When it comes time to purchase your wedding rings, the process can be overwhelming. You need to think about many things before buying a ring that you will be wearing for life.
But, one of the very first things you should consider before buying your ring is the types of wedding ring metals that will work for you and your significant other. Of course, not all wedding ring metals should be treated equally. Each metal type has its unique characteristics that could make a big difference.
The metal chosen for your wedding rings can be picked for fashion reasons or based on lifestyle and desired durability. Some are more expensive, but the metals will last longer. Unfortunately, some cannot be resized or easily cut off your finger.
These are all essential factors to consider when deciding on the type of metal that makes sense for you and your lifestyle and budget. So, before you decide to splurge on your wedding ring, here is a breakdown of each metal and its relative pros and cons:
What is White Gold?
White gold is pure gold alloyed with other metals, typically palladium, nickel, manganese and zinc. These metals make the gold more robust and more suitable for use in jewellery. They also dilute the intense yellow of gold, making it whiter and lustrous. White gold is finished with a surface coating of rhodium which gives the metal its reflective shine.
However, because most white gold alloys contain nickel, white gold isn’t hypoallergenic. So if you have nickel allergies, you could get a reaction from wearing white gold, although the rhodium coating acts as a hypoallergenic buffer between your skin and the white gold alloy.
This brings us to our next point:
As the rhodium coating wears off, the original colour of the alloy starts to show through the plating. As a result, you will need to have white gold jewellery re-plated periodically. Some retailers, like James Allen, include free rhodium re-plating for the lifetime of the jewellery.
What is Silver?
Like gold, pure silver is too soft for use in jewellery. Therefore, silver is mixed with other metals to make it more workable and wearable. The most refined silver alloy used in jewellery is 99.9% silver, but it’s easily deformed and much too soft for regular wear. The most common type of silver used in jewellery is sterling silver with 92.5% purity.
Silver alloys typically contain copper, nickel or zinc. As with white gold, nickel in sterling silver can cause allergies, making this a non-hypoallergenic option. Also, sterling silver tends to tarnish quickly, but restoring it to its original lustre is easy and can be done at home.
Ways to Pick the Perfect Wedding Ring
Narrow Down Your Wedding Ring Choices
Diamonds or gemstones, platinum or gold—narrowing down your ring options may seem overwhelming, but don’t panic. Just take it one step at a time. Start with style: Are you envisioning a simple band or one with embellishments? Do you want your wedding ring to be the same metal as your engagement ring? Do you think you and your partner’s rings should match? Work out this kind of question beforehand so you can zero in on precisely what you’re looking for, then start shopping around.
Consider Buying Your Ring and Your Bands Together
If you prefer to be surprised by the engagement ring, this may not work, but knowing what bands go with the engagement ring can help you decide. For example, if you have a unique engagement rings, you may want a simple, no-fuss band, whereas a simple engagement ring may call for the added sparkle of a diamond pavé band. Also, think about how the rings fit together. If you’re planning on wearing your engagement and wedding ring side by side, 24/7, look for a contour or shadow band designed to interlock with the matching engagement ring. If you’re planning on wearing your wedding ring alone, you may want a more intricate style that will look great with or without your engagement ring. Talk to your jeweller about finding a band that works with your ring (some can even create both simultaneously).
Start Your Ring Search Early
Once you have a basic idea of what kind of ring you’d like, it’s time for the fun part: trying them on! Give yourselves at least two to three months before the wedding date to ring shop. You’ll need this time to browse, research prices and revisit rings that catch your eye. Of course, if you have your heart set on a custom ring, you’ll probably need even more time. And keep in mind: Extras, like engraving, can take up to one month.
Mix It Up
Don’t fret if you like platinum and your partner likes yellow gold. No rule says you have to choose the same metal or even style. You could compromise with braided bands that blend the two metals or just be totally different—the key to finding something you both love is choosing wedding bands that reflect your individual styles.
Set a Budget
Shop with the assumption that you’ll spend about 3 per cent of your total wedding budget on the rings. The retailer’s plain, 14-karat gold, or a simple platinum band can cost around $1,000. Like diamonds or engraving, Embellishments will quickly add to the cost, so factor that into your budget if you plan to personalize your rings with any of these extras. The engraving price is usually based on the number of characters, the font used and whether it’s engraved by hand or machine (hand is usually pricier).
Keep Your Lifestyle in Mind
Remember: You’re going to wear this band every day, so the goal is to choose something that seamlessly becomes a part of your life. If you play sports or an instrument, a slimmer ring with rounded edges (appropriately called the “comfort fit”) may make the most sense. If you work with your hands, you may want to search for a simple, solid metal ring and avoid gemstones that can come loose or carvings, which can trap dirt. If you’re super active, go for platinum, which is extra durable (when scratched, the metal is merely displaced and doesn’t actually wear away).
Try Something Different
You may love the idea of a braided rose gold ring or a diamond eternity band, but once you get to the store, try some rings that aren’t on your inspiration board. Chat with the jeweller, then make suggestions based on what you like and don’t rule anything out. Just like with wedding dresses, you may end up loving something you never thought you would. Wear it around the store for a few minutes and while you have it on, try writing and texting as a comfort test.
Think Long Term
While you shouldn’t be afraid of being trendy, make sure the style you choose is something you’ll want to wear for, say, the next 40 years. Just don’t stress too much: You’re not married to the ring and can always make changes to it (add diamonds or go from white gold to platinum) later on to mark a special anniversary.
Consider the Maintenance
To keep a wedding band with stones clean and sparkling, you’ll need to wash and soak it in warm, sudsy water, then gently brush it with a soft toothbrush or eyebrow brush (too much pressure can loosen the stones from their setting), rinse it and pat it dry with a soft lint-free cloth. Sound like too much upkeep? You may want to opt for a fuss-free gold or platinum ring—rub it with a soft, lint-free cloth (chamois works well), and you’re good to go.
Size It Right
Most people rarely take off their wedding bands; they wear them through summers, winters, exercise, pregnancies—all times when your fingers swell and contract from heat, cold, water retention or weight gain. So to find the right size that will best weather all of those changes, schedule your final ring fitting at a time when you’re calm, and your body temperature is normal. That means you should never finalize first thing in the morning (you retain water from the night before), right after you’ve exercised (fingers swell) or when you’re extremely hot or cold (which can cause your hands to expand and shrink).
Check for Quality
Quality control applies to all rings, not just your wedding bands. Ensure the ring has two marks inside the band: the manufacturer’s trademark (this proves they stand behind their work) and the quality mark, 24Kor PLAT, for example (this proves the metal quality is what the retailer says it is).
Pros and Cons of White Gold
The benefits of white gold:
- White gold is strong, durable and ideal for regular wear.
- The hard rhodium plating provides extra durability against exposure.
- White gold is valuable and tends to maintain its value over time.
- It’s a contemporary choice and can be crafted into a range of ring designs.
The negatives of white gold:
- White gold isn’t hypoallergenic and can cause skin reactions among people with metal allergies.
- Re-plating the rhodium over time can be costly (unless provided for free by your retailer) and takes effort.
Pros and Cons of Silver
The benefits of silver:
- Silver is highly affordable.
- It’s perfect for costume jewellery as well as more high-end styles.
- Silver has a unique lustre and beauty.
- Some people love the patina that develops on silver. The patina can also be used to create beautiful patterns and contrasts on the metal.
- It’s a precious metal and has been valued for centuries.
The negatives of silver are:
- Silver isn’t hypoallergenic and can cause skin reactions.
- It’s harder to maintain silver because the metal tends to tarnish. Silver needs to be cleaned more frequently.
- Silver is softer than white gold and can bend or deform much easier than white gold.
White Gold vs. Silver
The type of jewellery you’re looking to get will weigh heavily into your decision between white gold and silver. Researching for an engagement ring? Read the differences between the two to help make your decision easier.
When shopping for a piece you’ll wear every day, like an engagement ring, white gold is a much better bet for long-standing durability and resistance to wear. However, keep in mind that the hardness of white gold depends on its purity (i.e., karats).
Silver is soft and easy to scratch and can change shape slightly with wear and tear, while white gold is resistant to corrosion and impact.
Silver is among the most affordable types of metal for jewellery, making it perfect for costume jewellery that you rotate with your wardrobe. However, the extra durability of white gold does increase the price tag of the metal. White gold costs more than silver, but less than platinum, making it moderately affordable.
One of the most common metal allergies is Nickel, which can be used in white gold and silver.
As mentioned above, sterling silver is 92.5% pure silver alloyed with copper, but in some cases, nickel may be present in the other 7.5% of metals.
Nickel is generally used as the alloy, but often white gold is plated with Rhodium, a silvery-white metal in the platinum family. The Rhodium plating will initially protect wearers from any nickel within the gold, but it will eventually wear off, which can leave the skin irritated if allergic.
Maintenance & Care
Both white gold and silver require some level of maintenance, as does all jewellery.
Every few years, your white gold piece will require a reapplication of rhodium plating by your jeweller, which easily restores the white finish. Without the reapplication, your jewellery will be “yellow”.
Silver, on the other hand, requires regular cleaning and polishing to prevent tarnishing. While sterling silver is prone to tarnish, it will never rust, so that’s a plus.
Which is Better – White Gold or Silver?
When comparing white gold and silver, we need to look at several factors to see how they perform against each other:
- Price: Silver is much more affordable than white gold, costing a fraction of the price. Compare this lustrous 5mm sterling silver wedding band with this similar 5mm high polish white gold wedding band. The white gold ring is over ten times more expensive. This makes silver the best option if you’re on a budget and are looking for an alternative to platinum and white gold.
- Type of Jewelry: Silver’s affordable price is often used to make beautiful costume jewellery, whereas white gold is typically used just for fine jewellery pieces. White gold is more suitable for special jewellery pieces, like wedding rings, which you plan to wear daily.
- Maintenance: As we’ve mentioned, white gold needs to be re-plated periodically and may require a professional polish to get rid of scratches and dents acquired over time. Even so, white gold is still considered easier to maintain than silver, which tarnishes very easily. Silver tarnishes when exposed to moisture and air, which causes oxidization. This results in a patina, which develops over time and removes the lustre of the piece. Some people like the look of silver patina, but others prefer a shiny ring.
How to Select the Best Metal for a Wedding Ring
Before we get into the specific metals used for wedding rings, it’s important to be aware of you and your partner’s needs and priorities from a ring.
For example, the different metals used for wedding rings can vary hugely in durability, with some metals soft, delicate and easy to scratch. In contrast, others are hardy, durable and highly resistant to damage.
Wedding ring metals can also vary hugely in appearance, with some offering a warm look that matches certain skin tones and others offering a cooler look that suits a different range of skin tones.
Beyond this, there’s the importance of matching the engagement ring and wedding band. If your fiancé-to-be already has an engagement ring, you’ll want to make sure that her wedding band is made from the same metal.
Finally, there’s the pricing aspect. Some metals are more expensive than others, meaning you may want to prioritize metals that offer better value for money if you have a limited budget for your wedding bands.
Knowing what you need, as well as which metal is best suited for you and your partner’s skin tones, can help you choose the most suitable metal for your wedding rings.
If you’re not sure what you’re looking for, don’t worry. We’ve covered all of these factors in lots of detail below, including our expert tips on which metals are best suited for specific lifestyles, skin tones, and more.
Because everyone has unique needs and tastes, there’s no “best” metal for everyone’s wedding ring. To get the best ring for you and your partner, choose a metal with qualities that match your needs and lifestyle, all while avoiding disadvantages that could get in your way.