Does White Gold Tarnish? (ANSWERED)

Last Updated on March 24, 2022

The appealing and captivating appearance of white gold has an undeniable beauty.  It’s a perfect metal for setting precious stones and gems that gives a stunning and gorgeous adornment for any ring, necklace, earring and brooch. 

If you’re wondering, “does white gold tarnish?”  Yes, at some point, white gold does lose its color, luster and shine.  This will be truer for prolonged and frequent use than when worn or used occasionally. 

Does White Gold Tarnish?

Like many other fine metals, it’s natural for white gold to fade and tarnish, turning it to a yellowish color.  This is because most white gold has a covering of a very thin layer of rhodium, a pure white metal.  This is what gives white gold its brilliance.

White Gold is an Alloy

White gold is not a natural substance from the earth.  It’s an alloy of yellow gold with other metals like nickel, manganese, zinc, palladium or platinum.  The whiteness or yellowness of the metal will depend on how much of the other metal(s) comprise the alloy.  Actual tarnishing happens with alloys made of nickel, manganese or zinc.

Rhodium And White Gold

Rhodium is a very hard, silver white metal hailing from the platinum family of metals.  It doesn’t oxidize and retains its brilliance.  Rhodium plating is a common practice on gold and silver jewelry to enhance beauty and the metal’s reflection.  It also makes jewels, like diamonds and rubies, pop out of the piece.

Many jewelers apply a miniscule layer of rhodium via an electroplating procedure for 14K or 18K white gold.  This gives the look of true platinum without the platinum price tag.  Unfortunately, the rhodium plating doesn’t last forever and it will wear off over time and use. 

Tarnishing

You’ll first notice discoloration where the jewelry meets the skin or where it comes into contact with other objects.  For instance, in rings, this will happen under the finger or on the underside of the ring, where you grab the wheel when driving.  There will be a patch appearing less white, off-white or yellow.

This means the rhodium plating wore off and now reveals the gold underneath.  Pure gold is yellow, no matter what other metals comprise the alloy.  White gold will almost always retain its original yellow color.

White Gold Restoration

If you’re looking to restore white gold, you can take it to a local, reputable jeweler or send it to the original manufacturer.  There, they will clean, polish and re-plate the white gold for a small fee.

To clean white gold, they often use an ultrasonic cleaning followed by a re-polishing and then finish with a re-plating of rhodium.  The polishing phase removes any nicks and scratches on the surface of the metal.  The end result should have the white gold piece looking like new.

Restoration Frequency

The frequency with which you will have to restore the rhodium plating will depend on how often you wear the metal, including any activities that incorporate the use of your hands.  In most cases, though, you should only have to re-plate about every ten years or so. 

Other Considerations

If you’re looking for a white metal that won’t tarnish or require any re-plating maintenance in the future, look into purchasing palladium or platinum.  These are both white metals that don’t tarnish or change color.

You can slow down the tarnishing process by not wearing or using it very often.  But time will eventually require a re-plating of rhodium, it’s simply unavoidable.  Re-plating will also become more necessary if the alloy contains less of a precious metal like nickel or manganese, where some people may experience allergies when it becomes exposed to the skin.

White Gold Does Tarnish

Even though white gold does tarnish, there are few things you can do to prevent it.  But, you should understand it’s going to tarnish and fade at some point, regardless of frequency, which means maintenance will be necessary. 

Also remember that the longer you put off the re-plating of your white gold, the more expensive it might become.  Taking care of your fine jewelry and other white gold accessories as soon as you notice tarnishing will make them last for decades.