Can anyone actually tell white gold and stainless steel apart? Can anyone actually tell white gold and stainless steel apart?

Can anyone actually tell white gold and stainless steel apart?

Buffy Acacia

Until very recently, I would have considered myself a bit of a white gold hater. I didn’t understand why anyone would want to entertain the drawbacks of gold without the beauty of the colour, even if there was some sort of secret satisfaction which is associated with “stealth wealth“. What changed? Well, I found an 18k white gold Universal Genève from an op shop for $7, but I didn’t realise it was gold before I bought it. Evidently, neither did the person who gave it a price tag. So, is there anyone who can actually tell white gold and stainless steel apart?

Rolex White Gold vs Steel

After I discovered the hallmarks for 18k in the watch’s caseback, I knew I wanted to have it confirmed by a jeweller just in case it was an extremely convincing fake. I’d started to realise how heavy the case felt, but still it seemed too good to be true. The first jewellery I took it to instantly declared “steel!”
before he’d even seen the hallmarks, and then said he couldn’t be sure without more equipment. I was shocked that a professional jeweller couldn’t tell me, but I figured that surely a pawn shop would. The pawn shop took the watch away for about 10 minutes before finally returning and saying they didn’t know. Finally, I came across a jeweller who had an XRF analyser gun. Only with this high-end scientific tool were they finally able to confirm that the case and bracelet were solid 18k gold, but I still couldn’t believe it had taken that long.

White gold universal geneve

Putting stainless steel and white gold next to each other makes it quite obvious which one is the precious metal. The gold has a lustre which is ever-so-slightly brighter than steel, but how often are you wearing a steel and a white gold watch on the same wrist? In isolation, either on an arm or in a box, I still don’t believe anyone could reliably distinguish them. Context clues will help, such as the brand status or age of the piece, but that’s more about watch knowledge than the look of the metals.

Titoni white gold plated
Would you be able to spot the white gold plating?

There are definitely several pros to white gold. If it’s a vintage watch with not much brand value, then they can be a good way to invest in the value of the gold as a scrap metal. If you’re concerned about being mugged, then it’s a much less conspicuous look than yellow or rose gold. The weight is also extremely satisfying, and it can be difficult to go back to steel watches once you get used to the luxurious heft. But, the cons are fairly significant. Scratches will accrue almost instantly without extreme caution, and you could argue that the inflated prices aren’t worth it when it just looks like steel.

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Can you tell which metal this is?

The reason why I no longer consider myself a white gold hater is mostly down to the fact that I now own a white gold watch which I bought for almost nothing, but I have grown to understand it better. Especially on a small watch, the weight of the bracelet is fun to notice. It’s almost surreal, with a bit of a magical quality. I’m also unsure if it’s just the finishing of this particular bracelet or if it’s a placebo effect, but there seems to be more of a diamond-like sparkle to its polished finishes than on steel. That said, I’m fairly convinced it’s all in my head. If you think you can tell white gold and stainless steel apart based on looks alone, please feel free to prove me and those two jewellers wrong.