When buying a ring, the diamond is the star. But every star needs support, and the metal mounting plays this important role in the overall appearance and quality of the ring. There are four primary options when mounting a diamond: yellow gold, white gold, platinum, and palladium.
Yellow gold is the most traditional choice for an engagement ring setting. Gold purity is measured in karats (k); 24k is pure gold. Pure gold is too soft to be used for jewelry, so it is usually combined with other metals (alloys) to give it strength.
Engagement ring settings are usually 14k or 18k gold. Karat depends on personal preference. Pure gold has a rich, lustrous yellow color. After it is combined with alloys, the color becomes muted. 18k gold is still a rich yellow, as it is 75% gold and 25% alloys. In 14k gold, the color is a bit more muted, as it is 58.3% gold and 41.7% alloys. Though the color may be less intense, there is an advantage to 14k gold: the extra metal gives it more strength, making it the more durable choice. It is also worth noting that the color may vary slightly, depending on what alloys are used.
When yellow gold is alloyed with some combination of nickel, copper, zinc, platinum, and palladium, it becomes white gold. It is sold in the same karats as yellow gold, and because of the other metals used, it is actually a more durable option. White gold is also less likely to scratch, and less expensive than platinum.
The final step in manufacturing white gold is plating it with rhodium. This gives it luster and shine, and a deeper depth of color. However, depending on wear, white gold usually requires rhodium re-plating every 1 to 2 years.
Platinum is the most expensive choice for a ring setting, but for many people, the higher cost is a very small price to pay. It is pure metal, which makes it ideal for people who have sensitive skin. It is usually 95% pure, with only 5% ruthenium or iridium to add strength.
Platinum weighs twice as much as gold, making it the strongest metal for jewelry. A platinum mounting is the most durable choice, and it also holds a diamond (or any stone) more securely. It will not wear down or change shape over time, nor will it fade, tarnish or change color. Over time platinum develops a special sheen, called a patina. Many people prefer this sheen to its initial look, but those who don’t can have the ring re-polished to return it to its natural state.
Palladium is a less expensive alternative to platinum. Though it is not as heavy, strong or durable, it does share many desirable qualities.
It is a pure metal, typically containing 95% palladium and 5% ruthenium. This means that like platinum it is hypoallergenic, making it a good option for those with sensitive skin. It is also as white as platinum, which means the color will not fade over time. It is more durable than white gold, at a comparable weight.
This article was contributed by Frank Fisher.