Finding the right metal for an engagement ring is just as important as the diamond or gemstone it will hold. Use our guide to metals to help you choose the perfect engagement ring for your bride-to-be.
It’s time to buy an engagement ring — and there are so many factors to consider. Choosing the metal alone is a more complex decision than it used to be. Where it once was a simple choice between yellow and white, now you have a whole range of possibilities to consider, including:
- What's the difference between white gold and platinum?
- What exactly is rose gold?
- How do newer, alternative metals popular in men’s wedding rings, like titanium and tungsten carbide, complement gold and platinum in engagement rings?
Take it one step at a time — starting with the type of metal — and you’ll end up with a ring that suits her style and that she’ll cherish forever. Use this as your guide to the different types of metals available for ring settings.
What's her style?
Focus first on determining your fiancée's style, and then finding the right metal and color to complement that style. One of the first things you need to think about when choosing a metal for a setting is the type of jewelry your future bride typically wears:
- If she’s drawn to cooler hues and silver-toned jewelry, then platinum or white gold is the way to go.
- Yellow gold or rose gold are good choices if she tends to gravitate toward warmer tones.
- Mixing metals like white gold and yellow gold is a smart option, because it will allow her to complement any piece in her existing jewelry wardrobe.
- Even if you decide on a warmer metal like yellow gold, setting the diamond in a white metal head (which holds the diamond in place) like platinum or white gold will accentuate the diamond, showing off its brilliance to sparkling effect.
Platinum is a naturally white metal with a cool luster that showcases the brilliance and sparkle of diamonds beautifully. It’s a popular choice for engagement rings and wedding bands, and is considered the most precious of all jewelry metals.
Compared to gold, platinum is five times as rare and purer when used in jewelry. Platinum is durable, making it a good option if your fiancée leads an active lifestyle — its density provides a secure setting for diamonds or gemstones. Platinum is also naturally hypoallergenic, so it’s a great choice for those with sensitive skin.
Its elegant sheen will not fade or change color over time, making re-plating your platinum ring unnecessary. Because of its strength, it’s a popular choice for setting diamonds.
Gold is an extremely versatile metal, and the most common choice for jewelry. The standard measurement of gold is a karat, which is divided into 24 parts. Pure gold is 24 karats, meaning 24 out of 24 parts are gold.
Pure gold is too soft to be used for jewelry, so it’s combined with other metal alloys to increase its strength. You’ll find 22K gold, but most often gold comes in 18K (75% gold), 14K (58% gold) and 10K (about 42% gold). The remainder is made up of other metals — like silver, copper, nickel and zinc — to lend strength and durability. The type and percentage of metal alloys used determine the shade and color of gold. For example, 22K gold tends to be a rich, saturated gold color, while 14K gold may appear as a slightly paler yellow.
Gold jewelry usually comes in these colors:
Classic yet fashionable, yellow gold achieves its warm patina from the red of copper and the green hue of silver. Yellow gold lost favor to white gold for a while, but has recently regained popularity.
More contemporary than yellow gold, white gold gets its silvery white character from combining yellow gold with copper, zinc and nickel (or palladium). It’s plated with a hard element called rhodium (a platinum group metal), which costs about four times as much as platinum, resists scratches and tarnishing, and gives white gold a reflective appearance. However, it may wear away over time, requiring a quick trip to your jeweler for re-plating.
Unique and romantic, rose gold has a warm, pink hue created by combining yellow gold with a copper alloy. The overall percentages of metal alloys are the same for rose gold as they are for yellow or white; it’s just a different mixture of alloys used.
While not all that common, green gold is unusual and nature-inspired; it has a soft, pale green color created by mixing yellow gold with silver, copper and zinc. Use green gold together with rose and white gold for an interesting, different tri-color look.
The perfect setting
Now that you understand the differences between metals, it’s time to put the pieces together. Choose your metal, pick your style and complete the look with a brilliant diamond or gorgeous gemstone. In the process, you’ll discover things about your future wife that you may not have known about her before — and that’s part of the fun. In the end, you’ll create an engagement ring that’s just as unique and beautiful as the woman who will be wearing it.