Choosing the right metal and style for your fiancée’s ring (or soon to be fiancée) can be an overwhelming process. After all, this is a piece of jewelry that is meant to last for as long as you both shall live. What metal best fits your fiancée? Traditional or Modern? Durable or Fashionable? We’re here to help! Learn about the different choices you have and if you still have questions, just ask a member of our helpful staff.
GOLD is a rare element that has been prized for its beauty, usefulness and rarity since its discovery. Ever since, gold has symbolized wealth and guaranteed power. Gold also ranks among the most hi-tech of metals performing vital functions in many areas of everyday life. Gold’s unique properties make it useful in medical applications, pollution control, air bags, telephones, lap tops, space travel and more. Approximately 12% of demand for gold comes from industry. Gold is mined around the world today and is an important natural resource for developing countries which account for 72% of global output.
Gold’s use in jewelry dates back over 10,000 years and still dominates the world of precious metals. Because pure gold is a soft metal it is generally mixed (alloyed) with other metals (alloys) to produce a “Karat gold” which will be stronger and colored to specifications. Different cultures prefer different mixtures and colors but in the USA 14kt and 18kt are the most popular in yellow and white gold mixtures. 14kt is 58.5% pure gold and 18kt is 75% pure gold with the balance being appropriate alloys such as silver, nickel, palladium and copper. This would be 14 parts gold to 10 parts alloy and 18 parts gold and 6 parts alloy respectively, always adding up to 24 (pure gold). Yellow gold mixtures make beautiful warm looking pieces of fashion jewelry that accent many ladies skin tones and wardrobes as well as many gemstones. Being a softer mix of gold, yellow gold is excellent for setting gemstones but the resulting jewelry is more susceptible to wearing down over the years so more care must be taken. Yellow gold jewelry should be stamped with its gold content such as “14K” and “18K”.
WHITE GOLD is an alloy of pure gold (yellow) and varied metals (white) in attempt to make the gold “white” in color and add strength. As in yellow gold 14kt white gold is 58.5% pure gold and 41.5% alloy which is 14 parts gold to 10 parts alloy equaling 24, that is why pure gold is referred to as 24kt. While the resulting mix is much lighter in color than alloyed yellow gold, it is still a very light yellow color. The resulting metal is, however, more durable. To address the very light yellow color, industry practice is to electroplate Rhodium (a member of the Platinum family) over the finished “White” gold piece. This process puts a hard white metal shell over the jewelry.
While white gold is a relatively hard white metal that is good for securing diamonds and gemstones, the Rhodium shell will wear off eventually with use – exposing the light yellow color below. If your white gold jewelry is purchased at CMI Jewelry Showroom we will gladly polish and re-Rhodium the items when necessary as a courtesy, usually while you wait. White gold jewelry should be stamped with the karat content, such as “14K” or “18K”. White gold mountings can cost less than half of comparable platinum pieces with good hardness which resists bending.
PLATINUM has been appreciated for centuries due to its extreme rarity and ease of workability. Platinum is very rarely found in nugget or vein form, and only with the growth of abundant hydroelectric power was platinum able to be refined in quantities leading to a mass production. For additional strength platinum is generally alloyed with either 5% or 10% Iridium which is also a platinum family metal. In 1939 platinum was declared a strategic metal by the military and the jewelry industry was forced into using either white gold or palladium for production for a number of years.
Platinum is a pure white metal and therefore does not require any surface plating. It is the densest but softest of the white jewelry metals, making diamond and gemstone setting easy and low risk with the resulting jewelry very resistant to wearing down but not as resistant to bending as white gold. Platinum’s relative softness enables the metal to develop a microscopic patina that contrasts beautifully with a diamond’s brilliance. Platinum jewelry should be stamped “Platinum” or “Plat”, sometimes in its concentration such as “PT 900” or “PT950”. Platinum is the most expensive of the white jewelry metals because of its rarity, use in pure form and heavy weight.
STERLING SILVER is one of the most useful metals because of its relative low cost and unique properties lending it to use in decorative arts, industry and photography. Its use has been traced back 3000 years in modern day burial excavations of the ancient cit of Ur in the area of modern day Turkey. In old Egyptian civilization it was often used in the creation of decorative objects and was known as “White Gold” or “Lunar metal” because it looks cold and luminous like the moons reflection on water.
Pure silver, also called fine silver, is relatively soft, very malleable and easily damaged so it is commonly mixed with other metals to produce a more durable product. The most popular of these alloys is sterling silver, which consists of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. This gives the metal hardness similar to white gold making it a good choice for fashion jewelry at a significantly lower price. Sterling silver jewelry should be stamped “Sterling”, “SS” or “925” reflecting its concentration.
TITANIUM was first discovered at the end of the 18th century. The name was derived from the Titans of Greek mythology, known for their extreme strength. Titanium is the only element possessing the strength of steel with a weight comparable to aluminum. Titanium now designates the highest levels of quality for many consumer products including sporting equipment, medical, automotive and aeronautics, giftware, and of course, jewelry.
Titanium has a grayish color that can be highly polished or finished with different textures. This metal makes strong but lightweight rings good for use as men’s wedding bands but it does not lend itself to stone setting so ladies rings are seldom available in titanium. Titanium rings cannot be sized but the manufacturer will exchange sizes for a fee. Titanium will usually be stamped “titanium”.
TUNGSTEN CARBIDE is a space-age metal formed in a remarkable process relying on both technology and principals of old world craftsmanship. Tungsten and Carbide powders are combined and formed into a ring then fired at an incredible 6200ºF. Tungsten carbide is four times harder than titanium, two times harder than steel and virtually indestructible. Tungsten carbide has been widely used in industrial applications such as cutting tools, mining equipment and rocket engine nozzles.
Tungsten carbide can only be scratched or damaged by extreme measures like abrasion from diamonds or a sharp blow hard enough to crack the relatively brittle but hard metal. Like titanium this metal does not lend itself to setting gemstones so ladies rings are seldom made. Tungsten carbide can be finished with many textures and patterns making it a very versatile metal for men’s wedding bands that have everlasting durability, polish and shine. These rings cannot be sized but the manufacturers will exchange sizes for a fee. Tungsten carbide rings will usually be stamped “tungsten carbide”.
COBALT is a recent addition to the family contemporary metals now used to make wedding bands. Historically associated with the creation of blue dyes used in enamel work and paint, Cobalt’s metallic grey luster makes it suitable for men’s plain and patterned wedding bands. The hardness of cobalt reduces the marring seen in softer, traditional precious metals and offers wearers a low-maintenance and durable ring that is not as heavy as Tungsten Carbide. The metals hardness does prevent future sizing of rings but CMI Jewelry Showroom offers a lifetime replacement option with most contemporary metal rings.