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Eco Jewelry Conundrum: Which Metal Should You Choose?

July 13, 2015

In the News

Style Guide

Eco Jewelry Conundrum: Which Metal Should You Choose?

July 13, 2015

Diamond Industry

Eco Jewelry Conundrum: Which Metal Should You Choose?

July 13, 2015 BY Alon Ben-Shoshan IN Style Guide

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Great job! You care about sustainable jewelry practices, so you’ve chosen to buy eco jewelry. You researched all your options. You chose a stunning lab created diamond. But which metal should you choose for your perfect ring? Happily, we’ve reviewed the four most popular metal choices to help you decide.

As ethical jewelry enthusiasts, we promote the use of sustainable precious metals, and many of our designers craft in fairtrade or recycled variations. The use of these ethical metals are important because traditional mining practices often contribute to water pollution and environmental devastation, not to mention poor safety standards for miners and a disregard for the rights of indigenous populations.

Recycled metals help decrease the demand for newly mined, which diminishes the environmentally and socially destructive effects of dirty gold and other metal mining practices. Recycled metals are totally renewable because they don’t degrade in quality after each use. Fairmined gold protects small-scale miners and mining communities. 

So, now that you’ve decided on recycled or fairmined metals, the only question left is – “what metal should you chose?”

Platinum

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Platinum is the single least reactive metal – even less so than gold. It is used for jewelry in an almost pure (90-95%) form. If a ring has less platinum than 90% it is called a platinum alloy. Unlike white gold, platinum will not eventually yellow over time. The color of platinum is more silvery gray than the bright white of a recently rhodium plated ring. Eventually the surface of platinum gathers minute scratches that give it a delicate patina. Many people like this look, and would rather have a patina than a highly polished platinum ring. Interestingly, when platinum scratches, the metal is usually not lost, just pushed to one side. Often when white gold is scratched a small amount of metal is scraped away. That is because platinum is more malleable and more “sticky” than white gold. If you don’t like the look of platinum’s patina, you can re-polish the ring and restore the smooth shiny surface.

Platinum is more expensive than white gold for a few reasons. The primary reason is platinum is more scarce than gold. Only 160 tons of platinum are mined annually, as opposed to 1,500 tons of gold. The other reason is that platinum is more dense than yellow gold, as well as the other metals that are alloyed with gold to make it white, so the same ring will weigh noticeably more in platinum than in gold. If you are holding a white gold setting and an identical platinum setting in your hands and you bounce them gently you will be able to easily tell which one is platinum. Platinum costs more per ounce than gold, and it is heavier, but that density gives you certain advantages over time.

White Gold

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There is no such thing as “pure white gold.” White gold is actually yellow gold, mixed, or alloyed, with white metals. The most commonly alloyed metals are silver, nickel, manganese and/or palladium. Often white gold is plated with a thin layer of rhodium to give it a whiter, shinier finish. The rhodium eventually wears off, so when you notice your white gold ring is getting less shiny white, you can have it re-plated. What you are actually witnessing is the rhodium as well as the other whiter alloys wearing off, and the more stable, atomically “stickier” yellow gold being left behind. Eventually this causes your ring to look more yellow. In addition to re-plating, it is a good idea to have a jeweler take a look at your ring every few years to check that all the prongs are holding the stones tightly. Sometimes the jeweler who made the ring will offer at least a few free re-rhodium platings, as well as a professional cleaning to keep your diamonds extra sparkly.

Allergy Note: If the bride-to-be is allergic to nickel (many people are) then opt for platinum. Nickel is often one of the white metals alloyed with yellow gold to produce white gold. Platinum, on the other hand, is purer and is considered hypoallergenic.

Yellow Gold

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14 Karat gold is 58.3 % pure gold. 18 Karat is 75% pure gold. The higher the karat amount, the purer the gold content, but the less durable the metal. 24 Karat gold is 100% pure. It is beautiful, but far too soft to be used in jewelry. It must be alloyed with other metals in order to harden it. Yellow gold has historically been the most popular metal for wedding bands. In recent decades it has been replaced by white gold and platinum, but has been experiencing a bit of a resurgence as people have been rediscovering the rustic warm look of yellow gold. Yellow gold does not need to be plated like white gold does.

Rose Gold

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Rose gold is an alloy between yellow gold and copper. The alloy mix for 18 karat rose gold is typically 4% silver, 75% gold and 21% copper which gives it a rose color. Despite rose gold’s soft romantic appearance, it is sturdier than either white or yellow gold, due to the innate toughness of copper. On the downside, copper can cause allergic reactions in some people, and is not considered to be a hypoallergenic metal. If you think the bride-to-be might have sensitive skin or a nickel allergy, yellow gold or platinum may be your best choice.

Style note: Rose gold is very attractive against cool skin tones or pale skin. Typically it doesn’t look as good against olive, tan, or darker skin tones as yellow gold.

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