Professional Jeweler Archive: Task Force Defines White Gold

April 2004

First Run

Task Force Defines White Gold

MJSA and WGC make progress on the issues

The White Gold Task Force, formed last year by Manufacturing Jewelers & Suppliers of America and the World Gold Council, proposed three grades to define white gold color during a Feb. 29 seminar at the MJSA Expo in New York City. The task force conducted a test involving the visual examination of 71 white gold samples using defined lighting conditions and qualified observers (those without color perception problems). The test measured whiteness and used standard color indexes to classify its samples into three grades:
  • Premium, for alloys on which no rhodium plating is needed to make them appear white.
  • Standard, for alloys where plating is optional and may be needed.
  • Off-White, for alloys where plating is definitely needed.

The proposed grades will be shared with the industry internationally for six months so trade organizations and other stakeholders can provide feedback, says Christopher W. Corti, WGC’s London-based director of international technology and the man who has spearheaded the effort. The task force will work on methods for conveying the three grades in a simple, practical way, giving industry users a tool for judging the whiteness of gold they buy and sell.
Though the study was conducted without testers knowing the specific alloy combinations they were examining, says Leach & Garner’s D.P. Agarwal, vice president of engineering, the task force is now looking at which white gold alloy combinations tested premium, standard and off-white. Metallurgists could tweak alloy mixes to meet the grades.

The task force was formed to resolve consumer complaints about the white color degrading when the plating begins to wear away. The new grades of white gold could help jewelers explain to consumers the differences in color and that lower-grade plated white golds may need replating at some point in the

future. Jewelers also could opt to buy only premium grades to avoid the plating erosion problem, says Rick Bannerot, vice president of advertising for the WGC’s U.S. jewelry programs. The United States now has no regulations or standards requiring this kind of disclosure.

There also are no thickness standards for rhodium plating or policies concerning nickel disclosure. A European directive passed last year requires testing white gold for nickel content (some people are allergic to nickel, a metal used in some white gold formulations). Industry leaders in the United States are concerned a consumer movement to pass such required tests could happen here too.

The task force plans to tackle these related issues in the coming months with the aim of creating a minimum standard for plating and a code of practice for handling nickel content disclosure.

– by Peggy Jo Donahue

Copyright © 2004 by Bond Communications