White Gold Tarnish: Fact or Fiction?

Yes, real white gold can tarnish with use over time. Some people quickly dismiss their white gold jewelry as fake when they observe signs of tarnish appearing on it. Since tarnished white gold isn’t common, it’s understandable that people think it’s impossible.

Why Does Real White Gold Tarnish?

White gold tarnishes for the same reason all metals do– exposure to elements it reacts to. Gold is tarnish-resistant metal; that’s why you won’t find any tarnished gold bars or 24-karat gold. However, white gold is a mixture of gold and other metals, and the tarnish effect results from those metals reacting to the elements.

White Gold Tarnish

Jewelers mix (or alloy) gold to make it more practical for everyday use since pure gold is an incredibly soft metal. White gold is also ideal for people who want white jewelry but don’t want cheap metals like stainless steel or sterling silver. A few factors determine how prone your white gold jewelry is to tarnish.

The Alloy Used to Create it

Manufacturers create white gold by mixing gold with metals such as silver, palladium, platinum, nickel, or copper. The different white gold alloys have varying degrees of durability, and some– like palladium– are resistant to corrosion and tarnish. On the other hand, copper and silver are more likely to give wearers issues with tarnish with continuous use.

Knowing the makeup of your white gold jewelry will help you determine how likely it is to tarnish. Some high-end jewelers include certificates in the jewelry package that indicates the metals that your jewelry consists of. Alternatively, you can take your white gold jewelry to a professional jeweler to test it and know its makeup.

The Purity of the White Gold

The karat system of purity states how much of a white gold piece is made of real gold. 24 karats is the maximum purity of gold; anything less means your jewelry is alloyed with another metal. Conversely, anything less than 10 karats cannot legally be called gold in the United States.

Less gold content means more of other metals that are less resistant to tarnish. For example, 10-karat white gold comprises only around 42% of your chain and is, therefore, more prone to tarnish than a 22-karat chain.

How to Clean Tarnished White Gold

10k White Gold

Silver and copper are the two white gold alloys most prone to tarnish. Therefore, knowing your white gold makeup and following the appropriate cleaning technique is essential.

1. Copper

Jewelers hardly make white gold with copper because of how prone it is to oxidation, but you’ll find it present in some jewelry pieces. Tarnished white gold jewelry that consists of copper will have a green tint. You need the following materials to clean white gold consisting of copper:

  • Aluminum foil
  • Detergent
  • Pot of boiling water
  • Toothbrush

Step 1 – Cover an empty pot with aluminum foil and pour some water into it. Place the pot on a cooker till it begins to boil.

Step 2 – Turn some detergent into the boiling water and stir gently to avoid excessive fizzing from the lather.

Step 3 – Put your tarnished jewelry in the pot while it remains boiling for about 3 minutes, ensuring that the jewelry makes contact with the foil.

Step 4 – Bring the pot off your cooker after 3 minutes and leave the jewelry in while the water cools. When the water is cool enough, clean every part of the jewelry with a soft-bristled toothbrush, and it should be spotless.

Step 5 – Rinse the jewelry in clean, running water and leave it to dry.

2. Silver 

You need a few items to clean tarnished white gold consisting of silver:

  • Aluminum foil
  • Baking powder
  • Bowl of warm water
  • Salt 

Step 1 — Wrap the inside of an empty bowl with aluminum foil, turning the sunny side up; ensure that you cover the bowl completely.

Step 2 — Put some warm water in the bowl and gently add baking powder and salt. Stir the solution carefully for it to be thoroughly diluted.

Step 3 — Place your tarnished jewelry in the solution, immersing every part. Also, ensure that all parts of the jewelry are touching the foil.

Step 4 — You’ll begin to observe some changes in the appearance of the jewelry from soaking it alone, and in about 5 minutes, it should look perfectly clean. You can clean any leftover tarnish by using the baking powder as an abrasive, putting it on the stubborn spots, and rubbing it with your finger.

Step 5 — Rinse the jewelry with clean, running water and dry it.

Does Rhodium-Plated White Gold Tarnish?

Rhodium-Plated White Gold

Plated white gold will not tarnish because the outer layer of plating protects the jewelry underneath. However, to prevent the white gold from tarnishing, jewelers must only plate the jewelry with a metal that does not tarnish.

Jewelers often plate white gold with a metal known as rhodium, a scarce and expensive metal. Rhodium plating works well with various types of white metals, and you will often find sterling silver jewelry that is also rhodium plated. 

Rhodium works well for plating white metals because it is durable, doesn’t scratch easily, and doesn’t tarnish. On top of those benefits, rhodium has the appearance of newly-polished silver, making the jewelry look beautiful. 

Jewelers often use rhodium plating because they want white gold jewelry to look white. The presence of gold in white gold jewelry causes it to have a dull yellowish hue when left unplated. While some people might have no issues with it, others prefer to have that glossy silver-like appearance.

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