Most people choose one of four precious metals for their engagement ring: yellow gold, white gold, rose gold, or platinum. But which of these precious metals has the right style, durability, and practicality for you? Find out below as we break down everything you need to know about engagement ring metals.
Yellow gold, white gold, and rose gold are all beautiful choices for your engagement ring , but they do have differences. Each has its own unique style and practical considerations, which we’ll go over below. But first we’ll give a quick primer on gold karat, which can affect both the look and durability of all three types of gold.
Understanding Gold Karat & Alloys
Gold karat, also abbreviated as “k” or “kt,” is a measure of gold purity. Pure gold is 24 karat gold, but this is rarely used to make jewelry. Pure gold is somewhat soft for a metal, so it isn’t durable enough to stand up to everyday wear. That’s why the gold used in jewelry is generally a gold alloy, which is gold that has been mixed with another metal.
You can tell how much pure gold is in a gold alloy by looking at its karat. A gold alloy that has a higher karat has more gold content. For example, 18k gold has more pure gold in it than 14k gold. Percentage-wise, the most common gold karats break down as follows:
24k Gold: 100% Gold 18k Gold: 75% Gold 14k Gold: 58.3% Gold 10k Gold: 41.7% Gold
Since there’s more pure gold in higher karat gold, some people assume that higher karat gold is always better. However, the right karat for you really comes down to personal preference. Different karats have differing levels of durability and they can also look slightly different. Higher karat gold is always softer, which may be a concern for those who prioritize durability. Higher karat gold is also always more expensive, which you may or may not find worthwhile. As far as the looks of higher karat vs lower karat gold, this varies depending on the type of gold, so we’ll go over that for yellow gold, white gold, and rose gold individually.
Yellow gold is a warm-toned alloy made of pure gold, silver, copper, and zinc. With its rich, golden color, yellow gold looks beautifully lush and classic. Style-wise, yellow gold is the most traditional choice for an engagement ring, so it works well with many classic or vintage engagement ring designs.
Yellow gold is a durable metal that does not tarnish, but it can be prone to scratching. However, any scratches on yellow gold can easily be polished out by your jeweler, making yellow gold fairly low maintenance.
Yellow Gold Appearance By Karat:Higher karat yellow gold has a richer and more vibrant gold color than lower karat gold, which looks lighter and more neutral in comparison. So, if you prefer a more lush gold tone, you may prefer the look of 18k yellow gold. If you like a lighter, less warm-looking gold, you may prefer the look of 14k yellow gold.
White gold is a cool-toned alloy that is made of pure gold and certain white metals. Sometimes, white gold is mixed with just platinum or palladium, while other times it’s also mixed with nickel and/or zinc.
Usually, the white gold used in jewelry also involves another white metal: rhodium. White gold is actually a bit yellow in color, so jewelry makers often coat it in a thin layer of rhodium in order to give it a whiter look. Rhodium is the whitest, shiniest precious metal on earth, so white gold is the brightest and most reflective of all your precious metal options. But note that while rhodium plating makes a white gold engagement ring more flashy and eye-catching, it also makes it a bit more high maintenance. Rhodium plating will slowly wear off with regular wear, so you’ll need to visit your jeweler for a replating from time to time.
In terms of style, white gold is considered quite chic and sophisticated. It’s an elegant, traditional option. Because white gold is so shiny, it reflects gemstone brilliance and luster very well, which means it’s also an excellent option for more glamorous gemstone or diamond engagement ring setting styles.
White Gold Appearance By Karat:Higher karat white gold will look more yellowish than lower karat white gold. However, because white gold is usually plated in rhodium, the color of a white gold alloy matters less than the color of other gold alloys. Durability and price tend to weigh more heavily in people’s white gold karat decision than color or purity, which is likely why 14k white gold is a more popular choice for engagement rings and wedding rings than 18k white gold.
Rose gold is a neutral-toned gold alloy that’s made of pure gold, copper, and sometimes silver. It’s the copper in rose gold that gives this precious metal its signature pinkish hue, making it look highly romantic. Many people choose a rose gold engagement ring for this romantic quality, while some also love its vintage look.
Copper is a particularly strong precious metal, making rose gold stronger than both white gold and yellow gold. Note, however, that copper also causes rose gold to develop a patina, which you may or may not like. Some people love that rose gold develops a patina, since it makes it look beautifully antique. However, if you’re among those who don’t like a patina, you can still get a rose gold engagement ring or wedding band-- you may just need to get it professionally cleaned a bit more often.
Rose Gold Appearance By Karat:Since copper is what makes rose gold look pink, lower karat rose gold will look pinker than higher karat rose gold. So, 14k rose gold will be noticeably pinker than 18k rose gold, which leans more on the gold side of pink-gold.
Moving on to our non-gold option, we have the silvery-white platinum. As with gold, the platinum that’s used in jewelry is usually an alloy. Platinum alloys are generally made from 85% to 95% pure platinum. While gold is mixed with other metals for strength, platinum is mixed with other metals for the opposite reason: malleability. Pure platinum is so strong that it can be extremely challenging to work with, so platinum alloys are typically made of platinum and other metals that can make the alloy more malleable. The most common metals used in platinum metal alloys are iridium, rhodium, palladium, copper, and titanium.
The strength of platinum gives it an advantage over the other white precious metal, white gold. Compared to white gold, platinum is also more low maintenance and hypoallergenic. However, because platinum is a highly rare metal, it’s much more expensive than white gold. If you want a white metal for your engagement ring, consider how these differences make you feel about getting a white gold vs. a platinum ring.
Final Thoughts on Engagement Ring Metals
This wraps up our guide to engagement ring precious metals. Still not sure which metal would be your perfect match? Browse our full selection of engagement rings and sort by metal until you find the ring that speaks to you.