An engagement ring represents one of the most special moments in a couple's life: the first step in getting married. But it can also be a bit overwhelming, especially if you're not sure about your partner's taste in rings.
What if you could shift the engagement ring selection into a shared activity? And better still, you could ensure that your fiance(e)-to-be loves the ring?
If you're considering making your engagement ring completely yours, here's a closer look at the pros and cons of choosing a material for your engagement ring, including various material options.
Choosing the Material
One of the most basic elements of choosing your engagement ring is choosing the metal, the base that will form the backdrop for the ring. The most popular metals include platinum, white gold, yellow gold, and rose gold, though titanium, palladium, and tungsten are also popular.
Keep in mind that metal is about more than color. Let's take a closer look at each one.
There's good reason for that--it's long been recognized as one of the best metals on the market for engagement rings. Between its striking silvery appearance and its extreme durability, it truly is a timeless metal that will last a lifetime. For generations, even.
One of the foremost benefits of platinum is its impressive durability, which is why a platinum ring can last for generations. Platinum is highly durable thanks to the density of the metal. Unlike silver or gold, which can quickly show scratches from everyday wear and tear, platinum retains its spotless appearance.
Another benefit of platinum is the color--or rather, the lack thereof. Because platinum is a silvery-white metal, it's a better complement to gemstones, allowing the gemstones to take center stage and shine brighter.
Of course, if you're of the unlucky few with a metal allergy, a gemstone may not be your foremost concern. Here's the good news: platinum is usually hypoallergenic! The most common metal allergy is nickel, and while platinum jewelry usually isn't pure, it usually isn't mixed with a metal that's known to cause allergies, like nickel.
Last but not least, platinum provides you a longer-lasting color than most other metals. That beautiful silvery-white hue stays brilliant for decades, so you can look down at your hand and see your engagement ring looking as brilliant as it did the first day you put it on.
There is one significant con to platinum: it's more expensive than any other metal. Yes, even more expensive than gold. While about 2,500 to 3,000 tons of gold are mined each year, only about 130 tons of platinum are mined each year, with roughly half of it going to industrial uses.
Want the beautiful silvery sheen of platinum without paying a premium to get platinum? White gold offers another beautiful alternative to silver with a similarly classic look.
While you might think of gold as, well, golden, white gold gets its silvery color thanks to plating with a secondary white metal. The metal of choice is typically rhodium, a white metal that resembles platinum, forms a strong bond over a gold alloy, resists corrosion, and keeps a high shine over time.
Without rhodium plating, white gold could be gray, dull brown, or even a pale pink depending on the contents of the gold alloy (gold plus a white metal like nickel, manganese, or palladium).
The foremost benefit of white gold is that it gives you the silvery-white look of platinum but is far cheaper than platinum. Remember, gold is mined at a far higher rate than platinum, and the alloy used to create white gold means it's far cheaper.
The use of a gold alloy also makes white gold much more durable than pure gold. Many jewelry buyers don't realize that gold is actually one of the softest metals. The use of an alloy like white gold offers stronger metals to make the ring more scratch-resistant.
Unfortunately, there are a few downsides to white gold.
First and foremost is the metal that gives white gold its signature silvery coloration. Unfortunately, white gold rings acquire a yellowish sheen over time and require periodic rhodium plating to revitalize the silvery color. In general, white gold rings are prone to discoloration due to the mix of metals used to craft them.
The other major downside of white gold rings is that they're not always hypoallergenic. Remember, the base alloy used to craft white gold is mixed with metals like nickel, manganese, or palladium, which are among the most common metal allergies.
If you have metal allergies and are shopping for a white gold engagement ring, pay careful attention to the mix of metals. Read the alloy contents carefully and clarify with the jeweler to make sure there aren't any metals you might be allergic to.
Want your marriage to be as good as gold? Why not turn to one of the most classic metals for engagement rings?
Often referred to as yellow gold, this is quite literally the gold standard for engagement rings, a longtime contender as one of the most popular metals. With a classic color prized for its beauty and elegance, you can't go wrong with a gold engagement ring.
Gold has been a classic feature of engagement rings for a long time, and between the timeless choice and beautiful coloring that stays true over many years, you never have to worry about your engagement ring looking dated.
Then there's cost. While you might think gold is the most expensive, the truth is there are plenty of inexpensive options. You just have to look at the karats, a measure of the purity of the gold alloy (not to be confused with carats, i.e. the weight of gemstones). Lower karat options are less expensive.
As previously mentioned, gold is one of the softest metals on the market. That can be a good thing for those who want customization--since gold is usually mixed with other metals to lend it more durability, and because the metal is so malleable anyway, you have a ton of options to make it unique.
And while gold can get damaged more easily than other metals, it is relatively easy to repair.
On the other hand, gold's malleability is its biggest downside. While most gold rings are some sort of alloy, the base metal is still quite malleable and thus quite prone to damaging. If you want a low maintenance ring, yellow gold may not be for you.
This is also why gold tends to wear down faster than platinum. Yellow gold, in particular, has more pure gold content in its base alloy.
That said, because most yellow gold on the market is some sort of alloy, this also means that gold rings usually aren't hypoallergenic. The most common metals mixed into gold alloys (nickel, for instance) are also the most frequent culprits in metal allergies.
Is there any material that sounds more romantic than rose gold?
As you might have guessed from the name, rose gold isn't pure gold, but rather an alloy mixed with other metals to lend it a pinkish hue. The typical blend is a delicate mix of gold, silver, and copper to create that swoon-worthy rosy color.
As you can probably guess by now, the fact that rose gold is a gold alloy means it's much more durable than yellow gold. And unlike white gold, which gets its silvery hue from a rhodium plating that has to be replenished, rose gold doesn't require plating.
Plus, for those who are ring shopping on a budget, rose gold is the champion of this round thanks to its copper content. Copper is a relatively cheap metal, which makes rose gold a much more affordable gold alloy than its white or yellow cousins.
Unfortunately, the presence of copper also means rose gold is not considered hypoallergenic. Copper is one of the most common metal allergies, and the copper content in rose gold means it's often a no-go for those with allergies.
In addition, rose gold is an alloy that's only become popular in recent years. It may not be as available as more classic options like platinum or yellow gold. And because rose gold is more of a trendy option, you should look carefully if you want a rose gold ring that looks timeless.
Not feeling the love for any of the metals we've already explored? The good news is you don't have to be limited by tried-and-true classics. In fact, for those who want a ring unlike any other, it may be worth your while to venture further afield into less popular metals.
The good news about these metals is that they give you a sleek look, and many of the options listed here are quite durable. Plus, because they're cheaper metals, many of them translate into cheaper engagement rings.
On the other hand, because these metals are less popular, not all jewelers carry them. That may mean you have to look into a specialty jeweler to find your dream ring. It also means you have to be extremely careful to buy the right size the first time, since it can be difficult to alter these kinds of rings once they're purchased.
Here's a quick look at three alternative metals you might consider.
If the name makes tungsten sounds like a heavy duty metal, that's because it is. Tungsten has the highest melting point of any pure metal, more resistant to fracturing than a diamond and harder than steel.
In other words, if you want an engagement ring that can withstand a rough and tumble lifestyle, tungsten is more than ready for the challenge.
In terms of looks, tungsten looks like a dark, dull silver. In rings, you're most likely to see tungsten carbide, an 80% tungsten alloy that's dark gray if untreated but can receive a wide array of aesthetic finishes. It's bold, highly tarnish-resistant, hypoallergenic, and laughs in the face of rings that lose their polish.
Palladium is a lustrous white material, one of the six platinum-group metals (including rhodium and, of course, platinum itself). It's also one of the four precious metals.
For engagement rings, it gives you the beautiful silvery-white sheen of platinum with almost the same level of durability. But unlike platinum, palladium is more lightweight.
Unfortunately, palladium is also a much harder material to find for a ring. It's only mined as a secondary product of platinum and nickel extraction, which means miners have less flexibility to increase palladium in response to demand.
Last but not least is titanium. The name immediately connotes strength, perhaps because the metal is named for the Titans of Greek mythology. Then again, it has a fittingly superhero origin story--the metal is forged in the depths of supernovas (collapsing stars).
As for your engagement ring, titanium is a great all-around option. It offers a silvery look many couples love, but it's also quite durable. And unlike palladium, white gold, or platinum, it's the most affordable of the bunch.
Other Materials to Consider
Of course, the metal is just the starting point. For engagement rings, which tend to be flashier than wedding bands, the real star of the show is the gemstone.
Your first consideration for a gemstone is the shape. Broadly speaking, there are three basic gem cutting styles: brilliant, step, and mixed.
Brilliant cut gems consist of triangular and kite-shaped facets spreading out from the center of the gem. It gets its name from, well, the brilliance--this style gives off the most scintillation of any cut.
Step cut gems consist of rectangular facets that ascend the crown and descend the pavilion in steps. Emerald and baguette cuts are classic examples of step cuts.
Mixed cuts bring together elements of brilliant and step cutting to create unique shapes. This is where you would see shapes like ceylon (a step-cut pavilion and a brilliant-cut crown) or barion (a round brilliant pavilion in a fancy gem shape).
Once you think about the shape of the gemstone, you can start to think about the types of gemstones you're interested in. And trust us, you have so many more options than diamonds (even if they are forever).
If you're up for colored gemstones, why not sapphires, the gemstone of royalty? Or emeralds, supposedly Cleopatra's gemstone of choice? Or maybe a ruby, with its brilliant red hue that's sure to draw eyes? And if you're not sure where to begin, you can narrow the race with birthstones, the wearer's favorite hue, the date of the wedding, and other ideas.
Other Benefits of Personalizing Your Engagement Ring
We've talked a lot about how you can personalize your engagement ring. But it still begs the question--why personalize your engagement ring?
For one thing, choosing and personalizing your engagement ring ensures that you pick the perfect ring. After all, if the wearer picked out every detail, you already know they're going to love it.
This can also be a deeply rewarding experience. Instead of springing into the engagement, buying an engagement ring together becomes the first step in wedding planning. You both have time to explore your wants and needs in a wedding, as well as ironing out practical details like a budget. Many couples love this additional shared element of their wedding.
On the other hand, personalizing your engagement ring does remove the classic element of surprise in a proposal, insofar as the recipient knows you're going to propose and already knows what the ring looks like.
That said, if you want to preserve the element of surprise, there are plenty of ways to bring it back into your proposal story. While the ring itself isn't a mystery, the proposal itself can still be a special surprise.
In the end, though, it all depends on you as a couple. This is your special moment, and an engagement ring is one part of that.
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