When choosing your engagement ring or wedding band, there's more to think about than just the cut and size of any gems. In fact, one of the most important decisions you'll have to make doesn't involve stones at all, but rather what the piece is made of. Choosing the right metal for your engagement ring and wedding band is important, and it all depends on a few different factors, including style preferences and what kind of wear and tear your jewelry will experience on a daily basis. To understand how to choose the right metal for your specific rings, we asked Eric Robertson, creative director at Green Lake Jewelry Works, to share the questions couples should ask themselves as they shop for their big-day jewelry.
What kind of wear and tear will my ring go through?
Platinum, a rare and precious metal, is a popular choice for both engagement rings and wedding bands, because it's so strong and durable. That's why it's an especially good choice for someone who works with his or her hands, or whose ring will experience a significant amount of wear and tear. If you're set on gold, a lower karat is a better choice—the higher the karat, the purer the gold is, which means it's more susceptible to scratching. "But gold that's been hardened with an alloy will also maintain a ring's character over a lifetime of daily wear," Robertson adds. Need something even stronger? You'll want to consider alternative metals like tungsten and titanium.
Will my ring have prongs that hold a diamond?
For an engagement ring, you'll want to consider how well your metal can hold a diamond in place, especially if it will be prong-set. Of course, a good jeweler can make nearly anything work, but strength is an important consideration. If you'll be setting a sizable diamond, platinum prongs might be the right choice for you.
Do I want engraving?
"Platinum holds fine details like engraving the best," says Robertson, but soft metals like gold and silver work, too. There are a few factors that determine whether or not an engagement ring can be engraved, though, including band width, so it's important to discuss it with your jeweler before purchasing if this is a non-negotiable for you.
How much upkeep am I interested in?
A yellow gold ring is a good choice for someone who likes warm-colored metals and wants minimal upkeep, especially if you choose 14 karat gold, which is less likely to scratch than 18 karat. You'll likely want your rings cleaned or shined from time to time, but they won't require major upkeep. White gold, on the other hand, which is made by adding an alloy like nickel to yellow gold, often needs to be dipped in rhodium in order to maintain its color and shine over the years. If you like its signature silver color but want something that requires less refinishing, try platinum, which never changes colors. Similarly, palladium won't change color or tarnish, but it scratches easily.
Are the metals responsibly sourced?
For some, it matters more where the metals are coming from. "Many of our couples express an interest in where their gold is coming from. By using fair-mined certified gold, which is the same material used for the actual Nobel Peace Prize, newlyweds get to support responsible practices, social development, and environmental protection in small-scale mining communities," says Robertson.