Nikki Stark Jewellery

Buying Wedding Rings - Part Three - Maintenance

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This list should not be considered to be exhaustive when it comes to the issues you might encounter with wedding rings, but is a few things that regularly come up. 

White Gold

Generally in the UK both 9ct and 18ct are sold plated in rhodium which is a bright white, more similar to sterling silver but really cold. Underneath the plating 9ct white is mostly made up from silver and gold, so is a soft warm white. 18ct is generally mixed with palladium so is darker and more steely, like platinum but with a brownish tinge in some lights.

Rhodium plating lasts somewhere between 6 months and 2 years depending on how the piece is treated. If you have a job which involves a lot of hand washing or is quite tough on your hands the rhodium isn’t going to last so long if you don’t take your ring off.

I made a wedding ring a couple of years ago for a chef who wore her white gold diamond engagement ring whilst working and after 6 months it had a lot of deep scratches. One of the difficulties with rhodium is that if you get a deep scratch on your ring (by this I mean around 5 thousands of 1mm) then it will go through the plating, showing the colour below and being much more visible than it would in something that was one colour all the way through.

With white gold I would advise if you are matching another ring try to go for the same carat of gold so that the rings will continue to match when the plate wears through. When you have an expensive wedding to plan it can be tempting to save money by going for 9ct even if your engagement ring is 18ct, but if you want them to stay the same colour this does commit you to plating both every 2 years at least for the rest of your life.

If you aren’t matching a plated ring do consider having the ring without the plate as this will save you from needing to replate in the long run. Particularly with 9ct white I find if people see the colour beautifully polished without the plate then they are perfectly happy with the colour, but when it’s peeking though with the plating wearing off it looks a lot less appealing.

I do get quite a lot of emails from people who have white gold rings and aren’t aware of the plating and don’t understand what is happening when the plate starts to wear off, so I do feel like I spend an awful lot of time explaining about rhodium.

Stone settings:

There is a real trend at the moment for rings covered in tiny stones, these do look incredibly appealing but it’s worth being aware that these can add considerably to the maintenance of your jewellery in the long term.

Slim bands can flex and bend with time, which can cause small stones to come unset, and tiny settings can also wear down with time. This means that these settings need to be checked every few years or the stones can start to disappear. If you do lose a stone it’s very important to have it replaced as soon as possible as it can affect the stability of the other stones around them.

Of course if you are wearing something every single day, even if you replace a stone or two every 5 years or so the cost per wear is probably going to be pretty low, but it’s worth being aware that these pieces are delicate and the more careful you are with them the less likely you are to have lots of maintenance costs.

If you are really keen on something covered in teeny sparkling stones, this is one of the few times when I would say that rhodium plated white gold isn’t a problem, as taking your ring back for replating every couple of years will enable the settings to be checked at the same time. It’s just a high maintenance style of ring.

I have supplied a couple of hammered bands to people who bought jewelled bands and got fed up replacing stones, so if you are certain you want something which doesn’t need to come off when you wash up lots of tiny stones might not be the best option.

Tarnish:

Silver and copper naturally tarnish in contact with air. This means they darken in colour and can get a really beautiful play of colours across the surface.

Any precious metal piece that is worn regularly isn’t going to tarnish as the contact with your skin, along with a bit of hand washing will keep the ring clean.

Sometimes people seem to expect silver to go black eventually regardless of how much it is worn, I think this confusion possibly comes from plated pieces which are going to lose their silver at some point and this can look like tarnish.

The only time I have seen this natural process cause a problem with wedding jewellery is if you have a job that brings you into contact with a lot of strong chemicals, as these can cause the rings to change colour even with daily wear.

If you work in a hospital, or somewhere else where you get a lot of chemicals on your hands then metal with a higher silver or copper content, so sterling silver, 9ct white gold and rose gold may discolour. Generally a clean with a polishing cloth is all that is needed to bring the colour back, but you might find it easier to take your ring off when you are working with chemicals, or to pick something less reactive.

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