What is the best metal for your engagement ring? Of course a primary factor will be your own taste. But many choices exist, so here’s some information to help you choose well.
While gold has been (and still is) the most traditional metal for engagement rings, two other popular choices are platinum and palladium.
Yellow gold, the traditional metal for wedding rings, comes in two standard grades of purity: 14K and 18K. Which is better? Either one is suitable for an engagement ring, but there are subtle, but noticeable, differences in color between the two. Since 18K has more gold, it is more expensive. If it's a question of budget, then 14K is adequate, but if not, then go for the 18K. Yellow gold is the most popular choice, but white gold and rose gold are favored by many.
22K gold engagement rings are possible using special techniques necessary to provide the required strength. I have the experience to use 22K, so let us know if this is something you would like to consider.
This popular alternative to yellow gold comes with some caveats. To make yellow gold become white, nickel is often used and this metal can cause a skin reaction in some people. To avoid that issue, white gold is also made using palladium as the alloy metal (details here). Palladium white gold has a grayish cast similar to platinum. To get a really white gold, rings are sometimes plated with rhodium which wears through in time and has to be redone.
Copper is added to yellow gold to create a warm, romantic, reddish gold. This alloy has no problems in terms of wearability—if you like the color, go for it. My metal supplier, Hoover and Strong, makes three kinds of rose gold that vary in terms of redness, so there is more than one option for this color.
This is the most expensive option for three reasons: It is not alloyed with any other metal, it is more expensive than gold, and it is heavier than gold (almost twice the weight of 14K gold). Does this mean that platinum is “better” than gold? Not necessarily. The main advantage of platinum is its resistance to abrasion; it will not show signs of wear over a lifetime of use. However, it’s relatively soft, so it will show scratches and lose its shine relatively quickly. Also, depending on how it's used, it may show dents and impressions in time. Once the shine is gone, the basic color of platinum is a grayish white. Platinum is noticeably heavier than gold, which may be uncomfortable for some people, depending on the bulk of the ring. On the other hand, some folks like the heft of platinum; it's up to you.
This metal shares many of the same characteristics as platinum but it costs less than half as much, about the same as 18K white gold. In most other respects, platinum is identical to platinum, so it's a good metal to consider for your engagement ring.
Although it has trendy cool looks, titanium is not a good choice for wedding bands in my opinion. It can’t be resized, so if your finger size changes at some later point in your life, you won’t be able to wear it. And if you have developed an emotional connection with your engagement ring, you'll hate to give it up.
My recommendation: Stick with the tried and true, yellow gold in 18K. For white, go with palladium.