Engagement and Wedding Ring Metals
You might be tempted to think when you set out ring shopping that your choice of wedding band metals will be simple: gold or silver. But there are many choices in varying hues, strengths, and price ranges to consider.
Gold is the traditional wedding and engagement ring metal. It won’t tarnish, corrode, or rust. Pure 24k gold is too soft for wedding rings so it is alloyed with other metals (often nickel, which some people are allergic to). Gold rings are usually either 18k or 14k gold – 18k has a richer color because of its higher gold content.
Rose gold is a pretty pink-tinted 14k or 18k gold, with the feel of yellow gold plus a little extra warmth. Rose gold is made by using a copper alloy, which can be customized to your specifications. The more copper, the pinker the resulting color will be. Colors can vary from near-gold to copper-colored to near-pink. Rose gold rings are feminine and unique.
Like yellow gold, white gold rings are usually either 14k or 18k. To reduce the yellow color, the gold is combined with different alloys and plated with a thin layer of rhodium – a hard, shiny white metal. Eventually, the rhodium will wear away and your ring will need to be re-plated. White gold is probably the most common silver-colored metal for engagement and wedding rings. It is cheaper than its usual competitor, platinum.
Platinum has long been the standard alternative to white gold. It is much more expensive, but also much more durable. It is also 95% pure and hypoallergenic, and doesn’t lose metal when scratched. All it needs is a simple buffing to make it look like new. Over time, platinum develops a satin sheen (called a patina), which can either be left as is or polished on a regular basis. Platinum rings are heavier than gold.
Palladium is a member of the platinum family of metals. Like platinum, it won’t tarnish and is hypoallergenic. But it is significantly less expensive than platinum, and is slightly darker and grayer in color. Palladium costs about the same as white gold but never has to be re-plated, saving money over the long term.
Titanium’s cool gray (or polished black) finish is most often seen in men’s rings. Titanium is corrosion-resistant, hypoallergenic, and practically weightless – perfect for men who don’t like wearing heavy jewelry around. This metal is good for outdoorsmen or people who do rough work with their hands, but the disadvantage is that titanium rings can’t be resized. Titanium is strong, but can still be cut off in the event of an emergency.
Tungsten carbide, another men’s wedding ring metal, is a steel gray alloy about 4 times harder than titanium. It remains permanently polished, never warps or bends, and can only be scratched by a diamond or a product containing corundum. Avoid tungsten rings with cobalt, since cobalt reacts with your skin to develop permanent oxidation spots on your ring. Tungsten rings cannot be resized, and not all E.R. doctors know how to cut off a tungsten carbide ring (regular ring-cutters won’t do the job.)
Cobalt chrome combines the light color of platinum with the durability of tungsten or titanium. The surface is scratch and tarnish resistant. Cobalt chrome is heavier than stainless steel but lighter than tungsten. Cobalt chrome is most often used in wedding bands for men.
Sterling silver rings are an ultra cost-conscious alternative to traditional wedding band materials. Available online (wedding jewelers don’t carry them,) they are set with a cubic zirconium rather than a diamond – meaning that a complete wedding set (stone, engagement setting, and wedding ring) can cost as little as $30. Most sterling silver rings are plated with rhodium, which does fade and require re-plating over the course of its life.
Stainless steel is the cost-conscious choice for men’s rings. Stainless steel is very durable, keeps up a good polish, and is hypoallergenic. It is one of the most affordable metals, ideal for couples on a budget. Like sterling silver wedding rings, stainless steel rings can generally only be purchased online with a cubic zirconium instead of a diamond.
Choose carefully the metal you’ll use for your engagement and wedding ring set. It makes a big difference in the overall appearance of your ring, and will determine the types of jewelry your wife can wear without clashing from now on!
♥ Jenny Evans
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