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Complete Guide to Black Gold Jewelry

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Complete Guide to Black Gold Jewelry

Black gold hasn’t always been a popular accessory in the jewelry industry, but new techniques for applying a darker aesthetic to yellow gold has opened up the opportunity for new styles.

The term used to refer to oil, but now black gold has found its place in jewelry, and many are wondering about the possibilities of rings, necklaces, earrings and more that feature a twist on traditional gold.

We’ll explore everything you need to know about black gold jewelry, including how it’s made, its monetary value, how it compares to other black metals, and more.

What is Black Gold Jewelry?

Black gold doesn’t occur naturally. Black gold jewelry is made from yellow gold that’s been treated to give it the darkened look. So the base of any black gold jewelry is actually yellow gold, plated with a black finish or mixed with another metal to form an alloy.

How is Black Gold Made?

There are three primary methods of transforming yellow gold into black gold, and each has its advantages and disadvantages. The technique used will determine the price, longevity, and quality of the piece, so it’s important to understand each one and how the piece of black gold jewelry you’re considering was created.

Femtosecond Laser

The latest and most sophisticated method for creating black gold jewelry uses a femtosecond laser that applies intense amounts of energy to manipulate the surface of the gold. It causes microstructures to develop on the surface and better capture the light directed toward it.

The result is blackened gold you could never tell used to be yellow.

The laser application method is the most expensive because of the technology and energy it requires, but it’s the most durable way of creating black gold jewelry. The effects won’t wear off easily, so you don’t have to worry as much about the yellow bleeding through.

Alloys

An alloy is a mixture of two or more metals. Alloys are often created to provide more strength or resistance to corrosion, but in the case of black gold jewelry, it’s to turn yellow to black.

Cobalt is most commonly used for black gold. The ratio of gold to metal is often three to one.

This combination isn’t technically an alloy because the metals aren’t truly combined. Instead, the black layer covers the surface of the gold, so the yellow is still in its true form underneath.

Were the two metals combined like traditional alloys, the cobalt and gold would be molded together so the two could no longer be distinguished.

Electroplating

The most common technique for creating black gold jewelry is electroplating. The gold is thoroughly cleaned to remove all dirt and contaminants and then plated with black rhodium or ruthenium to give it the dark finish.

Rhodium is a precious element that’s even more rare than gold and costs up to 25 times more. A clear advantage is it’s harder than gold and more durable. While it’s most known for turning yellow gold to white, it can also turn it black.Black gold ring

Even though rhodium itself is an expensive metal, electroplating gold to turn it black is the least expensive of the three methods. 

But it comes with downsides. The plating is likely to wear off over time and with more frequent use, usually anywhere from 12 to 18 months. You’ll notice the yellow starts to bleed through, which means it needs to be replated.

Is Black Gold Valuable?

Even though its color has changed, black gold still holds the same value as traditional gold. That’s because the value of gold doesn’t change even if paired with other metals. 

The factor to consider in determining the value of black gold jewelry is how much of the piece contains gold compared to the other metals such as cobalt or rhodium.

For example, black gold jewelry made with 18k gold will be less expensive than a piece made with 24k gold. A higher ratio of gold to other metals raises the price.

You should also take into account any gems used in the piece. If the jewelry features valuable diamonds or gemstones, the price of the overall piece will go up. But those stones are valued separately from the black gold itself.

How Does it Compare to Other Black Metals?

If you’re considering black gold jewelry, you’ve likely come across other black metals as well, such as:

  • Black carbon fiber
  • Black ceramic
  • Black tungsten
  • Black titanium

Let’s compare black gold to these other popular metals.

Black Carbon Fiber

Black carbon fiber ring

Carbon fiber is known for its durability and use in wedding bands. The inexpensive fabric will resist scratches, so it’s fitting for jewelry that’s worn every day during normal activities. It’s lightweight and heat-resistant.

Carbon fiber is traditionally black all the way through, but jewelry manufacturers often add color such as red, brown, or blue to the inside of the ring.

Black Ceramic

Black ceramic ring

Black ceramic isn’t surface plated, so it has consistent color throughout the ring. They’re a popular choice for wedding rings because they can easily be cleaned with a soft, damp cloth. Plus, they’re a more affordable option than other types of metal. 

Though most black ceramic rings are completely black, you can add color on the inside or outside.

Black ceramic isn’t as durable, so you should avoid the potential for hard impact by removing the jewelry during physical activity.

Black Tungsten

Black Tungsten Ring

Black tungsten’s advantage is it’s resistant to scratches from impact and keeps a sharp finish for many years. This contrasts to rhodium-plated black gold, where the gold can bleed through. 

The hypoallergenic metal is an affordable option for wedding bands, but the downside is its ability to be resized is limited. On the other hand, black gold generally can be resized.

Most designs are all black, but it can also have a silver ring surrounding it to add color. They also can be formed thick, such as 10-12 millimeters, or as a thinner band closer to four to six millimeters.

Black Gold Versus Other Colored Gold

Black isn’t the only color resulting from an alloy of pure gold and another metal. The more popular colors are white gold and rose gold.

White gold is a mixture of gold with white metals such as silver and palladium or nickel. It’s then plated with rhodium. Like black gold, it’s real gold but doesn’t consist entirely of yellow gold. The added metal improves its durability, because pure gold is too malleable for many types of jewelry.18K White Gold Ring

Another way it’s similar is it must be redone every few years to maintain its shine. The rhodium plating on white gold will also fade with time, but it’s usually inexpensive to redo.

Rose gold is made in a similar way as black gold. It’s an alloy made up of pure gold and copper. In most cases, it’s 75% pure gold and 25% copper. This creates 18k gold and is the same ratio as yellow gold and cobalt that creates black gold.

Types of Black Gold Jewelry

Black gold can be used to create almost any type of jewelry. Whether you’re searching for a necklace, earrings, wedding band or a diamond ring to complement your style, finding one made from black gold matches any color and gives your outfit a unique look.

But If you decide you don’t prefer the look of your black gold jewelry, you can have it plated with another color such as white or rose gold.

Black gold jewelry isn’t as popular as yellow, rose, or white gold jewelry, so it’s more difficult to find a variety of styles available in each category. You’ll more often find pieces made with other black metals paired with gold in these other colors, but there are still a variety of options available.

Pendants, Necklaces, and Earrings

But if you are set on a piece that truly shows off black gold, we recommend starting with one you’ll wear occasionally, such as a pendant, necklace, or earrings. They’ll last longer because of their infrequent use, and you won’t have to replate the rhodium as often.

Engagement Ring

A higher level of commitment is purchasing a black gold engagement ring.

Black gold engagement rings have the advantage of pairing with every type of gemstone. It contrasts with a colorless diamond or can work with a blue sapphire or red ruby. Either of those pairings are a bold look.

Black Gold Diamond Ring

If you choose a white diamond, it’s best to choose one graded near colorless or colorless by the GIA. You want a strong complement to the black gold, and a toned down diamond doesn’t create the brilliant aesthetic desired for most engagement rings.

If you do want a toned down look that doesn’t involve a white diamond, you can place a black gemstone on top. This could include a real black diamond, a lab-created simulant, or cubic zirconia.

Wedding Bands

Black gold weddings bands don’t only come as solid black. There are options available that place green emeralds or blue sapphires inside. This allows you to have a predominantly darker ring with a slight degree of brilliance.

One reason to purchase a black gold wedding ring is to contrast it with your engagement ring band, which is typically a bright silver. The advantage of this pairing is each ring draws separate attention as opposed to the more traditional, blended look where each is the same color.

Can Black Gold be Replated?

Black gold jewelry will likely need to be replated at least every couple years. That’s because the plating fades with everyday use, especially if it’s scratched or experiences the effects of rain or a drop against a hard surface.

You’ll know it needs to be replated when the yellow starts bleeding through.

Replating black gold jewelry is inexpensive, and you should expect to pay between $30 and $100.

The process works by thoroughly cleaning the piece and then immersing it in the rhodium solution. An electrical charge fuses the rhodium onto the pure gold. While the charge is normally weak, in the case of black gold, it’s a stronger charge that turns the gold black.

Taking Care of Black Gold Jewelry

Preventing Damage

The best way to prevent having to replate your black gold jewelry often is to prevent damage from occurring in the first place through strong prevention methods.

Place your black gold jewelry on last so it avoids contact with potentially harmful chemicals such as hairspray, makeup, lotion, or perfume. These materials can slowly produce wear and tear on the surface.

You should also avoid wearing the jewelry in the bath, shower, or pool. The humidity resulting from hot water can wear away the rhodium plating, and the chlorine from the pool can be harmful to almost any type of jewelry.

Where you store your black gold jewelry is also an important part of taking care of it. Keep it in a separate drawer as your other jewelry to avoid scratching them against each other. Wrap it in a cloth or place it in a lined box so the material on the box doesn’t scratch it.

Cleaning Black Gold Jewelry

The easiest way to clean black gold jewelry is to put a few drops of mild dishwashing soap in warm water and let it soak for a few minutes. Then gently rub the scratched or damaged areas to wipe grime and residue off its surface.

Pat it dry with a soft cloth.

If the black gold jewelry has other gemstones, you can place soap and water on a cloth and rub it clean. Avoid scratching the gemstones or placing it in an ultrasonic cleaner. It has the potential to shake the stone loose and cause more damage than it’s worth for the extra shine on the ring.

If you have a jewelry cleaning solution, this option can work as well. Ensure it’s non-abrasive and won’t remove the rhodium plating.

What to Know About Buying Black Gold Jewelry

There isn’t as high of a demand for black gold jewelry compared to yellow, rose, or white gold. That means it’s more difficult to find in jewelry stores and online.

When you do find black gold jewelry in person or online, ensure it’s a reputable seller that can verify the quality of the jewelry. This is especially true if you are buying a high-value piece such as an engagement ring featuring black gold and a gemstone.

For necklaces, pendants, and wedding bands, there are less expensive options that may incorporate black gold with other metals such as silver or traditional gold. You should still buy ones with a return policy and where you can be sure you’re getting what you pay for.

Ultimately, we recommend starting with a simple piece of black gold jewelry first before opting for a commitment such as an engagement ring. It’s important you’re confident it fits your style and is a look you could see yourself wearing every day for years.

You can buy black gold jewelry as a necklace or earrings, and then pair it with the perfect ring to complement them.

Conclusion

Black gold jewelry comes in many forms, and even though it’s not the most popular type on the market, it can still be right for your own style. The methods of turning yellow gold into black gold vary, and you should understand each one to know what to expect in the quality of your piece.

It shares some qualities of other black metals and colored gold but distinguishes itself by its use of cobalt or rhodium plating to transform its appearance.

You can extend the life of your black gold jewelry through proper prevention, storage, and cleaning, so when you find the right piece, it’s one that can become a staple accessory.

Devon Tyler

Devon Tyler

Devon Tyler is the founder of TeachJewelry.com.

He earned an Applied Jewelry Professional Diploma from the Gemological Institute of America and now brings you essential information about diamonds, settings, and more.

Devon has consulted with leading jewelry brands, and his work has been cited in Diamond Nexus and other industry publications.

He's also a member of the International Gem Society.

Devon enjoys discussing jewelry with readers, so contact him with any questions at tyler.devon@teachjewelry.com.

Learn More About Devon