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Thread: yellow gold, white gold, rose gold - what are the long term issues?

  1. #1

    yellow gold, white gold, rose gold - what are the long term issues?

    I've got a couple of wisps of information floating around my head which could do with the ballast of genuine facts.

    Firstly, I recall reading that typical white gold needs coating (with what? rhodium?) to prevent it tarnishing; however I believe I also heard that a stable white gold alloy has been produced. Who might be using that, I've no idea.

    Secondly, I think I recall reading that rose gold degrades in the very long term (does explain the development of Everose?) To what degree does this happen? Anyone got photos of fifty year old RG?

    Thirdly, are there any ageing issues with 18k yellow gold?

  2. #2
    I'd be surprised if white gold needs coating as it is usually an alloy of either platinum or palladium (as they bleach gold most effectively) both of which are remarkably non reactive in their own right. Karat is just about the percentage of gold and doesn't tell you anything about the rest of the alloy. There are a bewildering range of alloys out there and each has its own specific properties, strengths and weaknesses. I suspect that this is one that requires research, not crowd-sourcing.

  3. #3
    I thought that most white gold watches and jewelry were rhodium plated to make them shinier, and also to prevent some skin allergy issues. But I could be wrong.

  4. #4
    My vintage, 18k Patek is tarnished enough that it looks rose gold, despite being, as far as I know, yellow gold.

    It looks amazing, and I'm glad it's that way. It means it sat untouched for many years and has never been polished. There also a small, oddly-colored tarnish spot at the bottom of the case where it sat in someone's pocket.

    I'll post more detailed photos of the watch later.

    Last edited by Imitation of Life; Aug 21, 2015 at 05:46 PM.

  5. #5
    White gold is usually actually yellowish in appearance. That is the primary reason why they plate it with rhodium. I believe they used to make whiter alloys in the past, but they found it cheaper and easier to plate with rhodium instead.

    The other golds can build up a patina over time and alter their color. There was an old Rolex on Hodinkee not too long ago that was NOS or something like that and praised because it looked like it had never been touched with a polishing cloth. It had a darker hue than the typical gold. I'll try to find a picture of it.

  6. Likes Der Amf liked this post
  7. #6
    The Dude Abides Nokie's Avatar
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    Rose gold is achieved by mixing gold and copper to some extent. Rhodium is used in a number of gold plating processes and really gives white gold that reflective look.
    "Either He's Dead, Or My Watch Has Stopped....."
    Groucho Marx

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  9. #7
    Here's a chatty article about rhodium plating for white gold, not from a watch perspective

    One interesting titbit: "Nickel is much cheaper than palladium (which is a precious metal), so nickel is widely used in white gold jewelry in the U.S. But so many people are allergic to nickel that it is forbidden in jewelry in Europe, and palladium would be used there instead."

    And another: "About Rhodium price volatility: rhodium is never mined for its own self because it's too rare for that to be feasible; rather, it's a minor by-product from platinum mining & refining. So, when platinum is in high demand and a lot is being mined, a lot of rhodium is available, and its price can decline to about the same price as gold; but when platinum mining is down, rhodium is virtually unavailable and becomes fabulously costly (over $12,000 ounce at one point in 2011 when gold was well under $1,000 an ounce)"
    Last edited by Der Amf; Dec 1, 2015 at 01:26 PM.

  10. #8
    That article answered a question that I had when I read your post. Why bother using white gold at all and simply plate yellow gold? Apparently less scrupulous folks do exactly that and the unwitting buyers haven't a clue until the rhodium plating begins to wear off. At least in the U.S. that would allow them to avoid the use of cheap nickel to get the white color.

  11. #9
    I have read of WG watches being rhodium plated, and of them not being plated, and in neither instance can I remember a single brand

    Btw, are platinum watches rhodium plated? Someone I know who handmakes jewellery just told me this: "rhodium is usually used to make platinum (which is actually quite a dark grey) look blingy and bright."

    Edit: Google reckons most the time that platinum jewellery isn't plated, except for when it is

    Also found that there's a move to classify how white the various white gold alloys are. Apparently there are now truly white alloys available. Guess each manufacturer has to asked in turn....
    Last edited by Der Amf; Dec 1, 2015 at 08:36 PM.

  12. #10
    I've never heard of platinum being plated. Platinum is supposed to be a nice white color on its own. My wedding band is platinum and besides being scratched up, it still looks relatively bright white. Definitely no plating there. I've only handled a few platinum watches, but those seemed to be unplated as well.

    I may be a bit extreme in this view, but I make little distinction between plating a precious metal watch, gold plating on any watch, or chrome plating a base metal watch. In all cases, I'd prefer an unplated watch regardless of the material.

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