No one wants to wear, or give, an engagement ring that ages in dog years.
Longevity problems and issues with engagement rings can be caused by poor craftsmanship, but don’t negate the impact of a poor metal choice.
The engagement ring decorating her/your ring finger will be tagging along as the seasons and years fly by. Let’s make it a great, enjoyable journey that’s just as thrilling as those first few days after the proposal.
The #1 Rule of Engagement Ring Shopping
Get her exactly what she wants.
If she wants a coloured gold your options are limited to rose and yellow gold. There aren’t decent alternatives.
But at this stage 90% of ladies still prefer a white/silverish metal. For this you have 3 high-end options: 18k white gold and your platinum group metals (platinum and palladium). When a girlfriend says she wants a ring in white gold she is most probably referring to the colour, or “at least”, leaving room for the upgrade to platinum or palladium.
These 3 metal options aren’t equally well-suited for use in engagement rings, and while it might not be the most exciting topic under the sun - it’s probably the single most important choice to ensure this engagement ring is enjoyed for decades.
Neither of your metal options are train smashes, but there has been a gigantic gamechanger…
There have been some HUGE changes in the prices of precious metals over the past 2 years.
18k White Gold: 12% more expensive.
Palladium: 93% more expensive.
Platinum: 16% cheaper.
We’ve been huge advocates for the use of palladium for many, many years. At a certain stage it was trading at an 1/8th of the price of platinum - and shares close to all of the amazing benefits that platinum adds to an engagement ring. We’ll get to a detailed practical comparison in a few paragraphs.
Price wise the scales have tipped and currently palladium is 68% more expensive than platinum per gram.
That’s awesome because you actually want a platinum engagement ring. They were disproportionately expensive and overpriced for many years, but right now in 2019 at the current prices - it’s a no brainer.
Wow… what happened?
When it comes to platinum and palladium… the jewellery industry accounts for only a fraction of the demand.
By far the most platinum and palladium consumed in a year is used in catalytic converters to reduce harmful emissions from a vehicle's exhaust system.
Palladium is used in catalytic converters for petrol cars.
Platinum is used in diesel cars.
After a few recent scandals (VW’s Diesel-gate & Co.) that resulted in very punitive fines and new regulations, the long term outlook for diesel power seems bleak. Germany went so far as to threaten with the ban of diesel powered cars in certain cities.
Many big name SUV builders have announced that diesel motors will be phased out in the next few model years.
The decline in demand and negative outlook for diesel cars has pushed down the platinum price, and will continue to do so.
On the flipside, manufacturers are stocking up on palladium for the higher demand for petrol cars. So much so that we’ve seen close to doubling in the price of palladium in the past 24 months.
You’re in luck: Diesel car problems have nothing to do with the fact that platinum is the perfect metal choice for your engagement ring.
Everyday issues worth considering when choosing a metal for an engagement ring:
The best approach is to look for a low maintenance friend.
Put over the moon proposal emotions aside for a second… and focus on choosing the right foundation for this incredibly significant piece of jewellery.
I’m not going to romanticise the issues with the mentioned metal options. These are the real world run-ins people have with engagement rings.
Peace of mind that the diamonds will be secure and safe in the ring.
Engagement rings are worn. All day, every day. And this exposure guarantees that they take light bumps and knocks every now and then.
Decent craftsmanship surely helps to ensure that a ring can withstand these minor encounters... but a hard blow is bound to happen some time. And then I’m sure you want the strongest metal to secure the diamonds as best as possible in that dreaded moment.
Another overlooked risk is the accumulation of light daily bumps that slowly move the prongs that secure your diamonds out of place… and then you lose a diamond, or 5.
Did you know pure gold (Au) is so soft that you can indent your nail into a bar of gold?
Platinum and palladium are significantly harder and stronger than white gold. Personally, the fact that white gold isn’t a very secure home for a diamond disqualifies it as an option for me.
As a bonus; the hardness of platinum and palladium allows for the claws holding your diamond in place to be slightly smaller/daintier than you’d find on a white gold ring. Delicate prongs and claws make your diamond look bigger, and just gives an engagement ring a more refined and elegant overall look.
We recommend that our customers visit us at least once a year to have their engagement ring cleaner thoroughly, and to ensure all diamonds are still secure. This falls under our free maintenance commitment.
The ring should look great, with minimal amounts of visible wear and tear in terms of scratches.
Engagement rings come into contact with a variety of hard surfaces. Due caution helps, but isn’t failproof.
Although platinum is far from scratch resistant it is much more durable than white gold. Your platinum or palladium engagement ring will not be in desperate need of a touch-up polish every couple of months.
Gold’s distinct soft and malleable nature makes it a goldsmiths dream. Unfortunately these very same characteristics compromise the strength and durability of a white gold ring.
Jewellery manufacturing has changed with 3D printing technologies. Detail in a ring can now be printed in a wax model, and cast flawlessly without a goldsmith having to over and over bend thin metal rods.
You have two main differences, durability wise, between platinum and palladium when compared to white gold:
White gold is much softer than platinum and palladium and simply picks up scratches more easily and in greater severity.
When whitegold is scratched a minute piece of metal is generally worn off. It erodes. Platinum and palladium on the other hand have a sort of smear effect where the metal is just slightly displaced. It can easily be polished back into place. Over the years the bottom of a white gold ring will wear thin, and that may lead to some unwanted bending eventually.
Please note, scratches aren’t a trainwreck. Every single ring picks up tiny scratches and they can be polished rather easily.
You might start out with the intention of having your engagement ring properly polished up every 4 months, but people are crazy busy and don’t find time to run into jewelry stores as planned.
Platinum and palladium are the most durable metals and therefor a great choice for an everyday jewellery item such as an engagement ring.
We offer free cleaning and polishing services to all our customers for the life of their ring.
The colour of the ring should be luxurious and a greatly complementary to the main diamond.
Palladium is 6% optically whiter/lighter than platinum. That’s not a lot.
Most people can’t distinguish between the colors, but the few with super eyes don’t necessarily prefer the lighter colour of palladium over platinum. It comes down to personal preference.
A nagging issue people experience with white gold is its change in colour. Since white gold in its pure (unplated) state has a rather dullish gray metal with a slight yellow undertone is, it’s plated with a few microns of rhodium to improve the “whiteness” and sheen of a ring.
Rhodium is stunningly white, and considerably more appealing than unplated white gold. But there’s a catch; any form of plating on a ring starts wearing of in a month or three. Further, rhodium doesn’t wear off in a homogeneous way. High wear areas start wearing off first, creating a patchy looking ring.
This isn’t very nice.
On the left you see unplated whitegold, and on the right when it's just been plated...
Platinum group metals don’t need any form of plating and even after 50 years, the metal will appear as white as the first day you laid eyes on the ring.
You want the best and there’s nothing wrong with it (prestige).
Every single ring we’ve manufactured with a price tag over R200 000 has been in platinum.
It holds the place as the most prestigious metal. Although this stems from it’s exorbitant historical/former pricing - it hasn't lost it’s top spot in people’s minds.
This isn’t important to everyone, but since this is a gift, using the ultimate engagement ring base metal doesn’t hurt the whole experience, right?
Countless studies have shown that heavier items have a higher perceived value with prospective customers. The toy industry has done a stellar job at increasing the weight and size of their packaging, to ensure their original products feel heavier and sturdier than cheap chinese knockoffs laying on the same shelf.
Visit us, and try on a few palladium and white gold rings, and then a few platinum pieces. You’ll immediate feel the very significant increase in weight.
The heavier weight of platinum also hints to superior quality and long term durability. Keep in mind palladium is just as durable, and that it’s weight doesn’t have a correlation with durability.
Further, the purity of palladium and platinum used in our engagement rings is a 95% concentration alloyed with 5% ruthenium, also a platinum group metal, so this makes a good “100% pure” argument since it’s undiluted with any lesser metals as you’ll find in 18k gold.
Jewellers are allowed to drop the purity of platinum group metals to 80% purity without the need for disclosure. We stick to the benchmark 95%.
9kt White Gold?
The karat of gold refers to the number of units out of 24 that are pure gold (“Au” on the periodic table of elements).
Pure gold is too soft to withstand the daily wear and tear an engagement ring goes through, so it’s always blended with other metals like silver, palladium, and copper to make a way more durable alloy for use in jewelry.
The higher the carat, the higher the purity.
9kt white gold is 9/24 units pure gold, which leaves us at a 37.5% purity.
There’s nothing wrong with it per se, but the higher silver content softens the metal even more, and therefore we don’t work in it.
Yellow & Rose Gold
Rose gold has been very popular for the past 2 or 3 years. It’s still the go-to metal for vintage style designs, although they also look great in a white metal.
There aren’t rose or yellow colored platinum alloys; 18k rose and yellow gold are perfectly fine metal choices. White gold is the troublesome twin.
OK, What About Platinum vs Palladium?
As you’ve seen platinum and palladium are both excellent white metal choices for an engagement ring. Their chemical and physical properties vary slightly, but you can’t go wrong with either.
Most of the research available indicates that palladium is at least 10 times rarer than platinum.
It’s also interesting to note that palladium is a by-product of the platinum mining process. You don’t really get dedicated palladium mines at this point in time.
Palladium is 40% lighter in weight than platinum. Using an identical ring design the platinum version would weight 10g and the palladium version 6g. So although the palladium price per gram has surpassed that of platinum, you’ll use significantly less in terms of weight, and that still does even out the price substantially.
This is an example of our Bea engagement ring, and it’s weight in the various white metals;
Excluding the main diamond, these are the prices for our Bea design using the latest metal prices;
Although platinum isn’t an easy metal to work with, palladium is a nightmare for most jewellers.
For example; palladium becomes brittle when exposed to a stock standard jeweller’s torch flame. It has to be cast in an oxygen-free vacuum chamber.
Very few jewelers have invested the capital and time into the science of palladium manufacturing. You need very specialised equipment.
Yes, this can be avoided by using jewellers that specialise in the metal (it’s around 40% of our work), but a ton of our blog readers are not in SA and it’s worth noting palladium ring shopping can be a mine-field.
Any decent jewellery operation will have a few rings on their way out so ask to see some of their palladium rings. Imperfections and crude workmanship will be quite easy to spot.
There’s also the little issue with resizing palladium rings. The size of a palladium ring can only be properly adjusted with a laser welder. As mentioned, a flaming torch will wreck the integrity of the metal structure. You don’t want to be stuck with an engagement ring that's size cannot be adjusted.
*Although this is an extreme case, it clearly shows how porous palladium can solidify after it’s been cast poorly. Instead of a super strong homogeneous metal you have a compromised mesh and spongy structure. Severe porosity raises the risk of breakage tremendously. A small crack might not be the end of the world, but if that crack is on a claw holding your main diamond… I hope you have comprehensive insurance.
Just avoid bargain basement jewellers. That’s always a great idea.
This opportunity won't last forever. Take advantage of it.
My wife’s ring is made in palladium.
It was a no brainer 7 years ago. It’s aged beautifully, and is in no need of a make-over. Palladium has been a great metal friend.
But If I had to make the call today - I wouldn’t think twice before picking platinum.
It’s a great deal at the current price. See for yourself by clicking here, attaching an image and getting a quote from us.
Remember that the forces in these market players are much bigger than the jewellery industry. These metal prices have their ups and downs.
Order it in platinum.
Please feel free to reach out on to me on email@example.com or get in touch via your preferred channel.
You’re also invited to visit our jewellery studios in Pretoria and Rosebank to see feel and experience the different metals. This remains a personal choice but I’m sure you’ll leave sold on platinum and excited about working with us to get your ring nothing short of perfect.