by Willyou.net * Dec 24, 2021

Key Takeaways

  • Gold is one of the most obvious choices for any special jewelry – particularly an engagement ring or wedding band.
  • Its significance for love, romance, and commitment goes back thousands of years, and will probably never be diminished or replaced by any other metal.
  • Gold used in jewelry is almost always alloyed, unless the pieces in question are not intended for regular wear. There’s nothing wrong with not purchasing ‘pure’ gold for your partner. Instead, it would be way, way worse to decide you were going to use pure gold.
  • Gold is a soft metal, and alloys like nickel, silver, copper and platinum are perfect for strengthening it enough for daily wear, over many, many decades.
3 golden rings with diamonds - white yellow rose - Gold

Of all the precious metals, gold is the one that needs the least introduction. Distinctive, bright, and the core of so many of history’s most pivotal moments, gold’s emotional and sentimental value is even higher than its financial value.

There’s no denying that its importance for engagement rings and wedding bands is well-known already, but a lot of people are surprised to discover how much there is to learn about gold before they are able to settle on the right design for their rings.

Here is everything you need to know.

The Basics

From ‘alloy’ to ‘zinc’, here’s the A-Z of gold that any first-time shopper will want to learn inside and out before they walk into the jewelry store for the first time.

What is Gold Alloy?

Put simply, a combination of gold with one or more other metals capable of giving the gold strength, and altering its color.

If you remember anything from high school chemistry, you might remember that the term ‘alloy’ refers to a combination of two or more different elements. Steel, for instance, is not a naturally-occurring metallic element; it’s an alloy of iron and carbon.

Pure gold, also referred to as 24K gold, is very soft – so soft that it can be bent and scratched with very little effort. It’s not something you – or your jeweler – will want to use in the creation of an engagement ring, wedding band, or any other piece of wearable jewelry.

Some of the most common alloys for gold include silver, copper, nickel, palladium, and zinc.

There is more than one way of alloying gold, and the different gold alloys are represented by ‘karat types’…

What is the Difference Between Carat and Karat?

While a carat is a unit of measurement used for diamonds and other gemstones, weighing exactly 200 milligrams, a gold karat refers to proportion – or, more specifically, the proportion of gold to alloy – rather than weight.

You can (and should) read our guide to carat weight here if you’re in the midst of planning your engagement ring, but anyone preparing to invest in gold jewelry also needs to understand what gold karat means for the appearance, strength and value of their chosen piece.

We mentioned above that pure gold is also referred to as ’24K’, or 24 karats. This is simply because, in any piece of gold jewelry, its metal is considered in 24 parts, meaning that the ratio of gold to alloy can be considered as 24:0.

As soon as we introduce alloy, the ratio changes.

The most common karat types for fine jewelry are as follows:

  • 22 karat gold, meaning a gold-to-alloy ratio of 22:2> This is generally considered far too soft to be used in most pieces of jewelry, and particularly pieces that will be worn on a daily basis.
  • 18 karat gold, meaning a gold-to-alloy ratio of 18:6
  • 14 karat gold, meaning a gold-to-alloy ratio of 14:10
  • 10 karat gold, meaning a gold-to-alloy ratio of 10:14

This means that, while a 22 karat gold ring and a 10 karat gold ring may be exactly the same size, they will feature drastically different levels of gold.

This also means that two solid gold rings of different karat types can look totally different from one another – but more on that below.

What Does Solid Gold Mean?

This refers to jewelry – or any other item – made entirely from gold, rather than being gold plated or gold filled. It can apply to any karat type, so shouldn’t be confused with 24 karat gold specifically.

It’s understandable that some shoppers get mixed up between the terms ‘pure gold’ and ‘solid gold’, since a 10 karat gold ring features more alloy than actual gold, but there is a major difference between the two.

When it comes to bridal jewelry, solid gold is the only option you should be looking at. It means that your ring will be capable of withstanding decades’ worth of wear, rather than just a few months or years.

You’ve probably heard of gold plating before – a common practice for lower-cost pieces of jewelry, which uses only a very, very thin layer of gold over another metal, like sterling silver. The result is much less expensive, since much less gold is used.

New gold plated jewelry is visually indistinguishable from solid gold jewelry but, if the piece is worn regularly, the wearer will eventually notice the gold plating wearing away and exposing the metal underneath. This means that gold plating is okay for pieces that will be worn once in a blue moon, but not for jewelry that is meant to last the wearer the rest of their life.

yellow gold solitaire round 6 prong engagement ring - Gold

Gold for Engagement Rings

It’s not hard to feel drawn-in by gold. Not only is it beautiful, but it’s got some pretty strong connotations for romance and commitment that span thousands of years of human history. But is it right for popping the ultimate question?

Can Engagement Rings be Gold?

Yes. Whether you prefer white or rose gold, or traditional yellow gold, this precious metal is the most popular choice for engagement rings.

Gold’s emotional significance is as powerful as its significance for wealth and status. A symbol of endlessness and richness of spirit, it offers a beautiful setting for your diamond – and one that creates an attractive contrast between the colorlessness of the stone and the natural warmth of the metal.

What Karat Gold is Best for an Engagement Ring?

Most engagement rings feature either 18 karat gold or 14 karat gold, with the latter representing the most popular option.

Chances are that your options will be easily whittled down to these two.

Why? Because 22 karat gold, as we mentioned above, still features such a high ratio of gold to alloy that the metal will still be very soft, and very vulnerable to damage. 10 karat gold, on the other hand, features more alloy than it does gold; the result, while very strong and durable, is a metal with a very weak, pale color that many shoppers find disappointing.

Our guide to 14K vs 18K gold offers a lot more insight on the subject. There are advantages and disadvantages to both, and you’ll want to get your head around these before you commit to either one.

Is Gold Safe for Sensitive Skin?

Not always. People with allergies to common alloys, such as nickel and zinc, should be careful when selecting gold for their jewelry.

It may be the case that a higher karat gold – like 18K – works best for the wearer’s skin, and this is considered one of the biggest advantages to this karat type.

The key thing to note here, however, is the fact that this may work for some people, but not for others. If you’re picking out an engagement ring on behalf of your girlfriend, consider the metal her existing jewelry collection is primarily made from (something you should be doing anyway). Does she wear gold, or avoid it in favor of allergy-friendly metals like platinum? If she does wear it, is it hallmarked as 18 karats?

It’s rarely a good idea to invest in a gold engagement ring if your partner obviously prefers sterling silver and platinum, and particularly if that preference is driven (at least in part) by an allergy to certain metals.

Should You Never Mix Metal Colors?

While it’s not the traditional choice – and some people remain opposed – mixing two differently colored metals is becoming increasingly popular.

Some people choose to design their wedding band out of a differently colored metal – or, for an even bigger statement, to design a mixed metal engagement ring that combines, say, warm toned yellow gold with bright platinum or white gold.

The thing to note about mixing metals is that people tend to be either totally in favor of it, or totally against it. For some, yellow tones and silver tones clash in a way that undermines the natural beauty of both metals while, for others, breaking from convention and combining them together makes for a striking and unique collection.

Our advice? Don’t go down this route unless you’re totally sure your bride will be in favor of it. If her jewelry collection is all yellow gold, however, walk away from the platinum and white gold as fast as you can.

yellow gold solitaire round 4 prong engagement ring - Gold

Yellow Gold

Diamonds can be transformed with the right setting. Even the diamond solitaire, a staple for any jeweler, will look totally different with a simple change of metal. Here’s what you need to know.

Does Yellow Gold Look Good With Diamonds?

Absolutely. Gold is highly versatile, and its natural warmth is perfect for bringing out the brightness and colorlessness of your diamond.

Take a look at this Oval Solitaire in Yellow Gold, which offers a perfect example of the innate power diamond and gold both gold. While the design is relatively basic, it remains one of the most popular choices for engagement rings, since the natural beauty of the yellow gold is capable of highlighting the most captivating aspects of the stone: its fire, brilliance, scintillation, color, cut and clarity.

Does Yellow Gold Affect Diamond Color?

Yes, although the impact is subtle. Whether you think this is a good thing, or a negative consequence of using yellow gold, it totally down to personal preference.

A yellow gold setting does reflect through the stone to some extent, and this is seen as a desirable feature by many shoppers – although some do prefer the neutrality offered by platinum and white gold, since it doesn’t infringe on the colorlessness of the diamond.

Essentially, it comes down to personal preference – and, of course, what you make of the combination when you see it in person, rather than through a computer screen.

What’s the Best Diamond Color for Yellow Gold Rings?

For Round Brilliant diamonds, we’d generally recommend a color grade of H or I. While D is the best diamond color grade, it is generally considered to be a waste of money if you’re setting your diamond in yellow gold.

Thanks to that contrast we mentioned between yellow gold and colorless diamonds, a minor amount of natural color within the diamond isn’t as big of a deal as it would be if that same diamond were set within a platinum or white gold.

What’s more, paying a high price for one of the Colorless diamond grades (D, E, or F) or even a G color diamond is also considered a waste of money for gold engagement rings, since the reflection of the gold within the stone will make that high investment a wasted effort on your part.

Generally, H and I color diamonds will offer the best value for money and appearance, but you may find a good diamond at the J color grade, too. This is one of those things that can only be properly judged in person, and after talking through the specifics of your design with your jeweler.

After all, some settings will have a lot more of an impact on the diamond than others. A bezel or halo, for instance, will envelope the diamond far more than the four prongs of this Round Cathedral Engagement Ring, creating a deeper, stronger reflection within the stone.

Yellow gold is a classic, and the traditional choice for bridal jewelry. As such, it is a highly popular choice around the world – and probably always will be.

While some diamond shapes, like the Pear and Heart, and some ring setting styles, like the halo or three stone engagement ring, tend to come in and out of style a little more often than the classics – like the Round Brilliant or diamond solitaire – gold represents an immoveable ‘trend’ for jewelers.

Prized by ancient civilizations and modern brides and grooms alike, yellow gold is pretty much ‘beyond’ popular – and has been for many hundreds of years.

Does Real Gold Look Yellow?

Yes, pure gold features a deep, rich, vibrant yellow color and a naturally bright shine.

Chances are, you’ve run across the phrases ‘rose gold’ and ‘white gold’ at some time or another. These metals, while incredibly popular for jewelry, are not naturally-occurring, but they are created by alloying gold with other natural elements.

For instance, the pink blush of rose gold is achieved using copper, while white gold often contains enough nickel and zinc – and a rhodium plating – to create that bright white color.

Rose Gold

Delicate, feminine, and classy, even the name of the metal is doused in romance. If your proposal is going heavy on the rose petals, candles, and starlight, we’d recommend considering rose gold for the centerpiece. 

Does Rose Gold Look Good With Diamonds?

Yes, provided you are in favor of contrast – and of the reflection of the metal within the diamond.

Rose gold is arguably the most romantic metal. While its rosy color tends to err on the more natural side of pink, it is undeniable, and perfect for bringing the most feminine designs to life. The warmth allows those flashes of brilliance to stand out, while adding a slight blush to the center stone, as in this Cushion Cut Pavé Ring in Rose Gold.

The (potential) downside to rose gold is the same as it is for yellow gold, however. If you want your colorless diamond to appear as bright, clear, and glassy as possible, then contrasting it against a cooler metal like white gold or platinum is going to be a much better choice.

This downfall is also considered a benefit, depending on where you stand, since diamonds intended for rose or yellow gold settings don’t need to feature a particularly high color grade – meaning shoppers can save a good chunk of money on this feature.

Is Rose Gold a Passing Trend?

No. While it may not be as traditional as yellow or white gold, rose gold has long-since proven itself to be a modern classic – and one that many starry-eyed couples feel drawn towards.

Rose gold may have enjoyed a lot of attention over the last ten years or so, but it’s actually been around for a lot longer than you might think – since at least the 1800s. Just like yellow gold, many jewelry collectors have built their collections around rose gold, and there’s nothing transitory about its significance for fans of the metal.

It’s also a pretty versatile choice, since the shade and intensity of the color can differ significantly depending on how the gold is alloyed. Some rose golds you encounter will feature a deep, reddish cast, while others will be far pinker and brighter in color.

Rose gold’s popularity largely stems from its romantic connotations, and ultra-feminine color. It’s highly flattering, and a little more unusual than white or yellow, without being so ‘out there’ that it’ll start to show its age in a few years’ time.

Are Rose Gold Engagement Rings Tacky?

Not at all. Rose gold is capable of putting a modern spin on the traditional ring designs, and is the preferred choice for many brides-to-be.

We mentioned above how the diamond solitaire is the most popular engagement ring shape out there, but take a look at this Rose Gold Solitaire Featuring a Princess Cut Diamond. While the silhouette is totally traditional, the rose gold puts a new spin on it – something many brides are looking to achieve.

There’s nothing tacky about the modern classics, just as there’s nothing old-fashioned about the old classics.

yellow gold solitaire oval engagement ring - Gold

White Gold

The polar opposite to the warmth and richness of yellow and rose gold, white gold is an excellent choice for women who prefer sterling silver and platinum over colored metal.

Does White Gold Look Good with Diamonds?

It looks beautiful, since the white of the metal highlights the flashes of fire emitted as the diamond moves under the light.

The effect is, of course, totally different to the one created by rose or yellow gold. While these metals blend more naturally against the skin of the wearer, white gold, and platinum blend more naturally against the diamond. Both create a contrast – the former against the diamond and the latter against the skin – and neither one is considered to be better than the other.

This Emerald Twisted Engagement Ring in White Gold is a prime example of the simple power of cohesion. While the white gold blends with the diamonds, that balance is continually interrupted by the sparks of brilliance and fire created by each stone.

What is the Difference Between White Gold and Platinum?

Two totally different metals – although, admittedly, featuring similar appearances – platinum is often the more expensive choice, although it’s also more durable.

Of all the metals out there, only platinum has proven itself capable of rivalling – and even sometimes surpassing – gold in terms of social status and prestige. It’s also a highly popular choice for engagement rings thanks to its bright, almost-luminescent appearance and strength.

You can read our guide to platinum rings for more information on this metal. Both options offer their own benefits, although the biggest drawback to platinum – and the reason so many people opt for white gold – is its high price, since it is generally used at a purity of around 95% – 98%, rather than at lower karat types like gold. 

What is the Karat of White Gold?

White gold is available up to 20 karats, although 18 karat and 14 karat white gold are much, much more common sights in jewelry stores, since they offer the strength needed for wearable jewelry, and the white color shoppers are looking for.

Unlike yellow gold, white gold is not available in 22 karats, since the ratio of gold to alloy would be so high that creating a white hue would be impossible.

Both 18K and 14K white gold will offer the bright, clean look you’ll be looking for, with 14K representing the stronger option of the two.

However, some shoppers do elect to save money by investing in a 10 karat white gold engagement ring. For those shopping for yellow gold, 10k gold is not seen as a great choice, since the color appears far weaker and more dilute than it does in a 14k gold.

White gold does not suffer from the same issue, since shoppers aren’t looking to preserve the original color of the metal. Opting for 10 karats holds certain advantages for the strength and durability of the ring (although 14k gold is perfectly durable), but, for other shoppers, sacrificing the prestige of a higher karat type isn’t worth the savings.

What is Rhodium Plating?

While it is not essential, a final, thin coating of rhodium (a bright, silvery metal) is used to enhance white gold’s color, and make it appear more like platinum.

After the pure gold has been alloyed with nickel and zinc, it tends to feature a distinctly warm hue – despite being very close to white in color. If you were to compare white gold in this state with platinum or palladium, you would easily detect the warmth of the original metal still present within the white gold.

For some people, this is an attractive feature – something that preserves the character of the gold in a new and versatile form – but, for others, it’s seen as a negative.

This is why a rhodium plating, which sits on the surface of the ring and adds a final touch of brightness to the metal, is so commonly used these days.

After a few years’ of wear, a rhodium plating will inevitably start to wear away. White gold rings can be easily ‘re-dipped’, and the bright, white luster restored to their surface.

Trust in GoldResponsible Gold

There is more to the subject of buying gold than picking between 10K and 14K, or rose or yellow. As a shopper, making informed choices means knowing what those choices are ahead of time, and that is just as pressing a subject for gold as it is for diamond.

Why? Because, like diamonds – or any other natural resource – buying gold is a process that shoppers should approach mindfully, in order to make the most responsible choices possible. We all want to be able to create the most ethical engagement rings we can, and that means that picking an ethical, conflict free diamond only represents half the story.

Mining gold is an intensive process, just as it is for mining diamonds. Historically, human exploitation and environmental damage have been a major cause for concern in the world of gold mining. Anywhere where there is a massive potential for wealth, there is a high risk of dangerous working conditions for those responsible for recovering it.

So, what is responsible gold sourcing?

If gold has been responsibly sourced, then that means it has been mined or recovered from nature with an appropriate level of concern and care for the workers involved in mining it, and for the surrounding environment.

Gold rushes represent periods of rapid economic development throughout history, but also war, greed, and exploitation. Without the right frameworks in place, it is all too easy for unethical and irresponsibly sourced gold to flood the global marketplace. Many gold mining areas are found in remote locations, where, historically, it has been easier for exploitation and greed to take control.

Thankfully, many campaigns, networks, and third party certifications have been established to ensure that shoppers can make the right choice, fully aware of the facts, instead of feeling as though they have to leave their decision up to chance. This is, thankfully, exactly how the diamond industry evolved away from a high concentration of blood diamonds on the global market, and it’s the reason why shoppers in the US don’t need to feel as though they are unwittingly funding conflict, child labor, and worker exploitation.

Recycled gold is also easier to access than it was in the past, although whether or not it’s a better (more ethical) choice than Fairtrade or Fairmined gold is up for debate…

Is recycled gold ethical?

Yes, and no. Recycled gold decreases the demand for new gold to be mined, which offers certain environmental benefits, but it does not offer support to artisanal and small scale miners making a living in developing nations.

This is another reason the gold mining industry draws a major parallel with the diamond mining industry. While lab grown diamonds are marketed as the ‘ethical’ alternative to natural diamonds (since there is no risk of artisanal miners being exploited), they actually prevent shoppers from investing their money into the positive side of the industry, and its workers.

Buying recycled gold is a lot better than buying irresponsibly sourced gold. Keep in mind that some recycled gold will inevitably have a dark past, since there is simply no way of ‘removing’ unethically-sourced gold from the secondhand market (or even identifying it).

Can gold be ethically sourced?

Yes. Small scale operations that prioritize the safety of the workers, and the health of the surrounding environment, do exist. Jewelers need to be transparent, and shoppers need to be aware of the wider issues surrounding the gold mining industry.

Unfortunately, many small- and large-scale operations rely on heavy machinery, and can easily damage the delicate ecosystems with harmful contaminants like mercury. In turn, this makes it increasingly difficult for those living in these remote areas to continue to stay there, meaning the opportunities for them to be exploited increase significantly.

For this reason, many small-scale miners are forced to work in deplorable and dangerous conditions. In many instances, they have no other options, and are incapable of breaking the cycle without help.

So, how do shoppers know when those cycles have been broken?

Fairmined Certification is one of the strongest assurances that the gold you are buying has been mined by small-scale mining organizations – or artisanal miners – that are not subjected to the terrible conditions so many miners do face. To meet with the Fairmined Standard, these miners must constantly meet with the organization’s high standards for responsible sourcing.

Sourcing Fairmined gold is generally 15 – 20% more expensive than the going market rate for gold, which is a small price to pay for such a strong assurance.

Fairtradealso offers certification for their gold, guaranteeing that it meets with the organization’s high standards for safe working conditions, fair pay, use of chemicals, and environmental protection. Their work extends from Peru to Kenya, Uganda, and Tanzania, and works to ensure that small-scale operations are able to thrive, in spite of the many difficulties they face in these areas.

What does CoC mean on jewelry?

Meaning Chain-of-Custody, it confirms that the metal used in that piece of jewelry is conflict-free, and responsibly sourced.

The Responsible Jewelry Council (RJC) has also had a strong impact on the global jewelry and fine industries, and hold their members to a strict code of practices that cover every aspect of the creation of jewelry – from mine to the jeweler’s bench. It was first founded back in 2005, and helped to rebuild trust in an industry that was, at the time, rocked by a number of high profile humanitarian crises.

Vendors who are members of the RJC must adhere to a high standards, designed to ensure that the jewelry industry’s influence is a positive one, and that shoppers can trust in the information their jewelers are giving them.

Many jewelers are now members of the RJC. The right jeweler will always practice full transparency around their methods for sourcing materials – whether diamond or gold, platinum, or any other natural resource. They will always be willing to answer your questions, and offer you all the information you could need to make an informed decision.

What are the 4 main mining metohds to produce gold?

Open-pit, underground, placer, and in-situ mining are the four main types of mining.

The World Gold Council, what do they do?

Besides developing standards, expanding access to gold, and addressing adoption barriers, the World Gold Council aims to stimulate demand for gold and support the future sustainability of the gold market.

Gold Wedding Bands

An engagement ring is only capable of telling half the story – the rest needs to be completed by two wedding bands, designed with their intended wearers in mind…

Are Traditional Wedding Rings Gold?

Gold has been used as a symbol of romantic commitment in many parts of the world for millennia, but other metals hold no less significance for married couples.

Many precious metals are now used for bridal jewelry and wedding bands, including gold, platinum, and palladium. Your choice on this matter should come down to personal preference, rather than tradition, since it is something you will be wearing every day for the rest of your life.

So, while we’re on the subject…

wedding bands pave diamonds - white yellow rose - Gold

Should Our Wedding Bands Match?

No, not necessarily – but it’s a decision that you’ll probably want to approach together.

So you prefer yellow gold, but your fiancée’s engagement ring was cast in rose gold? There are no rules stating that either of you have to sacrifice your preferences for the other, and there are plenty of ways to incorporate one another’s choice of metal into a unique design.

This is where working closely with your local jeweler – the same jeweler who designed your engagement ring – will pay off once again. Rather than browsing a list of existing designs, you can turn to the expert and explain to them your vision (or lack of vision). From there, you can have two rings designed that capture both of your preferences, and offer the perfect symbol of your shared life.

Can a Wedding Ring be Rose Gold?

Yes, and the option is highly popular with modern brides.

Again, this is an area where rose gold can be used to put a modern spin on a traditional design, and even a plain rose gold band will offer a refreshing alternative if you’re looking for something a little more unique.

Remember that wedding bands can also be designed to ‘hug’ the contours of an engagement ring, rather than to sit rigidly alongside a potentially large and bulky diamond. For this reason, it’s worth looking into bridal sets as a way of creating a comfortable and unique collection of jewelry for your bride.

Care and Maintenance

Even the strongest metal needs a little care, but gold is a pretty low maintenance choice for any bride or groom.

How Do You Look After a Gold Ring?

Regular cleans and, for white gold, replating will ensure your gold engagement ring or wedding band lasts a very, very long time on your finger.

Solid gold is relatively easy to maintain, and is capable of lasting decades – or even longer – with the right care. In fact, white gold is widely considered to be lower maintenance than platinum, since platinum requires more regular polishes to ensure the surface remains smooth and shiny.

For any gold ring, a regular soak in some warm water and a drop of mild dish soap, followed by a soft-bristled toothbrush, is the best way to ensure it remains shiny. This is a gentle enough cleaning routine for any gold jewelry – including a diamond engagement ring.

You should also ask your local jeweler to check the prongs every once in a while – at least once a year, or more frequently if time allows.

Can Gold be Replated?

White gold needs to be replated, unlike yellow or rose gold, platinum, or palladium.

For white gold, the ring will need to be re-plated once every couple of years. If you’re starting to notice a warmer hue peeking through, then this is a sign that the rhodium plating is starting to wear away, and needs to be replaced.

The process tends to cost between $50 and $100, and the process is very quick – and safe for your jewelry. 

Rose gold is not plated with any additional elements, so requires less upkeep. It develops a patina over time, which can be removed by a jeweler, although most wearers feel a sentimental fondness for this patina, as it is a pretty attractive sign of age. It takes many years to develop, and presents itself as a richer, darker shade of pink.

Our Summary: Is Gold the Right Choice for Your Bridal Jewelry?

Thousands of years of human history can’t be wrong on this fact: gold is a deeply meaningful, beautiful, and durable option for any couple making the ultimate commitment to one another.

If you’ve read this far, chances are that you’re pretty serious about popping the question with gold. It’s one of the few metals considered special enough to hold a diamond, and always a strong choice, whether your bride favors neutral white and silver, warm yellow, or romantic pink.

Provided you pick a winning diamond – and, of course, a talented jeweler – we’re pretty sure you couldn’t possibly falter with gold.