When choosing a wedding ring, many in the LGBT community simply do not like yellow gold. Instead, more and more couples prefer the cooler tones of white metals, which enhance the sparkle of diamonds or sapphires. But how do you sort out issues such as whether to go with 14K or 18K white gold? What about palladium, the alternative white metal to platinum? One jeweler you visited suggests 18K white gold with rhodium plating instead of 14K white — is that worth the extra money?
Here is some unbiased information that will help you make an informed choice about which white metal to choose.
The first issue is that of actual color. If you consider 1 as pure white, any metal under the index of 19 is considered "good white" in the jewelry world. The whitest metals are platinum and palladium — both of which are given scores of 11. Fourteen karat white gold is at 15 and 18K white gold is at 18.
Color is determined by the composition of the ring and the natural color of the metal. Both palladium and platinum are naturally white metals. Ninety-five percent of a platinum or palladium ring is pure platinum or palladium. This notion of purity has strong appeal to many people who want white metal; especially compared to a white gold.
Of course, an 18K white gold, which is 75% yellow gold, will not be as white as a 14K white gold ring, which is 58% gold. More white alloy means a whiter ring. Many jewelers compensate for this through rhodium plating and will try to up-sell you 18K white gold. We are against this practice because it is extremely toxic and eventually the rhodium plating does wear off. Our recommendation: if you want to go white gold, go with 14K white gold because it is more white and a more durable ring. It will also be less expensive.
Some jewelers believe that the optimal setting for diamonds is platinum. Because it is a naturally white metal that does not reflect color into the diamond, it is said to enhance the brilliance of diamonds and other gemstones. However, diamonds and other gemstones also look very fine in white gold.
If you are want a white metal that is beautiful and durable and less expensive, you can also consider stainless steel wedding rings, which can look similar to white gold but are less than half the price.
The next issue is durability. One of the benefits of a platinum ring is its hardness. However, palladium (which is in the platinum family) is slightly more durable than 14K white gold. A well made, 14K gold ring will last a lifetime. Eighteen karat white gold is considerably softer, reflecting the malleability of gold. There are many types of stainless steel used in rings, we recommend type "316l". This steel type is most commonly used in medicine for implants. It will never rust, is highly durable, nickel free, light weight, extremely resistant to damage and nearly impossible to scratch.
Another issue is metal sensitivity. Platinum, palladium and stainless steel are all hypoallergenic and rarely tarnish, making it easy for sensitive people to wear. White gold has a small percentage of nickel in the alloy, so there may be rare cases of allergies when wearing this metal, However it is possible to have white gold alloyed with palladium, although it will be more expensive.
Two other considerations are cost and weight. Cost is often a determining factor in purchasing a wedding ring. Platinum is the most expensive choice and the heaviest metal, and it is actually rarer than gold. Stainless steel is the lightest metal and the least expensive material. Fourteen karat white gold and palladium are comparable in price. These days, many people end up choosing palladium because it is a metal in the platinum family that does not require alloying and is about the same cost as white gold. Platinum and palladium have the "purity" which alloyed gold lacks, which leads to the last point: feeling tone.
There is not a lot of difference in the feeling between palladium and platinum. However, gold feels different than natural white metals. This is very subjective, but many in the LBGT community are extremely sensitive to the energetic quality of metal. Gold has always been associated with the sun and warmth. Some people choose gold because it feels better to them. However, others choose platinum, palladium or steel because they like the cooler sense it conveys, as well as it's elegance.
______Marc Choyt is Director of Fair Jewelry Action, an environmental justice and human rights network within the jewelry section. He is President of Reflective Images, a designer jewelry company and manufacturer located on Baca Street in Santa Fe that sells Celtic jewelry including Celtic wedding rings and unique designer conflict free diamond wedding and engagement rings. His book on sustainable business practices, The Circle Manifesto, was published later in 2012. www.ArtisanWeddingRings.com / www.CelticJewelry.com