Engagement rings are most commonly made in platinum or gold, though there are many different choices when it comes to gold. Besides the obvious differences in color, each of them have their own special characteristics to take into consideration when choosing an engagement ring metal. (I will talk about metals for men’s wedding rings in another article, as men have a few more choices here.)
Pure gold is 24 karat. As 24 karat gold is quite soft, most gold used in jewelry is alloyed with other metals to make it more durable. Most gold engagement rings are made of either 14K (58.5% gold ) or 18K gold (75% gold). Most commercial jewelry made in the United States is 14K gold, while most designer jewelry is 18K gold. An 18K gold ring will be more expensive than the same ring in 14K simply because it contains more gold. The color of the metal gold it is alloyed with determines its color.
White metals are currently the most popular choice for engagement and wedding rings. Art-Deco style engagement rings (both vintage or reproduction) are currently all the rage, and they were originally usually made in platinum. White gold however, is considerably cheaper than platinum and is a good alternative.
This white gold setting of this engagement ring plays up the diamonds’ whiteness.
White gold is made with an alloy of nickel, manganese or palladium. Because the majority of the metal is still gold, which is naturally yellow in color, white gold will still have a slight yellow tint. Most white gold jewelry is plated with rhodium to give it that bright white finish most people think is actually the white gold. Because rings endure a lot of wear, this rhodium plating will eventually wear off. If you want the ring to have the same bright white finish, you will need to have it replated.
Check with the jeweler you are considering purchasing the ring from and see if they will offer free re-plating if you purchase from them, or if not, how much they will charge. It should not be much, but some jewelers may overcharge for this service. If you don’t like the idea of having to leave the ring with a jeweler every year or two to have this done, then platinum (which is naturally white) or yellow gold would be the way to go.
A small percentage of people have a skin allergy to nickel, so this could be another reason to forgo it. James Allen has developed an 18K white gold they are calling True White GoldTM, that while still containing nickel, was specifically designed to maintain its whiteness and withstand the test of time, so this could be another option.
Yellow gold is a classic choice for wedding and engagement rings. The higher the karat of yellow gold, the more yellow it will be. Some people prefer the richness of 18K, while some people think it is too bright, even gaudy, and prefer the subtler yellow of 14K. Diamonds mounted in yellow gold often appear slightly yellower than they would otherwise, as the yellow gold reflects through them. Because of this, yellow gold engagement rings often feature white gold or platinum prongs to hold the diamond. If you want your diamond to look as white as possible, make sure to look for this.
This 18K yellow gold setting features white gold prongs.
Rose gold is made by alloying gold with copper to give it a pinkish cast. Although it was very popular in Victorian times, it fell out of favor until recently when it was embraced by the fashion world. Unlike white gold, rose gold never needs to be re-plated, as the color goes throughout the metal. Although still a specialty metal, there are increasing numbers of designers offering rose gold in their lines. Many designers and stores however still don’t typically stock it, so if you have your heart set on a particular ring, it is worth inquiring if you can have it specially made in rose gold. Rose gold is a good choice for the feminine, fashionable woman who likes to keep up on the latest trends.
Most of the engagement rings at James Allen are available in 14K rose gold. They allow you to choose your own center gemstone setting from a wide variety. Go with a traditional diamond, or have it set with a pink sapphire or pink diamond for an especially pretty and unusual pairing. Styles range from simple to decidedly elaborate.
This rose gold setting features a white gold prong setting to play up the whiteness of a diamond
This lovely setting features vintage art-deco styling and a rose gold basket setting
YLANG23 carries a small selection of designer rose gold engagement rings, like this one in 18K rose gold by Katie Diamond
Platinum has been the traditional choice for engagement rings because of its strength and durability. It does not lose metal if scratched, and does not wear away over time. However, its finish tends to dull over time.
Platinum has historically been much more expensive than gold, because it is much more rare, but with the huge market rise in gold prices in the last decade, platinum is now priced about the same as gold. However, platinum rings will be still be more expensive than gold rings because of a number of reasons. First, precious metals are bought by weight and platinum is almost twice as heavy as gold. (So keep in mind that a platinum ring will have much more heft than a gold one.) Secondly, most gold jewelry in the United States is 58.5% pure (14 karat) and most platinum jewelry is 95% pure (and should be marked 950 Plat, Plat, PT, or Platinum). Lastly, platinum is a much more difficult metal to work than gold, so these additional labor costs are added to each piece.
With platinum there is no need to worry about your ring changing color or wearing out.
Designer Cathy Waterman creates many of her rings in platinum, including this stunning one-of-a-kind engagement ring featuring a 2.09 carat rose-cut diamond
Reasons to Choose Platinum
Never needs replating
Reasons to Choose Yellow Gold
Desire a yellow metal
On a budget
Like a high polish