Engagement Ring Metals
How do you know which one to choose?
Bands and heavy metal aren’t just the main topic of conversation for people who wear guyliner and overly-tight black t-shirts T-shirts, bands are also the round bit of an engagement ring and the heavy metal that you need to know about is of the shiny, expensive variety.
There’s a whole range of metals to choose from, each with its own attributes and its own price tag, but which should you go for?
This post will help you to decide things like whether it’s worth spending on platinum over white gold and 18 karat gold over 9 karat – essential when planning your budget for your engagement ring.
Prized by the ancient Egyptians, Aztecs, Romans and the dragon in Shrek, gold’s rarity and sparkle means it has always been valued above its usefulness as a metal.
The earliest gold coins date back to 2,700BC, while the oldest jewelry is from way back around 4,200BC.
But despite its long history and extensive mining since the 19th century, if you add up all the gold that’s ever been mined in the whole history of the world you get just 174,000 tonnes. That’s the same as the amount of trash that the USA produces in just 40 minutes.
Was that stat impressive? I’m not sure, but the bottom line is that although there seems to be a lot of it, it’s actually quite rare.
And we should all probably recycle more.
Gold is a soft metal, so is rarely found in pure form, other than gold ingots. If you took one of the bricks from Fort Knox and pressed your thumbnail into it, you would leave a mark, so for this reason, gold is combined with other metals to add strength. The proportion of gold in the resulting alloy gives the karat rating:
- 9 karat = 9/24 = 37.5% pure gold
- 18 karat = 18/24 = 75% pure gold
- 24 karat = 24/24 = 100% gold.
Most jewelry grade gold is either classified as 9 karat or 18 karat gold.
Nine karat is springier and more difficult to bend out than 18 karat, so a ring with a fine band is less likely to bend out of shape if it’s 9 karat rather than 18. However, if a ring is sturdily constructed, then neither will bend out of shape.
A difference which is obvious to the naked eye is the colour difference in colour between the two. 18 karat gold has a richer golden colour than 9 karat, and will retain this colour and lustre better as it ages.
With a much higher percentage of gold in 18 karat, you might expect it to be considerably more expensive than 9 karat, and it is nearly twice as pricey on a per-gram basis. But with the small amounts of gold used in rings, the difference in price is not too great in the overall cost of an engagement ring.
If you’re going for gold and you can stretch to it, 18 karat is the one to go for, as long as the ring is not lightweight. It’s harder, offers a richer colour and it will age better.
For more information and to check out a range of yellow gold engagement ring settings, click through to this page.
White gold starts life as yellow gold but is combined with some whiter metals and then plated with rhodium, which has many of the same properties as platinum, including the white colour. The coating is between 8-10 atoms thick, and although it is durable, it may eventually wear away, meaning the ring will return to the colour of the gold underneath.
While 9 karat and 18 karat white gold have a similar finish when new, as the coating rubs off the difference between them will be more obvious. For more information on white gold engagement rings, check out this page.
Rose gold is gold tinted with a copper alloy to give it a pink hue. The actual colour depends on the amount of copper in the alloy – the higher the percentage, the darker the hue. So, compared to an 18 karat gold ring, a 9 karat rose gold ring will have a lower proportion of gold and higher proportion of copper in the alloy, giving it deeper pink tones.
Although it can look lovely on women, if you plan to match your wedding ring to hers, you should avoid rose gold unless you are comfortable wearing such a feminine colour.
For more information on rose gold engagement rings, check out this page.
Platinum is the rarest metal on the list – less than 10% of the volume of gold is mined each year. It’s found mainly in South Africa and a large proportion of what’s produced is for industrial use – mainly in car catalytic convertors and lab equipment. Most jewelry-grade platinum is 95% pure – the remaining 5% is usually copper or titanium.
Platinum is extremely durable and the reason for this is because of its density. Although it will still scratch (all metals do), when it does there will be little metal lost.
Another benefit is that it’s naturally hypoallergenic, so it won’t irritate sensitive skin.
The negatives of platinum are the high price – it’s usually about twice as expensive as an equivalent gold band – and it’s difficult to polish up to a brilliant lustre once it loses its initial sheen.
One thing to consider is that while men often like to buy things they know will last, for women the looks may be more important.
Check out this page for more information on platinum engagement rings.
Silver isn’t often used for engagement rings because it’s soft and tarnishes easily – even washing hands frequently can dull it and it takes a lot of polishing to get it back up to shininess. While it is less expensive than gold or platinum, it’s not recommended for a ring that is going to be worn every day.
Palladium is similar to platinum, but less rare. Its use in jewelry is quite new and it’s sold either on its own or as an alloy in white gold. It’s flexible, resists tarnishing well and is hypoallergenic.
Its lower density than platinum means it’s less expensive, but although it is a similar silver-white in colour, it is darker and greyer than platinum, which affects its bling factor.
For more info on palladium and to check out a range of palladium ring settings, check out this page.
Titanium is seldom used in engagement rings, but is worth considering for a man’s wedding ring. It’s sturdy, has a cool matt grey finish, or can be polished black. It’s durable, corrosion-resistant and made up the Terminator 800’s skeleton. All plus points, obviously. As titanium is more plentiful than the other metals mentioned, it’s also less expensive.
Matching the bands
There are two parts to matching an engagement ring that need to be considered:
- Matching your wife’s wedding ring to her engagement ring
- Matching your own wedding ring (if you choose to wear one)
With your wife-to-be’s wedding and engagement rings, you should make sure they look like they were designed to be worn together. They should complement each other in both colour and shape.
The easiest way is to choose the same metal for both rings.
As well as the look of the rings together, the hardness of the metals needs to be taken into account. As explained earlier, platinum is much harder than white gold, so when they rub together the gold will come off worse. The rhodium layer will be the first to be worn away. That wouldn’t be the end of the ring – you could get it re-plated, but it would be an additional hassle and expense.
I’d recommend keeping the same material for the engagement and wedding rings – they’ll wear well together as they age.
The second thing is to match your ring with hers, if you choose to wear one.
In days of yore, men’s and women’s wedding rings would be bought together, as a set. The man’s would be chunkier, but the design would be the same. This fell out of fashion as women’s rings became ornate. While they used to be just a plain band, now they often incorporate a row of diamonds. Unless you’re Snoop Dogg, you’re probably going to struggle to pull this off.
A common tradition now is for the two rings to match in colour as best they can. So, the rule of thumb would be to choose your wife’s wedding ring first and then one for yourself that will complement it, rather than being an exact match.