CHOOSING A METAL
When shopping for an engagement ring, wedding band or any piece of jewellery, deciding on the design you want can feel quite clear. But when it comes to thinking about your metal preference, it can often feel confusing, as there are a lot of different options. I am here to guide you through this.
Even if you’re sure of your preferred metal colour i.e. yellow, rose or white gold, you may not realise the differences between metal carat, their physical properties and what is best for your lifestyle.
This is my metal guide; an overview of different metals, to help you feel confident in your choice. As you read through it, key things to consider are your colour preference, lifestyle, and budget.
If you don’t have time to read all the way to the end, feel free to skip to the bottom for the a general overview.
GOLD COLOURS & CARATS
Of all the precious metals on earth, gold has the most varieties. It can be worn in different levels of carat purity as well as mixed with other metals to create a range of colours.
Gold is grouped by levels of purity. Gold purity is measured in carats - 9, 14, 18, 22 & 24ct. 100% pure gold is 24 carat – the purity is measured by how many parts are pure gold. For instance, 14ct gold is 585 / 1000 parts gold.
24 carat gold is a very bright yellow colour, incredibly soft and not suitable for everyday wear, as it would bend and misshape. It is mixed with other metals to add strength and durability, which in turn alters its colour. These are known as alloys. Yellow gold is alloyed with copper, silver and zinc for durability.
Since alloys with a higher carat number have a higher gold content, the metal colour will be closer to its natural colour: warm yellow. So 18ct yellow gold will be more yellow than 9ct yellow gold, as it has a higher gold content.
I work predominantly in 14 carat yellow gold, as it is very robust for everyday wear, the colour of 14ct suits all skin tones, and the colour tone works well with the diamonds I use.
9ct Yellow Gold or 14ct yellow gold is great for delicate designs, as it is more robust because it is mixed with other metals. 9ct is a soft, almost industrial yellow colour, 14ct is a mid-warm tone, whereas 18ct yellow gold is very bright yellow. 18ct yellow gold is better suited to chunkier designs, as this will ensure the ring doesn’t misshape.
The world of white gold is more complex as there are multiple options. The main points to think about when choosing between white gold alloys are metal allergies, colour preferences and general maintenance.
NICKEL WHITE GOLD
Like rose gold, the colour of white gold is attributed to the other metals that the pure gold is mixed with. In traditional white gold alloys, nickel is used as a bleaching agent to deplete the yellow colour of the gold, so it is cooler in colour tone. Although some jewellers work with nickel white gold, I don’t, as customers can have nickel allergies. However, as it’s part of the white gold family, it’s important to include in the metal line-up.
PALLADIUM WHITE GOLD
In palladium white gold, the precious metal palladium is used as the bleaching agent to deplete the yellow colour of the gold along with silver and copper, so reduce the yellow colour of the natural gold.
You can read more about palladium below – it’s a higher price point in its pure form than when it is mixed with white gold. So palladium white gold is a great option as it’s a lower price point than pure palladium, but also for another important reason: by using palladium instead of nickel, the resulting alloy of palladium white gold is hypoallergenic.
Palladium White Gold is a warm grey-white colour. As this alloy still appears slightly yellow, it is commonly rhodium plated, to give it a colour closer to silver. Because of the colours of diamonds I use, unplated white gold looks more industrial, so I do not plate my white gold. However, if you would prefer the rhodium finish so the ring has a silver colour offinish, this isn't a problem, just add it to your order notes.
Most commercial white gold jewellery has a layer of rhodium plating. This gives the surface of the metal a bright white colour, rather than its natural yellow tinge. As it is a coating, it will eventually wear off.
How long plating lasts for varies from person to person. Plating usually needs to be reapplied every 1 to 2 years but depending on the wearer’s natural body chemistry and how often the jewellery is worn, it could need to be re-plated as frequently as each 6 months.
Platinum is naturally greyish white in colour, lighter than palladium. Like palladium, platinum is hypoallergenic and needs no rhodium plating. Platinum is malleable, so it is great for setting stones in intricate jewellery designs.
METAL GUIDE OVERVIEW
YELLOW GOLD – 9ct, 14ct, 18ct are most commonly used in jewellery, the higher carat of gold, the more yellow the colour.
ROSE GOLD - 9ct, 14ct, 18ct are most commonly used in jewellery, the higher carat of gold, the more peach the colour.
WHITE GOLD – 9ct, 14ct, 18ct are most commonly used in jewellery. Opt for Palladium white gold to avoid nickel allergies. White gold can be rhodium plated to give it a silver colour.
PLATINUM - Grey - white colour, lighter in colour than palladium. Hypoallergenic and it needs no rhodium plating. The price of a platinum ring currently falls just below 18ct white gold.
PALLADIUM – Grey - white colour, darker in colour than platinum. Higher price point than platinum, durable and hypoallergenic. The price of a palladium ring currently falls just above 18ct white gold.