Aug 4

Gold Jewelry Alloys, What’s in Yellow and White Gold?

By Calla Gold

Gold and alloys make different color gold jewelry

The many colors of alloyed gold jewelry

Have You Ever Wanted to Know What Makes Yellow Gold White? Or Rose?

In the thirty one years I’ve been an educating jeweler, I’ve been asked, “what is in the alloy mix, (metals mixed in to gold for strength and ease of jewelry making,) for white gold and yellow gold?” The light bulb just went off in my head that I need to blog about this.

To digress for a moment, I recently wrote about nickel allergies and white gold. And safe white metals for jewelry lovers. The nickel allergies post was written for those who want more information about when jewelers use nickel in gold jewelry. It really relates to this current post on gold alloys quite a bit.

White Gold With Nickel,  The Most Common Mix

14k White GoldThe most common and least expensive white gold is comprised of a percentage of gold mixed with white metals like silver, zinc and nickel. 

This combination gives white gold its durability and strength. Nickel white gold does need to be rhodium plated as part of its upkeep. See the blog about rhodium plating.

White gold (and yellow gold) is measured in  karats. There are 24 karats in 100% pure gold. This is too soft for jewelry making. There is about 58% pure gold by weight in 14kt gold. The balance of metal is the alloy mix chosen to be combined with the pure gold.

What Alloy Metals are in Standard White Gold and Nickel Jewelry?

14k Standard White Gold with Nickel
58.5% fine gold
12% copper
8% nickel
6% zinc
4.5% silver

18K Standard White Gold with Nickel
75% fine gold
10 % copper
8% nickel
4.5% zinc
2.5% silver.

Information from Innovateus.

The above recipes for gold and alloy metals are just one example. There are other percentages used for these basic alloy metals. Many companies offer their own recipes or mixes of alloys and each has reasons they feels theirs are superior.

White Gold with Palladium Alloy, the Alternative Mix

Palladium is a hypo allergenic, (rare cases of palladium allergies do exist), sturdy, long wearing and naturally white metal. It is in the platinum metals group.  It offers an excellent white metal choice for jewelry. I like to use it as an alloy choice with white gold.

Palladium is lighter weight than gold and platinum and has a similar malleability as a metal, to platinum. This means it is not as “hard” as nickel white gold. For some designs the nickel white gold holds its shine longer and its firm feel is preferred.

I frequently choose  white gold with palladium alloy with no nickel for the design for my client’s white gold jewelry. It is less likely to show that strong yellow cast than the white gold with nickel alloy.

What Alloys are in White Gold and Palladium Alloy Jewelry?

14kt White Gold – Palladium Alloy
58.33% pure yellow gold (AU)
32.17% silver (Ag)
9.50% palladium (Pd)

18kt White Gold – Palladium Alloy
75% pure yellow gold (AU)
25% palladium or platinum

Information from Innovateus.com

14k-Yellow-GoldYellow Gold for Jewelry Making

Yellow Gold used in jewelry making is a gold alloy that consists of combining gold, copper and silver. Yellow gold purity is also measured in karats.

Yellow gold is the only type of gold that can be used in jewelry making as 24-karats. Since white gold and rose gold require other metals in order to achieve their unique colors, there cannot be 24kt white gold or 24kt rose gold.

A piece of yellow gold jewelry that is made in 24kt is 100% pure gold. This would not be practical, because of the softness of gold. But it can be done.

What Alloys are used in Yellow Gold Jewelry?

14K Yellow Gold
58.5% fine gold
29% copper
12.5% fine silver

18K Yellow Gold
75% fine gold
15% copper
10% fine silver

Rose Gold for Jewelry Making

14k-Rose-GoldRose gold is a very popular alloy comprised of traditional yellow gold and copper, which lends a beautiful pinkish colortone to the metal.

Rose gold is also be known as “red gold” or “pink gold.”

Because rose gold is a man-made alloy, “pure” rose gold does not exist.

Rose gold with its higher copper content is a more difficult metal mix to work than yellow or white gold. With its rising popularity I want people to know that when rose gold jewelry needs repair be sure to go to a jeweler experienced in working on rose gold. Also know that your rose gold ring will probably need repair more often than yellow or white gold.

Some of this information is from Wikipedia.

What Alloys Are Used in Rose Gold Jewelry?

14kt Rose gold
58% gold
32% copper
10% silver

18kt Rose gold
75% gold
22.25% copper
2.75% silver

Hopefully I’ve answered any questions you have about the alloy metals used in making your jewelry.

Educating Jeweler,
Calla Gold

 

40 thoughts on “Gold Jewelry Alloys, What’s in Yellow and White Gold?

  1. Another great post Calla. This is a really good coverage of gold alloys. I love the fact you’ve included specific breakdowns of the various alloys. Thanks for sharing the information. All really useful.

    • Hi Mark,
      Thank you for your thoughts and telling me what you liked about this. I get asked about this just enough that I thought, yeah, better write that up!
      Your Jeweler Friend,
      Calla Gold

  2. I really never knew I cared what alloy metals were mixed in to create white, rose and yellow gold. But this was really interesting. It was a great explanation and it was easy to understand. Thank you Calla!

    • Linda,
      I was a jeweler for many years before I looked under the hood and found out about the alloy metals used in gold. I got curious because I noticed that rose gold seemed to wear faster, yellow was in the middle and white gold seemed to be the firmest and wear the slowest. My curiosity led me to investigate. Once I learned about the alloys, my clients magically started asking about it.
      Years later here is my post about it.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

  3. Hi Calla,
    I’ve begun the search for a gold alloy that will play well with an orange-gold sapphire I recently acquired. I’ve read that adding quantities of zinc to a gold/copper alloy can make a reddish or dark yellow gold. Do you have any experience with this? Looking for a good jeweler to help me in the SB area!

    • Hi Lindsey,
      I work with a very green gold refiner. The refiner mixes the alloys for the golds and platinum that I use in casting. This is a short photo album from my visit to the refiner for a refining demonstration for the Gemological Institute of America:
      https://www.facebook.com/callagoldjewelry/posts/10156015083110414
      My refiner’s website is:
      http://www.preciousmetalswest.com/
      My caster uses various recipes in his various castings. He has 14kt day, 18kt day, white gold day, yellow gold day and rose gold day. If the color of gold you wish to use is one of these I can help you.
      If you want a custom gold color I can have my refiner create it at extra cost and have my caster do a single casting. Here is a blog that discusses extra costs in single casting:
      http://www.callagold.com/custom-jewelry-design/why-not-re-use-your-old-gold/
      Read the section called: “Why Single Casting Uses More Gold.”
      My guess is that 18kt yellow gold would be an excellent choice to set off your gemstone. The nice thing about 18kt is that it darkens and enriches over time. The patina that can develop over time may give you the color that initially may seem too bright.
      I hope this helps. And since I’m an SB jeweler I hope I can help you in your quest.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

  4. By accident, while researching how the different colors of gold are created, I happened upon your very informative writing. This totally made sense after the fact but never in the slightest, did I think my 14k gold jewelry was made up of the alloys mentioned in your writing. Not sure how I could have gotten all of what I thought I knew so wrong, esp. since I’d taken the time to understand the percentages of fine gold that determined 10k, 14k, and 18k. I wonder what I thought was mixed with the 58% of fine gold that becomes 14k etc. Dirt? LOL Recently, I bid on and won a 14k white gold ring. I was kind of feeling guilty that I’d won the bid for such a small amount. I probably actually won a rodium, nickel, copper ring that’ll turn my skin a beautiful pukey green worth about $3.21. Regardless, I will now know what I’m really getting and for that I am very grateful for the knowledge you shared.

    • Hello Cheryl,
      I’m hopeful that your 14kt white gold ring will look as lovely as all other white gold rings. The alloy mixes harden the gold to allow for jewelry making. I do not think you’ll have any funny colored skin changes going on there.
      I am always fascinated with the behind the scenes knowledge of how things are made.
      I’m glad you enjoyed finding out too.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

  5. So interesting!

    I am a fertility nutrition coach, and found your post as one of my clients started getting discoloration under her yellow-gold ring with some diet changes she introduced. That told me her body’s trying to pull in trace minerals in general or copper specifically (what I learned from your post!).

    Helpful in a way I’m certain you didn’t expect. 😉
    Lucy

    • Hi Lucy,
      Thank you for your most interesting comment. That is a fascinating additional to the conversation.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

  6. Hi Calla,

    I just bought an 18k white gold ring, and the manufacturer specifies gold, silver, and palladium as the alloy used. Have you ever worked with an alloy like that, and what are the typical porportions?

    Thanks,

    Frank

    • Hi Frank,
      As a jewelry designer I often specify to my caster that I want palladium white gold. I write about it in this post:
      http://www.callagold.com/education/nickel-allergy-white-metal-choices/
      I used the proportions of a respected refiner in this blog, but I am personally not a metallurgist. I am a designer. That said the ingredients you mention do not sound off. I do not memorize proportions. I would not be able to tell you how much silver they’d have used in addition to gold and palladium. The alloy metals you mention remind me of the metals we use in 14kt white gold with palladium.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

  7. I have about 20 pounds of yellow jewelry alloy in the form of casting sprues. Do I need to send this to a refinery in order to cash out the silver? Or does anyone in the business buy this?

    • Hi Bill,
      I think going to a refiner is your easiest option. People in the business who buy it are likely to just take it to their refiner so you’ll probably get the best price going to the source.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

  8. Hi a jeweler is making me a men’s gold bracelet weighing about 135 grams, he is charging me 35.00 a gram,y question is how much actual gold is in it? He also told me it will be 10 k gold, how much gold is actually going into this bracelet that I’m paying 35.00 a gram for?

    • Hello Jorge,
      I’m a jeweler, not a mathematician. The price sounds great if it was 14kt. I’m not so sure because I do not sell 10kt. Sorry, but I draw the line at doing the math.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

  9. Thanks for those really interesting info about gold. I have what may sound as a stupid question here. My friend has an old statuette, 14 karat. He says it is made with silicium and nacre( French name, I am French). Is that possible? Thank you.

    • Hello Gail,
      There are gold items made with enamel decoration, coated with silicone and otherwise added to. I’m sorry to say that the only nacre I am familiar with is the nacre coating pearls that is deposited by the oyster creating a pearl. This would not be an alloy used in or on gold. However nacre in French may be a completely different material.
      As far as silicium goes, I have this from wikipedia:
      Silicon is a chemical element with symbol Si and atomic number 14. It is a tetravalent metalloid, more reactive than germanium, the metalloid directly below it in the table. Controversy about silicon’s character dates to its discovery.
      I have never heard of it being used as an alloy in gold.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

  10. Thank you Calla, this means a lot to me and nacre is the same word in English. Your reply is appreciated.

  11. Hi Calla, I bumped into your blog quite by accident while trying to research why a customers 14 karat yellow gold ring was turning copper colored after sitting in the safe for a long period of time. Last year she sent it back, we cleaned it and then let it sit around for about two weeks with no discoloration. Yesterday she contacted me to say the ring, which had not been worn,was turning copper colored again when she took it out of the safe. i’m stumped but can see you have a lot of knowledge. Could the problem be there is that the 14 karat yellow gold was alloyed with too much copper? I would say it might be a chemical reaction to what lotion she was using or something like that but she literally has not worn the ring. Any ideas?

    • Hi Mary,
      You have posed a very good mystery. The fact that it is turning copper colored makes me wonder if it is not legitimately 14kt gold? Gold does tarnish, but usually it is not a noticeable thing. The copper color is for me, the weirdest part of the mystery.
      I’ve seen jewelry that spends years in a safe turn colors, but usually it is blackish or brownish and not uniformly. This is often from the dampness of fire safes. They have a layer of moisture so that if they are in a fire the heat vaporizes the moisture not allowing the inner layer papers to burn. But that very moisture can leach into the safe and can create noxious smelling air that may be the reason for the tarnish look. However I think it takes a while for that effect to occur.
      That is more information to chew on, but not necessarily an answer to your jewelry mystery.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

  12. Dear Calla,

    I too have had rings that are stamped 14K or 18K gold that have developed dark spots, especially in areas where the metal in the rings came together – like a joint. I was told by other jeweler that this occurred because the ring or the metal had not “pickled” the appropriate time. Both of these rings were custom handmade by one jeweler.

    Have you ever heard of this problem, or how the dark spots can be removed? They do tend to transfer to my fingers when I wear the rings.

    Thank you for your assistance!

    • Hello AnneMarie,
      When we put various elements of a ring together we use solder. The solders are generally the same karat as the gold of the parts. I created a new shank for an older ring and the soldered area turned black over time. It did not leave residue on my client’s hand but was an aesthetic problem as the old and new golds were not digging each other. We had to use a different solder and redo the connection points. Then it was fine.
      I’ve seen other areas turn dark on other rings. I polished the darkened areas and from that point on they didn’t turn dark.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

  13. hi am from india.
    i want to know how to make 8k gold with out change of yellow colour and what are the alloy to add it and its ratio i need plz…

    thank you

    • Hello Deepan,
      I am not familiar with 8kt gold or it’s alloys. The less gold there is in jewelry the higher the chance it’ll turn colors. Some 10kt gold can darken unattractively.
      Tiffany and Co has come out with a pink gold they call Rubedo that is actually 5kt gold. In the industry we fear it’ll tarnish and cause problems with people’s perception of the fineness of gold.
      Here is an article about it:
      http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/05/fashion/tiffanys-rubedo-line-stirs-debate-over-meaning-of-metal.html
      Then there are others who feel it is expensive costume jewelry.
      So I have no ratio for you, but I’d advise against it.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

  14. Hi Calla, Thank you sharing your knowledge! I found a ring I love, but it’s only offered in 18k rose gold, or platinum. A big concern for me is durability(I know platinum is strong), but I love the rose gold. Would the rose gold dent and wear down easily? I’ve heard of rings wearing thin on the bottom of the band, and I want to wear my ring ever day. I was wondering, would the 18k rose gold be “safe” with every day wear(it’s four prong and don’t wan to lose the diamond), or would you recommend buying the platinum(which looks beautiful too!)?? Thanks in advance! I’m so torn between the two choices!

    • Hello Gene,
      Blue gold and purple gold have been used where the jeweler inlays it inside more durable gold colors. These colors and the alloy metals needed to create them do not create a strong enough mix to become a ring. So they are used, when they are used as a decorative element.
      Whether they are currently being used and who is marketing them I do not know.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

  15. I bought a gold wedding ring in New York 3mm 14KP (P I’m told means plumb), I get a reaction to my skin when wearing it thought perhaps too tight. Had it made a size bigger and easily slips on and off my finger, but unfortunately the reaction still continues, and takes three or four days to clear. I wonder if it’s the alloy they use in the USA that caused this, I’ve worn a 9K gold signet ring for years without any reaction. Any ideas?

    • Hello David,
      When you say gold I’ll assume yellow gold. Each manufacturer of yellow gold bands uses their own proprietary mix of alloy metals to get the color and finish they seek. I’m not sure which alloy would be the one irritating your finger. It is usually white gold with its nickel content that causes trouble.
      Your 9kt ring has more alloy metals in it, but clearly not the one your wedding band contains.
      The USA does not have specific alloy metals it uses different from other countries.
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

  16. Good morning.
    I was curious about jewelery alloys and ratios and would appreciate useful information.

    I have been told that when using palladium in making white gold, palladium is expensive and should be made with high heat, so be careful in terms of strength.

    For this reason, I have been told that besides Palladium, I use an alloy for jewelery with a low nickel content that is safe for allergic reactions.

    Except for allergen induction, the white gold alloy containing nickel is strong, durable and long-lasting when made from jewelery?

    • Dear Casia,
      Casting white gold with palladium as an alloy is done to avoid nickel. It has platinum-like qualities, being part of the platinum metals group, like being more malleable. This means that your palladium white gold ring will not be as strong as your nickel white gold. But if the ring is designed just a tad heavier in metal it should be fine.
      There are other low nickel alloy mixes available for the nickel sensitive.
      Nickel alloy white gold is easy to use and makes a strong ring, but its inexpensiveness as an alloy is one of its appeals. Nickel does have a bad habit. Over time it yellows a bit, which is one of the reasons we rhodium plate nickel white gold as part of its maintenance routine. See my blog on rhodium:
      http://www.callagold.com/jewelry-repair/rhodium-plating-like-coloring-your-hair-only-for-jewelry/
      Your Personal Jeweler,
      Calla

      • Thank you for your answer to my question.

        One of the answers is that I would like to know more about.
        I am more interested in non-rhodium-plated white gold.
        So the white gold with nickel alloys is not rhodium-plated, and after a long period of time is it going to turn yellow?

        please answer about my question.

      • I’ll get back to you.
        My question is this: I have seen your answer that when you use Nickel Alloy it turns yellow after a long time. I am confused in this part.

        This is a question about low alloyed nickel alloy without rhodium plating:

        Does the white gold jewelery made with nickel alloy mean that the chemical change of nickel causes the color change to yellow gradually over time?

        Does nickel cause discoloration of white gold?

        Your jewelery knowledge is necessary for me.

  17. Hello !! Ecellent information !! Can you give the format for 10 kt gold aswell please

  18. Hi, We doing mostly palladium casting in 18kwhite gold. The palladoum alloy contains 58.6 % palladium. And we are doing hand made jewelry after casting. we are facing metal crack and porosity issue at final stage. Please suggest how can we minimize the porosity and micro cracks in 18kwpd jewelery.

    • Dear Mangesh,
      My specialty is as a designer and jewelry educator. I am not a metallurgist and it sounds like the difficulties you are experiencing are beyond my expertise. One area that discusses and drills down to metal and casting issues is the Ganoskin Archives:
      https://www.ganoksin.com/article/palladium-qas/
      If you search more fully in the archive you may find exactly what you seek or you could start a discussion which other jewelry makers would chime in one.
      Good luck,
      Calla

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