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Your ring questions answered!

Need help with metal types, styles and the four Cs? It's all here...

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Wedding and engagement ring advice

Q. Why are some metals more expensive than others and which are the most expensive?

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A. All metals have gone up in price, but if you look at the bigger picture, gold hit a high of $800 per oz 25 years ago and today it hovers around $900 per oz. So with 25 years’ of inflation, the increase isn’t actually all that great. Platinum is a special case, as only about half of platinum is used for jewellery (the rest is used in industry for things like catalytic converters).

There are alternatives. There’s palladium – a member of the platinum group which is good for men’s rings – and silver, which is very soft. Or there’s steel or titanium, both base metals. I’d advise you to get the most precious ring in a really precious metal as, forty years from now, you’ll have forgotten the price.

Q. Is it true that platinum scratches and goes dull?

A. Because platinum is naturally white, unlike white gold, it doesn’t need coating or plating. However all rings will show signs of wear, as there is no relationship between cost and invincibility – your £150,000 Ferrari will still have a dent in the bumper if you reverse into a lamp-post! The interesting thing about platinum is that when it is marked, the metal is not eroded, it simply moves, so it can always be re-polished or refinished.

Q. My fiancé works outdoors so his wedding ring needs to be hardwearing. Would titanium be a good choice?

A. Although titanium is very hard, it’s almost impossible to re-finish if it gets scratched. A better alternative would be palladium, a member of the platinum group. This metal is hard and can be re-finished just like gold or platinum with a similar white colour. Titanium can’t be sized at all, so if your h2b’s ring size changes, you’d have to buy another ring.

Remember, however hard a ring may be, it will still show signs of wear over time. Nothing but pure carbon (i.e. diamond) will look new forever! Buy a good quality ring in palladium or gold if you want a ring at a commercial price, or platinum if you can stretch to the cost.

Q. My friend has had her engagement ring for a year and it’s looking a bit dull – what metal would you suggest that won’t lose its shine?

A. Unfortunately, all metals lose their brightness after time. Yellow gold is really easy to polish and your jeweller can do this for you. White gold is actually yellow gold mixed with an alloy such as palladium and then it’s often rhodium-plated to make it very white. This is where the quality of your ring matters. Cast rings won’t normally hold the rhodium plating as long as forged and milled rings which are more expensive.

Q. I’d like to go for something other than diamonds. What other stones are in fashion at the moment?

A. It’s worth remembering that what may be fashionable today could be totally out-of-fashion in five or ten years’ time – and this is a piece of jewellery you want to love for a lifetime. The three main coloured precious stones are Sapphire, Ruby and Emerald. Sapphire and Ruby are hard stones, while Emeralds can be prone to chipping so you do need to be careful with them. Other stones you might want to think about are: Tanzanite (deep blue) Topaz (Yellow, pink and other colours, Tourmaline (Green, red and multi-coloured), Citrine (Brown to yellow).

Q. Are his and hers matching wedding rings popular?

A. In a word – Yes! Matching wedding bands provide a real emotional bond with their symbols of love and commitment. The rings don’t have to be an exact match though, as a lot of manufacturers make matching pairs of rings often with your ring set with diamonds and a little narrower than your h2b’s band. However there’s no hard and fast rule, it’s simply a matter of preference. You might have a platinum engagement ring that would best be worn with a platinum wedding ring; your husband-to-be may prefer yellow gold or simply a wider ring. They can still be the same style and clearly matching.

Q. If my engagement ring is white gold, can I have a platinum wedding ring, or must they be made of the same metal?

A. I strongly recommend that your engagement and wedding ring are made from the same metals. Otherwise, the harder platinum wedding ring will start to wear against your engagement ring. If you really want a platinum wedding ring, consider having the stone from your engagement ring remounted in platinum.

Q. How easy is it to have an inherited ring redesigned to something a bit more to my taste?

A. I’d recommend taking the ring to a competent jeweller with a good reputation. If the ring is an antique or ‘period’ piece, it’s probably best to keep it as an heirloom and simply have your new ring made from scratch. If your inherited ring has a particularly nice or important stone, remodelling it may simply be a case of re-mounting it in a more modern ring.

Q. I’ve heard about palladium as an alternative to platinum. What it is and what are the benefits over other metals?

A. Palladium is one of the five metals of the platinum family and has become more popular recently because of rising platinum and gold prices. The metal is a good white colour and quite hard, but lighter and very much less expensive than platinum is at the moment. Palladium is ideal for your h2b if he doesn’t want too spend too much on a wedding ring but still wants something practical in a precious metal.

Q. How much should my fiancé spend on my engagement ring?

A. A month’s salary used to be the benchmark, but I’d say that he should spend the amount of money that he is comfortable with to buy the ring that you would really love to wear. Of course, there may be some trade-offs – a three carat D-Flawless Emerald-cut solitaire may be a year’s salary to him! Discuss your ring together and visit your jeweller to ask for advice. If you’re comfortable to give your jeweller a budget, ask for recommendations.

Q. Do I need special insurance for my engagement ring?

A. Your household policy would normally cover you for all your personal effects if lost or damaged. However, most policies have a limit for any one item and your engagement ring may exceed this value. Also you would need an ‘all risks’ cover for your ring to make sure you have coverage if it’s stolen abroad, for example. It is always a good idea to have things like jewellery, watches and expensive cameras itemised separately, as well as keeping the receipts and photographs of them.

Your jeweller may offer free insurance for the first year if you buy your ring from them, so look out for this, and always check the small print of your policy carefully. Don’t forget to have the claws checked and have your ring re-valued from time to time as in 20 years’ time the value could be different to the price you pay now.

Many insurance companies and jewellers have an arrangement that the jeweller gives the insurance company a discount in return for sending them a client who has lost a piece of jewellery and wishes to replace it. This arrangement, though in principle is perfectly legitimate, is meant to save your insurance company money, not you. So check your policy conditions to see if you’re required to buy from one of their listed jewellers for a replacement. If you prefer to replace a lost piece through your trusted local jeweller, you may be unhappy with this clause.

Q. Where do I go to get my jewellery valued for insurance purposes?

A. Make sure your jeweller is an official valuer and a member of the NAG (National Association of Goldsmiths). One thing though – don’t ask your jeweller to value your jewellery for insurance purposes in the hope that he will buy it for the valuation cost. A registered valuer will provide you with a thorough valuation on a proper valuation document with a detailed description of each article.

Valuations take time and some pieces of jewellery may require testing to identify stones and the quality of gold that may not be hallmarked. Jewellers who are registered valuers work to a trade recommended scale of charges that normally includes a minimum charge and a sliding scale of percentage of value. You’ll have no problem insuring jewellery that has a bona-fide valuation from a registered valuer to verify authenticity.

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Jonathan Ralston is the director of Meridian Distribution and Marketing Limited (MDM), the company in the UK and Ireland that represents Christian Bauer, renowned manufacturers of very high quality wedding and anniversary rings since 1880. Jonathan has been engaged in the industry for over 37 years and is a fellow of the Gemmological Association and holds a Diamond diploma and Retail Jewellers diploma.