Engagement Ring Metals: What Is The Best One
Engagement rings, like most fine jewelry, come in a variety of metals. What to choose depends on your personal style, skin tone, and overall aesthetic preference. This guide will outline the main differences and similarities between the most common metals for engagement rings.
We set VRAI created diamonds in white gold, yellow gold, rose gold, and platinum for our engagement rings. For fine jewelry and fashion jewelry, we also use silver. Which metal to choose ultimately comes down to personal preference: there is no right or wrong answer.
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Gold: Different Types, Strength and Properties
Gold is a soft and malleable metal widely used in jewelry. In its purest form, it has a distinctively orange-yellow hue. Gold is naturally shiny, lustrous, and doesn’t tarnish, which makes it the ideal metal for jewelry and engagement rings. It’s also both malleable (it can be beaten into tiny sheets) and ductile (it can be stretched into thin wires), which makes it ideal for pendants and earrings.
Pure gold, however, is very soft, so it can’t be used for jewelry. Other metals are added, in limited amounts, to make gold harder and more durable. The degree of purity is on a scale of 1 to 24 and is expressed in “karats.” In North America, 14k and 18k are the most commonly used types of gold for fine and bridal jewelry.
The earliest surviving documentation and artifact of gold jewelry dates back to 4,400 BCE and was found in modern-day Bulgaria in 2015, ArtNet reports. That general area saw the retrieval of several other gold pieces back in 1972. Ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, and Mycenaean Greece also made wide use of yellow gold jewelry. Its association with the sun due to its color made it the ideal ornament for kings and high priests.
14k gold is an alloy consisting of 58.5% gold and the rest of other metals, depending on the color of gold. 14k is the most popular alloy for fine jewelry in the United States and combines durability and affordability. Appearance-wise, it’s not easily distinguishable to 18k gold. VRAI’s fine jewelry line comes in 14k gold.
18k gold is the purest form of gold with an extensive usage in fine jewelry. It consists of 75% gold and 25% other metals, with the specifics changing depending on the color of gold. 18k gold is known for the richness and depth of its color and for its luster. VRAI’s engagement rings and wedding rings come in 18k gold.
22k gold is a type of gold alloy that is composed of 91.67% pure gold and 8.33% other metals, typically copper and silver. This composition gives 22K gold a very bright color, and is still strong enough for jewelry making, but it suits bezel settings better than prong settings because 22K gold is too soft for secure prongs. VRAI prefers working with 18k gold for engagement and bridal jewelry, as it offers the optimal balance between luster and durability.
What Are the Different Gold Colors for Engagement Rings?
Gold comes in different hues. While the yellow undertone is always the dominant one, historically we have seen rose gold, green gold, and red gold. White gold owes its white cast to rhodium plating: without it, it would look almost cream colored. The most popular colors in contemporary jewelry are yellow gold, white gold, and rose gold.
Yellow Gold Engagement Rings
Yellow gold has the distinctively yellow hue we normally associate with gold. 18K yellow gold is usually made with 75% gold, 12.5% copper, 12.5% silver. If you’re looking for yellow gold with deeper tones, however, opt for an alloy with 15% copper and 10% silver. A yellow gold engagement ring has a timeless and classic look, and also highlights the uniqueness of faintly colored diamonds.
White Gold Engagement Rings
White gold is an alloy of gold and at least one white metal, and its appearance and properties vary depending on the other metal used. This metal is usually silver, copper, or palladium. White gold owes its bright, white cast that we see in fine jewelry to a process called rhodium plating, where it is dipped in a metal called Rhodium. This plating eventually wears out, so white-gold jewels have to be re-plated periodically. Unplated white gold is sometimes referred to as champagne gold. VRAI offers a lifetime re-plating policy to customers who purchase white-gold engagement and/or bridal jewelry. White gold engagement rings look sleek and modern, while also emphasizing the brilliance of VRAI created diamonds.
Rose Gold Engagement Rings
Rose gold is an alloy of gold, copper, and silver, and had been popularized in Russia in the 19th century by jeweler Carl Fabergé and his eponymous eggs. It became a popular choice for royal jewelry at the Russian court and was subsequently known as “Russian gold.” It became popular internationally in the 1920s, when Cartier designed several pieces of jewelry featuring rose gold. One notable piece is the Trinity ring – three intersecting bands, one in rose gold, one in white gold, and one in yellow gold.
Depending on the percentages of copper and silver, it either has a warm-reddish hue or a cool-toned pink undertone. Rose gold engagement rings are both romantic and vintage inspired, and rose gold flatters all skin tones. VRAI offers rose-gold jewelry, both fine and engagement and bridal, only in 14k rose gold. The reason behind this is that it’s harder to achieve the rose-tinted hue with 18k gold, as the yellow and warm-toned copper component would prevail over the other colors.
Rose gold reached a high degree of popularity in the 2010s. In 2017, social network and digital bulletin board Pinterest reported that its most pinned engagement ring was a four-prong solitaire with a rose-gold band. Celebrities like Blake Lively also contributed to the popularity of rose gold engagement rings.
Rose gold has since then graduated from “trendy” to timeless due to its versatility: rose gold pairs well not only with both warm and cool-toned metals, but also with both colorless, near colorless, and faintly colored diamonds.
What Are Other Types of Metals for Engagement rings?
Platinum Engagement Rings
One of the earliest pieces of evidence we possess regarding platinum jewelry is found in a copper alloy box from the 7th century BC which was excavated at Thebes. We can date it fairly precisely because it features the name of Shepenupet II, an Ancient Egyptian princess of the Twenty-fifth dynasty (around 700 BC to 650 BC). 500 years later, the area between Colombia and Ecuador had jewelry featuring platinum alloys thanks to the proximity of platinum-rich alluvial deposits. Europeans would not seriously experiment with platinum until the mid 1700s.
Platinum is a metal with a characteristically bright and white cast that does not scratch. Rather, it forms a patina with wear and tear. “It’s hypoallergenic, so if you have skin sensitivities or are prone to allergies it is a good way to go,” advises Grace Taylor, VRAI’s Chief of Sales and CX. “White Gold and even occasionally Rose and Yellow Gold can cause allergic reactions because of the alloys (nickel and copper, respectively), but Platinum and Sterling Silver are hypoallergenic.”
Visually, it’s hard to tell white gold and platinum apart at first, but the feel is different from the get go. It is a little bit heavier than the same ring in white gold.
“Over time, Platinum develops a more matte appearance and can appear a little bit darker (but this can easily be polished out), whereas the rhodium plating will wear off of White Gold, revealing the warmer tone of the gold underneath,” says Taylor.
Platinum engagement rings uniquely bring out the brightness, brilliance, and fire of diamonds. Platinum perfectly accommodates both colorless diamonds (D-F) and near colorless diamonds (G-I).
Sterling Silver Engagement Rings
Sterling silver is an alloy of 925 parts silver and 75 parts Copper. Visually, white gold and silver are quite similar, but silver is softer than gold and prone to scratches. In addition, it tarnishes over time, which can be easily taken care of with silver polish. One advantage of Silver over Gold is its more accessible price point, costing $0.66 per gram.
Compared to white gold and platinum, silver has a white-grayish gleam. Unfortunately, silver tarnishes and scratches quite easily, so it’s not the best option for engagement rings and wedding rings. It remains, however, a very valid option for fine and fashion jewelry.
Does the Metal Color Influence the Diamond Color (and Vice Versa)?
Diamonds are prismatic and so they are always reflecting the color of what’s around them - including that of their settings.
“The interplay of the metal color and the color of the diamond is important here - very colorless diamonds will be more apt to pick up on the warmth in yellow or rose gold, whereas diamonds that already have a bit of color to them will pick up slightly less apparent color overall,” says Taylor.
What if you find yourself with a colorless diamond, but favor a warm metal?
“You absolutely can set a colorless diamond in a warm metal,” Taylor says, “but you want to know that that will make the diamond itself look less colorless. If you want to maintain the colorlessness of the diamond and have a warm gold band, using a two tone style is advisable!”
Colorless diamonds in the D-F range work best with white gold or platinum, J-L diamonds will be complemented with yellow gold. G-I diamonds, on the other hand, are the most versatile colors: setting them in white metal will make them look whiter, setting them in a yellow metal will bring out their very faint warm undertones.
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