What happens after you get engaged? You plan your wedding of course! The dress, the venue, the guests… you also have to choose the one thing that remains with you for ever more after the big day. No, we’re not talking about your husband, but about your wedding rings. You are not likely to change them in the near (or hopefully) distant future and you’ll probably wear them daily. Nick, Confetti’s jewellery expert from Bands of Love is here to help you make the right choice with his guides to buying the perfect wedding rings! This guide focuses on a crucial feature – the wedding ring metals.
Wedding ring hallmarks
It is a legal requirement in the UK for all vendors of precious metals to have their products stamped with a hallmark. The hallmark proves that the wedding ring is made from real precious metal, so no further validation should be needed. Hallmarks on wedding rings should depict three compulsory symbols:
- The manufacturer’s mark
- A mark confirming the metal’s pureness (read on for an explanation)
- The assay office at which the ring was hallmarked (the UK’s 4 assay offices are in London, Sheffield, Birmingham and Edinburgh)
The hallmark may also contain the following additional symbols:
- A symbol relating to the precious metal
- A single letter which relates to the year the ring was created
Gold wedding rings
The most traditional choice for wedding rings is simple graceful and original yellow gold, which comes in a variety of purities, measured in “carats”. The usual carat amounts used in the UK are 9ct, 18ct, and 22ct.
Budget conscious and practical – 9ct: this gold is made of 37.5% pure gold, and the rings will carry a hallmark with the fineness figure of ‘375’. The remaining 62.5% is made of various alloys such silver, copper and nickel. 9ct gold is often used where budget is under consideration as it’s less expensive to produce due to the lower pure gold content. Rings made from 9ct gold wear and last very well and are often made in larger and heavier styles so are recommended for those who do manual work.
Luxurious and vibrant – 18ct: this is 9ct gold’s opulent sister, made of 75% pure gold, carrying a hallmark fineness figure of ‘750’. The remaining 25% is made of various alloys, but in lesser amounts. This means that 18ct gold is softer and may pick up marks more easily. On the other hand, it has a more vibrant gold colour which many find ideal for a wedding ring.
Pure and glowing – 22ct: lesser used but still very popular in the UK, this is the purest form of gold used for wedding rings. Made of 91.6% pure gold, it carries a hallmark fineness figure of 916. It’s lustrously yellow in appearance so quite an eye-catcher, but also the softest of all gold varieties and will pick up scratches quite easily, making it less practical for daily wear. However, its proximity to pureness means a re-polish will quickly bring it back to its original beauty.
Other carat amounts: the US often make jewellery in 14ct gold which seems to offer a highbred between the durability of 9ct gold and the luxuriousness of 18ct. In India, the lively yellow 22ct gold is most commonly used. Other than for making investment gold in the form of bars or coins, 24ct is generally not used for wedding rings as it is too soft to work with and will not form well under manufacturing conditions.
Other types of gold: you may be looking for a bit of a colour variety for your wedding rings. It is often mistakenly stated that gold is found naturally in many colours. This isn’t quite the case – gold is always yellow. White gold or rose gold is in fact yellow gold alloyed with specific metals to alter its colour. For example, white gold is usually found in 9ct or 18ct varieties and is alloyed with whitening metals such as silver, palladium, nickel and iridium. The majority of white gold wedding rings will be plated in rhodium for a radiant white shiny finish. White gold is rarely made in anything above 18ct, as a white finish cannot be achieved when more yellow gold is present. Rose or red gold is yellow gold mainly alloyed with copper, which gives it that lovely warm glow.
Platinum wedding bands
Platinum is an expression of true love – rare, exclusive, long-lasting and beautiful. It can also come with a hefty price tag. This is due to its rarity, purity and resistance to corrosion. Platinum is a fairly soft metal which may pick up scratches easily, but a simple polish will bring it back to ‘as-new’ condition.
The UK standard for platinum jewellery is 95% pure, so a platinum ring will carry a fineness hallmark of ‘950’. As part of UK law, all platinum products must be hallmarked even when sold in tiny amounts (0.5 grams or over). Platinum’s hallmarking symbol usually appears as a sovereign’s orb with the ‘950’ appearing either inside a house-shaped marking or a diamond shape with scales in the background.
Palladium wedding rings
Palladium comes from the same family of metals as platinum and looks very similar to it as well. This metal has been considered precious since its discovery in 1803, but has only just joined the ranks of hallmarked precious metals in 2010. It is produced in the UK with the same purity as platinum at 95% and is fineness hallmarked with ‘950’.
You may wonder how to tell palladium apart from platinum, given their similar appearance and fineness. The most obvious difference is that palladium is lighter than platinum, and has a slightly grayish tinge. You can also tell them apart from their hallmarks. Palladium’s fineness number of ‘950’ appears in a trapezium-shaped marking. A further symbol may be included in the hallmark, with palladium’s symbol being that of a Greek female soldier, a hint to it being named after the Greek goddess for craftsmanship, war and wisdom, Pallas Athena.
Palladium is not as expensive as platinum and can be considered a great budget alternative.
Nickel wedding ring allergies
You probably wouldn’t be happy if you found out you’re allergic to your wedding ring! If you have an itchy reaction, it’s possibly due to the small amount of nickel alloy, which rarely affects the average person. A new EU Directive has now come into force which requires that jewellers further reduce the nickel content in their rings, which should quash allergic reactions in even the most sensitive of wearer.
Wearing different metal rings
Many brides ask whether they have to match their wedding ring to their engagement ring when wearing them together. Rest assured that wearing two metals against each other will NOT cause them to react against each other or dissolve (unless you are also dipping your hand in hydrochloric acid – which we don’t recommend). Over a very, very long period of time one ring might show a little wear if it is a softer metal like 18ct gold worn together with a harder metal like platinum. However, in general platinum, palladium and gold can all be worn together without any issue and the choice of which wedding ring to buy can be safely defined by personal preference and budget.
Now, armed with this information, you’ll be able to select the best rings for looks, wearability and budget! Nick at Bands of Love is here to help – visit our Wedding Rings & Bridal Jewellery forum if you have any questions for him, or leave a comment below!