Pick Your Metal
I’m sure there are sites that expound on the pros and cons of various metals at infinitum but here are the main elements:
Your first decision is the overall color of the ring: Yellow, rose or white. This is entirely personal and there is no right or wrong answer.
In terms of generalities, 14K gold is the hardest and will look new the longest. The only real downside is that 14K prongs tend to break more than bend. 18K gold will develop of patina faster as it is more prone to scratching than 14K but the metal itself is warmer and purer than its counterpart. Platinum is purest of the precious metals as it is used at 95% purity. Platinum is a white metal that survives decades. When is looses its shine, platinum looks light grey.
If you choose yellow your choices are 14K or 18K gold. 18K is 75% gold and 25% other alloys to harden it but it will be a softer metal and a warmer yellow tone than 14K which has 58.3% gold and 41.7% hardening alloys.
If you chose rose, you choice are similar to yellow with the biggest difference in the intensity of the rose color. 14K rose gold has far more copper in it which gives it a more intense rose color as opposed to 18K which is more of a reddish yellow.
If you choose white, things get a little more complex. The same hardness profiles exist in the 14K and 18K white gold categories but you need to understand that there is no such thing as “white” gold. Gold with alloys that lighten it only get it to a very light yellow or light bronze color and then the ring is coated with rhodium when it is finished. That rhodium plating does wear off over time and the off white color then starts peeking through. At that point most people look to clean their ring but in fact it just needs to be re-plated.
The better metal in the white category is platinum. Platinum is a white metal and is used at 95% purity. It is softer and more pliable than gold and will develop a patina sooner but will not wear down as much as gold. It is the metal of choice and has long been the more luxurious choice in jewelry because for most of our lifetime it has traded at close to double the cost of gold. The last couple of years have seen an inversion of prices with gold trading around $1900/oz and platinum around $1100/oz. Platinum rings are still a little more expensive that gold but the difference is too small to sway the decision away from the better metal.
In the picture above you can see the sometimes subtle differences between the metals. Starting on the left, this is the color of a rhodium plated gold ring or platinum ring. It is as white as white gets. The next one over is the actual color of white gold with no plating. As is obvious, white gold is actually a pale yellow or bronze color which gets covered by the rhodium plating. When the plating wears off, this color starts peaking through. The next one on the right is 14K yellow gold which has 58.3% gold content. You can see the 18K (75% gold content) has a richer yellow color. Second to last is 14K Rose gold which is very pink. The intensity of the color comes from the relatively large amount of copper alloyed in this ring. Think about the color of a new penny. Last but not least is 18K rose gold which also has some copper in it, but much less and as a result has more of a peach color to it.
There are no right or wrong choices, but oftentimes, we are not aware of the differences and hopefully this post will help clarify.