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White Gold Rings: Born out of Necessity

Apr. 11 2014
Desperate times call for desperate measures. The white gold engagement ring was born in a time of need.

L and I share a driving thirst for knowledge similar to Lemon Tree’s level of stubborn terrier tenacity. We both simply need to know more, about everything.

However, this hunt for knowledge does have a slightly competitive spirit to it between us and I have to admit, when it comes to engagement rings, L usually beats me to the mark. So, once again, I had to give L credit for the fascinating information she recently discovered about the history of the white gold engagement ring.

A Metal by Any Other Name

History seems to be confused by the term ‘white gold’, and therefore pin-pointing its birth has proved complicated. So while L was researching the history of white gold, she was fortunate enough to find a lot of information regarding porcelain, cotton and platinum, whether she wanted to or not! All of these substances, at one time or another, were popularly referred to as ‘white gold’. The label, throughout history, has obviously been applied to a variety of materials of value to society at that time.

Cotton plant (Matsudo, Chiba, Japan) by t-mizo, used under a Creative Commons licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en)

In earlier times, ‘white gold’ was a term used to describe cotton

However fascinating the history of cotton may be, I don’t think L lingered on the topic for too long and eventually she hit the jack-pot of knowledge regarding the true ‘white gold’ she was seeking. Simply put, white gold, and its use to create the white gold engagement ring, was born out of necessity. In 1887, the Belais brothers began experimenting with formulas to create white gold as a substitute for platinum. In 1920 the brothers patented their 18k white gold compound, which consisted of gold, nickel and zinc.

Desperate Times

During World War II, however, jewellers were forced to change with the times as the use of both platinum and nickel was restricted to military purposes only. Seeing as white gold engagement rings were just as popular as ever, ring makers eventually found new alloys, such as palladium, to mix with gold, creating that desirable white gleaming look.

Baguette diamond white gold by James Newman

Baguette diamond white gold by James Newman

Today’s 18k white gold is still based on these 20th-century chemists’ pioneering work.

However, modern science has of course evolved, and now newer compositions provide an even whiter and brighter colour. A 18k white gold engagement ring manufactured today is now either 75% gold combined with copper, zinc and nickel or 75% gold mixed with silver and titanium.

The scientific evolution of this metal has been fast and furious and its uses have gone well beyond the confines of the jewellery industry. Needless to say, white gold’s attributes continue to grow with the increase in demand for its dazzling appearance and chemical properties from brides and scientists alike!


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