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Guide to Anniversary Metals & Gifts

Metal jewelry makes a great gift to celebrate the passing years. Discover which metals are correct for which anniversaries and get ideas for specific anniversary gifts.

In medieval Germany, where the tradition of giving anniversary gifts seems to have started, if a couple made it to 25 years of marriage, the wife was given a silver garland to mark the occasion. In the unlikely event they made it to 50 years (most people didn’t even live to 50 back then, much less stay married that long), she’d get a gold garland.

What kind of metal jewelry is appropriate for each year? Traditional lists are pretty consistent, but you have to stay married a good number of years to give (or get) the heavy metal.

As we move into the modern age, you can find both traditional and modern wedding anniversary gift lists all over the web. What kind of metal jewelry is appropriate for each year? Traditional lists are pretty consistent, but you have to stay married a good number of years to give (or get) the heavy metal.

Traditional gift list metals includes:

  • 6th anniversary: Iron
  • 7th anniversary: Copper
  • 8th anniversary: Bronze
  • 10th anniversary: Tin
  • 11th anniversary: Steel
  • 25th anniversary: Silver
  • 50th anniversary: Gold

The multitude of modern lists can go off the rails, so beware (anyone can create a “modern list” on the internet). But many modern wedding anniversary gift lists include these metals in addition to the traditional gift list recommendations:

  • 16th anniversary: Silver
  • 19th anniversary: Bronze
  • 20th anniversary: Platinum

6th anniversary: iron

Iron represents what all marriages need — strength. Interestingly, from a historical perspective, iron objects of great age are more rare than objects made of gold or silver because of how easily iron corrodes.

Iron has been used since ancient times and is a precursor to steel. Iron is a common presence on earth, but iron can make a beautiful metal jewelry gift when you give it some thought. You just have to watch out for the potential for rust with iron jewelry.

7th anniversary: copper

Copper has traditionally represented prosperity, good luck and good fortune. It’s been used for at least 10,000 years, and estimates place its discovery in the Middle East at 9000 B.C.

The reddish orange color of copper corrodes to give it a patina. Unfortunately, that can transfer to your body and clothing when you wear it. However, it is commonly used in jewelry, and folklore says copper bracelets relieve arthritis symptoms.

It’s possible you might be feeling the arthritis at the 7-year mark. However, a less “pointed” memento of the ongoing years between you might be something like a copper cuff.

Copper is alloyed with gold to create rose gold, which looks great mixed in jewelry with other colors of gold, and creates a warm setting for diamonds or gemstones.

8th anniversary: bronze

Bronze is actually an alloy of copper and tin, so maybe that’s the reason it’s wedged between copper and tin on the anniversary list.

Bronze is used for casting in molds, and an interesting thing about that is the metal expands slightly just before setting in the cast, so bronze can show really sharp detail.

10th anniversary: tin

Tin is the metal for the 10-year anniversary because it represents flexibility and durability. Because tin is used to protect other metals from rusting or tarnishing, it also represents protection.

11th anniversary: steel

So, you make it through 10 years and you’ve given a tin gift that represents durability and flexibility. Oddly, now that you’ve made it to 11 years, your marriage needs the strength of tough steel. Stainless steel can be found in all sorts of jewelry — it’s much easier to find than tin — so your options are wide open.

Your 11th anniversary seems like the ideal time to give him a steel gift — it’s such a “macho” material! A stainless steel bracelet is a great gift, or a watch made of stainless steel works. Of course, gentlemen, women’s watches are available in stainless works, too.

FYI: Stainless steel is hypoallergenic, so if one of you has an allergy to metals, you’ll be safe with steel.

20th anniversary: platinum

Platinum symbolizes a relationship that will endure — a nice milestone for twenty years.

Platinum is actually 30 times rarer than gold. It’s naturally white, so it doesn’t cast any color into diamonds (a reason why it has become so popular as a metal for engagement rings). It’s usually 95% pure, so jewelry made with it never fades or tarnishes. Add to that it’s hypoallergenic, so it’s ideal for those with sensitive skin.

While expensive (remember how rare it is), this metal gives you a boatload of jewelry options when you’re looking for a 20th anniversary gift. An anniversary band is a perfect gift.

Just make sure you look for the stamp inside the ring on the metal somewhere: Platinum, Plat, Pt followed by the level of purity, such as Pt900 or Pt950. The number 900 denotes 90% pure platinum, and 950 denotes 95% pure platinum.

25th anniversary (also 16th anniversary on modern lists): silver

Throughout history, silver has been highly valued. Pure silver, as with gold, is too soft for jewelry. To boost its strength and durability, silver is combined with other metals. Sterling silver must contain at least 92.5% pure silver and less than 7.5% other metals. Jewelry stamped "sterling" or "925" is sterling silver.

Silver will tarnish. To keep silver jewelry looking great, polish it regularly with silver cleaner. Clean the tarnish before it builds up, because it can cause long-term damage.

50th anniversary: gold

Following the lead of those medieval Germans, the 50th wedding anniversary has long been associated with gold.

Most jewelry is set in 18K, 14K or 10K gold. The standard measurement of gold is the karat. 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 alloyed with other metals to make it stronger. So 18K gold is 18 parts gold and 6 parts other metals; 14K gold is 14 parts gold and 10 parts other metals. 10K gold is 10 parts gold to 14 parts other metals.

Yellow gold is mixed with copper and silver. White gold is combined with copper, zinc and nickel or palladium, and is often plated with rhodium. Rose gold combines gold with copper, and green gold is made by mixing in copper, silver and zinc.

You might consider a jewelry piece that pairs white and yellow gold, which produces a beautiful two-tone look.

You can find just about every jewelry type in gold, and at every price point because of the variety of karats (18K, 14K, 10K). Chains can be a particularly good idea because women can combine them with different pendants, and you can find a huge variety of chain types for men.

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