Updated: Feb 13
Helping You Both Find Perfect Rings
by Maurice Alexander
Image courtesy of Sabrinna Ringquist on Unsplash
The most romantic day of the year, Valentine’s Day, is approaching and what better way to display your affection towards your lover than by purchasing rings you can both wear throughout the rest of your lives during your many years united in blissful partnership. The fundamentals of rings and the gemstones they display can be overwhelming, so I’ve written these brief explanations on precious metals, stones and gems commonly found in today’s jewellery marketplace so you and your loved one can find the rings that you adore almost as much as each other.
Precious Metal Explained
Before focussing on a ring’s central focus, the glimmering jewel, it is necessary to explain the attributes of the band of metal supporting it. Looking at rings for sale, you’ll notice division concerning their composition metal and karat. The metal will be of silver, gold, or platinum. Silver is the cheapest option, platinum the most expensive, with the gold being the intermediary. I would never purchase any silver jewellery as it will tarnish eventually since silver is very slightly reactive to environmental chemicals, unlike gold and platinum.
With any type of gold jewellery be it yellow, rose or white, it will be formed with a gold alloy; a metal mix strengthening the gold with other metals. This is why gold jewellery is sorted into three categories; 18kt, 14kt, or 9kt. 18 karat gold will have an intensely colourful appearance and command the highest price, with the metal’s hue and cost lessening as you descend karat tiers. However, since 18kt gold can be liable to warping due to it having fewer fortifying metals, I consider 14kt gold rings the better option, especially for a ring that will be worn frequently so it will retain its circular shape. Platinum is the most unreactive and expensive of the three precious metals, but comes only in a single pale silver colour, which some may find constricts choice. So, it’s up to you to determine the ring bands metal taking into consideration your aesthetic taste, affordability, and the expected frequency of the ring’s use.
There are four features by which gems are graded; ‘colour’, ‘clarity’, ‘cut’ and ‘carat’. ‘Colour’ is the hue presented by the gem, with certain colours being specific to certain stones. These gems will each possess a spectrum of colour dependent on the hues shade and intensity. ‘Clarity’ refers to the ability of light to pass through the body of the stone, as natural gems can form with imperfections impeding its transfer, lowering quality. ‘Cut’ concerns the physical shape the jeweller has cut the gemstone into, with some cuts being more suited to specific stones and others coming and going with the waves of fashion. ‘Carat’ (ct) is a specific unit of 200mg used to weigh gems, the term originating from carob seed, the historical unit of measuring precious materials due to the belief each seed carried equal weight. The official carat measurement we use today was proposed by various jeweller’s associations in the late 1800s, with a hight carat value on a gem corresponding with a higher stone mass, translating into a higher price tag.
Never purchase a ring with a false gemstone. Often under titles ‘laboratory’, ‘paste’, and ‘synthetic’, they may appear dazzling in the first few years, but will show considerable wear after years of use, unlike natural stones formed by the heat and pressure of the earth for millions of years gift them with the longevity to preserve a smooth, flawless surface. One of the pleasures of jewellery is that you can pass them on to your children and grandchildren, so be sure that the gemstone in the ring is natural.
Rubies are renowned for possessing a virile scarlet colour, but depending on the interplay of colour and clarity, they can appear from the most prized ‘pigeon blood’ red to a deep luscious pink. They are the second hardest gem in existence, making it a perfect gemstone for use in rings.
Sapphires are composed of the same mineral as rubies, with the only difference being the trace elements painting them different colours. Blue sapphires are an iconic gem, but sapphires come in whole spectrum of colour ranging from pink to orange, to purple, and even black. A pink sapphire is especially popular choice nowadays, perhaps even rivalling blue in the modern marketplace.
Emeralds are synonymous with deep, captivating evergreens. Unlike rubies and sapphires, emerald is formed from a different mineral, beryl. Thus, emeralds are more fragile and prone to a much greater number of imperfections, warranting the creation of its own cut, the emerald cut; a square with its edges removed. When purchasing emeralds, this should be the only cut one should request them in, since this shape removes a great deal of risk of this softer gemstone cracking.
Ranging from soft, pastel lilac to rich, blushing purples, amethyst is a variety of the quartz mineral. Before the discovery of cavernous mines replete with shimmering amethyst crystals which dropped its price, amethyst was a sought-after precious stone during antiquity and appears frequently in classical jewellery.
Citrine is a gemstone growing in popularity. Curiously, it is the result of amethyst being subjected to immense temperatures so that the gentle dawn purples turn to the colours of sunlight. A citrine’s appearance can range from a slight yellow hint to a deep reddish brown termed which is titled a ‘madeira citrine’.
Diamonds are the showgirl of gemstones; inseparable from rings for all occasions and an icon of auspicious living, they are the hardest naturally occurring material, making them the perfect choice for hand jewellery like rings. Treasured above all, this stone deviates from the other gemstones in that its value is dependent on the degree of colourlessness. The clearer and greater absent of hue, the more valuable the diamond. A popular choice to by jewellers is to have ‘clusters’ of small diamonds surrounding a central coloured gemstone and/or have the metal band of the ring ‘iced’ which is when diamonds are set entirely throughout the metal.
Moonstone is a silicate mineral cherished by antiquarian Europe, being an embellishing stone for the altars of lunar deities of ancient Rome and Greece who believed it was the solidified rays of the Moon. This is easily understood considering the appearance of fine moonstone; a semi-translucent stone enwrapped in a sheen of the coldest blue. This cosmological precious stone saw great popularity during the Edwardian era and is undergoing a present-day revival.
Onyx is another precious silicate stone enjoying contemporary popularity; sheer black without imperfection, a material capturing the darkness of midnight. Ancient Rome believed onyx bestowed courage, with the empire’s soldiers marching into battle with pendants of this warrior’s stone tied around their armoured necks. The bold darkness and masculine history of onyx has made it a popular choice for jewellers targeting male clientele, polishing the stone to create an alluring motif where the white light bounces of the black surface.
A very popular choice of ring today is a signet ring. These rings are without a stone which instead have a flat shield crafted from a precious metal bearing an emblematic engraving of the owner’s choice like initials and family crests. These types of rings have been present in society for thousands of years, with their original function being to confirm authenticity of correspondence from powerful aristocratic men. Signet rings still possess this association today, capable of emitting a masculine aura from the wearer to complete the image of the dominant male.