As someone who been making wedding cakes for nearly a decade, I can tell you that rose gold has been the single most popular color trend to exist in modern times. To give you an idea of just how popular the color is, Business Insider reported that “Over the last few years, rose gold has become a favorite, while yellow gold was considered outdated.” On top of that, Rose quartz was named the Pantone Color of the Year in 2016. Five years later, the rose gold trend is still going strong. The history behind it is utterly fascinating because this isn’t the first time this magnificent color has come into the spotlight. And well, of course, it all started with jewelry. 

To start, let’s break down how rose gold is made. Firstly, it’s not natural at all. Actually, most of the gold jewelry you’ll ever own is probably not 100% natural. Gold in its natural state is too soft and so it needs to be mixed with other metals to form the gold that we know and love to wear. This is what’s called an alloy. Rose gold is typically made by mixing natural yellow gold with some amount of copper, and the exact amounts of each can lead to variations in the color. 

So, the actual history of rose gold, or as it’s been more commonly known in history as pink gold, is a bit more complicated. It technically started back in the days of the Roman Empire, when many of their gold coins happened to have a reddish-coppery tint to them due to impurities in the gold. It wasn’t intentional at all back then though. It was next found around Colombia in artifacts that date from 100AD to 1000AD and it was found amongst several other colors of gold. It seemed the people from that time had a clear preference for red gold. 

At some point, Henry VIII of  England got a hold of some red gold and named it crown gold, though it was too soft to be used in regular wear. It then also made its way to France in their quatre-couleur (four colors) jewelry, which used yellow gold, white gold, pink gold, and green gold. But the real rise started in Russia during the 19th century when it became Russian Gold when Carl Faberge started using it in the infamous Faberge eggs. Then in the Victorian Era, it was picked up by Queen Victoria of England and gained some popularity there as rose gold finally. Back then though there were no set rules on the color of alloy amounts and the goldsmiths of the time had a certain amount of freedom when deciding what they thought would look best. 

The Rose Trellis Faberge Egg with various colored gold embellishments.
[Image Description: The Rose Trellis Faberge Egg with various colored gold embellishments.] Via public domain.
Rose gold landed in America and had some rise and falls in popularity for a while. In the 1870s it did well but then around the 1920s it went completely out of fashion, right alongside yellow gold, and was replaced by platinum and white gold. Then came WWII, and rose gold landed amongst many trends which came during that time. Since platinum was banned for all uses other than military and women picked up good old rose gold again. 

After some time the trend eventually died down only to be revived in the most unlikely of places, by Apple and the launch of the iPhone 6S. That launch was likely the first time that many millennials even heard of rose gold and 40% of orders for the phone were all in the rose gold color.

Technically though, it can be argued that rose gold’s popularity, or at least Apple’s version of rose gold, had been building up long before that. You see, the iPhone 6S isn’t rose gold at all. In fact, the color is much closer to what Nintendo dubbed as a metallic rose when they launched their Nintendo DS Lite years back. 

A hand holding a rose gold iPhone 6S.
[Image Description: A hand holding a rose gold iPhone 6S.] Via Nadine Shaabana on Unsplash.
Rose gold, by definition and how it’s made, can never actually be that kind of pinkish color. It has to have some hint of copper and the yellow gold of which it’s made. But that doesn’t matter very much because pink has always been a popular color, therefore many people hardly notice or care about the misconception. Now, several years after the 6S and well into the height of the rose gold trend, the color is still going strong no matter what variation of pink or copper or yellow gold it may involve. You see it in nails, all over Instagram, and of course in wedding cakes. Rose gold will not die out anytime soon, at least in my humble opinion. But if I could ask you all just one favor. The next time you’re looking for something rose gold, please specify if you really just want metallic pink. 

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  • Neha Merchant

    Neha Merchant is a cake decorator and content creator who is currently studying Biology and Environmental Sciences at the University of Toronto. She's passionate about social justice and equality for all and spends her free time indulging in anime and mobage fandoms.