Jewelry Guide

How to choose the right metal for your engagement ring

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Choosing the Right Metal for Your Ring

With the array of choices available from one jewelry shop to another, one of the most difficult questions when looking for an engagement ring is deciding on the ring metal. What ring metal should I choose – gold, palladium, platinum, silver? This can be difficult to answer – you need to know your loved one’s preferences and style. While we cannot help you find out what your significant other desires, in this guide, we’ve covered all the technical information that will assist you in making this choice. We are going to take a look at the most popular ring metal choices and compare them in terms of purity, durability, price and performance.

What are the most common metals used for rings?

  1. Gold… all that glitters

Why gold?

First in the list is gold, a versatile precious metal. Gold has been used since ancient civilizations for the making of jewelry. There are a number of good reasons for this – gold does not tarnish, it’s easy to work with, can easily be resized and is immune to rusting and oxidation.

Where does it come from?

Primarily mined in South Africa and as well as in Australia, Peru, Russia and the United States, this metal is pretty much available in every jewelry shop and one could get the best value for money.

Is it durable?

Durability would highly depend on its purity which is measured in parts or what is termed as karats.

Pure gold is composed of 24 karats, although this is rarely used in jewelry making, due to its softness. It can be easily scratched, marked or damaged making it not ideal for everyday wear. To make gold stronger and more durable, it’s combined with other metal alloys such as silver, copper, nickel or zinc.

Then there is 18 karat gold which is composed of 75% gold and 25% metal alloys. 14 karat gold is made of 58.3% gold and is more popular for engagement rings and even wedding bands as the metal is much more durable than 18 karat gold, while still maintaining a level of purity, value and quality that we have come to expect from gold.

Tip: The purer the gold is, the richer and fuller its color is, which is why 18 karat gold will appear more saturated than the 14 karat.

Varieties of gold

Depending on the mix of other metals combined with it, gold comes in various colors.

  • Yellow gold yellow gold engagement ring metals

Pure gold is naturally yellow and this is the color we associate with gold. In fact, gold is synonymous with yellow and a term such as white gold or rose gold seems almost a contradiction!

Yellow gold complements warm skin tones and stands out beautifully against darker skin tones. An advantage of yellow gold is that if your bride to be has sensitive skin, it could be the best choice as it is the most hypoallergenic of all gold metals.

Believed to be a symbol for fidelity, the reputation of this metal could be appealing to the traditional bride. Yellow gold will always be seen as classic and timeless.    

  • White gold 

When yellow gold is combined with copper, zinc and nickel, it turns into the silver-colored stylish, modern and glamorous white gold that is so popular with modern couples.

Due to a number of alloy metals combined to it, white gold is more durable than yellow although in terms of their market price, the two are more or less at par with each other. Over the years, white gold has gained preference over yellow due to its contemporary aesthetic attributes.

white gold ring metal

To achieve its one of a kind shine and shimmer, white gold is plated with rhodium, a type of platinum metal which is most well-known for its reflective properties. Rhodium increases the durability of white gold, and is the main reason white gold is able to resist scratching and tarnishing. Rhodium can wear over time so reapplication will be necessary every now and then depending on usage. Something you might want to consider is if the metal is too flashy, it may outshine your diamond (or other gemstone). Make sure you’ve discussed this with your jeweler.

White gold better complements cool skin types. If you have sensitive skin, the nickel content in the metal (which can cause allergic reactions) can be forgone for palladium or platinum which are both hypoallergenic metals.

In terms of symbolism, white gold is said to be a symbol for friendship. Perfect for the one you want to propose to! On a side note, this also makes a great metal for promise rings.

  • Rose gold rose gold ring metal band

Rose gold has lately risen to popularity, and this trend shows no signs of waning. It is also referred to as pink or red gold. The combination of pure gold and copper gives this metal a rather vintage appeal and a unique, elegant and feminine finish.

In terms of price, rose gold tends to be more affordable than yellow or white gold as copper is generally priced cheaper.

In terms of durability, rose gold is proven to resist tarnishing over time, just like white gold. However, unlike white gold which needs reapplication of rhodium to maintain its glossy appearance, rose gold is proven to maintain its shine for a lifetime.

The copper content can cause some allergic reactions, which is why you need to check the wearer’s tolerance to copper.

Rose gold generally complements all skin types. It also matches a wide range of colors which makes it perfect for daily wear.

And to top it off, rose gold is widely accepted as a symbol of love. That makes it perfect for an engagement ring!

  • Green gold

This color gets its inspiration from nature. The tone is basically yellow gold with a soft greenish hint achieved by combining yellow gold with pure silver. To make the metal more durable however, copper and zinc are often added to it.

Green gold may not be as popular or widely used as the other gold colors.

JamesAllen Engagement Rings

However, if you do decide to get off the beaten path and make this non-conventional choice, it pairs beautifully with the other golds, making it the perfect choice for creating multi-toned bands.

Should I choose gold for my ring?

If you choose gold, you will have a variety of colors and karat weight to choose from. The ring’s surface may eventually have some scratches on it through years of wear but a local jeweler could help clean and smoothen it for a cheap price.

Some jewelry shops even offer a lifetime cleaning service free of charge. When inquiring at a shop, make it a must to learn of their aftersales services. When cleaning the ring on your own, use a soft brush or better yet, a soft cloth with warm, soapy water.

  1. Platinum – the most valuableplatinum ring metal

Considered to be the most priced and valued in the market, platinum, just like gold, does not rust or tarnish over the years. Appearing naturally as whitish silver, platinum could be easily mistaken for white gold although the two definitely vary in terms of cost, durability, design suitability and required maintenance to name a few (this will be discussed more in the proceeding section).

How strong is it?

Platinum is the strongest precious metal and as such it tends to resist scratching through years of wear and tear. However, this metal is highly malleable and will tend to bend or deform if directly hit by hard materials such as doorknobs or kitchenware for example.

Is it hypoallergenic?

Because of the purity required for platinum which is at 95% (the 5% is usually Iridium, a type of metal that is not easily tarnished), it is the most hypoallergenic of all the metals.

Platinum vs. white gold

Both metals are highly praised in their own respects: platinum for being the strongest, most durable and most hypoallergenic metal and white gold for being the classiest, trendiest and most modern of the gold varieties.

In terms of price, platinum will definitely cost more than gold for a couple of reasons:

  • Platinum is rarer than gold, at around 30% rarer! The law of supply and demand will tell us that for this reason alone, platinum is valued more among all other metals.
  • Platinum is a lot denser than gold. Given the same volume of metal, platinum will weigh more than gold and this should cause for the price to be higher.
  • Platinum is 95% pure and strong while white gold should be at 75% (18K) or even at 58.3% (14K) in order to be durable. The rule of jewelry is always that we pay for how much pure metal we are buying.
  • Platinum requires a separate set of tools, special temperature and working environment and more demanding expert skills, meaning that labor cost is higher when working with platinum as compared to gold. Gold, in its purest state, is so soft and easily molded and crafted into fine jewelry.
  • Platinum is naturally strong while white gold is alloyed into strength. As such, both are great for daily wear. However, while platinum is easily de-shaped, white gold tends to be brittle making it more susceptible to cracks when hit by hard objects.

In terms of design suitability, although one may find that platinum and white gold both have the same whitish, shimmering appearance, you’ll find that platinum tends to get dry and dull-looking quicker than white gold. This means that required maintenance will entail re-polishing of the platinum more often than re-plating of the rhodium of the white gold.

Should I choose platinum for my ring?

As you can appreciate, platinum does have a number of advantages that make it highly desirable as your metal of choice.  It’s beauty can be really brought out with elaborate ring styles and diamonds.

Because platinum is the strongest metal, engravings look specially detailed, flawlessly distinct and a diamond can shine its brightest in a somewhat subdued background.

  1. Palladium

Belonging to the platinum group of metals, palladium is highly pure at 95% and is quite rare too. Less dense than platinum and therefore less expensive, its cost is more or less similar to that of white gold.

Palladium takes on a more permanent and natural whiteness. It is strong, tarnish-resistant and hypoallergenic. Unlike platinum, which requires re-polishing and white gold, which requires re-plating, very little maintenance is needed for palladium to stay beautifully silver-colored.

It’s a great metal for diamonds and colorful gemstones.

Interestingly, palladium was only officially recognized as a precious metal in January 2010! This can mean that there are fewer designs and options on the market for palladium, as jewelers are still gaining the experience and knowledge of working and crafting it.

More and more contemporary designs should be available as palladium continues to rise in popularity and demand from jewelry buyers.

  1. Sterling Silver

Over the centuries, silver was considered a highly valuable metal due to its utility and aesthetic features but today it is the most affordable of all the precious metals.

Sterling silver is 92.5% pure with the other 7.5% made up of copper or other metals to improve its durability. Even so, it is still a considerably soft metal and is prone to scratches and marks (as all metals are). Silver loses its luster over time, and interestingly, the best way to keep its shine is to wear it regularly. This makes it an easy metal to maintain.

Silver, although a color in itself, can range from radiant white to grayish white and the texture can be shiny or matte.

What factors do you need to consider before choosing your ring metal?

From the 4 popular types of metal discussed in this article, you will have to weigh the pros and cons in order to make your choice. Each has something unique and special to offer.

Asking yourself these questions would help you as well.

Consider your partner’s lifestyle – do they spend a lot of time outdoors or indoors?

Are they exposed to chemicals?

Is durability a key factor in your choice, or are aesthetics more important?

Is budget an issue?

What skin tone do they have?

What colors do they usually wear/like?

You will also need to see if the metal is compatible with your stone of choice, if you have one.

Choosing the right metal to go with your diamond

Before you choose your ring metal, consider whether it complements your diamond in terms of aesthetics and security. You don’t want your diamond and the metal to be at odds with each other forever. Not quite the symbol you want the ring to stand for!

  1. Is the color of the metal compatible with my diamond?

Diamonds generally stand out more beautifully against white metals, which includes white gold, platinum, palladium and sterling silver.

However, there is a down side to this. The whiter the ring metal is, the higher the grade of the diamond should be. This means that you would need to choose a top quality stone, especially in terms of color. You don’t want any hints of yellow to show against the whiteness of the metal.

Having said that, if you are inclined towards yellow or rose gold, you could opt for a diamond lower on the color scale. The diamond, being a natural reflector of light, will tend to pick up the color of the ring metal. When mounted in a yellow or rose gold setting, there would be little difference between a H and a D colored diamond as both would reflect the color of the metal to some extent.

What does this mean for you, the shopper? You could save a considerable amount of money by choosing a diamond that is slightly tinted. 

Of course there are a number of other considerations as well, when choosing the metal color. Think about the wearer’s preferences. A traditional person may prefer the typical white gold with diamond engagement ring. Perhaps they like yellow gold due to its slightly vintage and classic appearance or prefer rose gold as it is the trending metal of choice. All this will need to be considered when deciding on the ideal metal color for your ring.

It is important that you have already set your budget before you begin shopping. This will help you focus on the priorities and disregard unnecessary details. It’s amazing how quickly things add up! For more information on using the 4Cs to your advantage, read our article on the 4Cs of diamonds.

  1. Which metal will hold my diamond securely?

When it comes to securing your diamond properly, the ring setting will play the most important role. However, the metal type you choose can also have an impact.

If you are after silver-colored metals, then platinum would be the best choice considering its strength and durability. It can hold the diamond securely in place for a lifetime, given that the wearer takes care of it.

Yellow gold in its purest is very soft and generally not used in jewelry. 14k or 18k varieties of gold (rose, green and white) are more durable and less prone to damage and scratching due to the alloys mixed into it. Of these, white gold is very durable and an excellent choice for an engagement ring, without the hefty price tag that usually comes with platinum.

Regardless of what metal you choose, over time, through frequent carelessness, the diamond may accidentally fall out as the ring setting deteriorates, however slightly. It is best that a trip to a local jeweler be made from time to time to check on the condition of the ring.

  1. What ring settings will be compatible with the metal?

Most vendors will tell you that some of their settings are not compatible with certain types of metal. This generally boils down to the malleability of the metal and the complexity of the setting, among other factors. If you have your heart set on a certain type of setting, check with the vendor whether the metal you are after is compatible with the setting.

  1. What about metals and gemstones?

While diamonds may be forever they may not be for everyone. If your girl seems to be one that’s up for adventure, has a contemporary style when it comes to art or fashion, or is drawn to gemstones such as turquoise over traditional diamonds, then you might want to consider looking into other gemstones available on the market.

Here are a few of these gemstones with some suggestions on which ring metal to use to achieve the look you are after.

  • Amethyst – a purple stone that’s still very durable and a fraction of the price of a diamond. Pair it with silver or rose gold for a classic romantic setting.white gold with amethyst
  • Turquoise – the color may range from pure bright blue to a pale hue. White gold will prove to be a fine ring metal while adding in some small diamonds around the setting complements the matte finish of this stone.
  • Sapphire – this stone makes the perfect diamond substitute. The blue sapphire can be paired with rose gold with diamond accents for a more vintage feel or one could opt for a platinum or white gold setting with a more daring and modern design.Sapphire and white gold
  • Emerald – the distinct rich green tone of an emerald will look splendid on a modern styled rose gold setting for a unique, statement look.white gold with emerald
  • Ruby – the luscious red of ruby will look more enchanting and seductive on a vintage setting of yellow gold or rose gold. But if you prefer a more modern look, ruby still works very well with platinum or white gold.ruby engagement ring with white gold band

Jewelry Guide