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The Science Behind White Gold Engagement Rings

Apr. 11 2014
There are many technical and scientific elements that go into creating gorgeous white gold engagement rings.

F, ever the science geek, refuses to accept anything at face value, including jewellery. So I was not very surprised to find him nose deep in a stack of chemistry books the other day, but I was a little alarmed when he said he was looking for white gold engagement rings in them.

Unlike most people, F regards ring shopping to be a matter of knowing the ring and its components inside and out. Sometimes I wonder if he forgets to see just how pretty they are!

White stone rose cut by James Newman

White stone rose cut by James Newman

A Beautiful Concoction

Over the years I have discovered that living with F is like living with an audio library, constantly offering up snippets of obscure information and facts on everything under the sun. In fact, it’s probably one of the things I love about him the most! So I was anticipating becoming highly educated in all things metallurgy related, and F did not disappoint. Apparently there is quite a magical chemical concoction required to create the gleaming metal for white gold engagement rings.

So how does a typically canary yellow metal like gold turn into one that is sparkling white in colour? The secret is found in the same method of adding metal alloys to pure gold, used to strengthen it, which can actually be tweaked to also change its colour. White gold is born from a marriage of 75% pure gold and 25% white alloy mix. The choices for alloys range from manganese to palladium, and nickel is also sometimes used. To increase the metal’s shining potential and for protection, white-gold is dipped in rhodium. The rhodium plating gives it a classier and shinier appearance, making it a stunning choice for white engagement rings.

Small Random Ripple Ring coloured gem, white gold by Jessica Poole

Small Random Ripple Ring coloured gem, white gold by Jessica Poole

Price We Pay for Beauty?

However, F warned that danger may lie in these magnificent white gold engagement rings that I have had my eye on. Apparently, about one out of eight people suffer from some sort of contact allergy to the nickel that is sometimes used in the creation of white gold alloys. It is a reaction that sneaks up over time if the ring is worn over long periods. The curse of this beautiful white metal typically causes a minor skin rash and has actually led to the discontinued use of nickel as a white gold alloy in all European countries. So, happily, unless your white gold engagement ring originated outside of Europe, it probably will not leave its itchy mark on you!

Once again, F has become a fountain of knowledge regarding obscure facts about metals, and white gold engagement rings in particular. Although he protests that he only investigated it with my best interests in mind: “no-one wants an itchy bride”, were his exact words. I suspect his ‘itch’ for knowledge was the true motivation for his research.


Fei LiuBirmingham
Karlin AndersonLondon
Anton KataLondon
Daniel GallieLondon
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