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Understanding Yellow Gold, White Gold and Rose Gold

There are three main forms of gold that all possess different properties and appeal to a different audience. To inform your choices when purchasing gold jewellery, at Terence Lett we decided to run you through some of the key information about each of the three gold variations – yellow gold, white gold and rose gold.

an image of an 18ct yellow gold necklace from FopeYellow Gold

Most often, yellow gold is combined with copper and silver for durability and brilliance, since the higher the gold content, the less durable the piece of jewellery will be. Yellow is actually the natural colour of gold, so the other metals used to create the alloy of the jewellery cannot impose on the colouring.

Yellow gold is, most popularly, used in weddings and engagement rings. They are normally of the 14k or 18k variety, with these terms referring to karats and the value of gold (we’ll clear that up later). Yellow gold rings are popular for their classical aesthetic.

Yellow gold had, at one point, seen a dip in popularity. This is now over though, as a resurgence of popularity is happening with yellow gold jewellery as consumers enamour the bold and distinct look of these pieces. What’s more, yellow gold is the perfect backdrop for diamonds as the yellow hue complements the whiteness of the diamonds, making them seem brighter. If you’re looking for either a vintage or modern look, yellow gold jewellery can adapt to this perfectly – depending on styling and the piece itself.

Yellow gold is the most ‘hypoallergenic’ of all of the colours of gold, as it is not normally combined with nickel or copper, which are the most common causes of allergic reactions.

Further benefits of yellow gold include the fact that it is malleable, and therefore easy to resize later and craft into interesting shapes and patterns. This does, however, translate into some issues with it being easy to scratch and dent, making regular cleaning and polishing necessary for maintaining the warm glow of your piece. On the other hand though, yellow gold is very resistant to tarnishing and allows for an inimitable look.

Yellow gold is most suited to olive skin and darker skin tones, so bear this in mind when searching for your ideal piece.

an image of diamond earrings set in white gold

White Gold

The only real difference between any of the different gold colours is, well, literally that – the colour. The different metals that are combined with gold to create the jewellery piece are what allow for the different colour of the metals, and white gold is usually combined with palladium, manganese, nickel or silver to create a bright white finish. As is true with yellow gold, the other metals are utilised for their offering of additional strength, and the metals used in white gold offer greater strength than that of yellow gold. This means that white gold is more resistant to surface damage – scratches and dents – than yellow gold.

Since white gold is coloured to adjust the natural yellow colouring of gold, it is advised that white gold pieces are dipped every few years to retain their colouring. This is often due to the rhodium plating present wearing away from regular use. In between these dippings, regular polishing and cleaning should maintain your piece, although dipping your white gold is often inexpensive and sometimes free from the jeweller from whom you purchased your item.

With white gold, it is true that there is the possibility of an allergic reaction to the nickel present, which is a common metal used to create the white gold alloy. The Nickel Directive was implemented in Europe to reduce the use of nickel in items that come into contact with skin, but it’s still best to check and be sure of the content by nickel testing.

Rhodium plating is common with white gold jewellery as it can improve the white brilliance of the finish and can, sometimes, form a barrier to any nickel present that might cause an allergic reaction. This plating does wear off over time – truly dependant on use and lifestyle of the wearer – but replating is available (see above).

Very popular in modern jewellery, white gold pieces offer a cool and sophisticated gleam that is truly complementary of a variety of different gemstones – including coloured diamonds. The cooler finish of most white gold jewellery means that it is more suited to paler skintones.

Gaining popularity in the 1920s, especially with art deco jewellery, white gold was actually put into practice as a cheaper alternative to platinum and it was especially applicable as the use of platinum and nickel was disallowed, except for in the military.

an image of a rose gold necklaceRose Gold

Rose gold is a combination of gold and copper, with the copper offering the colouring to the applications. This finish was particularly popular in 19th Century Russia, which is where the archaic classification of ‘Russian Gold’ came from, although it is rarely used today.

Despite the popularity of rose gold in history, it has more recently fallen out of favour, and been replaced by white and yellow gold. It seems, however, to be regaining popularity – especially with engagement rings and wedding rings as the rose, pink or red colouring is deemed romantic. Rose gold is also revered for offering a vintage appearance.

For styling rose gold, it is very well-suited to standing alone, but it can be placed well next to both white and yellow gold for a multi-coloured style that is bold and creative. For wearers, rose gold suits skin tones that change seasonally.

Thanks to copper being used to create the rose gold alloy, these jewellery pieces are actually the strongest and least susceptible to damage from wear and tear. Remember though, taking care of jewellery is imperative to maintenance and extending it’s life to justify the investment.

The copper in rose gold can cause an allergic reaction to those that are sensitive to this, so make sure you (or whoever you are buying the piece for) is able to come into contact with copper without reacting.

With rose gold pieces: the higher the karat the more subtle the ‘rose’ colouring is. This is due to more copper being used in pieces that are of a lower karat and this influencing appearance more with the higher ratio. Usually, lower karat rose gold can be described as ‘red’, with this changing from a ‘rose’ to a ‘pink’ hue as the percentage of gold increases.

The Karat System

As promised, the karat system is now to be explained. It’s shockingly simple: 24k is the purest gold can be with this referring to gold being 100% of the makeup of the piece. This would make it less dense than gold of a lower karat, making it softer and more pliable in comparison and often unsuitable for ‘regular’ jewellery. That’s why the most common gold jewellery pieces are 14k or 18k – this means that it is either 14 parts gold and 10 parts other metal, or 18 parts gold and 8 parts other metal.

Diamonds Are Forever, but Gold Is Just for You

Gold is a marvellous material, that’s why we are so enamoured with it as a decoration for our person and our homes. It is also a practical material, with many components of technology utilising the malleability and chemical resistance of it.

There you have it – a comprehensive run through of the three main colours of gold: yellow gold, white gold and rose gold.

If you’d like to learn more about the jewellery we have on offer here at Terence Lett, then please visit our website. We have an extensive range, including our own range of diamond jewellery. Alternatively, you can call us on 01993 779769 or email us via info@terencelett.com.

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