A ring is an intimate piece of jewelry. Worn for their craftsmanship and symbolism in equal measure, a ring can communicate the deepest emotions through utter simplicity, or showcase the most refined artistry in a dazzling spectacle.
Finding the right metal for a ring is just as important as the gemstones. The metal doesn’t only provide an elegant base, it has a beauty of its own that can provide an elegant setting for gemstones or create a standalone piece of stunning simplicity.
Precious metals are the choice material in fine ring making, particularly gold, sterling silver, and platinum. They are rare, possess a high surface luster, and are resistant to corrosion. But each one also has its own unique attributes. When choosing which ring to buy, knowing the different properties of each metal is key to finding a ring that’s the perfect fit for life.
Considered the most precious jewelry metal, platinum is the choice metal of the British Crown jewels. Known for its soft, white hues and cool luster, platinum’s rarity, purity and refined appearance make it an ideal metal for the production of premium rings.
Because platinum is much stronger than gold, the purity level is much higher; to be considered pure, the metal must contain at least 90% platinum. Its density and strength also provide a secure setting for diamonds or gemstones, while the natural luminous quality accentuates the brilliance and sparkle of diamonds. Platinum will never tarnish or oxidize, so re-plating isn’t necessary and engravings remain will sharp, making it the perfect symbol of ever-lasting love. Many people also choose to buy rings made of platinum for their hypoallergenic properties, meaning it’s ideal for those with sensitive skin.
Since antiquity gold has been prized for its rarity and beauty. It is also an extremely versatile metal, and a traditional choice for fine jewelry. A soft metal resistant to corrosion, gold can be precision crafted to create highly intricate or beautifully simplistic designs to showcase jewels, or as standalone pieces.
Gold purity is measured using the karat system—which should not be confused with carat, the measurement for gemstone purity. A karat is divided into 24 parts: pure gold is 24 karats, which means 24 parts out of 24 are gold. In general, pure gold is too soft to be used for jewelry, particularly rings, so it is combined with other metal alloys like silver, copper, nickel and zinc to increase its strength and durability. While the composition of metals used can change, the percentage used is always the same:
Rings that are worn every day are likely to become damaged or wear down. That’s why it’s important to balance gold purity with durability. It’s considered better to buy rings that are 18 Kt or 14 Kt gold for weddings as, in addition to lasting a lifetime, their durability also means they make a suitable base for securely setting gems and precious stones.
In addition to levels of pureness, the color of the gold may also vary depending on which alloys are used, and in what amount.
Classic yet fashionable, yellow gold is the traditional material for engagement and wedding rings. Yellow gold is the purest color of all golds, but it is given warmth and strength by adding alloys such as copper. Rings made of this material are usually 10, 14, 18 or 20 karats.
A more contemporary choice, white gold is yellow gold mixed with palladium and silver or nickel, copper and zinc, in order to achieve a dazzling, luminous finish. It is then plated with a hard element called rhodium (a metal in the platinum family) to make it scratch-resistant, and give the white gold a smooth, reflective surface. A luxurious, white metal that provides gemstones with an excellent backdrop, white gold is an increasingly popular choice for matrimonial rings.
Rose gold has a subtle but warm, pink complexion that gives rings a distinct, romantic quality. It is created by increasing the copper alloys added to gold to strengthen it. The percentage of metal alloys is the same for rose gold as it is for yellow or white, and the intensity of the color will vary in accordance.
Silver has been highly valued for as long as gold; today, it’s the most affordable of the precious metals. Sterling silver can appear white or grey, and may have a matte or a polished finish. Over time sterling silver will tarnish, a property which is often carefully used to accentuate the ring designs as embedded areas and engravings darken, giving the piece depth.
Like gold, pure silver is too soft to be used to make jewelry. For this reason, it is normally alloyed with copper, or another metal, to make it more durable. Sterling silver must contain at least 92.5% pure silver, which is why it’s stamped as .925, though it’s possible to find higher purity levels such as 958 and 999.
Stainless steel, along with other metals such as cobalt and titanium, has become increasingly popular in recent years. Designs range from the traditional to the ultra-modern and industrial. Able to be polished to a very high finish with anti-corrosive properties, these metals are favored for their strength, durability and affordability, and are especially popular with men who aren’t used to wearing rings.