Of the many shades of gold available, rose gold jewelry is a fan favorite for its elegant yet subtle warmth and the playful positivity it evokes.
While yellow gold is the classic, original shade, many see it as too brash or old-fashioned. Rose gold offers these folks a modern, gentler option with romantic appeal for everything from casual accessories to engagement rings.
If you’re thinking about buying some yourself, this guide will teach you all the different types of rose gold jewelry, the metal’s history, and some factors to know before you buy.
First, is rose gold a real gold? Sort of. Pure gold is yellow, but almost all gold jewelry — yellow gold jewelry included — is actually a gold alloy, meaning the gold is mixed with other metals. This is because pure, 100 percent gold is too soft for jewelry use.
The warm pinkish color of rose gold comes from copper being added in. Many rose gold alloys also incorporate silver and zinc.
The exact ratios of pure gold to the added metals like copper depends on the karatage and shade desired.
Before we get into the different types of rose gold, we’ll travel back in time to explore when rose gold jewelry started and how it took the world by storm.
Pictured above: A cast nose ornament, once gold on the surface but purposely polished to be pink | Image credit: Clark Manuel Rodriguez/Museo del Oro/Banco de la Republica
It was long thought that rose gold began in the 1800s, but recent archeological evidence revealed that rose gold goes way further back — centuries, actually.
Research published in 2017 by archeologists Marcos Martinón-Torres and Juanita Saenz-Samper revealed that 44 pinkish metal artifacts newly uncovered in Colombia had an early form of rose gold dating back to the first millennium (100-1,000 AD).
The artifacts (like the one pictured above) included belts, nose rings, earrings, and other jewelry. Analysis revealed that the ancient metallurgists likely mixed gold with copper, brought the gold to the surface via oxidation, then later polished them to let the pink and orange underneath show through.
Before this discovery, the earliest known use of rose gold dated back to 1800s-era Russia. Renowned craftsman and jeweler Peter Carl Fabergé was credited for being the first jeweler to use rose gold. Dubbing it “Russian Gold” at the time, Fabergé used rose gold in his celebrated Fabergé Eggs.
Word spread to the British Empire, and rose gold began trending during the Victorian Era (1837 to 1901). The popularity of soft pink fashion in the 1840s complemented the rise in rose gold jewelry, often adorned with blue sapphires.
Rose gold jewelry like engagement rings flourished in the 1920s, aided by lavish rose gold creations like Cartier’s “Trinity Ring.”
Rose gold popularity started decreasing during the Art Deco period of the late 1920s and 1930s, replaced by trendy white metal jewelry, most of which was made using platinum.
In the 1940s, the military needed all the platinum for WWII, so jewelers couldn’t use it, resulting in rose gold becoming popular again.
In more recent times, rose gold started seeing widespread popularity again in 2016 after Pantone named “Rose Quartz,” a rose gold color, their Color of the Year alongside “Serenity,” a complementary shade of blue.
It’s difficult to understate the influence of Pantone on the fashion and design industries. Fashion designers, wedding planners, and interior designers (among others) are influenced by Pantone’s color advice and projected trends every year.
That said, rose gold’s mid-2010s popularity may also trace back to 2014 with the rise of “Millennial Pink,” a name coined by Véronique Hyland for the pinkish hue that fell between “salmon mousse to gravlax.”
The reason for the popularity of “Millennial Pink” possibly originated from Wes Anderson’s popular 2014 film Grand Budapest Hotel, which featured lots of eye-catching retro pink sets. Penny Goldstone from Marie Claire has also said Millennials favor pinks like rose gold because it looks good on social media.
Corroborating this pre-Pantone-prompted rose gold trend? The first iPhone available in rose gold was the iPhone 6S, released in 2015.
By 2018, companies from Panasonic to the car manufacturer SEAT saw consistent customer demand for rose gold products.
Is rose gold jewelry out of style now? Surprisingly, given the typical trend cycle, rose gold hasn’t gone out of style.
Gemology education organization International Gem Society (IGS) has already predicted rose gold jewelry trending in 2023, likely with “modern adaptations of more classic jewelry styles.”
Speaking of which, are there different types of rose gold? Yep, you can find rose gold in different accessories, shades, and styles!
Unlike the Pantone “Rose Quartz” color we discussed, rose gold jewelry isn’t a one-shade pony. There’s plenty of diversity to rose gold jewelry, and we’ll start with the different shades.
Pictured above: 14K rose gold ring
Pictured above: 18K rose gold ring
The exact color of rose gold jewelry can vary based on the types and ratio of metals added, which partly depends on the karatage.
To illustrate the differences, let’s compare 14K vs 18K rose gold. 14K rose gold is 58 percent pure (yellow) gold, while 18K rose gold is 75 percent pure gold. If both are made with only gold and copper, the 18K rose gold will look yellower while the 14K rose gold will look pinker.
More copper will lead to darker pink tones, while less copper will lead to rosier muted tones.
However, not all rose gold jewelry is mixed with just copper. 18K rose gold alloys with copper, silver, and zinc will look different from an 18K rose gold alloy with just copper added.
Other ratios can lead to new pink gold hues, like the champagne-like hue of “brown” gold made with copper, silver, and nickel.
All of these rose gold variations can be incorporated into jewelry in different ways.
“Solid” rose gold jewelry is rose gold all the way through. But solid gold jewelry can be too expensive for some, so many opt for more budget-friendly alternatives like:
Rose Gold Vermeil: Sterling silver with rose gold plating at least 2.5 microns thick
Rose Gold Plated: Any base metal electroplated with rose gold layer usually 0.5 microns thick
Rose Gold Filled: Base metal bonded with rose gold via heat and pressure; Weight of entire piece must be at least 5 percent (1/20th) gold
Solid gold is most valuable, followed by gold-filled, then gold vermeil, then gold-plated as the most affordable.
Once the alloy and application technique is chosen and done, jewelers can start customizing rose gold jewelry with embellishments like gemstones.
One benefit of rose gold jewelry over brighter yellow gold is that it’s subtle enough to not enhance, not distract from, the beauty of gemstones.
Of course, you can honor the Victorian Era with blue sapphire rose gold jewelry, but the options don’t stop there.
The top recommended gemstones for any rose gold setting are:
Lighter, more muted rose gold jewelry can work well with:
Though many pink gemstones complement rose gold well, it’s important to find the right shade of rose gold to avoid the pinks clashing.
Given its warmth, you may wonder about the best skin tone for rose gold jewelry. There are benefits of knowing your skin’s undertones when choosing jewelry — like deciding on gold vs silver, for example — but rose gold is often heralded as the “most universally flattering precious metal.” That said, rose gold jewelry is particularly flattering on warm skin tones with yellow undertones.
The best style of rose gold jewelry depends on your own personal taste and the occasion.
A thin rose gold chain, maybe with a small white diamond, is a great everyday accessory for a minimalist aesthetic.
For a fancy event like a wedding or gala, you can find elaborate rose gold jewelry sets adorned with lots of gemstones. Rose gold wedding rings are also popular, particularly with a non-traditional morganite center stone and maybe a personalized engraving.
Budget-friendly buyers may wonder: is rose gold very expensive? It depends on the quality.
Different shades of gold come from different metals added in, and some are more valuable than others. Since copper is less expensive than, say, the platinum in many white gold alloys, rose gold jewelry can be slightly less expensive.
However, the biggest price factors for any gold jewelry are the application technique and karatage.
Solid rose gold jewelry will almost always be more expensive than yellow gold-plated jewelry, for example.
In terms of karatage, higher karats mean higher value. That means an 18k rose gold ring will be pricier than a 14K yellow gold ring, all other factors being equal.
To calculate the resale value of rose gold, check out our guide on how to sell gold jewelry.
Continuing our comparisons, which is better: 14K or 18K rose gold? It depends on what factors matter to you; 18K rose gold is more valuable, but 14K rose gold is more durable. However, lower-karat rose gold jewelry has more copper, which can be an allergen.
The most expensive rose gold alloy is 22K rose gold, which is almost 92 percent pure gold. The least expensive rose gold alloy widely available is 10K rose gold, which is 41.7 percent pure gold.
But it’s important to know the authenticity of rose gold jewelry before you buy.
Pictured above: Morganite ring with 14K rose gold plating and "925" hallmark indicating sterling silver base
Looking for a hallmark stamp is one of the easiest ways to tell if gold jewelry is authentic.
What are the markings for rose gold? There aren’t specific hallmarks to indicate that a metal is rose gold, like the “GF” for gold-filled. But if it looks like rose gold, you can check for a hallmark indicating its karatage. Common karatage markings on rose gold are:
18K; 18k; 18 Karat; 75%; 750
14K; 14k; 14 Karat; 58.5%; 585
12K; 12k; 12 Karat; 50%; 500
10K; 10k; 10 Karat; 41.7%; 417
Any non-solid rose gold jewelry should also have the application technique stamped, such as:
GF or G.F. — Gold-Filled
GP or G.P. or HGE or GE — Gold-Plated (also called Gold Electroplated)
V20 — Rolled Gold
V or HGE — Gold Vermeil (also called Heavy Gold Electroplated)
The most surefire way of verifying rose gold jewelry’s authenticity is by having it authenticated by an assay office.
Check out our guide on how to tell if gold jewelry is real for more tips and methods.
Those wondering if rose gold is worth buying may question its durability, and we have the answers!
Does rose gold fade over time? Solid rose gold jewelry won’t fade, regardless of karatage, but rose gold-plated jewelry will eventually fade in luster and brightness, requiring replating.
Does rose gold tarnish? Rose gold won’t oxidize like silver, but it will develop a patina from exposure over time. Luckily, the copper content makes the patina look pinker.
Is rose gold jewelry durable? Rose gold tends to be more durable than yellow or white gold, but higher-karatage rose gold is more prone to scratches than lower-karatage rose gold.
Of course, you can extend your jewelry’s lifespan with proper care.
By now, you can see why rose gold jewelry has remained a fan favorite. Despite being alloys with a cheaper metal (copper), rose gold still looks luxurious with a modern, stylish twist.
Ready to shop? Browse our collection of rose gold jewelry!
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