Metal choice is purely a matter of personal preference. Some like the soft, elegant shine of platinum or white gold while others like the classic look of yellow or even rose gold. Today, alternative metals including sterling silver, titanium, and stainless steel provide additional options in style, strength and price.
Platinum is generally 95% pure and does not tarnish or lose its rich white luster. Platinum is the heaviest of all the precious metals; weighing more than twice as much as karat gold. Its purity makes it hypoallergenic and therefore ideal for those who are sensitive to the alloys used in gold. Platinum is also known for its strength and pliability — just one gram of platinum can be drawn into a fine wire over a mile long.
Pure 24 karat gold is rarely used in jewelry because it is too soft for frequent wear. Gold is mixed with alloys like copper, silver, nickel, and zinc to give different colors, strength, and durability. Gold's purity is measured in karats, which indicate out of 24 parts how many parts are gold. For example, 18kt gold contains 18/24 gold and 6/24 alloy, while 14kt gold contains 14/24 gold and 10/24 alloy. Gold is traditionally seen in yellow and white colors, but is also available in rose or even green.
Another way to measure the purity of gold jewelry is similar to the percentage based system applied to sterling silver. If the jewelry is stamped with a .750, then it is 75% pure gold, equivalent to 18k. If it is stamped .585 it is 58% pure or 14k gold. 10k gold is stamped .417 and is approximately 41% gold. Not all gold jewelry is marked with these numbers and in most cases just the karat stamp is used.
Sterling silver is usually 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper. Some sterling silver jewelry, as well as sterling silverware and decorative pieces are often stamped .925. Silver is much more plentiful than platinum or gold which is why it is relatively inexpensive. It takes on a much higher polish than any other metal, but it does tarnish so it requires more frequent care and cleaning than other metals.
Titanium is a light, strong, and corrosion-resistant metal. Titanium offers you seven times the strength of platinum at about 1/3 of the weight. It is the hardest natural metal on earth and therefore offers more scratch-resistance than gold or silver. In addition, titanium is also hypoallergenic. When ordering titanium rings, be extra sure about your ring size. The biggest drawback of titanium rings is that they cannot be sized by traditional ring sizing methods.
Stainless steel is a low-cost alternative to traditional metals. It is naturally hypoallergenic and will not rust or tarnish. Stainless steel will not break or bend under normal usage and is stronger than any other alloy.
Cobalt has a similar look to platinum, with great strength and light weight. Because of its temperature stability, cobalt alloys are often used in engine turbines and surgical implants.
Zirconium is utilized in nuclear reactors and explosive wartime applications. It is very resistant to decay and heat. While most commonly mined in South Africa and Australia, zirconium has also been found in meteorites and moon rocks. It is naturally a silver grey color with a darker oxidized layer.