Choosing a metal for your jewelry and engagement ring settings comes down to three key features; personal taste, durability and budget. Unlike selecting a diamond, which has a whole spectrum of possibilities and choices to make, selecting a metal is fairly straightforward. There are, however, a few helpful tips and lesser known features of precious metals that are worth considering when you make your selection.
Starting with the one of the most expensive metals used to set jewelry, platinum is a strong contender for engagement rings due it its purity (around 95%-98%) and naturally white appearance. Platinum is quite rare and its chemical properties naturally lend themselves to fine jewelry.
White gold used in jewelry is generally found in three purities; 10k, 14k and 18k. Gold by itself is fairly soft so it is mixed with durable metals such as zinc and copper, to make it more hardwearing. 18 karat gold is 75% pure and this level decreases when you reach 14k and 10k (and 9k, which it sometimes offered too). Gold is naturally yellow tone, so rhodium plating is used to cover the metal to give it a white appearance. A platinum setting and a white gold setting will look identical but will have a considerably difference in price.
Yellow gold is mixed with metals like copper and zinc. Yellow gold can be found all the way up to 24k (99.9%) pure. In the USA, 24k is rarely used in fine jewelry as it is so soft (it can be bent by hand) but across India and other parts of Asia, it is prized for its bright, intense yellow color.
Lower purity yellow gold (such as 10k) is more durable but delivers a less intense color. An 18k yellow gold setting is a good balance between color, purity and durability.
Like white gold, rose gold is an alloy. It is the high percentage of copper than give it a pinkish, rosy tone. The percentage of copper will dictate the color of the metal.
|18K Pink Gold||75% gold||20% copper||5% silver|
|18K Red Gold||75% gold||25% copper||0% silver|
|18K Rose Gold||75% gold||22.25% copper||2.75% silver|
The percentage of copper used is generally down to the manufacturer and there are no hard and fast rules about how much should be used. Much of it will come down to personal reference.
If you’re deciding between platinum and white gold, price is likely to be the deciding factor. Both metals require basic maintenance (annual polishing/rhodium plating) buy beyond this there is little difference. Men tend to prefer platinum for their wedding bands as they feel more substantial on the hand, but this is not a definitive rule.
If you are considering other colors of gold, go for 14k or 18k – the rest is entirely up to you.