What You Should Know About Metals
Gold and platinum aren’t your only metal options when buying an engagement ring! Explore the wide world of jewelry metals — from traditional to ultra-modern.
If you focus only on the diamond when buying an engagement ring, it’s like thinking about the icing and not the wedding cake. The diamond might be the most “delicious” element of the ring, but the base that holds it all together is equally important.
Should you opt for a ring made of precious metals—gold, silver or platinum—or an alternative, more contemporary metal? Each metal makes a statement about your fiancée-to-be’s style, and each has advantages for looks, sturdiness and cost. To help you choose the best metal for an engagement ring, consider your options.
Platinum was a popular metal for jewelry until the 20th century, when the metal was taken off the market for military use during wartime. That gives you a sense of how durable platinum is — it’s shiny and beautiful, but it’s also a workhorse. In the past couple of decades, platinum has reappeared as a top choice for engagement rings and other jewelry.
Platinum has a soft white hue. It’s 30 times more rare than gold (which means it’s more expensive) and 40% heavier than 14K gold — and it doesn’t tarnish or oxidize. Because of its hardness, the details of intricately engraved or embellished rings often look sharper and more precise when done in platinum.
Most British Crown jewels are made of platinum. Platinum is mined miles underground, primarily in South Africa and Russia.
Platinum in jewelry is 90% to 95% pure, which brings out the beauty of diamonds set in platinum engagement rings.
Over time, platinum will wear and scratch with use. Your jeweler can polish your platinum wedding band or platinum engagement ring to remove any scratches.
Gold has always been a standard for engagement and wedding jewelry, thanks to its naturally warm, yellow hue and beautiful luster. Gold engagement rings are romantic and timeless.
The alloy that’s mixed with gold affects its color. There are hundreds of possible mixtures, but options generally include:
Pure gold mixed with a little silver and copper for a warm look.
Pure gold is combined with palladium and silver or with nickel, copper and zinc. Rhodium plating improves whiteness and durability.
Actually yellowish-green in appearance, this is pure gold plus silver.
PINK AND ROSE
Increasingly popular, these reddish gold options are pure gold plus copper. The more copper, the redder the metal.Interesting facts: Gold is mined primarily in South Africa but also in Australia, Peru, Russia and the United States.
Gold purity is measured in karats (not to be confused with carats, a measure of gem weight). Karats are divided into 24 parts, so 24 parts of gold — known as 24K gold — is pure. However, 24K gold is soft and easily damaged, so it’s mixed — or alloyed — with other metals to make it more durable. For example, 14K gold is 14 parts gold, 10 parts other metal. Jewelry must be at least 10K to be sold as gold in the United States.
Buff your gold engagement ring with a soft cloth to keep it shiny and smooth.
Silver has been valued for centuries and once was considered more valuable than gold. Today, it’s the most affordable of the precious metals. Sterling silver is actually pure silver mixed with copper or other metal to make it more durable. Although it is harder than pure silver, it’s still one of the softer metals and can get scratched and marked easily.
Sterling silver can range from bright white to grayish white, and can have a matte or shiny finish.
The ancients called silver the lunar metal — cool and luminous, like the moon’s reflection on water. Silver is mined mainly in Australia, Mexico, Bolivia, Peru, Poland and Canada.
Like gold, pure silver is too soft to be used in jewelry. It’s combined with other metals such as copper to boost its strength. Sterling silver must contain at least 92.5% pure silver, which is why it’s stamped as .925.
Silver tarnishes, so store your sterling silver engagement ring in tarnish-preventive bags in a cool, dry place. Don’t use tissue paper or paper towels to dry, because they can scratch sterling silver.
Beyond the three metals we all know so well, there is a world of lightweight, modern-looking and durable metals that have become popular for wedding bands — especially for men who aren’t used to wearing jewelry. These alternative metals aren’t typically seen in women’s engagement rings, but can offer contemporary looks for wedding bands that will complement a gold or platinum engagement ring.
This naturally white alloy was created for use in the medical and aerospace industries but now is marketed also as a contemporary metal for fine bridal jewelry. The hypoallergenic metal is about four times harder than platinum, making cobalt rings durable for a lifetime.
Cobalt is a bright white metal, giving it the appearance of platinum. It’s heavier than other alternative metals (such as titanium), giving it a heavier feeling for those who want weight to their wedding jewelry.
Cobalt rings are fairly scratch-resistant. It is also a metal that allows for easy resizing, unlike some of the other contemporary metals on the market today.
This metal isn’t just for flatware anymore. It’s becoming popular because of its strength, durability and affordability.
Shiny and strong, stainless steel rings can be polished to take on different looks — the more matte look of pewter or the reflective look of chrome. Either way, some people appreciate the sturdy, modern look of the metal.
Steel is mixed with at least 10.5% chromium to resist oxidation.
You can clean stainless steel jewelry easily with dish soap, water and a soft cloth.
Originally used in industrial applications, titanium has become popular for wedding jewelry — especially for men’s wedding bands — because it’s so lightweight. For people not used to wearing jewelry, it can be a refreshing difference to put on a titanium ring compared to a platinum or gold one. It also creates a modern, unique style that some people want for their ring.
Black, grey or silver, titanium rings often have inlays of other metals and commonly come with polished or satin finishes.
The name is a nod to the Titans of Greek mythology. Titanium is mined in numerous locations, including Australia, Canada, China, New Zealand, Norway, North America and South Africa.
Titanium jewelry doesn’t include alloys and is hypoallergenic.
Titanium is one of the strongest, most scratch-resistant metals available for wedding rings. Titanium wedding rings cannot be sized.
This silvery metal is four times harder than titanium. Tungsten rings create a brilliant, hard-looking shine.
Tungsten filament light bulbs revolutionized the lighting industry in 1904 when they replaced less-efficient carbon filament lamps. Tungsten is found mainly in China with smaller production in Russia, Canada, Bolivia, Austria, Portugal, Thailand, Brazil, Peru and Rwanda.
Tungsten is a pure element and is hypoallergenic.
Little maintenance is required for tungsten wedding bands because of the metal’s hardness. Tungsten rings cannot be sized.
Regardless of the metal you choose, take these steps to keep your jewelry polished and scratch-free:
- Store jewelry in separate pouches or compartments of a jewelry box to avoid scratching.
- Clean jewelry in a solution of mild dish detergent and warm water, rinse thoroughly and dry with a soft cloth.
- Don’t scrub precious metals with an adult toothbrush. To remove tough grime from crevices, you can gently use a child’s toothbrush with soft bristles.
- Remove jewelry for manual labor or sports to avoid scratching, when working with harsh chemicals, and when swimming in chlorinated water.
- Check with your jeweler if your jewelry contains diamonds or gemstones, because some may be treated and need special attention.