Made to Last: Wedding Ring Materials
by Michael Kabel
The gold band as a symbol of marriage dates back hundreds of years, and in recent eras has become even more significant and revered. Today many rings are made from white gold, an exciting and relatively new alloy of gold and other precious metals.
Depending on your own personal tastes, your wedding ring might be fashioned from either of these materials. They're both available from most jewelry merchants, and can be designed and arranged in any number of styles.
Remember too that finding the right ring for your own sense of style is a search that you and your fiancé should undertake together, so that the final choice reflects both your aesthetics.
The Traditional Gold Wedding Band
The wedding ring rose to prominence almost nine hundred years ago, when Pope Innocent the Third declared that a band around the finger should symbolize all marriages. In the 15th Century, King Edward VI of England decreed the left hand's third finger should be the official finger of choice for the wedding band. It was believed that the finger included a vein that ran directly to the heart, so placing the wedding symbol around it would ensure fidelity.
At that time, most marriages were arrangements of economics more than affection. Giving a gold wedding band showed wealth and material security, and that the husband placed a true value (equitable to the value of gold) on the worth of his marriage arrangement. Should the marriage fail, the ring became something of value for the bride and her family to take away.
Beginning in the 19th Century, diamonds became a popular ornament for wedding bands, as further demonstration of wealth.
Modern White Gold
Some say it's human nature to improve on everything, even precious metals. White gold, a somewhat new innovation created in the 1920s as a substitute for platinum, is traditional gold blended with any number of "white metals" such as silver or palladium. Platinum white gold is usually only made to order exclusively by custom goldsmiths.
Most white gold roughly falls into two classifications: nickel white gold, which is harder to process and has a colder white color; and palladium white, which is warmer in hue and easier to process. However, due to the price of palladium itself, its white gold alloy is much more expensive. The price of white gold obviously depends in great part on the composition of the sample and the amounts of the ingredients used.
Depending on the mixture used, white gold is sometimes coated with a thin veneer of the silvery element known as rhodium, to help refine its otherwise dull luster. The color of rhodium is unofficially the color of white gold, since most people recognize its hue as that of white gold itself.
About one out of every eight people has an allergic reaction (usually a mild skin rash or irritation) to the nickel commonly used in trace elements within white gold jewelry. In recent years some legislation, particularly in Europe, has acted to curb the use of nickel in jewelry.