White Gold vs Yellow Gold: Key Differences Beyond Color

Wedding Ring Sale: Get 25% OFF on all wedding & anniversary rings from James Allen, our #1 online jewelry retailer. Click Here to shop the sale and save on all wedding rings.

Wondering which is better, white gold or yellow gold?

Then you're in the right place!

In this Learning Guide, I'll match up the two precious metals and answer questions like: 

white gold vs yellow gold
  • Is Yellow Gold More Durable Than White Gold?
  • Is White Gold More Expensive?
  • Which Gold Is In Style?

Key Differences Between White Gold & Yellow Gold

Here’s a quick guide between these two popular ring metals. For more detail, check out my article below. 

White Gold Pros: 

  • There are more white gold ring settings to choose from in stores
  • It’s a more affordable option than platinum engagement rings and wedding bands
  • White gold jewelry is a little stronger than yellow gold because of the metal alloys

White Gold Cons: 

  • Needs rhodium plating to keep its bright appearance
  • Replating rhodium costs between $60-$120 on average without a warranty
  • White gold isn’t considered fully hypoallergenic unless it doesn’t contain any nickel 

Yellow Gold Pros: 

  • Yellow gold doesn’t require rhodium to retain its color
  • Yellow gold rings are uncommon
  • Yellow gold is better for those with high skin sensitivities

Yellow Gold Cons: 

  • Not many options in jewelry stores
  • Yellow gold can look fake
  • Yellow gold is often plated over other metals

White Gold vs Yellow Gold: Origin

Gold is a precious metal that has been used in jewelry since 4000 BC. Today, it serves as the choice base metal in most engagement rings and wedding bands. 

You can find the majority of jewelry stores carry more white gold than yellow gold. Yellow gold used to be more popular prior to the 90s when white gold jewelry really came into fashion. 

Yellow gold turned from luxury to tacky, and more costume jewelry pieces were painted a similar color or had plated gold jewelry, not solid gold

Pure gold is too soft to use as jewelry. It’s a soft and malleable metal and wouldn’t put up with the day to day activities of the wearer. Pure gold is known as 24k gold

Gold has to be mixed with other metals to strengthen it. The metals used may differ, but are called metal alloy collectively. The karat gold of the jewelry piece depends on the ratio of pure gold to metal alloy

goldkaratchart

It doesn’t matter what color gold you’re buying- all gold jewelry is measured like this. 

White gold, rose gold, black gold, red gold, and purple gold are all gold jewelry mixed with different gold alloy. 

White gold didn’t make its grand entrance until about the mid 90s. During that time, other white metals were coming into play, like platinum and soon-after, palladium. 

White gold jewelry is made the same way as yellow gold jewelry. The same gold is mixed with metal alloy to increase its strength. 

The key difference in origin between yellow and white gold is the metal alloys being mixed with the gold

To create yellow gold, the gold is mixed with these metal alloy

  • Copper
  • Zinc

Some of the white metal alloys that are used to make white gold jewelry are: 

  • Nickel
  • Palladium
  • Manganese
  • Platinum
  • Silver

But that’s not what gives it the shiny silver look. That credit goes to rhodium. Rhodium is plated over all white gold jewelry. Rhodium is one of the metals in the platinum group. 

white gold diamond bangle

White Gold vs Yellow Gold: Appearance

Yellow Gold

Most people assume all yellow gold is the same and looks the same. That’s not true. 

Wedding Ring Sale: Get 25% OFF on all wedding & anniversary rings from James Allen, our #1 online jewelry retailer. Click Here to shop the sale and save on all wedding rings.

Unlike white gold jewelry, yellow gold is used in whole or in part to make solid gold jewelry and plated gold jewelry

The tone of your yellow gold jewelry piece will depend on the karat gold of it. The more gold purity, the more yellow it’ll be. 

An 18K gold ring might look inauthentic to someone because of its brightness. Similarly, a 10K yellow gold engagement ring might look a softer yellow and not as bright. 

Yellow gold is used to plate over a variety of other metals to give it a luxurious look without the cost of a solid gold piece. 

You can find gold filled jewelry, gold plated jewelry, and vermeil gold. Gold plating is electroplated over another base metal

  • If the base metal is sterling silver, it’s called vermeil jewelry 
  • If the gold plating is .5 microns thick in any karat, it’s gold filled jewelry
  • If the gold  plating  is under .5 microns thick in any karat , it’s gold plated jewelry
yellow gold figaro chain

White Gold

You wouldn’t believe how many white gold engagement ring and wedding band buyers I’ve run into who made it their mission to pointedly tell me they didn’t like gold and wanted silver. 

About 98% of people who say that, are referring to white gold rings, not sterling silver rings. But a lot of them didn’t know about it. 

The biggest misconception about white gold is that it’s often mistaken for silver jewelry. Silver jewelry is prone to tarnish and doesn’t fare well in water without being dried quickly. 

White gold doesn’t tarnish and it can stand up to the water. However, I don’t recommend wearing any jewelry in the water to begin with. 

White gold rings might not oxidize like sterling silver jewelry, but they require some upkeep. 

The rhodium that makes a white gold ring bright and shiny eventually fades off after a while. The amount of time it takes to fade varies based on the wearer. 

I will say the rhodium on white gold rings and white gold earrings  will often fade faster than a white gold necklace or bracelets. 

Rhodium wears off due to dirt, dust, and natural oils in our skin. It doesn’t have anything to do with the quality of the gold or jewelry. 

Hands come into more dirt than a neck or a wrist usually. And with earrings, the posts are constantly going into the skin. 

All of this constant rubbing affects the rhodium plating on the jewelry piece. You’ll know your rhodium plating has started to fade when the bottom of your ring shank looks like a pale yellow.

It’ll be dull as well, maybe with little scratches. 

But don’t worry. A local jeweler or the retailer where you bought it should be able to re-plate the rhodium, making it good as new. 

White Gold vs Yellow Gold: Price 

You shouldn’t find any difference between white gold jewelry and yellow gold jewelry in price. As long as the karat gold is the same amount. The same goes for rose gold jewelry

Exceptions to this might be in custom built engagement rings or wedding bands. Buying loose diamonds and empty ring settings with the option to choose the color gold you want shouldn’t cost more. 

But if a diamond ring has to be re-created in another color gold, the price may increase. 

Plated yellow gold jewelry or vermeil jewelry will cost less than a solid white gold ring

The exact gold price varies. You can find out the spot price for selling gold is each day. 

If you’re not selling gold jewelry or scrap gold, the spot price has little effect on jewelry prices. More retail stores increase prices according to inflation, not necessarily gold prices. It also happens once a year usually. 

A plain 14K gold wedding band from a fine jewelry store may cost you between $150-$700 depending on width. 

Two tone rings or tri-tone gold rings might also be more expensive. They’re a little more difficult to make. 

Multi-tone gold rings are often found in these combinations: 

  • White Gold and Yellow Gold
  • Yellow Gold and Sterling Silver
  • Rose Gold and Sterling Silver
  • Rose Gold and White Gold 
  • White Gold, Yellow Gold, and Rose Gold
  • Yellow Gold, Rose Gold, and Sterling Silver

The price of a gold band can increase based on ring style and metal intricacies. A carved gold wedding band may cost between $400-$1000 depending on complexity. 

Mixed metals, intricate ring settings, and stones are where the high prices come from. 

White Gold vs Yellow Gold: Value

There’s more to buying jewelry than the price tag. The overall value of the money paid for an engagement or wedding ring should be a significant factor in your purchase. 

An example that might be its longevity. All fine jewelry that’s worn often should need maintenance throughout the years. Most people plan to wear their gold wedding rings for years and years. 

You know gold’s a soft metal, so it gets nicks and scratches. You’d be surprised how often your hand bumps a variety of surfaces throughout the day. That’s regardless if you have an active lifestyle. 

Throw in all the dirt and dust, and the gold rings will need jewelry repair

You already know that white gold jewelry needs to be rhodium plated. The rhodium restores the silver coloring and high polish to all white gold

Yellow gold rings don't need rhodium, only polish to restore its shiny yellow color. 

Rhodium plating white gold rings can cost between $40-$120 per ring depending on complexity. 

7.25" Basket Weave Bangle

Cleaning and polishing a yellow gold ring usually costs between $25-$50. 

Yellow gold rings cost less for maintenance because they don’t require rhodium. Moreover, it’s a better value for your money in the long run. 

Don’t worry, I’ve got a solution to this. Listen up. 

The extra cost for rhodium plating might not be enough to persuade you into buying yellow gold or rose gold. It doesn’t have to either. 

Conclusion

Choosing between white gold jewelry and yellow gold jewelry doesn’t have to be a decision based on merit. These two are so close in quality, your choice should be left up to what is best for you. 

White gold might not be completely hypoallergenic, but many white gold rings aren’t made with nickel alloys. Nickel isn't good for sensitive skin.

Rhodium plating white gold might cost more in the long run, but a retailer warranty can cover rhodium

James Allen and Ritani both offer rhodium plating under their lifetime repair warranties. 

So you see, any issue that comes up with white gold in favor of yellow gold, can be fixed. 

The choice is really up to you. I used to be partial to white gold rings. Now, I prefer different ring settings and shapes in different metals.

 If you’re having trouble choosing between the two, I’d choose the one that feels more natural. 


Wedding Ring Sale: Get 25% OFF on all wedding & anniversary rings from James Allen, our #1 online jewelry retailer. Click Here to shop the sale and save on all wedding rings.

Meet Your Jewelry Expert

Learn More About Jewelry

Want to learn more about jewelry? Check out these other helpful resources written by our jewelry experts!

Ask Your Jewelry Question Here

We are a team of jewelry experts who will teach you to identify scams and avoid spending money on features you can’t see.

Tell us as much information as possible to help us help you (ie, budget, preferences, etc.)