Jewelry Metals Defined
When you begin the exciting journey of shopping for your wedding rings, one of the first questions a jeweler may ask will be, “Which metal do you prefer?” Most retailers today will have several options to present to you, beyond the traditional gold and platinum, and there are many factors to consider when making your choice.
Gold has been the world’s most treasured metal for thousands of years, due to its easy workability, sensuous feel, and enduring beauty.
In its pure form, gold is very soft and bendable, and not practical to be worn. To produce jewelry that is affordable and wearable, gold is combined with other metals in a process called alloying, creating what is known as karat gold; the higher the karat, the higher the gold’s purity. For example, 10-karat gold contains 41.7% pure gold and 58.3% other metals, while 18-karat gold is 75% pure gold and only 25% other metals. Jewelry purchased in the United States should always have a karat stamp to let you know the metal’s gold content.
In addition to improving wearability, alloying also gives gold different colors. Most gold is alloyed with copper and silver, producing yellow gold. Increasing the ratio of copper results in rose gold. White gold usually contains nickel and small amounts of zinc.
Gold of any color is a classic choice when selecting wedding bands. It is very durable and can be more affordable than other metals. However, many people may have allergic reactions to the alloys in lower-karat gold and may need to select higher purities or consider different metals. Through daily wear, gold rings can become scratched as the metal comes into contact with other objects. Rings can also wear thin over time. Regular cleaning and inspection by a trusted jeweler is important for keeping gems secure and jewelry in good condition.
Platinum has quite a long history in the world of jewelry – is has been found in ceremonial pieces made by ancient South American cultures as early as 100 BC! In the United States, platinum was declared a strategic metal for use in World War II, and its use for making jewelry was forbidden between 1939 and 1945. Since that time, platinum’s popularity has been rekindled and it remains a favorite of jewelers, celebrities, and customers.
Platinum is hypoallergenic, generally 90% to 95% pure platinum, making it ideal for those who are allergic to alloyed gold. It is naturally white, so it will not tarnish or discolor. Platinum is an extremely dense metal, which slows down wear and tear and holds gemstones very securely. Some people enjoy the substantial weight of platinum – in fact, this heaviness may be one of the first differences you notice when comparing it with white gold.
Platinum is more rare than gold, which also makes it generally more expensive. Despite its durability, platinum is a relatively soft metal, which means it can show scratches more easily than gold. However, when platinum is scratched, the metal is merely displaced and very little is actually lost. It can be polished to a high shine by a jeweler.
Silver has been part of human culture for at least 4,500 years. Until the 18th century, it was the only known white precious metal, and was used for setting even the most magnificent of gems.
Like gold, silver is alloyed for use in jewelry. Most U.S. manufacturers use sterling silver which is 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. Silver is comparatively hard and durable, and can achieve the brightest polish of any metal. One of its traditional liabilities is tarnish, but today’s manufacturing processes reduce this tendency and special cleaning formulas make it easy to remove.
Many contemporary jewelry designers are creating stunning combinations of silver and diamonds, colored gemstones, and even pearls. It is significantly more affordable than gold or platinum, which may be helpful in accommodating a smaller budget.
Titanium is a element that is light, strong, and lustrous. In addition to its industrial uses in the aerospace, military, and medical fields, titanium represents a new alternative in men’s and some ladies’ wedding bands. One of titanium’s most notable characteristics is that it is as strong as steel, but is only 60% its density. The metal is strong, resistant to scratches and tarnishing, but comes without the heavy weight of platinum. For the person who desires a very durable band which can withstand an active lifestyle, titanium may be the perfect choice. Titanium is hypoallergenic and will not produce skin irritations or discoloration.
It is important to understand that because of titanium’s hardness, is can not be sized by most jewelry retailers. Your correct size will most likely need to be ordered for you. It is also difficult to remove if the wearer’s finger swells due to illness or injury – special cutting tools may be required.
Tungsten is a element that is mainly used in industrial applications. Tungsten by itself will shatter when dropped and easily cracks due to its unique hardness. It does not gain its extreme durability until it is combined with a carbon alloy, creating Tungsten Carbide, which is four times harder than titanium, twice as hard as steel, and is virtually scratch proof.
Tungsten carbide jewelry provides the benefits of extreme durability and substantial weight. Its dark color is appealing to many people, as well. Like titanium, it has the liability of being too hard to size, and has potential to shatter if dropped, even from relatively low levels. Tungsten carbide rings have potential to scratch other objects when they come into contact in the wearer’s hand, jewelry box, etc. Care should be taken to keep these items separate from other jewelry.
Palladium is a metal in the platinum family, and shares almost all of the characteristics that make platinum a wonderful choice for jewelry. It is naturally white, hypoallergenic, and provides strength and durability for gem settings. The metal was discovered in 1803, and is named after the Greek goddess Pallas, the goddess of wisdom and the arts. An unexpected difference is that palladium is generally less expensive than either platinum or gold! It is also lighter in weight than platinum, similar to 18K or 14K gold.
It can be daunting to compare the characteristics of each of the metals available for today’s wedding bands. A trusted, professional jeweler will be your best asset in deciding which metal is right for you. He or she should consider your style preferences, wearability concerns, occupation and recreational activities, as well as your budget when guiding you in your decision. And remember, it is not essential that the Bride’s and Groom’s rings be the same metal, or ever the same color! Today’s precious metals provide an exciting array of beautiful ways to express yourself and your commitment to each other.