So you need to buy a precious metal wedding ring but you don't know which metal to choose? Here are my top tips to help you...
1. Ladies - this decision can be quite simple. If you have an engagement ring, I always recommend that you choose the same metal for your wedding ring. And match the carats of gold too. Different metals and different carats of gold differ in terms of their hardness; you'll reduce the rate at which your wedding and engagement rings wear against each other by choosing them in the same metal/carat of metal. This 'matching metals' tip is particularly worth considering, if your engagement or wedding rings feature any claw set or small stones. If it is possible that one ring is going to wear against a setting(s), you could risk damaging or loosing its integrity and thus risk loosing your stone(s)...and no one wants that! The colours of gold you choose, however, is a different matter; you could for example choose a 9ct red gold wedding band to contrast with your 9ct white gold engagement ring. Nice.
2. To silver or not to silver? Personally I would choose gold, platinum or palladium for my wedding ring because sterling silver is more reactive than these metals and therefore tarnishes. It is also one of the softer precious metals. That said, silver tarnishes less when it is being worn and, if it does discolour, it can be easily cleaned with a silver dip or a silver cloth. Sterling silver can be one of the most economical choices too, especially if you are looking for a chunky design. If you think you are likely to loose your wedding ring, or if you are unsure if you will wear your ring after your wedding ceremony, silver may be a more reasonable choice for you or your partner. Please note: avoid silver rings that are 'fine' or 'pure' silver or made with PMC (Precious metal clay); these bands will be much softer and less durable than the sterling kind and, in my opinion, they will be unsuitable for everyday use.
3. Think about what tone of metal you like. The higher the carat of yellow gold, the more golden and saturated it is; 22ct yellow gold is very golden, 18ct yellow gold is a bold yellow/gold (although not quite as rich as 22ct) and 9ct is a more subtle, paler yellow.
If you like metals with a coppery, pink hue then 9ct red gold is delightful. You also have the option of 18ct red gold, which is a more subtle, warm/pink toned gold and one of my personal favourites!
If you want a white coloured precious metal your choices include sterling silver, white gold, platinum or palladium; although all close in tone, they each have a slightly different hue...
In its natural, un-plated state, 18ct gold has a warm grey tone and 9ct white gold is a lighter, warm hue of silver; whilst it is a white metal it does have a subtle hint of yellow in it. White gold is, more often than not, plated with Rhodium. This makes the gold appear bright white, yet, to maintain this look, your ring will require repeated re-plating. I generally don't plate my white gold rings, partly because of this required maintenance and partly because I like the tone of the gold un-plated ...why cover over something which is beautiful already?!
Platinum and palladium are in the same metal family and so naturally their tone is very similar, it is a white/grey tone, close to 18ct white gold in its un-plated state but a little whiter and less warm in its hue. Palladium tends to look just a touch darker than platinum.
Finally, in terms of precious metal colours, sterling silver can be a bright silver/white. However, due to it's reactivity, it can oxidise to almost black if not cleaned.
4. Are you hands on? If you are heavy handed you should probably choose a harder, more scratch resistant metal like 9ct gold, platinum or palladium.
Interestingly, 9ct gold is harder than 18ct gold. This is because 9ct has more alloy in it's recipe than 18ct, and it is the alloy that gives the gold its strength/durability; pure gold is actually very soft. Please note that although these metals are hard they are not impervious to damage; it is recommended that you remove your wedding ring, before doing anything which involves contact with very hard materials like steel.
5. Palladium vs Platinum. Platinum is rarer, more valuable and heavier but palladium is a very similar contender! Palladium was used as an alloy metal until 2009 when the assay offices in the UK recognised it as a precious metal in its own right. Since then, helped by it's desirable colour, durability and (more) reasonable price tag, it has become more and more popular. Palladium is also slightly more scratch resistant that platinum; although platinum holds up slightly better upon impact than palladium. Swings and roundabouts! Please note: palladium can be sold in different grades. For example palladium 950 (95% pure palladium, 5% alloy) and palladium 500 (50% pure palladium and 50% alloy). Although, palladium 500 will be more reasonable it has almost half the amount of precious metal in it than palladium 950, so it may not be as much of a deal as it first looks.
6. What price point are you comfortable with? For the same style of ring the price tag differs dramatically dependant on what metal you choose. At the time of writing this post, from most economical to most valuable we have: sterling silver, palladium, 9ct gold, platinum, 18ct gold and 22ct gold. This is based on the current metal prices, which vary on a daily basis. For a long time platinum was more valuable than 18ct gold per gram, so it is worth checking the current metal prices when you buy your rings. Also, as a rough rule 9ct gold tends to be approximately half the price of 18ct gold for a similar design. This is because it has half the gold content; 9ct gold is 37.5% pure gold and 62.5% alloy compared with 18ct gold which is 75% pure gold and 25% alloy.
I hope this has blog post is useful to whoever has taken the time to read my rambling thoughts! My last piece of advice is, when looking for a wedding ring its all about balance. Try to find one that balances practicality and durability with a design that you love and price point that you feel comfortable with. Combine this right and it should give you a lifetime of joy. My old boss used to say "there's only two things you have to look at everyday after your wedding, your partner and your rings", so it's definitely worth investing a little thought into both!
Disclaimer: All the information above is information that I have acquired from working within the jewellery industry for the last few years; I believe all the information is true however, I can not take responsibility if there are any accidental inaccuracies within my facts. I have voiced my thoughts on the most popular precious metals used in the UK, as these metals are the metals I have worked with. There are a few other options but these are the selection of metals that I work with and therefore recommend.