One of the most often asked questions I receive is, “What are the differences in metals that you use? And what is the best metal for me?” I've put together this guide to give a little insight into the different properties and characteristics of the metals I use in my studio so that I can help you make the best decision for your rings.
Let's talk about how to know which wedding ring metal is the one for you.
Which wedding ring metal is the one for you
When deciding what is best for your rings, the things to consider are color, durability, and cost.
Silver is a soft but sturdy metal that has a bright, lustrous shine. Pure silver is too soft for jewelry making so I use sterling silver, which is 92.5% pure silver mixed with 7.5% other metals to make it stronger. It is a very white metal that can be highly polished as well as oxidized or blackened, as shown above. Oxidation is a great way to create depth and volume and to show texture, it also gives my work an antique look. Silver is extremely lightweight, which can be great for those who aren't used to wearing jewelry. It is also the least expensive option for your rings. On the flip side, silver is not the most durable metal. It can scratch easily and won't last as long as your other metal options. In ancient times silver was called the lunar metal — cool and luminous, like the moon's reflection on water.
In some of my jewelry designs, I use recycled 14k palladium white gold rather than traditional 14k white gold because when it's alloyed with palladium, white gold does not require plating (a thin coating of another metal to make it look whiter that wears off quickly). It also does not include nickel, to which a lot of people are allergic. 14k white gold is a heavier, harder, and stronger metal than silver with a darker color.
Palladium is a member of the platinum family, but it is alloyed (combined) with 14k gold for a lovely lustrous color and a hypoallergenic metal. Palladium white gold cannot be oxidized like silver, but it is an heirloom quality and extremely long-lasting metal that won't tarnish. White gold's natural luxurious qualities, durability, weight, and rarity make it more expensive than silver. This metal has a beautiful grey/white quality to it that is silky smooth.
14k Yellow Gold
Yellow gold is a wonderful aesthetic choice in metals for anyone who has a warmer skin tone, or just wants a little brighter color. I use recycled 14k yellow gold in my studio. The k, or karat, refers to how pure the gold is (the purest being 24k which is too soft to work with). Pure 24k gold is a very soft metal, so it is alloyed with other metals such as copper and silver to give it strength and durability. That being said, its malleability make it a dream to work with in jewelry. It will not tarnish and is long-lasting, but it's softer than white gold but harder than sterling silver. The metal is not too rare, so pricing will be in the mid range between silver and palladium white gold. Yellow gold is a classic choice that has a long-standing history, going back to Egyptian times.
14k Rose Gold
Rose gold is 14k gold that is alloyed with copper to give it that beautiful rosy-pink tone. While this is still mostly gold, the majority of the alloy it is mixed with is copper, so rose gold is not a good choice for people with a copper allergy. Rose gold is a gorgeous choice for the non-traditional, and looks amazing with all kinds of gemstones. The color is extremely warm and rich. As with other 14k gold, rose gold will not tarnish, rust, or corrode, but it is a softer metal and is susceptible to scratching over time, similar to yellow gold. It is very long-lasting and durable and an heirloom quality metal. Rose gold is very popular, and is very timeless and its rich tone is the perfect accent to wear everyday.
Platinum is considered the most precious of all the metals. It's the most rare, most durable, the heaviest, and most valuable. This is the most luxurious choice and the longest-lasting. Platinum is a beautiful, silvery-white metal that has a lovely glow to it. It is hypoallergenic, will not tarnish or rust, and is an heirloom-quality metal. Rings made from platinum will be handed down through generations.
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Comments on Heavy metal: How to know which wedding ring metal is the one for you
Without wanting to downplay the beauty of the above creations and materials:
My husband and I have rings made from stainless damascene steel (google it, I loved the look of damascene steel). They are very pretty, have a modern look to them, they are very sturdy and cost us only around 100 bucks for 2 rings. I felt that having a down to earth, sturdy material as a sign for our marriage was quite a symbolic move too.
The only downside is that you can not have them made smaller or bigger afterwards if your ring size changes. But for this money, I can buy 2-5 other sizes before reaching the price that other ring-materials would have cost.
I can only recommend to you guys to look into that option.
I looked up damascene steel rings and those look gorgeous! It’s on our consideration list now if we can’t find the kind of wedding bands we want!
Very nice write-up!
Wish I’d had access to this while ring shopping two years ago ;P
Hubby and I decided on silver and gold rings (see last pic in the Flickr reel). His father gave us the gold, his mother the silver. We’d *asked* the jeweler to alloy the metals down a little for durability as what we gave them were bullion bars; but for some reason that little detail got lost somewhere. So we have rings made from 24K gold and fine silver (whoops!)
Fortunately they’re really thick so they’ve been holding up great, but they’re also really heavy.
We actually like the scratches they accumulate as it showed that one gets banged around in life, yet we endure. We’ll likely get our rings polished on our five and ten year anniversaries and so on 🙂
This is a very good explanation of the traditional choices offered by standard jewelers.
I would be interested to see a similar comparison of non-traditional metal choices like stainless steel, titanium, tungsten carbide, etcetera. Maybe even something that touches on stone setting options (and drawbacks), since I know tension settings have some strict requirements for stone hardness, and most of these metals can’t feasibly be used for standard prong settings, instead requiring prongs that are made of gold or other soft metals.
This was an interesting read, though like Ashley said, having a comparison with other metals would be useful. My fiance and I are leaning more towards having meteorite rings, which don’t have a lot of wiggle should our ring sizes change, but has some durability to it (especially since a lot of vendors set them in titanium). We were also looking at wooden rings but there’s not a lot of info out there about them either.
I ultimately chose palladium, for two reasons:
– I swim a lot, and chlorine doesn’t have nearly the deleterious affect that it does on silver/gold.
– I thought about stainless and titanium, but… then I was reminded that those can’t be cut off in a standard ER situation. And you know what? Turns out this matters. I had an emergency operation about a month after I got my palladium ring, and after much crying and me being unconscious, they managed to slide it off, but if they couldn’t, and they also couldn’t cut it… not good.
Harder metal rings can’t be cut off but a vice grip can be set to snap them in half without constricting enough to harm the finger.
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