When considering a jewelry purchase, often times the diamond or gemstones involved get all of the attention. The fact is, however, there’s an equally important factor to consider; which type of precious metal to use for your piece. There are a lot of choices available today, but the most common, by far, is gold. So how do you choose, white gold or yellow?
The Basics of Gold
Before you can choose the right setting for your ring or jewelry investment, it’s important to understand the basics of gold. Most are familiar with the grading system for gold: 10 karat, 14 karat, and 24 karat gold being the most common. In general terms, the higher the karat number, the purer the gold.
By those standards, many might assume that the 24 karat gold pieces (the purest gold form) would be the most valuable and coveted. In actuality, pure gold is quite soft and makes for a poor choice for jewelry. The softness of pure gold would lend itself to damage and dullness in no time and leave you with a less than desirable piece of jewelry. As such, most gold is mixed with alloys to strengthen the material and make it suitable for jewelry. This is where white gold and yellow gold come in.
White Gold or Yellow?
When additives are introduced to gold, the process will not only determine the strength of the metal, but the color we see as well. These additives, like zinc, copper, nickel, platinum and palladium, will either enhance the natural coloring of gold, or give it an entirely new color.
For traditional yellow gold, alloys like zinc and copper, or even silver, are often added to bring out the trademark golden tones. These additives allow the gold to achieve a greater hardness level, as well as create a protective layer that shields it from scratching and damage more than its natural state.
With white gold, the process usually entails adding nickel, zinc or palladium, and even sometimes, platinum. The end product is lightened but will still have a natural tint of yellow gold, which requires a coating to give it the final white gold sheen. To do this, white gold is usually dipped in either rhodium or platinum to give it the polished white finish associated with white gold.
Choosing What’s Right for You
Now that it’s understood that all gold is essentially blended with other metals to strengthen it for jewelry purposes, it comes down to choosing which option is right for you. Since both options have their own set of pros and cons, choosing between white gold or yellow should be more than a simple preference – though that certainly weighs in to the decision.
Yellow gold has the traditional feel to it, giving way to pieces with a more vintage or classic look. Beyond the aesthetics, however, yellow gold has other benefits as well. Since yellow gold isn’t coated like white gold, any repairs on your piece will be substantially less expensive to fix. It’s also known that yellow gold will complement diamonds of a lower grade better than white gold will, which could give some savings during the purchase. All of these things considered, yellow gold is also less popular – meaning less options to choose from – and it is prone to dullness.
White gold has gained popularity in recent decades, thanks in large part to its complementary nature with gemstones. It is generally easier to match white gold with any gemstone than it is yellow, as it is a nice, neutral setting for all colors of embellishments. In addition, white gold is actually stronger and more durable than yellow gold due to its exterior coating and harder alloys used for blending. On the negative side, however, the coating is prone to wearing off after a while and will require a periodical reapplication to keep your piece looking like new.