What's the Best Metal for an Engagement Ring?
Do you want a durable ring that's also glamorous? Everyone wants to talk about the stone when it comes to engagement rings but few seem to ask about the metal. If you plan on wearing your ring daily, you want to make sure you choose the right metal to assure that it will last.
Deciding what's the best metal for an engagement ring comes down to finding a balance between durability and elegance. There are several metals that can offer this: silver, and platinum. If you're not sure where to start, a good place to begin is by learning about the characteristics of these metals.
Precious Metals vs. Alternative Metals
While precious metals are the most well-known metals for engagement rings, you may have heard about trending alternative metals. You might wonder which category of metal is better for engagement rings.
These are the metals you will most often see in engagement rings. They have high economic value that they retain over time. This is due to their rarity and various useful properties.
In jewelry, the most common precious metals you will find are:
- Yellow Gold
- White Gold
- Rose Gold
There are other precious metals used in rings such as rhodium, that are also in the top 10 most precious metals. These metals are often used as part of an alloy with gold or silver. This increases their durability and appearance.
Besides their value, precious metals have other traits that make them desirable for engagement rings. Some of their other benefits include:
- Less reactive – not likely to tarnish
- Luster – their shine makes them good for dressy occasions
- Resizing – easy to resize and repair
- Easy restoration – polishing can fix scratches
All of the main precious metals used in jewelry are noble metals. One of the most well-known traits of noble metals is that they resist oxidization and corrosion, and are more resistant to acid.
Precious metals are shinier than their less expensive counterparts. People tend to want that flashiness in an engagement ring since it can bring out the main stone.
One of the most practical reasons that jewelers use precious metals in engagement rings is that the metals can be resized and restored with ease.
Due to their malleability, just about any jeweler can repair and resize an engagement ring made from precious metal. This means you can wear the same ring all your life.
An alternative metal is any metal that doesn't fit into the category of precious metals. These are trendy choices for accent rings or men's wedding bands.
In jewelry, the most common alternative metals you will find are:
- Stainless steel
- Tungsten carbide
Men who work a lot with their hands especially prefer these materials for wedding bands. This is because these metals are more durable and scratch-resistant. Some of these metals can even look similar to precious metals, although some people prefer their more industrial look.
Despite their strength, most alternative metals come with one major drawback: their inability to be resized. It's really important to know how a ring should fit to avoid it slipping off. No matter how durable your ring is, if you can't resize it as your finger changes, you risk losing it forever.
What's the Best Metal for an Engagement Ring?
When it comes to wedding bands, alternative metals can be a great option, especial for those who frequently do manual work.
Since alternative metals are usually cheaper, they're a good choice for a backup wedding ring. A lot of people like to have backup wedding rings when doing things like working out or camping.
For engagement rings, precious metals often work better. Their malleability allows them to have more delicate/intricate designs. It also allows them to be resized over the years whenever your finger size fluctuates.
In as little as a couple of years, you can experience changes in your finger size. If you pick up a new workout routine or even start a new job with different physical demands, you may find that you need a new ring adjustment.
As you age, you lose fat under your skin in your hands, which can make your fingers lose volume. On the flip side, arthritic conditions can cause you to need to size up. Engagement rings should last forever, so resizing is important.
Engagement Ring Buyer's Guide
Should an engagement ring be silver or gold? What about the different colors of gold?
To decide which metal is best for your engagement ring, it's important to take into consideration a few different qualities. You want to compare each metal in terms of physical properties, durability, and maintenance.
Both pure silver and pure gold are too soft to use in jewelry on their own. Sterling silver consists of 92.5% silver and a 7.5% metal alloy. This is similar in purity to 22K gold (91.7% gold content).
Pure silver is so soft that you will usually only find it in engagement rings that require really intricate designs. Thus, sterling 925 became the standard to make it more durable while still possessing the aesthetic and material qualities of silver.
Pure silver is hypoallergenic. Sterling silver contains a high percentage of pure silver, it is often a good choice for people with sensitive skin. If you are really sensitive to nickel, you might want to get sterling silver that's nickel-free or coat your silver in rhodium.
Silver is also anti-microbial, so it's not prone to harboring germs. It's one of the reasons it's popular for earrings, to reduce infections.
Sterling silver is currently a popular trend. When coated with rhodium plating, it can achieve the look of platinum or white gold. Even when left uncoated, its color pairs well with any gemstone, and many people like the patina.
The alloy used with the silver gives the metal more strength and durability than pure silver. However, it is still pliable and prone to wear. It may get scratches and scuffs on it over time.
Silver-plated rings are often more durable because they're a smaller percentage of silver. They don't make the best metals for engagement rings, however, due to their lack of value and higher maintenance.
Sterling silver can and will tarnish over time, but you can usually clean it with ease. Due to its softness, you may want to take it to a jeweler to repair scuffs and scratches. Luckily, this process isn't very expensive, since the same softness is also what makes it rather easy to repair.
Pure gold is similar to sterling silver in that it is far too soft to create rings out of, and must be combined with other metals. The number of karats tells you what percentage of gold the metal is made of.
For example, 24 karats are pure gold. 18 karats are 18 parts pure gold and 6 parts metal alloy, or 75% pure gold. Because gold is soft, more karats mean that the metal will be softer.
The different colors of gold come from the different metals contained in the alloy. this gives them some different characteristics.
Yellow gold is gold that's usually mixed with copper, zinc, or silver. It's not a very popular choice currently because the yellow color makes it harder to match with different colored gemstones. It's known for its antique look.
High karat yellow gold is hypoallergenic. 14K yellow gold is not technically hypoallergenic, but if it's not mixed with nickel it still may be fine for sensitive skin. Yellow gold is mixed in and does not need to be re-plated.
It's still a relatively soft metal, but it is harder than sterling silver rings in the lower karat levels.
Yellow gold above 18K is prone to scuffing and scratches. Lower karat gold will be harder due to the greater percentage of metal alloy. It still isn't as hard as white gold or rose gold, due to it being mixed with softer metals.
Higher karat yellow gold requires regular cleaning and polishing due to its softness. As with all gold, the higher the karats, the more prone to scuffs.
Rose gold is gold that's mixed with primarily copper. 18k rose gold means that it's 75% gold and 25% copper. The most popular choice of karats for rose gold engagement rings tends to be 14k.
In a 14k rose gold band, the color produced by the copper and gold combination provides a strong blush hue. This particular blush color complements a variety of gemstones. This color is more subtle in higher karat rose gold.
Because it is mixed with copper, it can be problematic for those with copper allergies.
The 14k rose gold that you will typically find in jewelry stores is pretty resistant to scratches. 18k rose gold may get a little more scuffed-up.
Rose gold is pretty low maintenance. 18k or 22k rose gold may require more polishing.
In order to achieve its white appearance, the yellow gold in white gold is mixed with white metals such as silver, nickel, and palladium. To give it extra shine so that it resembles platinum, it's often coated in rhodium, one of the most precious metals.
Just like other kinds of gold, white gold is more hypoallergenic at higher karats. The majority of white gold is coated in rhodium. Rhodium is hypoallergenic, so your rhodium-plated white gold will be hypoallergenic, regardless of the karats.
The rhodium coating gives white gold a brighter shine, as well as protecting the ring.
White gold is the most durable color of gold. This is because it contains stronger alloys to achieve the white color, as well as its rhodium plating. White gold is less susceptible to scratches, bends, and dents than other gold of similar karats.
White gold requires slightly more maintenance. White gold rings must be re-plated every few years or so. However, this is usually inexpensive. You might be able to find jewelers in your area who re-plate with rhodium for free.
Platinum is one of the rarest of precious metals, and the most expensive. It's pretty popular in diamond rings. It has a bright appearance similar to white gold.
Platinum on its own is too hard to be malleable enough to shape into jewelry, so it's alloyed with softer metals. Like sterling silver, the alloy has high purity. It's normally 90-95% pure and is mostly hypoallergenic.
Platinum is heavier and harder than most other precious metals. It's dense and more resistant to scratches, although not scratch-proof. While it's the hardest of precious metals, it isn't as hard as some alternative metals (tungsten is 4X harder).
Cleaning platinum rings are similar to cleaning gold. Soap and water do the trick. You won't have to polish platinum as much, but without regular cleaning, it can develop a patina. You may need to take it to a jeweler occasionally to get buffed.
Engagement Ring Metals Pros and Cons
Here are the pros and cons of sterling silver, gold, and platinum.
Which Metal Will Last the Longest?
What's the best metal for an engagement ring? You might still be wondering. The thing is, strength isn't everything. If you want your engagement ring to last a lifetime, any one of the choices above can last forever.
The best place to start deciding on the metal for your engagement ring is by figuring out what stone you want. For more engagement ring ideas, check out some of our nontraditional engagement rings and contact us for any questions.