With so many ring options out there, which do you choose? If you are new to ring shopping, you'll see just how overwhelming it really is. There are silver, gold (and different types and qualities of gold), platinum, titanium, tungsten, oh my! Here is a simple break-down of different ring metal types to make your decision a bit easier.
Sterling Silver: Silver is less common for wedding jewelry, but should you consider it, here are some notes. Sterling silver is a combination of 92.5% pure silver with 7.5% other metals, usually being copper. A finer, more pure silver, is available but is generally too malleable for everyday use. While silver does not react well with other chemicals, copper and other metals do. Those will oxidize and cause tarnishing on jewelry. The less pure the silver, the more it will oxidize and tarnish. Silver is usually the least expensive metal that you would find in wedding jewelry.
Yellow Gold: There are different karats of gold--14k, 18k, or 24k. A karat is a measure of the gold's purity, so the higher the number the more "pure" the gold is. 24K gold is the purest, yet the softest and will scratch and dent the most, as it is bound with less alloys. 24K gold will cost more than the others, and will require a little more care and maintenance to keep it looking good. The price of gold is currently higher than average. Expect to spend $250-$500 on a gold band, and more if you include diamonds or other stones.
White Gold: This is an alloy of both yellow gold and a white metal-usually palladium or nickel. Like yellow gold, it's measured in karats. A blend with nickel is the strongest for rings, though the best "quality" is usually mixed with palladium. White gold will scratch, just as yellow gold does, and unless it has the highest quality, it will usually start to lose it's shine and luster. The time that takes depends on the wearer's body oils and skin. No one can say exactly how long that will take, but when it does, a white gold ring can be coated with a layer of rhodium to make the look of the ring shinier and more comparable to platinum or silver. The price of white gold is very comparable to yellow gold, generally varying only about $50 in price.
Platinum: This metal is more expensive and more precious than gold. In fact, King Louis XV of France declared that platinum was the only metal fit for a king in the 18th century! It is more tarnish-resistant than gold and is generally less prone to wearing, dulling, and scratching. Platinum is used less in jewelry than gold, because of both the high price and the rarity. It also carries more weight, feeling heavier on the hand than gold or silver. For a platinum ring, prices vary greatly! Online, you can spend $500-$800. Jewelry stores will charge up to $2500 for a solid band. Do your research!
Palladium: Less dense and lighter than platinum, palladium's popularity started to grow in 2004 when platinum and gold's prices began to steeply rise. The price of palladium was once more than platinum, but since that has dropped, it is now more affordable and used more in fine jewelry. It is naturally white in color, so it has no need for the rhodium plating that white gold uses. It is about 12% harder than gold or platinum, making it less susceptible to scratching or denting. In repeated heating and cooling, or with exposure to many chemicals, it will tarnish and become hazy. Pricing is lower on palladium than other metals. You should be able to easily stay under $500 for a solid band.
Titanium: This is used more in men's jewelry, as it is scratch-resistant and a darker, gray color. The metal is strong enough to be grooved, engraved, and carved without losing strength. Gemstones can be set in titanium in close settings, like bezel or tension mounting. It will not lose color or tarnish with regular chemicals, such as chlorine in a swimming pool. $200 is an average price for a titanium solid band.
Tungsten: The name comes from Swedish words literally meaning "heavy stone". Hard, heavy, and a steel gray color, tungsten is also used more in men's rings. It's qualities made it popular in the weaponry industry, and it's also used in the steel industry on machinery and trains. Currently, the price is comparable to gold, making it much more affordable than platinum or a more precious metal. It's about 10 times harder than 18k gold, making it the hardest metal used in jewelry. The only wear-and-tear you are likely to experience would be chipping, should the ring receive a very hard hit. Because it's so hard, tungsten rings cannot be easily engraved, and resizing is not possible. Should you need a different size, you will most likely end up purchasing a new ring altogether. A tungsten ring will cost between $200-$700, depending on the brand, and whether it is inlaid with gold, which is common.
As with any big decision, do your research before purchasing. It's always wise to at least check online to see which styles you are most drawn to before shopping in stores. Lower prices are often available online, but remember--should any problems occur in the future, it's safer to have a store to return/exchange/repair your jewelry. While I support e-commerce and finding the best deal, I still highly recommend purchasing your ring (especially if it contains diamonds or any other jewels) from a retail storefront that can assist you should you need help. Happy shopping!