What is White Gold?
How is White Gold Made?
What is The Best White Gold?
What is White Gold Alloyed With?
Are All White Golds the Same?
First, an explanation of white gold and gold alloying. 14K gold is alloyed with other metals to achieve certain colors and/or workability attributes (malleability, ductility, etc.).
The different colors are self explanatory E.g.; whiter alloys such as silver or nickel mask the natural yellow of pure gold. Workability characteristics will vary considerably depending on the mix of the alloy metals. Pure gold is very malleable and easily worked into various shapes, forms, wires, etc. However, pure gold (24K) is generally considered too soft for rings. Almost all yellow gold blends are much more workable and ductile than their white gold counterparts. Most white golds are alloyed with nickel, a very white and very hard metal.
The ideal workability attributes necessary for a hand wrought item will often require a different mix of alloy metals than the normal mix of alloys for a cast item. Some of the popular alloy metals for white gold are copper, silver, zinc, nickel and in some of the newer blends, Palladium.
The white Gold blends that are alloyed with palladium are growing in popularity as they provide very workable castings and at the same time avoid many of the negatives issues associated with Nickel alloy mixes. It should be noted that these Palladium white Gold blends are typically not as bright white as some of the high nickel content blends.
14K white gold is 58% pure gold. The other 42% of metals used to make the 14K white gold and help mask the yellow of the predominant metal (58% pure gold) will vary considerably as the various gold manufacturers and casters look to develop gold blends with the best mix of whiteness and wear attributes. The same holds true for 18k White Gold, which is 75% pure gold.
Refiners, manufacturers, and jewelers experiment to find the optimal mix of alloys for their applications.Historically, some of the whiter blends of white gold have been some of the poorer performing alloys with regard to durability and longevity of jewelry items. The problems stem from the difficulty of mixing the different alloys to combine and make a homogeneous blend of metals that will be workable, malleable and otherwise suitable for jewelry making.
This is an immensely complicated issue as any change in casting temperatures or any change in the complex casting process can have an effect on the malleability, workability of the cast metal. It is quite common to have casting problems in white gold that may lead to future problems with the item of jewelry, two of the big problems are:
(1)Porosity in the metal. Actual voids or unfilled areas in the casting that lead to weakness or even failure of the cast item.
(2)Brittleness or lack of ductility.
Nickel has been a very popular alloy metal to use for white gold because of the very white color and the hardness it gives the white gold alloy. However, many white gold alloys that contain nickel may not be optimal for smaller elements of jewelry designs such as crowns (the prong elements that are used to hold diamonds) as these smaller elements may be prone to weakening and eventual breakdown due to the corrosive behavior of nickel in these white gold alloys, especially in conjunction with any exposure to environments that have chlorine such as pools, spas, etc.
It should be mentioned that nickel is also associated with allergic reactions which is not a good thing to have happen with an engagement ring or wedding band.
There have been many recent advances in new white gold alloys from? the major precious metal refiners that service the jewelry manufacturing industry, all trying to find that magic mix that will remedy the above mentioned problems in many white gold mixes and provide a workable and white mix.
Stuller Settings, a major manufacturer and supplier to jewelry stores : http://www.stuller.com/apps/images/kbpdfs/x1.pdf has a new blend of white gold called X-1 that is very white. Other refiners and manufacturers are also coming out with versions.
Bottom line, if you are considering a white gold jewelry item, be sure your jeweler is aware of the many recent advancements and products available. If your jeweler is aware of these choices they should also be able to recommend the optimal blend for the application as there may be design specific issues that could affect the choice.