What is Black Gold Jewelry and Should You Buy It?

Last updated February 22, 2024

Black gold is gold that’s been artificially treated to change its surface color from yellow to black. Once dismissed as a novelty, black gold has carved out a small but enduring niche in the fine jewelry market.

This page takes you through the facts and history of black gold, as well as how it’s made, how it compares to other black metals, and how to clean and care for it.

Once you’ve finished reading, you’ll have a firm grasp of the benefits and drawbacks of black gold jewelry, and will be able to make an informed decision on whether it’s right for you.

Is Black Gold Real?

As seen in these beautiful jewelry pieces, black gold is as real as rose, yellow, or white gold.
A jewelry collection of black, white, yellow, and rose gold rings

Let’s start with what’s probably the most common question people have about black gold – is it even real?

Yes, in the sense that black gold items are made from real gold. The amount of gold in a black gold ring is the same as the amount in a yellow gold, white gold, or rose gold ring of the same gold purity level.

In other words, a 18 karat gold ring always contains 18k or 75% pure gold, no matter what color it is.

No, in the sense that black gold jewelry isn’t black all the way through. Only the surface of the metal is blackened. The gold underneath remains yellow.

You can think of it this way: Black gold is real gold, but it’s not made entirely of gold that’s black.

A Brief History of Black Gold

The black gold used in this amethyst and black diamond ring is a dark precious jewelry metal, not a base metal. It's not news that precious metals are valuable all over the world.
A black gold ring set with amethysts and diamonds

While yellow gold has been around since before the formation of the Earth, and humans have known how to artificially blacken metals such as bronze for thousands of years, the idea of deliberately turning gold black seems to have been very recent.

We don’t know exactly who blackened gold first, but we do know that by the late 20th to early 21st centuries, designers were experimenting with black gold jewelry.

One of these early pioneers was the Swiss brand de Grisogono, which produced unconventional pieces such as this pair of black gold dangle earrings set with brown diamonds. Another was UK designer Stephen Webster, known for his black gold Goth and punk-themed creations.

However, black gold never broke through to mainstream prominence, and today, it continues to largely fly under the radar. With a few exceptions such as the LA-based Spinelli Kilcollin, most modern designers stay away from it, and many consumers still don’t know it even exists.

To some fans of black gold, this obscurity is actually part of its appeal. Black gold is effectively gold in disguise – perfect for those who prefer a “stealth wealth” look over blatant bling.

As reported in Forbes, the luxury watchmaker MCT explained: “the black coating on gold could be considered as the quintessence of contemporary luxury because it is exclusive, smart, and discreet.”

How to Make Black Gold

This jewelry piece of intricate details and colors features black plating and black diamonds. The source of the black color is a ground metallic substance (containing rhodium and others), which is then electroplated onto the ring.
A gold ring with black rhodium plating and gray diamonds


Of the various methods for producing black gold, electroplating is the most common. It works by suspending a piece of gold jewelry in a liquid solution that contains fine dark metal particles, then passing an electric current through it. The current bonds a thin dark metallic layer to the gold.

Most electroplated black gold is coated with rhodium or ruthenium, precious platinum group metals that are naturally bright and silvery-colored. To create “black” rhodium or ruthenium, dark additives are mixed in with these powdered metals. The resulting color is typically not true black, but more of a deep or gunmetal gray.

Be aware that elecroplating eventually wears off – usually unevenly. This results in a patchy appearance as the yellow gold starts to show through. A ring typically needs replating after one to two years of daily wear.


The oxidation method of creating black gold involves applying heat treatment to special types of gold alloys, which causes a black oxide layer to form on the metal’s surface. The alloy must contain certain metals in order for this blackening effect to occur.

Cobalt is usually the alloying metal used to give oxidized black gold its color. Other alloy metals such copper and titanium can also produce dark oxides on gold, but cobalt oxide is the most stable and durable.

Oxidation generally wears off faster than electroplating. Oxidized black gold also tends to be more matte in appearance, compared to the high shine of an electroplated finish.

Chemical Vapor Deposition

Another option to create black gold is through chemical vapor deposition (CVD). As its name suggests, this high-tech method works by depositing chemical vapor onto another material – in this case, gold – where it forms a solid coating.

Carbon is the chemical element used for coating CVD black gold. The CVD process heats carbon-containing gases in a vacuum chamber to create carbon vapor, which is then deposited onto the gold as a tightly-bonded and long-lasting layer of black amorphous carbon.


The patination method works by chemically inducing a surface color change on gold. Essentially, a jeweler exposes a piece of gold jewelry to potassium sulfide or another sulfur-containing compound, and the chemical reaction produces a dark patina.

Black patination can also be precisely “painted” onto different sections of a single piece of gold jewelry, which affords designers flexibility to create unique or customized finishes. However, patination generally doesn’t last as long as other black gold coatings.

Laser Treatment

Gold can also be turned black by high-powered lasers that create light-absorbing nanostructures on the metal’s surface.

This is the only method that produces a permanent black gold finish. All other types of dark surface treatments for gold wear off over time.

Sadly, laser treated black gold jewelry won’t be appearing in stores any time soon. The femtosecond laser beams required to make it use massive amounts of energy, rendering this method of blackening gold too expensive to be commercially viable.

Black Gold vs. Other Black Metals

Wedding bands made by specialized jewelry manufacturers from a blend of black tungsten and titanium alloy. The black hue of these adornments conveys classic elegance, beauty, and allure.
Three black tungsten carbide rings

Pros and Cons of Black Gold

When comparing black gold to other dark metals, a key point to keep in mind is that gold of any color is a precious metal. The other black metals discussed in this section aren’t precious, which makes them much less valuable.

A major advantage of gold over most other metals is its high malleability. This means it can bend without breaking, so it will absorb any damage that comes its way instead of potentially shattering.

It also means that gold rings are resizable, another pro as your ring size can change over the course of your life.

With a black gold ring, however, resizing is more complicated. The resizing process damages the black surface layer, so a jeweler would need to reapply the coating afterwards. This raises the time and cost involved in resizing black gold rings compared to other types of gold rings.

Other cons associated with black gold: its black color isn’t permanent, and it’s more prone to scratching and denting than many other metals.

Black Gold vs. Black Titanium

Titanium is a strong, lightweight, and naturally silvery-gray metal. Black titanium is titanium that’s undergone treatment to change its color to black, typically through being coated with materials such as titanium nitride or diamond-like carbon (DLC).

Black titanium offers greater durability and scratch resistance than black gold. It’s also much lighter, which can be a positive if you prefer accessories that feel barely there, but a negative if you like jewelry to have some weight to it.

Black Gold vs. Black Tungsten

Tungsten jewelry is actually made from tungsten carbide, a compound of tungsten and carbon known for its high durability and corrosion resistance. Tungsten carbide is naturally gray, but its surface can be blackened by applying a layer of black titanium alloy.

Compared to black gold, black tungsten is harder, more scratch resistant, and more popular. Tungsten rings, in particular, have a strong following among men, as tungsten carbide’s strength and durability are seen as masculine properties.

Black Gold vs. Black Ceramic

The word “ceramic” may bring pottery to mind, but it more broadly refers to a category of inorganic materials that are hard, brittle, and resistant to heat and corrosion. Where clay is used to make pottery, zirconium oxide or titanium carbide are used to make black ceramic.

Both zirconium oxide and titanium carbide are harder, lighter, and more scratch-resistant than black gold. Their black color is also innate and permanent, rather than a surface coating. This means the blackness of your black ceramic jewelry won’t wear off over time.

Black Gold vs. Black Carbon Fiber

Black carbon fiber, sometimes referred to as black graphite fiber, is a polymer made from thin strands of carbon woven together and set in resin. Unlike most types of black gold, carbon fiber is naturally and permanently black because the carbon strands themselves are black.

Though not technically a metal, carbon fiber has found some success as an alternative jewelry metal, especially among men. It’s most notable for its incredible strength-to-weight ratio, which can be up to five times as strong as steel, while remaining much lighter than both steel and gold.

Types of Black Gold Jewelry

Two beautiful jewellery rings, each made with a different color material and set with white gems.
A black gold wedding band next to a white gold engagement ring

Black Gold Engagement Rings

If you want an engagement ring that’s unconventional, eye-catching, and elegant all at once, black gold is an option worthy of serious consideration.

Being made of gold, it’s inherently valuable, and its corrosion-resistant nature symbolizes eternal love. Being black, it goes with everything, no matter your skin tone or wardrobe. Plus, the contrast of black metal against white diamonds or colored diamonds can really make them pop. What’s not to love?

Granted, the impermanence of the black coating is one not-so-lovable thing. If you do choose a black gold ring, it will most likely have black ruthenium or rhodium plating, as this is the most common method for creating black gold.

That means if you wear your black gold engagement ring every day, you’ll need to get its plating touched up every 1-2 years. Saying that, a more conventional white gold ring would need the same amount of maintenance, since nearly all white gold jewelry is also electroplated.

Black Gold Wedding Rings and Bands

Just like a black gold engagement ring, a black gold wedding ring or wedding band makes a distinctive statement. Get a matching bridal set or create a striking monochromatic look by choosing one black gold and one white gold ring.

Other Black Gold Jewelry

Just like yellow, white, and rose gold, black gold is a highly versatile jewelry metal. From basic black gold bracelets and pendants to intricate black gold earrings and necklaces – you can find pretty much anything you want, or have your own designs custom made.

If you have metal allergies, you’ll be pleased to know that most types of black gold are hypoallergenic, provided the yellow gold underneath is at least 18 karats pure.

One potential exception is oxidized black gold, which has high cobalt content. However, this would only be an issue if your skin is sensitive to cobalt, and cobalt allergies are quite rare.

Black Gold Jewelry Maintenance

This black gold color on these jewelry items is the result of plating, which isn't permanent. As Santa Barbara jeweler Calla Gold notably commented, it's more like using hair dye to temporarily change your hair color.
Rings plated with black ruthenium

How to Clean Black Gold Jewelry

To clean plated, oxidized, or patinated black gold at home, follow these simple steps:

  1. Mix a few drops of mild dish soap with warm water in a bowl.
  2. Place your black gold jewelry item in the solution and let it soak for about ten minutes.
  3. Rub gently with a paper towel, cotton ball, microfiber cloth, or even just your fingers. Don’t use brushes or abrasive materials.
  4. Rinse and pat dry.

For CVD black gold, which is a little sturdier and longer-lasting than the other black gold coatings, you can scrub it (gently!) with a soft-bristled toothbrush after soaking. Just be sure it’s new, as the toothpaste residue on old toothbrushes can be abrasive.

How to Prevent Damage to Black Gold Jewelry

While commercially available black gold jewelry won’t stay black forever, here are some tips to help extend its lifespan.

  • Take off your black gold while applying personal care products such as skin creams, perfumes, deodorants, and liquid exfoliants. You can put your jewelry back on after the product has absorbed into your skin.
  • The same goes for household cleaning products. Take off your black gold rings (or wear protective gloves) before using any surface cleaners, detergents or disinfectants.
  • Don’t wear black gold when you go in the ocean or swimming pools. Both seawater and chlorinated pool water are damaging to black gold jewelry.
  • Take off your black gold rings before engaging in manual labor or working with tools. This will prevent your rings from collecting unsightly scratches and dents.
  • Lastly, store your black gold pieces separately from your other jewelry, so they don’t accidentally get scratched by other metals.

Great work, you made it to the end! Since you’re now initiated into the mysteries of black gold, why not explore the contrasting brilliance of white gold?