The Evolution of Rose Gold Jewelry

Rose gold, also known as pink gold, has fluctuated both in popularity and hue over the past century. Although it has evolved, rose gold endures as a beautiful alternative to the bright warmth of yellow gold and the cool tones of white gold. By learning about the different eras of rose gold jewelry, you will know which pieces to look for to find your favorite shade.

Rose gold wedding bands from different eras.
A selection of rose gold wedding bands from different eras.

The Origin of Rose Gold

Rose gold is by definition a yellow gold and copper alloy, with yellow gold being the dominant component. This alloy was originally known as “Russian Gold”, because it didn’t gain popularity until the 19th century in Russia, where it became highly fashionable amongst the aristocracy. Renowned designer Carl Fabergé used rose gold in his ornate decorative eggs, which brought the metal to the world’s stage and sparked its popularity in Europe

Victorian Era Rose Gold

Rose gold was the favorite metal of the Victorian era, particularly in the British Empire. It was often accompanied by blue sapphire, mined from British-ruled India.  These precious gems made their way to London, where they were often set by master jewelers into rose gold mountings. Their color, a dark, cobalt blue with midnight fire, was the perfect complement for rose gold. 

You will often see a variation in hues in Victorian Era rose gold. This is a due to a lack of “rules” surrounding gold alloys at the time. Goldsmiths would take a certain amount of artistic freedom, and the ratio of metals could vary slightly depending on who created the alloy. The karat of the gold is determined by the percentage of pure yellow gold in the alloy. For example, 14 karat gold requires a percentage of 58.5% gold. The remaining metals in the alloy will affect the final color.

Victorian aquamarine rose gold ring

You will also see Victorian jewelry that is much rosier than yellow gold, but not quite true rose gold. Antique and estate jewelers will use the term Hamilton Gold to describe this in-between hue. When you shop for Victorian rose gold jewelry, be aware that the color will be quite different than modern rose gold jewelry. Expect more coppery tones, and less of the bright pink hue you might associate with rose gold. Victorian gold is highly desirable, because it has a certain beautiful warmth to it that is not found in modern pieces, and is flattering to any skin tone.

Rose Gold in the 20th Century

As jewelry transitioned into the twentieth century, rose gold alloys took on more uniformity. Although white gold was quite popular in the Art Deco era, rose gold was ever present. It was often used as an accent on white gold pieces, sometimes in the form of a rose with green gold leaves on a cameo brooch or the shoulders of a ring.

The post-war feminine resurgence in fashion had its affect on jewelry. Retro era rose gold was shinier, brighter, and bolder in color. New technology in jewelry-making allowed goldsmiths to combine rose gold with white and yellow gold in the same piece of jewelry. This meant that rose gold took on a new cast, tending more towards a peachy, fiery hue that contrasted beautifully with the white and yellow gold. The same theory was applied to the gems used in rose gold jewelry. Instead of sapphires, bright red rubies became a popular choice for rose gold rings.

Modern rose gold Elizabeth Henry diamond ring

Modern Rose Gold

Rose gold remains popular in current fashions, although the tone of the color has once again changed. Modern rose gold tends to have a pure pink cast with very little of the coppery tones of the Victorian era. Modern Russian rose gold is perhaps the pinkest, with a pure pink color that evokes youth and energy.

If modern rose gold is too pink for you, you might prefer the more coppery tones of rose gold jewelry from the Victorian era and early 20th century. These warm shades are versatile and flattering, and compliment a wide variety of jewelry styles. Click here to shop Market Square Jewelers’ rose gold collection.

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