When looking at your beautiful white gold rings, bracelets, necklaces, and other jewelry, one may wonder if they are magnetic.
Although the short answer is no, there is more to learn about whether white gold is magnetic and the magnetism behind this precious metal.
Is White Gold Magnetic? (EXPLAINED)
Gold, including white gold, has long been considered a non-magnetic material, although the purity of this precious metal may play an important factor in its magnetism.
The remainder of this article will give you an in depth look on white gold, what it looks like, where it came from and what it’s used for.
What Is White Gold?
White gold is merely an alloy of gold.
Meaning that it is made of pure yellow gold, but for a few important reasons, it is mixed with other alloy metals that have a silverish-white color, such as silver and palladium.
This does not mean white gold is worth less than yellow gold.
The monetary value of both white and yellow gold is usually equal, with white gold actually sometimes being a small amount higher.
This is because yellow gold must be mixed with copper to create its yellow color, while white gold mixes with silver or nickel – more costly metals.
Furthermore, only white gold needs rhodium plating to produce the ultra-white gleam that white gold is known for.
Rhodium is considered the rarest and most precious metal in the world, with its value being twice as much as gold.
In all gold jewelry, pure 24-karat gold must be melted with stronger, more durable metals to make it sturdy enough for jewelry making.
This is because, on its own, pure gold is one of the softest metals, making it very malleable.
Therefore, the same metals mentioned above, copper, silver, nickel, and others, serve dual purposes of not only changing the color of gold but also strengthening it.
Knowing what metals your piece of white gold is mixed with is an important factor in accordance to determining the level of magnetism it will or will not display.
What Does Magnetic Mean?
The term “magnetic” informally refers to any metal that shows visible attraction to a magnet.
This means, magnetism is the force that attracts materials to one another or does the opposite, called diamagnetic, and respells them.
Generally speaking, magnetism is one aspect of the combined electromagnetic force.
Since 1819, the term “magnetic susceptibility” has been named as the scientific term for the degree to which a metal is attracted to or rejected by a magnetic field.
Due to a quantum mechanical property called “spin”, magnetism arises from the spinning and orbital motion of electrons or electric charges.
Every substance on earth is made up of microscopic units called atoms.
Each atom has electrons, which are particles that carry small electric charges.
Spinning and spinning, the electrons circle the nucleus, or core, of an atom.
Their movement generates an electric current and causes each electron to act as a microscopic magnet.
In most matter, equal numbers of electrons spin in opposite directions, which cancels out their magnetism.
Although some metals have electrons that are not paired with other electrons, the unpaired electrons are then free to align themselves with a magnetic field.
The result of this alignment is magnetic attraction.
The metals that don’t show magnetic attraction don’t have many unpaired electrons and are considered both physically and magnetically inert.
This is the case with metallic white gold because it has zero unpaired electrons, and it does not display traditional magnetism.
Why Is White Gold Non-Magnetic?
As we know, pure 24 karat gold can only be yellow in color.
White gold comes in stages of purity; 18k gold, 14k gold, 10k gold and must be mixed with another white metal to obtain its color.
As we also now know, this is also because pure gold is much too soft for jewelry making – what gold is most used for.
Mixing gold with other metals strengthens it while also diluting its purity.
While 18 karat white gold is 75% pure yellow gold, it also contains 25% of one or more white metals to lighten its color and add strength and durability.
Some of these metals, like silver and platinum, are paramagnetic, or weakly attracted to or not attracted at all to even a very strong magnet.
Nickel, however, is one of only four ferromagnetic metals.
This means nickel is attracted to a magnet up to a point.
Although in 18k white gold trace amounts of nickel can be found, these small amounts are not enough to make it respond to a magnet.
If you have pure gold coins or 18k white gold jewelry, you can put them to the test by seeing if they are magnetic simply by using a neodymium disc magnet.
All gold is slightly diamagnetic meaning it may actually repel away from a magnet almost as if the magnet is gently pushing it.
But if your white gold sticks to the magnet, there’s a good chance your white gold is not pure 18k.
Instead, it may have high amounts (over 50%) of a magnetically ferromagnetic metal like iron, cobalt, or nickel inside of it.
Ferromagnetic metals, and only these metals, are what would give a piece of white gold its magnetism.
Therefore, high karat white gold is not naturally magnetic.