Anniversary and Wedding Band Metal GuideLearn about the modern world of jewelry metals -- from hard, sturdy and brilliantly shiny to soft, luxurious and romantic and everything in between.
Since antiquity, gold in its yellow form has been the classic jewelry metal because of its warmth, luster and value. Small pieces can be delicate and lovely, and large pieces can flaunt the luxury factor. Pure gold (as in 24K gold) is yellow, but it's too soft to be used in most jewelry. For strength, it's combined with other metal alloys, such as copper and silver. As different amounts of alloys are used, the karatage, or proportion of pure gold per measure, changes. The most common examples include 18K, 14K, 10K and 9K gold. The more alloy used, the less pure gold content, so the lower the price. SHOP YELLOW GOLD >>
More contemporary than yellow gold, white gold gets its silvery white character from combining yellow gold with copper, zinc and nickel (or palladium). It's plated with a hard element called rhodium (a platinum group metal), which costs about four times as much as platinum, resists scratches and tarnishing, and gives white gold a reflective appearance. However, it may wear away over time, requiring a quick trip to your jeweler for re-plating. SHOP WHITE GOLD >>
Unique and romantic, rose gold has a warm, pink hue created by combining yellow gold with a copper alloy. The overall percentages of metal alloys are the same for rose gold as they are for yellow or white; it's just a different mixture of alloys used. The more copper, the redder the metal. SHOP ROSE GOLD >>
Gold purity is measured in karats (not to be confused with carats, a measure of gem weight). Karats are divided into 24 parts, so 24 parts of gold - known as 24K gold - is pure. However, 24K gold is soft and easily damaged, so it's mixed - or alloyed - with other metals to make it more durable. For example, 14K gold is 14 parts gold, 10 parts other metal. Jewelry must be at least 10K to be sold as gold in the United States.
Buff your gold ring with a soft cloth to keep it shiny and smooth.
Silver has been valued for centuries and once was considered more valuable than gold. Today, it's the most affordable of the precious metals. Sterling silver is actually pure silver mixed with copper or other metal to make it more durable. Although it is harder than pure silver, it's still one of the softer metals and can get scratched and marked easily. Sterling silver can range from bright white to grayish white, and can have a matte or shiny finish.
Like gold, pure silver is too soft to be used in jewelry. It's combined with other metals such as copper to boost its strength. Sterling silver must contain at least 92.5% pure silver, which is why the bands are stamped as .925.
Silver tarnishes, so store your sterling silver ring in tarnish-preventive bags in a cool, dry place. Don't use tissue paper or paper towels to dry, because they can scratch sterling silver. SHOP STERLING SILVER >>
Platinum was a popular metal for jewelry until the 20th century, when the metal was taken off the market for military use during wartime. That gives you a sense of how durable platinum is -- it's shiny and beautiful, but it?s also a workhorse. Platinum is stronger and rarer than gold. It's naturally white and will stay that way with no color change. Platinum jewelry is heavier than other metal jewelry, some people prefer the heft and solidity; others opt for something lighter. SHOP PLATINUM >>
Platinum in jewelry is 90% to 95% pure, which brings out the beauty of diamonds set in platinum engagement rings. It's also hypoallergenic, making it a good choice for those with skin sensitivities.
Over time, platinum will wear and scratch with use. Your jeweler can polish your platinum wedding band or platinum engagement ring to remove any scratches.
This metal isn't just for flatware anymore. It's becoming popular because of its strength, durability and affordability. Shiny and strong, stainless steel rings can be polished to take on different looks -- the more matte look of pewter or the reflective look of chrome. Either way, some people appreciate the sturdy, modern look of the metal. SHOP STAINLESS STEEL >>
3x stronger than steel and originally used in industrial applications, titanium has become popular for wedding jewelry -- especially for men?s wedding bands -- because it?s so lightweight. For people not used to wearing jewelry, it can be a refreshing difference to put on a titanium ring compared to a platinum or gold one. It also creates a modern, unique style that some may want for their ring. Black, grey or silver, titanium rings often have inlays of other metals and commonly come with polished or satin finishes. SHOP TITANIUM >>
Serious shine and strength make tungsten carbide a favorite for men's wedding bands. Tungsten carbide is very dense, 4x harder than titanium. Its toughness also means the rings cannot be resized. In addition to strength, this metal is beautiful and can be polished to a high shine and looks handsome brushed or inlaid with other metals like rose or yellow gold. Tungsten carbide is also very resistant to corrosion. Tungsten carbide requires minimal maintenance to keep it looking its best. SHOP TUNGSTEN >>
Alternative metals are known for their strength, resistance to oxidation and hypoallergenic properties. The chromium present in stainless steel - generally at least 10.5% - resists oxidation, preventing rust or stains from appearing on the steel?s surface. Titanium and tungsten are pure - meaning they aren't combined with other metal alloys - and are hypoallergenic. They won?t corrode and are highly resistant to dents and bending, an ideal choice of metal if your lifestyle or hobbies require frequent hands-on work.
Stainless steel, titanium and tungsten can all be cleaned with dish soap, water and a soft cloth.
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