by LIZ DOUPNIK
So, there’s some good news and some bad news. The good news: White gold jewelry is making a major comeback. Bright and silvery gold, the material resolves any indecision about what jewelry to accessorize an outfit with. It pretty much goes with everything. And... the bad news: You now have yet another type of jewelry to consider purchasing (yes, that’s my bank account you hear weeping in the background). But it’ll be well worth the investment. And better yet, it’s not going to go stale anytime soon.
“You'll never regret buying white gold — it's so classic,” says Laura Freedman, founder of Broken English, a fine jewelry store with locations in L.A. and New York. “It's a good base, and it always looks good with everything.”
The material is not exactly the love child of yellow gold and silver, but it’s pretty darn close. According to U.S. Geological Survey, it was originally developed to imitate platinum, a naturally white metal. “White gold is usually an alloy containing about 75% gold and about 25% nickel and zinc,” reads the report. “If stamped 18 karat, it would be 75% pure gold.”
It also has different plating than its yellow gold cousin. “Eighteen karat white gold is finished with a rhodium plating,” explains Nigora Tokhtabayeva, founder and CEO of jewelry line, Tabayer. She notes that 18 karat white gold is a strong alloy mix (a blend of different metals), even stronger than 18 karat yellow gold. “So it is a great metal to work with for all designs.” That rhodium, echoed Freedman, also contributes to the metal’s brightness, making it a versatile and durable choice when stacking with other metals, or wearing on its own.
If you like the sound of that, but just nervously glanced at your jewelry case bursting with glossy gilded pieces, you might have a few follow-up questions: Where’s the best place to begin your search for white gold jewelry? How can you be sure you’re making a smart investment? And how should you wear it? Find your answers and more from industry experts, below.
Decide What You Want — And Why
Before you step foot inside a jewelry store or contact that jeweler you’ve been following on Instagram, reflect on the why behind your upcoming purchase and how exactly this piece will fit in with what you already own.
“I always say your first piece of fine jewelry should be personal,” advises Matthew Harris, founder and creative director of fine jewelry line, MATEO. “I love a name initial, tennis bracelet or signet ring. In Jamaica where I grew up, my first piece was a diamond cross, and my sister got a tennis bracelet. Then years later I got a tennis bracelet, and she got a diamond cross.”
Freedman agreed: “It’s so personal. Look for something that you really love and cherish — that commemorates moments and milestones, no matter how expensive [or inexpensive] it is.”
Be A Material Girl
Like Madonna said, we are living in a material world. And accordingly, be sure to do your research on the materials in the piece you’re eyeing. Since white gold can have a range of platings and various potential alloys to achieve different patinas, it’s crucial to make sure you’re buying what you think you are.
“18 karat white gold-alloy mix varies in quality, so for the best quality you should purchase a white gold with palladium [which is rarer and tarnish resistant] in the alloy mix,” suggests Tokhtabayeva. This addition comes with a price tag, naturally, and might exceed certain budgets. But just because an item may be out of range, it doesn’t mean you have to walk with a flimsy piece of tin (unless that’s your vibe, in which case: slay).
Regardless, there are other small telltale signs that can nod to quality. “Look to the thickness [of the metal],” says Samantha Knight, jewelry designer of her eponymous line. “If it’s solid rather than hollow it’ll wear better and longer.” And if you’re sensitive to nickel? Always check on the item’s exact alloy mix, as the element is frequently included.
Indeed, asking about the source of the white gold — specifically the origin of the yellow gold in the alloy — can have massive environmental impacts. Harris says before adding a new piece to his personal collection, he’ll always ask if it’s made from recycled gold. “I think we should be recycling gold from a sustainability standpoint; there’s no reason we need to be digging into the earth.”
This thoughtful approach really makes a difference: Worldwide, gold mining is one of the most damaging industries, according to Earth Works, a national organization focused on preventing the terrible environmental impacts of the extraction of oil, gas, and minerals. Gold mining, specifically, has been proven to pollute water sources and land with harmful toxins like mercury and cyanide, among other detrimental byproducts.
Dive Into The Details
Next, turn your attention to the craftsmanship. “Solder points are a big thing,” Freedman continues, pointing out seamless, undetectable edges as a sign of high quality. “You want to make sure that the prongs on your setting are also smooth to the touch of your finger.” Meanwhile, Knight, who frequently works with antique jewelry in her designs, stresses that you should always change to make sure settings are secure enough to keep stones from falling loose.
And if you’re looking specifically at a piece with gemstones — particularly diamonds or emeralds, for example — you’ll want to examine their clarity. Don’t be afraid to lean on your jeweler to show you any blemishes or clouding, especially if the style in question is vintage. When looking at a vintage piece of jewelry, Knight says she immediately analyzes the quality of the stone and how it’s set as some antique settings can be refurbished, while others cannot. For example: Antique jewelry often includes a silver backing meant to accentuate diamond accents, which can be difficult to treat given that silver and gold have different melting temperatures.
Maintain Your Investment
Just bought your dream piece of jewelry? Congrats! In addition to wearing it with just about every outfit you can dream up, it’s important to care for it to ensure it lasts as long as possible. Fortunately, maintenance of white gold jewelry isn’t super intense. “To make your white gold jewelry shine, you only need hot water, a toothbrush, and dish soap,” says Joy Toledano, founder of French jewelry line, MysteryJoy, which regularly offers pieces in white gold. You can gently wash away any grime or build up with a soft toothbrush.
Alternatively, Freedman recommends giving your white gold a bath in soapy water to remove any natural oils and grime that occurs, especially in rings. Regardless of how often you clean white gold jewelry, says Freedman, it will eventually oxidize over time — that’s just a natural reaction between the alloys and the oil in your skin.
Mix & Match
While it’s not a bad idea to take Harris’s advice and pick up any early pieces that feel personal, adding white gold jewelry that can be stacked and piled with your existing collection will help keep all your favorite pieces, no matter the metal, in circulation.
“I personally like to mix metals,” says Knight. “I think [mixing metals] is going to be a transition now that you're going to see from people wearing all yellow gold.” The styles that’ll give you the most versatility? Freedman and Toledano both recommend chunky pieces, which play well with both other statement designs and daintier baubles.
“I've been buying big chunky white gold hoops,” says Freedman. “We have some that we make at Broken English. Engelbert also made these beautiful hoops — I got two pairs of them in white gold for different holes and different sizes, and they're amazing. Sidney Garber does a beautiful white gold choker that I love. It feels so fresh right now.”
When unsure on how to wear white gold gold, the expert consensus is to pile it on. “I love stacking necklaces,” shares Toledano. “For example, I like to wear a short Yin-Yang Pendant Necklace with a Wishbone Pendant Necklace. “All the symbols featured on the MysteryJoy jewelry collections can be mixed and matched, and so can white and yellow gold; there are no rules.”
And if a mix of metals feels fresh these days, so are differing price points. Whether you’re hoping to add a trend-forward piece to your necklace pile or inject a sense of luxury with a one-time investment, either type of purchase will serve a distinct purpose in your wardrobe.
Publication: The Zoe Report
Written by: Liz Doupnik