When choosing an engagement ring the setting is just as important as the diamond. In this article we will aim to highlight the pros and cons of platinum and various types of gold. An engagement ring is a very personal and emotional purchase which, hopefully, you will only need to do once. It is crucial to get the setting right from the outset as this is likely to be a ring which is worn every day. Below we have listed the various definitions and options when it comes to choosing ring settings.
- The part of the ring that encircles your finger, as opposed to the part that encapsulates the diamond, is called the shank. It can also be known as the band.
- Rings come in a range of metals including yellow, white, rose gold, platinum etc…
- Alloy metals are added to strengthen them as pure gold or platinum would be too soft and easily damaged and therefore not be strong enough or practical to wear.
- Choice should be based on taste, practical needs and price.
- For example for a sleek and more contemporary look go for platinum; However, a combination of different coloured gold’s and platinum can give a unique look.
- Here are some explanations:
- 18ct White Gold versus Platinum
- 18ct White Gold and Platinum are the two most popular metals for jewellery.
- Both look similar but the composition and character of each metal differs and they therefore behave differently. An expert jeweller will be able to explain what these differences are.
- Here are examples of the difference in composition between Platinum and White Gold.
- The alloys within the metal produce very different characteristics.
- Typically Platinum alloys contain either Iridium or Cobalt.
- Platinum-Cobalt alloy produces better castings, with fewer porosity issues, a smoother cast surface, better fluidity and a higher yield. It was introduced over 20 years ago and has been used extensively in production across European and Japanese markets.
- This is favourable for both the manufacturer and end client.
18KT WHITE GOLD
- This is generally a popular choice
- In fact, there is no such thing as “white gold.” All metals exist in nature as various shades of grey with the exception of gold and copper.
- To make gold “white” it is alloyed with other metals such as nickel or palladium to bleach it. Some of these metals can react to the human skin and irritate.
- White gold gives a more contemporary look than the age-old traditional look of yellow gold.
- Gold is combined with other metals to give it the strength and resistance to cope with everyday life. 24kt pure gold is too soft to be used for jewellery. It would scratch, tarnish and dent in a very short space of time.
- For jewellery we use 18kt gold.
- Most rings will be composed of 75% gold and 25% of other metals. Metals that are alloyed with the gold give it its distinctive silver-white colouring.
- Alloys typically used include copper, zinc and nickel, or in some instances, palladium and silver.
- It is not uncommon for people to have an allergic reaction to nickel. If you know you are susceptible it is very important to mention this to your jeweller when choosing a ring
- On completion the ring is coated with radium in a process called plating.
- Rhodium is a metal that is related to platinum and it is even tougher than platinum. It costs around four times more. Its value is reflected in the fact that it resists scratches and tarnishing, keeping your ring looking newer for longer.
- Rhodium also gives the white gold an additional reflective, mirror-like appearance, which will set off your diamond beautifully.
- Rhodium plating will wear off over time, butut your jeweller can easily re-plate it for you, giving it that good as new appearance.
18KT YELLOW GOLD
- Generally a popular choice
- Like white gold, yellow gold is too soft to be worn every day without becoming damaged by the rigours of daily life.
- It is therefore alloyed with other, stronger metals including copper, silver, zinc and nickel to give it added strength and durability.
- Nickel is used rather less often these days as many suffer an allergic reaction to it.
- As mentioned before, it is advisable to mention this to your jeweller, if you are aware of any such intolerance.
- The amount of alloy added in proportion to the gold used not only determines the gold’s purity and carat weight, it also defines its colour.
- 18kt gold is an ideal combination of 75% gold to 25% alloy metals, balancing strength and resilience against the purity of the precious metal. It also preserves the rich and deep yellow colour of the gold.
- 14kt gold contains a higher percentage of alloy metals and while this makes it more durable, it can look a little whiter by comparison.
- Colour can also be a deciding factor when selecting a metal for your engagement ring. For example, if your fiancée already owns and wears a lot of jewellery made from yellow gold, then this is a wise choice as it will complement and supplement her existing pieces.
- Overall, 18kt yellow gold is a highly attractive and popular choice for both wedding and engagement rings.
- The metal will deepen in colour as time goes by, developing a pleasing patina.
- Whilst you can expect it to become a little scratched and tarnished over the years, it is a simple matter for a jeweller to give it a quick polish and have it looking as good as new.
Hardness (A metal’s ability to resist surface wear, dents, scrapes and scratches) vs. Malleability (how easy it is to bend the metal, and to shape it) Less malleable metals are more brittle.
- Platinum is harder than gold in its purest form, however because white gold is alloyed (mixed) with other metals it actually makes it harder. Platinum therefore is less hard than 18ct White Gold and therefore picks up scratches more easily.
- Platinum is also more brittle than white gold, which means it is harder to bend and hammer into shape. Therefore it is harder for a craftsman to work with.
- Hardness refers to a metal’s resistance to scratches or denting. Whilst a soft metal, like platinum, will scratch and dent relatively easily, a hard metal like gold, will resist scratching.
- Malleability refers to how easy it is to bend and shape the metal without breaking it. The more malleable a metal is, the easier it will bend. Hence gold is easier to craft into jewellery then platinum. But Platinum is harder to bend out of shape.
- A platinum ring will therefore be more easily scratched than gold but less malleable, making it ideal for setting and securing diamonds and other gem stones.
- Platinum is less prone to bending due to its brittleness. The scratches on a platinum ring actually build up over time to form what is called the patina.
- Platinum and white gold are visually very similar, but distinctly different types of metal.
- If you have a preference for a white coloured metal, the choice is either platinum or white gold when buying an engagement or wedding ring.
- By combining with alloys and plating with rhodium, yellow gold can be transformed into white. However, the rhodium will wear off over time and might require re-plating every 2-3 years, depending on wear and tear.
- Since yellow gold that has been made white can revert back to yellow, some prefer to opt instead for platinum because this metal never loses its white look. Platinum has a natural white colour which will not fade over time.
- However, platinum is the more expensive metal of the two. It is both around 20 times rarer than gold and also a denser (heavier) metal.
- It is also used in almost its pure form (95%). This adds to the strength and durability but, by the same token, more of it is needed to craft a ring.
- Added strength means that the claws, designed to grip the diamond in the ring, will do their job more readily than gold.
- Because it is denser, a platinum ring will also feel heavier than a gold one. It feels more luxurious to the touch while white gold is lightweight in comparison. You can easily identify platinum and white gold based on their weight difference.
- Many people love the substance and weight, though again, it is a matter of personal choice.
- It is more valuable than white gold so you should expect that pieces of jewellery made from platinum are more expensive than those made from white gold.
- Platinum is hypoallergenic, so if you are sensitive to alloys, this may be the better option.
- The Japanese consider platinum patina a valued record of a piece’s history.
- Platinum is more durable than white gold and does not wear away or tarnish and is not susceptible to corrosion or breakage.
- White gold is susceptible to wear and the rhodium plating will wear off over time. When you scratch white gold, part of the metal is scratched-off also. With platinum, scratches can be removed through polishing and buffing without degrading the integrity of the metal.
- Because of these characteristics, platinum is a low maintenance metal while white gold requires meticulous cleaning and re-plating.
- Platinum is heavier and more durable but more expensive and white gold is lighter and cheaper but is less durable over time.
- Not only is platinum more expensive per gram than white gold, but also with its heavier weight means the overall gram weight of a piece will be approximately doubled, thus giving a significant price difference between the two.
- 18ct gold, on the other hand, scratches less easily because the metal is harder. But both metals are extremely hard-wearing.
The Perfect Solution
- Owing to the hardness of 18ct white gold, and the lower malleability of platinum, there is a fourth metal choice available.
- Many styles combine a platinum setting (more security) with an 18ct gold shank. This is especially practical for yellow gold rings.
- The cost is somewhere between the price of a platinum, and 18ct gold ring.
- This tends to be popular for rings which have a setting mounted onto a separate band or shank.
A Note on Rhodium Plating
- The standard finish for rhodium plating for 18ct white gold adds a further protective layer to the metal surface.
- 18ct gold (see above) is 75% pure gold. The 750 Hallmark denotes this. The 950 Hallmark denotes platinum.
- The overall colour of white gold has a tint of yellow. Almost straw-like in colouration. The rhodium plate adds whiteness.
- Many people favour the natural grey-white of platinum which is the naked metal, without any coating.
- A common misconception involves 18ct gold tarnishing, This is merely the rhodium wearing off and typically occurs more noticeably on areas of heavier wear, such as below the finger.
- Hallmarking- 950 denotes platinum, 750 18ct white gold.
To summarise, these are the general factors which need to be taken into account when choosing your engagement ring. It should be a personal choice based on your own needs, budget, practicality, fashion and taste.