In its purest form, gold has a distinctive yellow color but it is too soft to be used in jewelry. That's why it is almost always combined with other metals to create alloys. Gold can take on a different hue depending on the metals added. The most popular colors of gold in jewelry are yellow, white, and rose, but gold alloys can also appear in other colors such as bronze, red, or lime.
Let's look at the key differences between yellow, white, and rose gold?
The most obvious difference is the color.
Yellow, white and rose gold have the same percentage of pure gold, therefore, they have the same monetary value.
Most of the time the choice of color is dependent on trends and personal taste.
However, in some cases, it is wise to match the color of the gold to the color of the center stone. For example, using white gold when the diamond has yellowish color can accentuate the diamond's imperfection, whereas using yellow gold will hide it.
The purity of the gold you buy (not its color) affects its value.
Differences in value generally correspond with the percentage of pure gold in the jewelry. This is commonly measured in "karat" (not to be confused with "carats" which is a measure of a diamond's weight).
24 karat gold is 100% pure. 18 karat gold is 75% pure, while 14 karat gold is 58.3% pure. These ratios are ideal for jewelry, and most commonly used.
The ultimate color of the gold is determined by the metals combined with the gold to form an alloy, and the ratio of those metals. Common metals mixed with gold include copper, silver, nickel, palladium, and zinc. A metal "plating" may also be applied to enhance the color.
Jewelry can also be made combining two or three different gold colors. These jewelry items are sometimes called two-tone, three-tone or multi-colored gold. Press to see a beautiful two-tone engagement ring.
Can't pick just one color?
The metals most commonly added to create yellow gold are silver, copper, and zinc. This unique mixture gives yellow gold it’s distinct color.
Yellow gold most closely resembles pure gold, but it is also typically softer than other alloys and has a tendency to scratch more easily. It can be polished periodically, but with each polish a small amount of metal is lost.
White gold is typically a result of some combination of gold with nickel, palladium, and silver. Its properties can vary dramatically depending on the metals and proportions used in the mix. This is done deliberately for different purposes. For example, mixing gold with nickel makes it harder, which is perfect for rings and brooch pins. If you mix gold with a soft metal such as palladium it becomes good for soft gemstone settings where a pliable gold alloy is required.
The finished product, however, still tends to have a slight yellowish tint. That's why most white gold jewelry is plated with rhodium. Many people incorrectly mistake the color of rhodium with the color of white gold.
Rhodium is actually the metal that gives white gold its color. Not only that, it also makes white gold more durable by covering the softer yellow gold alloy with an extra protective layer.
While white gold looks great when it's new, its rhodium plating wears off over time. Then the lower yellowish layer of white gold becomes visible. You can have your jewelry re-plated with rhodium, but this can cost $25-$35 or more, and is an added cost that should be considered.
Rose gold is a mix of pure gold and copper. It is sometimes referred to as "pink" or "red" gold as well.
Rose gold was initially popular in Russia in the 19th century, and used to be called "Russian" gold. However, it is experiencing a resurgence in 21st century.
Although the names are often used interchangeably, the difference between red, rose, and pink gold is the copper content: the higher the copper content, the stronger the red coloration.