Brides and grooms carefully choose their wedding rings. The metal they are made of is a personal statement. Like everything else in the wedding, their personality reveals itself in three themes. This part 1 of 2 posts on wedding rings.
Wedding rings used to be linked to the bestowal of ‘earnest money’. Historically, the wedding ring was part of the exchange of valuables at the moment of the wedding. It is a relic of the times when marriage was a contract between families, not individual lovers. Today they are a symbol of eternal love and devotion.
Most weddings I conduct have the double-ring ritual which only became popular in the late 1940s. Couples choose a wedding ring design that suits their personality. The metal used in the ring is also part of that personalization.
According to the prayer book of Edward VI: after the words ‘with this ring I thee wed’ follow the words ‘This gold and silver I give thee’. Gold and silver are the traditional metals used by brides and grooms.
The “K” in 14K gold refers to “karat”, a measurement which is used to describe the purity of gold in jewelry. Karats, measured in units of 24, indicate the amount of gold as a percentage of the total. For example, 24 karat gold is 100% pure gold. 14 karat gold, standard in American jewelry industry, is 14 parts gold and 10 parts other metal(s), which is 58.5% pure gold. Pure gold and other precious metals can often be too soft for most jewelry styles.
In yellow gold, the most commonly used alloy metals are copper, silver and zinc. In white gold, besides copper and zinc, extra white metals such as nickel, manganese and palladium have to be added in order to get the silver-grayish color. Palladium and nickel act as primary bleaching agents for gold to dominate the color, creating the warm gray tone. Also, white gold is usually plated with rhodium to give the same look as platinum, but eventually the rhodium will wear off and the white gold will take on a yellow cast. White gold jewelry needs to be rhodium-plated every few years to maintain its whiteness.
Why to choose this metal: Yellow and white gold are traditional, popular and widely available. Although rings made of yellow gold may show scratches and other abrasions, repairs and maintenance are easy.
Sterling silver is the whitest of all the metals. Sterling silver is a mixture of 92.5% silver and 7.5% metal alloy, and the standard quality stamp is 925 which indicate 92.5% purity. The same way rhodium plating is used for white gold, sterling silver is plated with rhodium to enhance surface reflection and protect tarnishing. Tarnishing occurs when silver reacts with sulfur in the air. Wool, rubber band, some type of paints and gloves made of latex are some household items which contain sulfur. By using method of rhodium plating and proper care, sterling silver jewelry can last for a few years without tarnishing while maintaining a polished shiny look.
Why to choose this metal: Sterling silver jewelry is popular. The price is very affordable, and with rhodium plating it gives the look and shine of platinum or white gold. With careful maintenance, sterling silver jewelry can last for many years to come.