elements to impart a specific desired hue. The Black Hills, pink or green golds are made by alloying copper (for pink) or parts of silver (for green) to the gold mix. You can even make purple gold if you alloy gold with aluminum! White gold is made by alloying whitish metals like zinc, nickel, platinum or silver with gold in enough amounts that the gold 'appears' white.


Two problems occur; There is a significant portion of the human population that have an allergic reaction when their skin is in constant contact with nickel. That is to say - a nasty, sometimes painful rash forms on the skin making the jewelry uncomfortable to wear. Secondly, over time the base yellow color of the gold wears through, it being more dense and heavier than the other metals present and the jewelry starts to 'age,' or yellow.


There is a simple remedy, but it costs more (of course). The gold is alloyed with platinum, which like gold is very inert - doesn't tarnish easily in air. Platinum is also very dense and a much smaller portion of people are allergic to the 'noble' metals of either gold or platinum.


The question is how many of you jewelers make your white gold using irritating, non-noble metals?

Do you offer a 'hypo-allergenic' alternative for your sensitive skinned clients - that is a gold/platinum alloyed white gold?

Do you just plate over the 'offending' white gold with something less irritating like platinum or rhodium?

Do you do it with all karat gold, or just in 14 or 18 karat jewelry?




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Not a jeweller, but...


Palladium is as effective (and hypoallergenic) a "bleacher" as platinum, at 1/3 of the price. Manganese-based alloys can also give a non-yellow (if decidedly greyer) colour. And white gold sold in the EU is virtually nickel-free since 2001.


Sorry, but your claim that gold will "wear through" because of the density does not stand up to physics; while alloys are not intermetallic compounds (which by the way "purple gold" is), they are far stabler than this under normal conditions. Otherwise, you'd get carbon, chromium and vanadium separating from the iron since they are all lighter, and causing your steel tools to become quite soft all of a sudden ;-)


The reason why much (most) white gold becomes yellowish with time is because it was yellowish to start with. It was just plated with white metal (Rh or Pt), which then wears off. However, both platinum and rhodium are much much "whiter" than even the whitest gold alloy, so many people may actually like that look.


Lastly - I don't understand your question about 14 and 18 kt. Surely the reason people plate over those karatages is because they are by far the most common for "white" alloys? AFAIK 21 kt white is also available, but not common, and the same goes for 10 kt (which BTW can be very white if not very gold); 19kt is a recent alloy (which I haven't seen IRL) that supposedly does not need plating since it is white enough

Edited by davidelevi
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And white gold sold in the EU is virtually nickel-free since 2001.


Not necessarily true.. The EU has a standard for nickel release under EN1811.. Nickel is not banned, it just has to be suspended in another metal to slow it's release.. There are quite a few nickel based alloys that meet this standard (Stuller's X1 for example) and are perfectly safe for people with nickel allergies.. People with extreme nickel allergies, or simply wanting to avoid nickel, can choose alloys such as palladium or even going with a 95% palladium ring to avoid the "yellowing" issue entirely..


Alloying with platinum is a "bad idea" in my opinion because of the extreme melt temperature differences.. Gold melts at 1947F and platinum at 3225F, about 1280 degrees F assuming perfect heat control.. To get the platinum hot enough to melt you are doing bad things to the gold and other metals in the alloy.. Palladium is only slightly closer at 2830F..


In my opinion metal should be used just like architectural materials.. If you want yellow metal, use gold, if you want white metal use platinum or palladium or silver.. If you want a wood look in a building, use wood.. If you want a stone look, use stone, don't try to force a material to be something that it isn't..


The question is how many of you jewelers make your white gold using irritating, non-noble metals?

Terry, as a designer, I don't appreciate the implied impression that using nickel (non-noble metal) somehow makes a jeweler something less.. This statement of yours just reads as trying to create an issue when there really isn't one.. At least it does to me..

Edited by Feydakin
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I am an utterly clueless consumer on this topic, but it caught my attention because I've recently had to stop wearing a pair of WG earrings because of a bad reaction to the posts. It's very weird as I've worn these earrings 24/7 for the last 8 years or so and never experienced any problems until a few months ago.


Usually I resort to putting a coat of clear nail polish on any earring posts that cause irritation but I'm reluctant to do that on a quality piece like this pair. ;) Do any of you have an idea as to why the earrings are now an irritation and how I might go about resolving the problem? Is having them "dipped" useful?



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It's possible that the earrings were rhodium plated, and the plating has worn off on the part that is in contact with your ear. Some people have to replate rings every few months because their body chemistry "removes" the plating quickly, so I'd say you are fairly lucky in that respect.


What's the stone in the earrings? If it's diamond or something else that is not sensitive to acetone, I'd try with the nail polish - you can always remove it easily with nail polish remover. If it works, consider having them replated (it should cost a few tens of dollars) - it should keep nickel at bay for a while (though depending on the thickness of the plating it may last less than the original)

Edited by davidelevi
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The biggest problem with nickel is that it is an acquired allergy.. You could wear nickel based products for years without issue but over time the allergy could develop due to constant contact with the metal..


Replating is a good first option.. Resetting in a non-nickel earring is another..

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Thanks for the quick feedback. I've often had issues with fashion earrings (hence the nail polish solution) but none of my other jewelry (platinum and vintage white gold) has ever been a problem.


The earrings are classic J-hoops with channel set diamonds.


Can I push my luck and ask for a jeweler recommendation in NYC to do the re-plating?


Thank you!

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This issue hits home w. me because I was going to get my wife a certain engagement ring until finding out that she has a light sensitive to many popular precious metals. It was a factor I had never thought of considering until that point, but I am SO relieved I found it out before making the actual purchase.


I ended up doing a ton of research online as well as in stores and was able to focus in on Platinum as a precious metal of choice that is hypoallergenic. Hypoallergenic metals reduce or minimize the possibility of an allergic response by minimizing potentially irritating substances. To my knowledge, Platinum and Palladium are the only hypoallergenic precious metals out there.


The whole process was a blessing in disguise because words cannot describe how happy I am with getting my wife a Platinum engagement ring rather than any other material. It's a stunning ring, and quite durable - like that of Tungsten, but unlike it in that Platinum can be re-sized and re-polished to fit perfectly and look like new.


Here is a nice chart breakdown of the various precious metals out there and how they compare to each other - http://novelldesignstudio.com/choosing_your_metal/index.php




I did a large portion of my research online after really developing a distaste for in-store buying pressure. Two of the best sites I used to make my final decision were: preciousplatinum.com and engagementguide.com, in case any of you want to take a look. They're very nicely laid out sites and have all the info and content you need. I've passed them on to many of my buddies as they begin their journey's for the perfect proposal ring.


Here's a picture of my wifes ring - she still tells me almost every day how much she loves it.



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