By now, most people probably realize that white gold is plated.
They understand that white gold is basically yellow gold with some white alloys added to it to make it look white.
They also know that white gold is then rhodium plated to make it look even whiter. If you don’t know this, read: What is white gold?
Now, if you know all that and are up to par, then the next most asked question is:
Can white gold be polished?
Will polishing white gold remove the rhodium plating?
The short answer: YES!
The long answer: YES! – With some special side effects.
Of course white gold can be polished.
Any metal (platinum, stainless steel, copper, brass, sterling silver) can be polished and shined up to remove scratches, nicks, dents and dings. It only takes a couple of minutes to polish them up again and they all look brand new.
Gold is one of the easiest metals to polish…
Because gold is a fairly soft metal (2.5 – 3 on the Moh’s scale), and even though gold is mixed with other metals (read: Gold and alloys) to make it more durable, it still is very susceptible to scratching (anything that is harder than gold can scratch it if it comes in contact with it).
Here’s where the problem comes into play…
If you polish out those little nicks and scratches, you’re actually polishing off a fine layer of that rhodium plating as well. There’s no way around it. Polishing removes layers of both plating and gold.
If the plating is already worn down (through years of normal wear and tear), or if the jeweler accidentally pushes down too hard while polishing your jewelry, or if they have to polish the item really well to remove deeper nicks and abrasions… Then the outer layer will be polished off.
Polishing off that outer layer can expose the true metal beneath it. Which, in this case, would be the true white gold (so if you get your ring back and it looks yellow you now know why).
The sad thing about all of this is:
White gold is not really white in color.
(Which is why it’s plated.) It has a whitish-yellowish hue. It’s a dingy, yellow cast that most people find undesirable and looks like it’s been tarnished (see picture to compare white gold to rhodium plated white gold – Big difference).
So what is the cure if you can’t polish white gold without removing part of the rhodium plating???
Either just have it polished very, very lightly to remove only the soft surface scratches (touching it up), or do what I recommend most people to do…
Let it wear off naturally.
Or just wait until your ring gets a good amount of scratches on it before getting it polished (no more than twice a year – Otherwise you will actually do harm to your prongs, channel walls and mounting). Have it polished good a couple of times a year and at the same time have it re-rhodium plated to give it that clean, bright-white look again.
I also advise purchasing a gold polishing cloth so you can quickly hand polish your jewelry in between professional cleanings and polishings (just don’t polish it too hard).
So yes, white gold can be polished. But you may get a yellowish looking ring back unless you also ask them to rhodium plate it again. And rhodium plating is not cheap (usually $25-$50 and up).
So, if you like your white metals to look white, then I don’t see much of an alternative…
Unless you buy platinum, steel, titanium, or tungsten.
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