Last month we discussed what to look for when choosing a diamond. This month, we look at the ring itself and, in particular, making the difficult decision of what the ring should be made from.
There are a number of different precious metals from which your ring can be made, each with its own characteristics and appearance. We look at the most common: gold, white gold, platinum and titanium.
Traditionally, wedding rings are made from gold, most commonly either 9 carat or 18 carat. A carat is essentially a form of measurement equaling 1/24 th - this means that 9 carat gold must be 9/24 th (or 37.5%) pure gold and 18 carat must be 18/24 th (or 75%) pure gold. The remaining component can be made up of any other metal, the most common for yellow gold being copper and zinc.
Of the two, 18 carat gold is the more expensive (approximately twice the price of 9 carat) and, in most cases, is both harder and harder wearing than 9 carat gold (the quality of the gold will depend upon the types and percentages of other metals used to make it). 18 carat gold is also far more resistant to chemical attack, whereas 9 carat gold is more susceptible and will even discolour through contact with perspiration, bleach and some household chemicals. Appearancewise, 18 carat gold tends to be slightly "yellower" than 9 carat.
White gold is similar to yellow gold in that it comes in 9 and 18 carat. The difference with white gold is in the other metals that are used to make the alloy. Unlike yellow gold, white gold is usually pure gold mixed with silver and palladium.
New white gold rings are also coated with another white metal called rhodium. The rhodium is used to make the white gold look more white or more silver (as the natural colour of white gold is actually a light grey colour). The rhodium is very white and very hard, but it does wear away eventually and may need to be re-plated every 12 -18 months
Unlike white gold, platinum is naturally a white metal and therefore doesn't need rhodium plating. It is used in almost its pure form (approximately 95% pure) and is extremely long wearing. It is also very dense, which means that a platinum ring will feel heavier than an 18 carat gold ring. Platinum's durability means that it is likely to require less upkeep than white gold.
One of the reasons that platinum has recently become so popular is that is has a natural sheen that accentuates the brilliance of diamonds that are set within the ring. It is also harder than gold and will therefore hold diamonds more firmly than gold. It is however very expensive - a platinum ring is likely to be twice the price of the same ring made out of 18 carat gold - this does however make it rarer and more prestigious. Platinum is also hypo-allergenic
Titanium is generally less known in jewellery making (although it has been used extensively in other areas such as the aerospace industry and medical world since the 1950's). For this reason, I asked a couple of experts in the titanium jewellery making, Ted and Ita Daniels from Artifact Limited, if they could explain the characteristics of titanium. Ted and Ita have been making titanium jewellery since 1982 and have specialised in titanium rings since 1995 (you can view their extensive collection of titanium rings on their website).
As Ted explains, titanium is a pure metal, which means it has not been alloyed (mixed with other metals). It is widely used for implants in the medical world because of its hypo-allergenic properties and is also used in the aerospace and aircraft industries due to it being one of the strongest metals found. Its durability exceeds that of most precious metals.
Titanium rings can be inlaid with other metals like gold, silver and platinum, creating a permanent marriage between the metals making a titanium ring an excellent choice for a wedding band.
Ted also notes that titanium rings can be custom-made for a cost comparable to that of gold rings. What's more, they are much more durable than gold rings and far lighter than their gold or platinum equivalent.
In terms of appearance, titanium rings tend to be slightly darker in colour than platinum. However, like platinum, titanium can be given various finishes.
It is little known that titanium can be coloured. Titanium belongs to an elite category of elements known as refractory metals. One of the characteristics of these materials lies in the refractive abilities inherent in their oxides. By applying heat or electricity you can induce the oxide thickness on its surface, which results in the metal looking coloured. The colour of the oxide will relate to the time and voltage. This allows for absolute control and consistency from one part to another. The most common colours are blue, purple and iridescent.
Now comes the difficult task of selecting what wedding band will be best for you. Having gone through the above, your choice of metal is likely to come down to the following:
What colour suits: Some people's colouring means that they are better suited to yellow gold rather than the white gold/platinum/titanium colouring. In this case, your choice is relatively easy. However, if you suit the silver-coloured metals, you will need to look at each type of metal to see if there is a look that your prefer.
Your budget: You will obviously need to choose a ring that falls within your budget. Platinum, being the most expensive of the metals discussed here, may fall outside of some people's budget. Your budget may also be affected by the diamond that you choose to go with the ring.
Finding a style that is right for you: The most important thing is to find a ring that you like and that suits you. In the end, it doesn't matter what the ring is made of provided that you like it. Remember, you will be wearing it for the rest of your life!
Acknowledgement: I would like to thank Ted and Ita Daniels from Artifact Limited for their assistance with the preparation of this article and for the use of the images.