A Glossary of Engagement Ring and Wedding Band Metals

Make an educated decision about your rings with the help of this handy guide.

wedding bands with terra cotta stone named pieces
Photo: Branco Prata

There are tons of engagement ring and wedding band metals to choose from, but it's important to select the right one for you. Not only do you want to ensure that you love the look of it on your finger, but you'll also want to know that your ring will last a lifetime. Depending on the wear and tear that you'll put your ring through, some metals will be a better fit for you than others. With so many options out there, where do you even begin? We pulled together a glossary of engagement ring metals (and a few alternative materials) to help simplify the decision.


While rare and often pricey, platinum is one of the most popular metals for engagement rings and wedding bands. It's the strongest precious metal and will last forever, making it a romantic symbol of your love and union. Plus, it's hypoallergenic, which is great news for those with sensitivities to certain types of jewelry. Perhaps best of all, it's natural white color will last forever, making it a very low-maintenance choice.


Often compared to platinum, palladium is a rare metal with the highest level of purity. It's known for strength and resistance to corrosion and scratches, but is also a lightweight choice that can be polished when necessary. It's naturally white in color, and since the palladium alloy is 95% pure, you won't have to worry about rashes on your finger. The best part? Palladium bands are often less than half the cost of platinum bands due to their density.


Gold is less expensive than platinum, but still highly desired because of its distinct heritage and resistance to rust and tarnishing. Available in shades of yellow, white, and rose, gold is easy to repair and polish throughout the years. The hue your ring is depends on the type of metal alloys mixed with the gold and the percentage of each metal alloy present. The price depends mostly on the purity of the gold used, otherwise known as karat weight. Generally speaking, the higher the karat weight, the more expensive the gold is.


Vermeil strikes a great balance between affordability and value. Technically, vermeil is sterling silver plated with a thick layer of gold, which makes it more durable. It may be plated with anything from 10 karat gold (about 42% gold) up to 18 karats (75% gold). To the naked eye, vermeil looks just like gold, and with good care it will last for decades.


Pure silver is soft and malleable, making it susceptible to damage, so it's usually combined with sterling silver to increase its durability. The cost associated with silver usually has to do with the labor involved in making the item and the intricacy of the design, but it stands to be one of the most inexpensive precious metals you can find. Fine quality silver will last forever with proper care. Silver can get scratched and may tarnish, so you'll want to have it professionally cleaned from time to time.


Titanium is quickly becoming a popular choice for wedding bands, especially among men, because of its strength. Since it's non-toxic, it's a great option for anyone who's sensitive to wearing certain types of jewelry. Plus, for those with an active lifestyle, you'll be glad to hear that sea water and chlorine won't have an effect on this metal, so you can wear your ring at all times.


Zirconium is another great option for those with allergies or sensitive skin, and the material is known for its durability and resistance to corrosion. When it's treated with heat, it forms a black scratch-resistant coating known as black zirconium, which is an extremely popular choice for wedding bands right now. You can choose to have it polished for maximum shine or select a matte finish.


Tungsten is probably the most popular alternative metal ring option, mostly because of its scratch resistant properties and affordability when compared to other metals. It maintains its luster longer than any other type of metal, but you'll want to be careful to avoid harsh chemicals or chlorine if you want to prolong the polish. It's also hypoallergenic and is available in a few different colors (white, black, and classic gray).


Stainless steel is slightly whiter in color when compared to titanium or zirconium, but it won't look as white as platinum or silver. It's a budget-friendly choice that doesn't sacrifice on strength and durability. While it may show signs of wear and tear over the years, you can use a simple stainless steel polish (and even some brands of toothpaste, with the blessing of a jeweler!) to get rid of marks. A bonus? A typical stainless steel ring contains 60% recycled product, making it more earth-friendly than other materials.


Silicone rings are becoming more and more popular (among both men and women!) because of how comfortable, durable, and affordable they are. Some companies even make silicone rings that mimic the look of traditional metals, so most people won't even realize you're wearing a rubberized wedding band. For anyone who's extremely active or works with their hands daily, a silicone band is a great alternative to a classic metal.

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