With so many different options available — from splurge-worthy platinum to classic gold to budget-friendly tungsten — it can be a bit confusing to determine the right type of metal for your wedding and engagement rings. To help you out, we chatted with our friends at berricle.com to find out what you need to know about the most popular metals, in order here from the most expensive to the least:
Platinum is considered to be the "most precious" of all precious metals — it's rarer than gold and, as a result, costs more. It’s usually mixed with other similar metals, known as the platinum group metals: iridium, osmium, palladium, rhodium and ruthenium. Platinum is extremely dense and much heavier than gold or silver, giving it a remarkably high level of durability — it doesn't wear or tarnish like other metals, and it's not susceptible to problems like stress-cracking or corrosion that can plague white gold. But without regular cleaning, its white appearance can develop a hazy patina over time. Caring for a platinum ring couldn't be easier, though — just soak in a mix of mild soap and warm water, and then gently rub it with a soft brush. And although platinum is scratch-resistant, it’s not scratch proof — but scratches can easily be removed by buffing.
Why to choose this metal: Although platinum costs more, it requires less maintenance over time.
The first decision is whether you want 14K and 18K gold. The “K” refers to “karat,” a measurement which is used to describe the purity of gold. Karats indicate the amount of gold as a percentage of the total — 24 karat gold is 100% pure gold. 18 karat gold, used in most European jewelry, is 18 parts gold and 6 parts other metals (75% pure gold). 14 karat gold, the American jewelry industry standard, is 14 parts gold and 10 parts other metals (58.5% pure gold).
Pure gold is too soft for jewelry-making. The additional metals — called alloys — improve the strength and hardness, in addition to corrosion resistance, color, and workability.
The next decision: yellow gold or white gold? In yellow gold, the most commonly-used alloy metals are copper, silver and zinc. In white gold, additional white metals (nickel, manganese and palladium) are added in order to achieve the silver/gray shade. Palladium and nickel act as primary bleaching agents for gold, creating the warm gray tone. Also, white gold is usually plated with rhodium to give the same look as platinum. Keep in mind, though, that rhodium plating will wear off over time, and the white gold will take on a yellow cast. White gold jewelry needs to be re-plated every few years to maintain its whiteness.
Why to choose this metal: Yellow and white gold are traditional, popular and widely available. Although rings made of yellow gold may show scratches and other abrasions, repairs and maintenance are easy. White gold costs more than yellow, and you'll need to keep in mind the additional upkeep for white gold rings.
Palladium, a more affordable member of the platinum family, is a soft silver-white metal that is similar to platinum in appearance. The metals also share similar characteristics, such as high melting temperature, cool gray color, durability and rarity; however, it is much less dense.
Why to choose this metal: Palladium gives you the look of platinum for less. It's also naturally hypoallergenic and durable, so it's ideal for those with sensitive skin.
Sterling silver is the whitest of all metals. Like pure gold, 100% fine silver is too soft for most jewelry applications. Sterling silver, the industry standard, is a mixture of 92.5% silver and 7.5% metal alloy (look for the standard quality stamp 925, with indicates 92.5% purity).
Rhodium plating is often added to sterling silver to enhance surface reflection and protect tarnishing, which occurs when silver reacts with sulfur in the air (sulfur is found in wool, rubber bands, some types of paint, latex gloves, and more). With rhodium plating — and proper care — sterling silver jewelry can maintain a polished, shiny look for years before experiencing any tarnishing.
Why to choose this metal: Sterling silver jewelry has become a popular trend. It's much more affordable than gold, and the rhodium plating it gives the look and shine of platinum or white gold. With careful maintenance, sterling silver jewelry can last for many years to come.
Titanium is a silver-hued metal that is lightweight and strong at the same time. The advantage of a titanium wedding ring is that it's highly resistant to corrosion. If you're in a water-related profession where you're consistently in contact with sea water and/or chlorine, Titanium will withstand those damaging elements.
Why to choose this metal: Highly recommended for those in water professions, titanium is considered to be the most corrosion-resistant metal. It’s also budget-friendly! One caveat: Titanium is difficult to resize and typically can only be increased in size.
Wolfram, commonly known as Tungsten, is a very hard metal with a gray color in pure form. Tungsten rings are popular among men for the gray metal look, affordable price, designer style, and durability. They're dense, scratch-proof, and require little maintenance. Tungsten carbide rings can also be plated in gold or black. One caveat: Being a very hard metal makes tungsten brittle — it can shatter on high impact.
Why to choose this metal: Tungsten is perfect for the rugged types who don't want to worry about damaging their ring. The biggest drawback is that this type of metal cannot be resized at all.
Tell us: Which type of metal will you choose?
—Kristen O'Gorman Klein