Task Force Defines White Gold

March 3, 2004

Task Force Defines White Gold

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 group conducted a test involving 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 "look" white.
• Standard, for alloys where plating is optional and may be needed.
• Off-White, for alloys where plating would definitely be needed.

The proposed grades will be shared with the industry for six months, so that industry organizations and other stakeholders can provide feedback. 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, the task force is 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 formed last year to solve problems with white gold. Consumers were complaining about the color of their white gold when the plating began to wear away. Some people are also allergic to nickel, a metal frequently used in white gold formulations. The new grades of white gold could help jewelers explain the differences in color to consumers, while informing them that lower-grade plated white golds may need replating at some point in the future. Other jewelers could opt only to buy premium grades, to avoid the plating erosion problem. Currently, there are no U.S. regulations or standards requiring this kind of disclosure.

There are also no thickness standards for rhodium plating or policies concerning nickel disclosure – a potential problem since a European directive passed last year requires testing white gold for nickel content. Industry leaders are concerned a consumer movement to pass such required tests could happen in the U.S. too. The task force will 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

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