A smart alternative to platinum
Palladium is still an uncommon choice for engagement rings, but it’s an absolutely fantastic option – full of all of the benefits of platinum, but without the hefty price tag.
Lighter than platinum, harder than gold and silver and with great durability, palladium can be cast into delicate and intricate jewelry designs allowing jewelers to create ornate embellishments, detailed decorations and exceptional diamond or gemstone settings.
In this section we’ll look at
- A little bit of technical info about palladium so you know what it is you’re looking at
- What’s good about palladium engagement rings
- What’s not so good
- Some examples of fantastic palladium rings for you to check out
At the end you should have everything you need to know to make an informed choice about palladium engagement rings, as well as some inspiration for choosing your ring.
So what is palladium?
Platinum and palladium do look different when examined closely: palladium has a very bright, white and highly reflective sheen – some palladium engagement rings look even whiter than silver. Platinum has a much softer, more metallic gray tone.
Palladium was first used for jewelry in 1939, when platinum was placed on a restricted ‘strategic metals’ list and reserved only for military use. Jewelers needed an alternative, so began to use both white gold and palladium. White gold is easier to come by and to work with, so has always been more popular than palladium, but palladium offers many advantages over white gold.
Like platinum, all palladium used in jewelry is combined with another metal to make it harder and more resistant to being scratched,
And, like platinum, most jewelry grade palladium is 95% pure, with the remaining 5% comprised of either ruthenium (another metal in the platinum family), or copper.
This level of purity of the palladium allow will be indicated by the grading on the certification that you will receive with your ring. The most common alloy is labelled PD950, which indicates that it is 95% pure palladium.
What’s good about palladium engagement rings?
Palladium basically has all the best qualities of platinum, with one big advantage – a much lower price.
Palladium is much less dense than platinum, so much less of the actual material is needed to create an engagement ring. The actual difference between two metals will depend on what style of ring setting is chosen and how much metal is needed, but as a guide:
18k White Gold: $850
14k White Gold: $600
18k White Gold: $1,950
14k White Gold: $1,680
As you can see, palladium prices are way below platinum, below 18 karat white gold and on a par with 14k white gold. Palladium has a big advantage over white gold though.
White gold is regular yellow gold which has been combined with silver, zinc and nickel to make it appear more white and less yellow, and then electroplated with a very thin layer of another metal – rhodium – to give it a brilliant white finish. However, this white finish wears off over time, meaning that white gold starts to look less white after a couple of years. Replacing rhodium on white gold is easy to do and not too expensive – usually about $50 – but it’s an extra hassle for white gold engagement ring wearers. You don’t need to worry about this with palladium.
Palladium also doesn’t tarnish, but it will develop a natural ‘patina’ over time. When palladium is scratched though, the metal is pushed to one side, rather than being lost all together. A jeweler can repair a scratched palladium engagement ring by simply pushing the metal back into its original position.
Like platinum rings, palladium engagement rings are hypoallergienic, so won’t irritate sensitive skin. Again, this is a benefit over white gold, where about 10% of people are allergic to the nickel contained in the white gold alloy.
What’s not so good about palladium engagement rings?
Palladium is still not a common choice for engagement rings, which means that not every jeweler will stock it and if they do, the engagement ring styles may be limited. Your local bricks and mortar store may have no palladium engagement rings in stock at all. I’ve linked to some of the most classic ring styles at the bottom of this page.
Difficult to work with
While palladium does have a lot of advantages over white gold, one area that it falls short is that it’s more difficult to work with than white gold. It has a much higher melting point and is less malleable and easy to bend into shape. This means that not every jeweler may be able to help you with resizing or repairs, and these are likely to cost a little more work on a white gold ring would.
Of the white metals that engagement rings are made out of, palladium is the least hard and most likely to be scratched.
Hardness of metals is measured by a scale called the ‘Vickers’ scale, and the white metals score:
- 18k white gold – 225
- 14k white gold – 165
- Platinum – 135
- Palladium – 110
White gold is the most scratch-resistant, but only when the rhodium covering is in place. When this wears off, it will be less resistant than both palladium and platinum.
This means that slightly more care does need to be taken with palladium than the other metals and it is more likely to show signs of ‘patina’ than the others.
Palladium engagement ring settings
While it’s important to get the best center stone that you can for you ring, it’s the ring setting that really defines the character of the ring.
This list below is by no means definitive, but it’s a representation of some of the different styles of settings that are available. If you see a setting you like, click through to find out more and check out the other palladium setting styles that each jeweler offers too.
There are Solitaire settings are available in many variations, but the two broad are the four prong and the six prong, which is sometimes called the ‘Tiffany setting’, as Tiffany & Co. originally invented the design in 1886.
This bezel ring offers protection on two sides of the diamond, while leaving the other sides open to ensure that as much light as possible can enter the stone is that it always sparkles brilliantly.
The ‘infinity twist’ is a modern interpretation of the bezel ring – the two sides of the band are twisted into a figure of 8 on each side, intended to represent the long-lasting commitment of marriage.
Adding supporting stones to a ring can be a great way to take the pressure off the main diamond and mean that it doesn’t need to do all of the impressing on its own. This ring uses tiny pavé diamonds on the split shank band to add huge amounts of glamour to an otherwise simple design.
Halo settings can be as ornate as you can imagine – this example has pavé diamonds on the top and sides of the ring band and also the top and sides of the halo setting itself, adding a huge 1.3 carats of diamonds on top of te weight of the center stone.
The supporting stones on a halo setting definitely don’t need to be diamonds too – sapphires, emeralds and rubies can all be used to add an uncommon twist and ensure that your ring is unique.
Your imagination is pretty much the only limit with halo engagement rings. This double halo ups the bling-factor considerably, and the 0.75 carats of diamonds set into the band are sure to catch the light and sparkle brilliantly from any angle.
If your budget can stretch to it, then platinum is still acknowledged as the top of the tree when it comes to engagement ring metals. However, palladium offers a an excellent alternative.
Even whiter than platinum, hypoallergenic and without the need to ever have it re-plated like white gold, palladium is a stunning choice for an engagement ring at a much more wallet-friendly price than platinum.
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