Updated: Feb 16
Jewelry Myth 1: Pure white gold exists
Nope. It doesn’t.
Pure gold is a mined mineral that comes in one color only – deep yellow, almost orange. That’s the gold that is stamped as 24K or .999, depending on where you are in the world.
All gold jewelry stamped below 24K or .999 is made with a gold alloy. Gold alloy is a mix of pure gold and other metals – silver, copper, zinc, nickel, palladium. White gold alloy is obtained by adding white metals such as nickel or palladium to pure gold.
For simplicity sake we use the term “white gold” (just like we use “rose gold”), but technically those are white gold and rose gold alloys.
There are several important factors at play when wearing white gold jewelry, such as allergens, color, weight, and budget.
Are you a white gold fan? If yes, this post will be useful for you to know what you are getting into when you feel like you want to snatch those white gold earrings.
Jewelry Myth 2: There is such thing as “pure” 14K gold or “pure” anything under 24K/.999 gold
Have you seen one of these: “these beautiful earrings made from pure 14K gold…”? Oh my.
Well, the last time I consulted the dictionary, “pure” meant “free of extraneous elements of any kind”. Any gold below 24K (or .999) is an alloy that is a mix of gold and other metals, and therefore cannot be pure. This is the chart of the gold and other metal content for each karat value. Don’t let anyone fool you with enticing terms – if it ain’t solid 24K, it ain’t pure. And by the way, jewelry made with pure gold is quite rare and not necessarily the best option. Here is why.
Jewelry Myth 3: “Green” gold means it is recycled or responsibly mined gold.
Not necessarily. We are very accustomed to “green” being synonymous with everything environmentally friendly. In jewelry terminology however, “green gold” often refers to the color of gold alloy, not the way the gold was sourced.
When other metals mixed into the gold alloy contain higher percentage of silver, it results in a color that is on a “greener” side. Compare these two rings. The one on the left is green gold, the one on the right is yellow. See the difference?
However, “green gold” and “ethically/responsibly sourced gold” terms are often used interchangeably, which creates some confusion. Sometimes people think they are buying responsibly sourced or recycled gold ring, when in reality they are buying the ring made with the green gold alloy. And sometimes jewelers indeed refer to their recycled gold alloy as “green”. So, if you are unsure – ask.
Since I only use responsibly sourced metals in my jewelry, when you see the term “green gold” on this site, it is referring to the gold color.
Jewelry Myth 4. Jewelry made from recycled metals is the most environmentally responsible jewelry
Let’s look at some facts. Gold and silver have multiple uses, including technology and mechanical parts. Recycled gold covers only 25% of its annual application worldwide, for example. The other 75% is covered by mining.
(Source: World Gold Council)
Gold is being mined because there is a demand that recycled gold alone will not cover.
Also, the point of recycling a particular material is to prevent it from being discarded into the landfills and polluting our environment. Gold and silver are not plastic (sorry for stating the obvious). Recycling them is not something that deserves extra points, like recycling hazardous or environmentally-polluting materials does. People don’t just throw them out like that single-use Frappuccino cup. I mean, if you know someone who does, can you point me to their trash can, pretty please?
If environment and ethics are important to you (I hope they are!), then look for jewelers that use responsibly or ethically sourced metals and stones (the terms are used interchangeably). Responsibly sourced means either recycled or obtained in a mine with minimum environmental impact, no child labor, with high safety standards, good working conditions, and decent pay for the workers.
I believe that everything we use in our work should be fully traceable. Don’t be shy and ask questions. If someone cannot provide that information to you, it is a red flag.
Jewelry Myth 5. I am allergic to gold… I am allergic to silver…
Very (very) unlikely. Pure gold and silver minerals are hypoallergenic. That is 24K/999 gold and 999 silver. If your skin is reacting to jewelry, it is most likely reacting to the non-precious metal in the gold or silver alloy your piece is made of. So, if you are noticing discomfort when wearing a sterling silver piece, you may be allergic to copper or zinc, as sterling silver is 92.5% pure fine silver and 7.5% other metals, copper being the most common. In some rare cases sterling silver can contain small amounts of nickel, too (a known allergen).
If you are reacting to gold jewelry, most likely it is not gold to blame, but one of the non-precious metals in the gold alloy – copper, zinc, nickel, and others. Nickel is the most common culprit for allergic reactions, and it is used in most white gold alloys. Copper, zinc, or palladium allergies are very rare. If you are a white gold fan, you may find this information useful.
Any reputable jeweler must be able to tell you the exact content of their gold and silver alloys. It is not common for us to clutter every product listing with that information because too many technical details can be overwhelming for customers. But it should always be available upon request.