White gold is an alloy of gold and at least one white metal – sometimes more than one. Those additional metals could be nickel, palladium, or zinc. Sometimes a little copper is added too, to make the alloy less brittle and easier to shape. But only a little copper can be added, because if you add too much of it to gold, the resulting alloy becomes pinkish in hue. (That’s where so-called pink gold comes from.)
How Can You Tell If You’re Looking at White Gold?
Let’s say that a bright, shiny, white-colored ring catches your eye when you’re shopping at an antique mall or estate sale. Is it silver, white gold, platinum, or something else? Here are some ways to tell . . .
- White gold does not tarnish. If that ring you are looking at is covered with oxidation (a dull, matte, whitish surface), it is almost certainly made of silver - either pure silver or base metal that has been silver plated. Silver is a nice precious metal to have, but it is much less valuable than gold.
- Platinum is harder and shinier than white gold. Yes, both metals are white in hue. But platinum looks a little brighter. And if you see scrapes or abrasions on the surface of that ring, it is probably made of white gold, not platinum, which is less likely to exhibit signs of wear.
- Aluminum doesn’t look like a precious metal. It is soft, likely to show signs of wear, and can be easily bent if it has been fashioned into a ring. That explains why it is unlikely that you will find a ring that has been made of aluminum. We mention it here because aluminum is another white metal.
- Stainless steel is harder than silver, platinum or gold. It is not a precious metal either. The most common use of stainless steel in jewelry is in watch cases because stainless is durable and scratch-resistant.
- White gold can be quickly detected using a small gold testing kit. Because people who are conducting sales will not like you, you probably can’t pull out use one of those kits in an antique store and use it to perform a test on a ring or other item you have found. Why? Because you will have to rub the ring on a testing stone, which removes a tiny amount of the metal it contains. But if you can acquire an item for only a few dollars and take it home, you can perform your test there. To learn more, read “How Accurately Can You Test Precious Metals in a Home Lab,” a post we published on this blog in 2016.
Can You Accurately Test Precious Metals at Home?
A small testing kit can give you a first-pass idea of whether you are looking at gold or not. But to know just what you are looking at - its purity, karat rating and more - you need a qualified precious metals testing company. Call us at 800-426-2344, inquire about testing, and be sure to ask about free or discounted shipping costs that we offer on the items that you send to us for evaluation.