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Gold is graded by carats. The carat system for gold, unlike diamonds, is a method of expressing the proportion of gold to other metals in a particular alloy. Pure gold is 24ct. 22ct gold contains 22 parts of gold to 2 parts of other metals, while 9ct gold contains 9 parts of gold to 15 parts of other metals.
White gold is achieved by combining pure gold with alloys such as silver and palladium. Traditionally, nickel was used in white gold; however, nickel is no longer used in most white gold today as nickel can cause allergic reactions in some wearers.
As the natural colour of white gold is a greyish colour, almost all white gold jewellery is plated with a metal called Rhodium, which is a member of the Palladium family of metals. Rhodium is used to brighten the colour of white gold. Rhodium is very white and very hard, but it does wear eventually, particularly on rings. It is a very common practice to have rings re-plated with Rhodium, and most local jewellers will offer this service.