Does White Gold Tarnish? Learn Why White Gold Changes Color

White gold is a stunning metal with a luxurious, silvery appearance and an elegant, understated luster, making it a timeless choice for engagement rings, necklaces, and earrings. It’s effortlessly beautiful, affordable, and sturdy. But does it tarnish?

Jane Pardo | Updated May 27, 2024

Continue reading to discover if white gold tarnishes and the components of white gold. We will also help you learn what to do when your white gold jewelry turns yellowish and how to preserve its lovely shine.

Does White Gold Tarnish?

No, white gold never tarnishes. White gold alloys consist of tarnish-resistant metals with low chemical reactivity. Additionally, rhodium plating provides extra protection against tarnish and scratches. It also makes white gold jewelry stronger and more lustrous than other metals.

If you’ve been wearing your favorite white gold ring for a long time and noticed yellowish patches, that doesn’t mean it’s tarnishing. Your white gold accessory is changing color simply because the outer rhodium plating is wearing away. 

Rhodium is a bright, silver-white metal with excellent reflective properties and corrosion resistance. Jewelry makers apply it as an outer finish to make white gold accessories shinier and more durable. It acts as a barrier against environmental elements.

Rhodium plating wears away over time, especially when you use your white gold jewelry frequently. 

When the protective rhodium plating wears down:

  • Your white gold jewelry shows its natural warm white color: Craftsmen originally developed white gold to mimic the naturally white color of platinum. However, white gold isn’t fully white. It shows off a beautiful light grey or silver-white color that gives it an understated elegance. It has an inherently warm tone, unlike platinum. 
  • White gold’s natural color may look similar to tarnishing: White gold may look yellowish compared to rhodium’s bright, cool color. But fret not! Genuine white gold doesn’t tarnish. All you need to do when you see signs of discoloration is have your jewelry replated with rhodium to bring back its original, stunning luster. Or you can proudly showcase the natural warm color of well-worn white gold, which beautifully contrasts against white stones like diamonds.

Replating is typically necessary between 12 and 18 months, depending on the type of jewelry, frequency of use, and proper care. For example, white gold earrings tend to wear down more slowly than rings, which are more exposed to rubbing, sweat, and contact with hard surfaces.

Regular replating can be costly over the years, so it’s best to have only your most precious white gold, especially those with sentimental value, replated once in awhile.

You can also have your white gold jewelry remade in platinum or palladium, particularly if you don’t like having it repolished and replated to preserve its color. Professional jewelers can replicate the design and reuse the stones to recreate your original jewelry.

Key Takeaway: White gold is a non-tarnishing alloy that eventually changes color when its outer rhodium plating starts to wear away. Go to your trusted jeweler to have your white gold accessory replated when it starts to fade.

Components of White Gold Jewelry

In its purest form, natural gold boasts a bright yellow-orange hue. However, pure gold is easy to dent and damage, so manufacturers and jewelry makers mix it with other metals for added strength and durability to withstand daily use. They also combine it with other metals to achieve desirable colors like white gold and rose gold.

Jewelry makers blend yellow gold with the following white metals to create the classic silvery sheen of white gold:

  • Nickel 
  • Palladium (an excellent alternative to nickel, as some people have nickel allergy)
  • Silver
  • Zinc

A thin layer of rhodium plating serves as a hard, protective finish that makes white gold jewelry ideal for daily wear, as it resists scratches, dents, and tarnishing.

Key Takeaway: White gold is a mixture of yellow gold and white metals, and it usually has a rhodium finish for protection against damage.

How to Maintain the Gorgeous Luster of Your White Gold Jewelry

If you want to preserve the stunning beauty of your white gold accessories, properly caring for them is a must.

Learn how to clean white gold to maintain its dazzling shine. Follow these tips to protect your white gold’s rhodium finish and keep your jewelry shiny and attractive:

  • Clean your white gold jewelry frequently. Mix mild detergent with warm water, and use a small, soft toothbrush to remove grime and dirt. Wash thoroughly under running water and dry carefully with a soft cloth.
  • Store your accessories properly. Use soft, individual pouches or a jewelry box with a soft lining to keep your accessories scratch-free. Put them in a cool, dry area without sun exposure.
  • Avoid wearing white gold when swimming, applying skin care, or doing household chores. Constant exposure to chemicals in chlorine pools, cleaning products, and skincare products like creams and lotions will damage your white gold’s rhodium plating.
  • Examine your white gold periodically, especially if there are gemstones. Ensure there are no loose stones or scratches. You can bring expensive white gold jewelry to professional jewelers for regular check-ups.

Final Thoughts: Take Care of Your White Gold Jewelry to Ensure It Shines Like New

While white gold is generally sturdy and low-maintenance, it still helps to care for it in the right way to slow down the process of wear. 

Follow our tips above to maintain the beauty of your white gold accessories, whether you have an engagement ring for daily use or an elaborate necklace for special occasions.

Next, discover the varying levels of gold durability to help you decide which gold karat is the best choice for everyday wear and tear.

Written by Jane Pardo

Jane Pardo

Jane Pardo is our senior gold & silver expert. Jane lends insight into precious metals investing, collecting, testing, and maintenance.