What’s the Difference Between White Gold, Yellow Gold, and Rose Gold?
24 Karat gold is a dense, malleable precious metal that is bright yellow in color and can be polished to a high luster. In its pure form, it is considered too soft and not suitable to use in jewelry. Gold is thus commonly mixed with other metals, or alloys, to create a wide range of color variations and working properties.
White gold is an alloy – or mixture – of pure gold and white metals such as nickel, zinc, silver, and palladium, usually with a rhodium plating, to achieve its color. The silver hue embodying white gold derives from the hard rhodium plating. This plating will eventually wear away. It can be replated. X1 White Gold is a super white alloy that does not require rhodium plating.
Pros of white gold
- It is more affordable than platinum.
- It’s currently more popular than yellow gold.
- It’s alloyed with stronger metals than yellow gold, making it more durable and scratch-resistant.
- According to some, it complements white diamonds better than yellow gold.
- It complements fair or rosy skin tones.
Cons of white gold
- It needs to be dipped every few years to retain its color and luster—and to replace the rhodium plating. This process is inexpensive; many jewelers offer the service for free.
- Often has nickel mixed with it, which may cause allergic reactions for some. White gold is thus not hypoallergenic unless it is mixed with alloy metals other than nickel. White gold is often the worst for allergies, as nickel allergies are fairly common. These allergies, typically minor skin rashes from nickel dermatitis, occur in about one out of eight people.
Yellow gold is what most people think of when they hear the word ‘gold’. It is made by mixing pure gold with alloy metals such as copper or zinc.
The amount of pure gold in the jewelry depends on its karatage:
- 24 Karat: 99.9% Pure
- 22 Karat: 91.7% Pure
- 18 Karat: 75% Pure
- 14 Karat: 58.3% Pure
A higher karat amount means a purer gold content. However, this also means a less durable metal. For this reason, usually 14K or 18K gold is used to mount engagement and wedding rings. Although less expensive, 14K gold is less vivid. It is used in normal jewelry. 18K gold, used in the making of fine jewelry, albeit more vivid, is also more prone to tarnishing.
Pros of yellow gold
- It’s the most hypoallergenic of all the three gold colors. Historically the most popular metal used for wedding and engagement bands, and thus appropriate for vintage style settings.
- It represents the ‘purest’ color of all the golds.
- It’s the easiest to maintain out of all three gold color types.
- Yellow gold is the most malleable and easiest of all three gold types for jewelers to manipulate.
- It’s a better complement to olive and darker skin tones.
- It’s easily matched with diamonds of a lower color grade.
Cons of yellow gold
- It needs to be polished and cleaned regularly.
- It’s subject to dents and scratches.
Rose gold refers to (and encompasses) the whole family of red, rose and pink gold shades. Pure gold is alloyed with copper to produce the rosy-red color. The higher the copper content, the redder the gold will appear. A common mix—or alloy—for rose gold is 75% gold and 25% copper by mass (18K). Like white gold, since rose gold is an alloy, “pure rose gold” doesn’t actually exist. Although the highest karat version of rose gold, also known as crown gold, is 22 karat.
Pros of rose gold
- It’s a style suited for both men’s and women’s rings.
- Rose gold isconsidered by many to be the most romantic metal due to its pinkish-red color.
- It’s often more affordable than other types of gold because copper—the alloy used to make rose gold—costs less.
- It’s very durable due to the strength of copper—making rose gold tougher than yellow or white gold.
- It complements all skin tones.
Cons of rose gold
- It can cause allergic reactions in some and is not a hypoallergenic metal.
- It’s not as widely available as yellow and white gold, despite being in style.
Cost and Maintenance
The cost will depend on a few factors. The percentage of pure gold, as well as the types of alloys used, will factor in heavily. Based on the market value of gold, it can certainly represent an added hurdle to the investment one is about to make. Not to be diminished, the craftsmanship behind the jewel. Is it a generic piece, or a creation (thus a unique piece) from a true artist? And last but not least, where one buys the jewel. With varying taxes (US-Canada, Quebec vs other provinces, etc.), these can add up and bring the total cost to another level.
As for maintenance, the higher the karat gold percentage, the more jewels are subjected to wear and tear, more than other ‘lesser’ jewels. To maintain your jewels’ luster, you can opt for a steam cleaner, an ultrasonic cleaner, or a professional, who will do more than just clean, but also restore your precious piece. If not, you can always choose a drop of soap and a bowl of warm water. But whichever method you pick, do not clean your jewel every day. This would cause unnecessary wear and tear on your jewel, as well as loosen stones, pearls, and diamonds. It is recommended to clean your jewels every two to ten weeks; if done by a professional, no more than once every six weeks (since their equipment is more powerful and will exert more force on your jewels).