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The vintage appeal of rose gold jewelry

Cartier popularized the gold-copper mix in the 1920s. The delicate-looking metal’s pink hues work with today’s colorful, feminine looks.

May 02, 2010|By Melissa Magsaysay, Los Angeles Times

Rose gold, first popularized almost a century ago, has made a comeback.

The blush-hued version of the precious metal is showing up in status watches, engagement rings, necklaces and more. The feminine pieces look delicate on their own but can also bridge the gap between white and yellow gold when all three are worn together.

Rose gold, which is sometimes called "pink gold," may seem more exotic than run-of-the-mill yellow, but the secret to its color is comparatively pedestrian: copper. All gold used in jewelry must be mixed with other metals in order to withstand wear because 24-karat gold (the kind that is 99% or more gold) is too soft to withstand wear on its own. The amount of copper used as an alloy is what gives rose gold its pink tinge. "Alloy metal suppliers will vary the copper, but whether you call it red, pink or rose gold, it's all the same process," says Duvall O'Steen, director of jewelry promotion for the World Gold Council.

"Rose gold is more rare, whether that's because it's made to order or there's just less of it being made," she says. The fashion world loves nothing more than exclusivity, making rose gold that much more desirable. But the price is still comparable to white or yellow gold because copper is inexpensive and jewelry made of rose gold is priced on the weight of the gold.

Cartier made a major mark in rose gold history when the Trinity band (made of three intertwining bands of rose, white and yellow gold) debuted in the late 1920s. French writer and filmmaker Jean Cocteau popularized the ring and the look of rose gold by stacking two on his pinkie finger, sparking a trend in wearing rose gold and in mixing metals.

Though the classic Trinity pieces from Cartier evoke the metal's history, its recent resurgence can be attributed to the comeback of color in fashion. "The '90s were about black and white and minimalism, and everyone was into silver [or white gold]," O'Steen says. "At the beginning of the 21st century, color and femininity made a comeback. Rose gold complements all the frilly shades as well as all the neutrals this season. It just works with what's going on in fashion right now."

This time around, rose gold seems to have staying power as some women eschew more traditional metals such as platinum and select rose gold engagement rings. Publicist Kate Goldberg opted for a rose-cut diamond set in rose gold because she wanted something nontraditional and with vintage appeal. "My fiancé and I were looking for a ring that was unique but at the same time still felt like an engagement ring," she says. "The rose gold makes it look like it could be an heirloom, something that I can pass down one day."

Goldberg's ring came from the West Hollywood jewelry store Roseark, which carries rose gold pieces made by fine jewelry designers such as Jennifer Meyer Jewelry and Garland Collection as well as co-owner Kathy Rose's line, Kathy Rose for Roseark. Rose says she has seen a significant increase in rose gold jewelry in the last five years.

"We have over 1,000 different designers, and most of them do a collection in rose gold," says Rose, who personally has an affinity for the metal and mixes pieces with silver, yellow gold and diamonds.

And though rose gold may have a delicate feel, men are wearing it too. Rose's husband Rick sports a rose gold Rolex and wedding band and designs a line of men's jewelry called Rosebud that includes rose gold cufflinks in the shape of anchors.

"The last two wedding bands I've designed have been in rose gold," Rose says. "People definitely aren't afraid of it anymore."

melissa.magsaysay@latimes.com

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