No one wants to wear, or give, an engagement ring that ages in dog years. Which metal should I have for my engagement ring, or my fiancée’s ring? People ask us this all the time, so we’ve put together a rather informative blog, which will hopefully help you find the right answer for you.
Longevity problems and issues with engagement rings can be caused by poor craftsmanship, but don’t negate the impact of a poor metal choice. Firstly, we should start by explaining the options that we have here at Ethica Diamonds.
We don’t offer silver for two reasons, it’s not as valuable as gold, and we feel that it’s not a good fit for fine jewellery.
We no longer work with palladium and we will explain why in more detail later in the post.
We don’t work with 9k or 14k gold either. There’s nothing wrong with it per se, but the higher silver content softens metal even more, and therefore we don’t often offer it.
When you are choosing a piece of jewellery, the metal you opt for is as important as the stone and the design. Firstly, look at the skin-colour of the person who will be wearing the jewellery, and if it’s for a gift, or a surprise engagement ring, look at the metal type of the jewellery the recipient wears regularly to establish their preferences. Some people wear both gold-coloured and silver-coloured metals, others choose one only. Others have a preference for rose-gold. We do have dual-metal rings, if you can’t make up your mind!
Also, you need to consider what other jewellery that is worn close by – if you choose a gold engagement ring, then you would want to choose a gold wedding ring to wear alongside it, because a soft metal like gold will be gradually worn away by a harder metal such as platinum.
Engagement rings are worn. All day, every day. And this exposure guarantees that they take light bumps and knocks every now and then.
Decent craftsmanship helps to ensure that a ring can withstand these minor encounters… but a hard blow is bound to happen some time. And then you will want the strongest metal to secure the diamonds as best as possible in that dreaded moment.
Another overlooked risk is the accumulation of light daily bumps that slowly move the prongs that secure your diamonds out of place, leading to to wobbly loose stones or worse, lost ones.
SILVER COLOURED METALS
Platinum and palladium are both very rare, white metals that will stay white forever. The difference in colour between palladium and platinum is very minimal, palladium being around 6% optically whiter/lighter than platinum, which is not a lot. Unlike white gold, both platinum and palladium are not rhodium plated since they are naturally a bright white colour. This is a great feature of both metals because it means much less maintenance than a white gold ring which will develop a yellow tinge without regular re-plating. Also, both palladium and platinum rings develop a patina finish over time.
The most appealing characteristic of these metals is that they require less maintenance because of their strength. Each time other metals are scratched or polished, a tiny bit of the metal is lost. A scratch may leave a mark, but as they are so strong, they will not readily chip, splinter or wear down.
Palladium is 40% lighter in weight than platinum. Using an identical ring design the platinum version would weight 10g and the palladium version 6g.
If you’re thinking silver-coloured, then think about weight. Heavy or light? Most people prefer a weightier, more substantial ring as it feels both luxurious and strong.
Platinum is one of the world’s most rare precious metals; only about 133 tons of platinum are mined, compared to around 2,000 tons of gold. It is also denser than gold, so the same piece of diamond jewellery made in platinum would be approximately one third heavier than in 18k gold of the same design. The same piece of jewellery would be 40% heavier than if it was made in palladium.
As it is a naturally white metal, it will always hold its beauty, meaning re-plating is unnecessary. Platinum is also extremely durable, and its density makes it the most secure setting for your diamond or precious gemstones.
Our platinum is composed of 95% pure platinum, with the remaining 5% made up of iridium, palladium, ruthenium and other metals. All these metals are also naturally un-reactive, which means that platinum jewellery is hypoallergenic and will not irritate the skin, ideal for those with sensitivity.
Jewellers are allowed to drop the purity of platinum group metals to 80% purity without the need for disclosure.
We stick to the benchmark 95%.
There is not Fairtrade platinum scheme yet, so all of our platinum comes from recycled sources, which is as environmentally friendly and ethically sound as we can make it at this point in time.
Palladium is considered a modern metal in the jewellery world, yet accounts for less than 1% of rings made worldwide. Some people don’t like the ‘light’ feel of palladium compared with platinum.
We used to use palladium for many years in our jewellery. At a certain stage it was trading at an 1/8th of the price of platinum – which made it an excellent choice in terms of strength and affordability. It shares most of all of the amazing benefits that platinum adds to an engagement ring, especially if you wanted a lighter feeling ring.
However, price wise the scales have tipped and currently palladium is 68% more expensive than platinum per gram.
Wow… what happened?
When it comes to platinum and palladium… the jewellery industry accounts for only a fraction of the demand.
By far the most platinum and palladium consumed in a year is used in catalytic converters to reduce harmful emissions from a vehicle’s exhaust system. Palladium is used in catalytic converters for petrol cars and platinum is used in diesel cars.
After a few scandals (VW’s Diesel-gate & Co.) that resulted in very punitive fines and new regulations, the long term outlook for diesel power seems bleak. Germany went so far as to threaten with the ban of diesel powered cars in certain cities.
Many big name SUV builders announced that diesel motors will be phased out in the next few model years. The decline in demand and negative outlook for diesel cars has pushed down the platinum price.
On the flipside, manufacturers are stocking up on palladium for the higher demand for petrol cars. So much so that we’ve seen close to doubling in the price of palladium in the past 24 months.
The good news is diesel car problems have nothing to do with the fact that platinum is still the perfect white metal choice for your engagement ring.
WHAT IS PATINA?
Patina refers to the look that platinum and palladium rings develop over time. When platinum and palladium rings get scratched, the metal moves from one part of a ring to another. Over time, this gives the rings a matte-finish appearance, also known as patina. This is different than white gold rings because when white gold is scratched, the metal actually comes off of the ring and overtime the ring develops a scratched surface instead of a patina. Most people are excited for their ring to develop a patina finish because of the beautiful effect it gives the metal in their diamond engagement ring. However, if you don’t like the look of the patina, you can always have both a platinum or palladium ring re-polished which will bring it back to its original shiny state. Alternatively, you can opt for a white gold ring which doesn’t develop patina.
Although platinum isn’t an easy metal to work with, palladium is a bad word for most jewellers and imperfections and crude workmanship will be quite easy to spot. Palladium becomes brittle when exposed to a jeweller’s torch flame. It has to be cast in an oxygen-free vacuum chamber.
Very few jewellers have invested into the science of palladium manufacturing as you need very specialised equipment and many people don’t realise the issues that are associated with it. Resizing palladium rings are a jewellers nightmare as they can only be properly adjusted with a laser welder. As mentioned, heatwork will compromise the integrity of the metal structure and the ring will probably leave a dark mark on your finger. We have seen customers in situations where they have used a local jewellery shop to resize their ring only to find that the jeweller doesn’t fully understand how to work with this metal. It then comes back to us in a bit of a mess.
You don’t want to be stuck with an engagement ring that’s size cannot be adjusted.
YOU WANT THE BEST AND THERE’S NOTHING WRONG WITH THAT!
Platinum holds the place as the most prestigious metal and it hasn’t lost its top spot in people’s minds if you’re looking for a white metal. You’ll be surprised how you immediately feel the very significant increase in weight compared to other metals.
The heavier weight of platinum also hints to superior quality and long term durability. Keep in mind palladium is just as durable, and that it’s weight doesn’t have a correlation with durability, however, countless studies have shown that heavier items have a higher perceived value with prospective customers.
THE RING SHOULD HAVE MINIMAL VISIBLE WEAR IN TERMS OF SCRATCHES
Engagement rings come into contact with a variety of hard surfaces. Due caution helps, but isn’t failproof.
Although platinum is far from scratch resistant, it is much more durable than white gold. A platinum engagement ring will not be in desperate need of a touch-up polish every couple of months.
Golds distinct soft and malleable nature makes it a goldsmiths dream. Unfortunately these very same characteristics compromise the strength and durability of a white gold ring.
Jewellery manufacturing has changed with 3D printing technologies. Detail in a ring can now be printed in a wax model, and cast flawlessly without a goldsmith having to over and over bend thin metal rods.
You have two main differences, durability wise, between platinum when compared to white gold:
- White gold is much softer than platinum and simply picks up scratches more easily and in greater severity.
- When white gold is scratched a minute piece of metal is generally worn off. It erodes. Platinum on the other hand have a sort of smear effect where the metal is just slightly displaced. It can easily be polished back into place. Over the years the bottom of a white gold ring will wear thin, and that may lead to some unwanted bending eventually.
Please note, scratches are not avoidable. Every single ring picks up tiny scratches and they can be polished rather easily.
You might start out with the intention of having the metal in your diamond engagement ring properly polished up every 4 months, but people have busy lives and don’t find the time to run into jewellery shop as planned.
Platinum is the most durable and workable metal and therefore a great choice for an everyday jewellery item such as a diamond engagement ring.
THE COLOUR OF THE RING SHOULD BE COMPLEMENTARY TO THE STONE
A nagging issue people experience with white gold is its change in colour. Since white gold in its pure (unplated) state has a rather dullish grey metal with a slight yellow undertone is, it’s plated with a few microns of rhodium to improve the “whiteness” and sheen of a ring.
Rhodium is stunningly white, and considerably more appealing than unplated white gold. But there’s a catch; any form of plating on a ring starts wearing of in a few months. Furthermore, rhodium doesn’t wear off in a homogeneous way. High wear areas start wearing off first, creating a patchy looking ring.
Platinum group metals don’t need any form of plating and even after 50 years, the metal will appear as white as the first day you laid eyes on the ring.
YELLOW AND ROSE GOLD
Rose gold has been very popular for the past 2 or 3 years. It’s still the go-to metal for vintage style designs, although they also look great in a white metal.
There aren’t rose or yellow coloured platinum alloys; 18k rose and yellow gold are perfectly lovely metal choices for your engagement ring.
Rose Gold is a mixture of gold and other alloys, to give it the rose colour. The beautiful pink hue of rose gold is created by using a copper allow with the gold. Ethica Diamonds uses 18k gold with 25% copper added to the alloy, to ensure a rose colour that is more pink than red.
Some of our gold is certified Fairtrade Gold, and our regular gold is from recycled sources.
We offer cleaning, polishing and repair services to all our customers for the life of their ring for a very small charge. We have our own dedicated workshop where your jewellery will be very well cared for and restored to its original new condition. We do not make any profit on this service that we offer because we want people to feel looked after when they have bought such a meaningful piece of jewellery from us.
We hope this helps you to choose which metal you want for your jewellery, but please do get in touch if you have any questions.