And what in the world is rhodium?
A common question asked by our clients looking to create a custom engagement ring or other piece of fine jewelry is what metal type they should go with and what the differences in those metals are.
There’s a few different metals to choose from when you create an engagement ring: here’s the main differences between the most popular options.
What Metal Should You Choose for Your Engagement Ring?
Gold in its purest form is 24 karat. But 24 karat gold is too soft to set stones so we alloy it with other metals, such as nickel or cadmium.
The more you reduce the gold content, the more you’re adding more of something else to the gold mixture. Of course that affects the gold’s coloring, and the value of the finished piece (less gold means the piece is worth less!).
If 24 karat gold is pure gold, 14 karat gold has less gold content than 18 karat gold.
Here’s an image of two rings side by side. The ring on the left is 14 karat gold and the ring on the right is 18 karat gold. See how the ring on the right looks more yellow than the ring on the left? That's because the ring on the right has more gold (it’s 18 karat) so it’s more yellow in appearance.
The color difference between 18K and 14K gold
Remember gold in its pure form is yellow. So the more you reduce the amount of gold content in your mixture, the more muted the yellow will look.
Some people prefer the softer yellow gold look. If that’s your preference, then a 14 karat gold setting might be right for you. If you like a stronger yellow hue, then 18 karat is the way to go.
But What About Other Colors of Gold?
What if you don’t like yellow gold? What if you like white gold? Or rose gold? Or platinum?
The same basic rules apply but keep in mind what we discussed a moment ago – natural gold, in its pure unaltered form, is yellow.
So how do you get white gold and rose gold?
Easy – for white gold you alloy pure gold with white metals and for rose gold you alloy it with copper metals, just as we discussed above, to get the look you want.
If you want white gold, you also need to plate the finished in a very hard, very brittle substance called rhodium.
Here’s a photo of a platinum ring next to an unplated white gold ring.
Platinum engagement ring next to unplated white gold ring
Rhodium is a brilliant white metal that is used to plate gold jewelry to give it that bright white look. Keep in mind that when you plate something in in rhodium, you have to do annual maintenance on the piece by replating it, otherwise the rhodium will wear off and your ring with look like the image on the right.
If you want to have a piece of white jewelry but don’t want to deal with rhodium wearing off, you can always make your ring in platinum. Platinum is softer than 18K or 14K gold so keep that in mind if you opt for a platinum piece.
The piece will develop what’s called a “patina” or a series of very small indentations on the ring just generated from being worn daily. You can easily polish those out, but some people like them as they feel it give their ring character.
One other word about making jewelry in platinum – platinum is heavier than gold, so it’s typically not advised to be worn on more sensitive parts of the body, like earlobes. The weight of the jewelry could bother some people.
If you'd like to learn more, contact us here for a free consultation!