Deciding on The Best Metal for a Wedding Band

Deciding on The Best Metal for a Wedding Band

Couples have a selection of wedding band metals. Here are some guideposts.

Prices Of Gold, Platinum, Palladium, Titanium and Tungsten Wedding Bands

Rings made of platinum, the “king of metals,” are by far the costliest. Palladium bands are typically priced the same or even a bit less than those made of gold, and white gold jewelry is sometimes pricier than yellow. Rings fashioned from tungsten and titanium, which are not “precious” metals, are the least expensive, with many choices in the $75 – $150 range.

The often-volatile “spot” prices of precious metals traded on open exchanges provide an insight into the current relative values of gold, platinum and palladium bullion. Titanium and tungsten do not trade in public marketplaces.

Hardness, Durability and Scratch Resistance of Wedding Ring Metals

A metal’s hardness is measured on the Vickers scale. The higher the Vickers number, the harder and more resistant to scratching a metal is. The following typical Vickers hardness numbers for wedding band metals can vary depending upon alloy composition and whether annealing and other processing methods are employed:

  • Tungsten–1300 to 2200
  • Titanium–350 (aircraft grade 6Al/4V)
  • 18K Gold–200 (white and yellow gold)
  • 9K and 14K Gold–165 (white and yellow gold)
  • Palladium–150 (alloy of 95% palladium/5% ruthenium)
  • Platinum–130 (alloy of 95% platinum/5% ruthenium)

Gem settings in platinum, which is denser than white golds, can be made of thin, seemingly fragile constructions, and still have the needed strength and integrity to securely hold stones or jewelry together.

Except for tungsten and platinum, rings worn regularly will suffer from dulling “micro-scratches.” Professional polishing usually restores the luster. Micro scratches sometimes leave white gold looking a bit yellowish as the rhodium-plated finish wears off. A woman desiring gold for her engagement ring should choose harder 18K vs. 9K or 14K.

Platinum does not micro-scratch: it “furrows” and pushes metal to the sides instead of removing the material. When gold is micro-scratched, metal is actually lost.

Tungsten carbide jewelry is virtually scratch-proof and will retain its polish indefinitely. Aircraft-grade (6Al/4V) titanium is more scratch-resistant than gold, platinum or palladium.

Rings made from tungsten carbide are brittle and will chip and/or fracture into pieces if they are slammed hard, as when one gets one’s finger caught in a car door. The other metals will bend and/or dent.

Colors of Metals Used In Wedding Bands

Palladium and platinum rings are often undistinguishable by color alone. Both are very flattering to diamonds and other gems. Some observers believe palladium is brighter than platinum. Both are much whiter than any unplated white gold on the market.

White gold, which is an alloy of yellow gold and at least one other metal, has a light gray appearance, often with tinges of yellow showing. The base alloy has to be rhodium plated to make it truly white and resemble platinum. The rhodium may wear off with use, and have to be replated.

Titanium has a cool silver grey sheen similar to stainless steel and reminiscent of platinum. Some tungsten rings have a darker gray look.

Heaviness of Wedding Band Metals

A convenient way to imagine the “heft” of wedding rings made from various metals is to compare their specific gravities, or SG. The greater a metal’s SG, the denser it is and the heavier it will feel on the finger:

  • Platinum–21.5
  • Tungsten–19
  • Gold–15.6 (yellow, 18K)
  • Gold–14.6 (white, 18K)
  • Palladium–12
  • Titanium–4.5

In spite of its low SG, titanium is very strong and durable, and is often favored as a wedding band by active men.

Allergic Reactions to Wedding Band Metals

White and yellow gold and platinum jewelry alloys containing nickel may cause an allergic contact dermatitis reaction to as much as 20% of the population that is sensitive to nickel. Symptoms include swelling, discoloration, and itching where skin contacts the metal. Solution: avoid nickel alloys and choose a ring whose base precious metal is combined with palladium, silver, zinc, ruthenium, etc.

Quality tungsten carbide jewelry uses a nickel binder, which is not the same as an alloy. Tungsten bonds to the nickel molecules, preventing them from leeching into the skin. Most jewelry merchants warrant that their tungsten wedding bands are hypoallergenic. Titanium and palladium bands are also safe for sensitive individuals.

Engraving Wedding Band Metals

Rings made of aircraft-grade titanium and tungsten are so hard that they usually can be only be laser-engraved.

Removing Wedding Bands in an Emergency

Gold, platinum, palladium and even aircraft-grade titanium bands can be sawn off by most emergency medical personnel. Tungsten bands are too hard to saw, and must be fractured using a Vise-Grip (brand) or similar tool.

Resizing Wedding Bands Made of Titanium and Tungsten

The high melting points of titanium and tungsten alloys prevent them from being cut and welded like traditional precious metals. With the help of special equipment, titanium wedding rings can be compressed or stretched up to one size, if there are no stones or inlay on the rings. Tungsten carbide wedding rings cannot be resized at all.