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metal winners

Here's the good, the bad, and the shiny on major metals.

Platinum

    Pros
  • It's rare and valuable: 10 tons of ore must be mined to produce a single ounce-and then it takes five months to process it.
  • It's dense: The durability makes it a good medium for stone prongs.
  • It's hypoallergenic: It won't irritate the skin.
    Cons
  • It's expensive: For all of the good reasons listed above, platinum is in high demand.
  • It's more malleable than other metals: A platinum surface will nick and scratch more easily (although no metal is lost -- just displaced -- so an occasional buffing will keep it looking great).

Gold

    Pros
  • It's strong: The surface of a gold band can withstand wear and tear.
  • It's less expensive: Gold is more widely available and therefore cheaper than platinum.
  • It can be colorful: When mixed with different alloys, gold takes on a multitude of hues.
    Cons
  • It's not as pure: Gold is always mixed with an alloy to make it stronger (even 18K gold is only 75 percent actual gold).
  • It can irritate skin: If you're sensitive to one of the alloys, your ring can cause an allergic reaction.
how to choose wedding bands

Wedding Rings: 7 Rules for Choosing Your Wedding Bands

Whether you go timeless, trendy, or somewhere in between, make sure your wedding ring choices stand the test of time with our 7 simple rules.

Photo: Trevor Dixon

Start Your Search Early

If you're like most couples, you'll have a basic idea of what you want before you head out to the jewelry stores, but that doesn't mean you won't find five different bands you love once you start shopping. Give yourselves at least two months to browse, research, price, and revisit rings that catch your eye. Allow even more time if you're interested in a custom piece -- extras like engraving can take up to one month. If you're pressed for time, you may need to save the sweet talk for later. Ask if you can bring your wedding rings back for engraving before you buy.

did you know...

More than half of brides choose gold wedding bands; 15% choose platinum.

Source: Jewelry Consumer Opinion Council

Have a Budget

Shop with the assumption that you're going to spend about 3 percent of your total wedding budget on rings. The average price for a gold band is around $150. For a platinum band, the average rises to $600 or $700. Diamonds can add considerably more to the cost.

Consider Form and Function

Basing your ring decision on looks alone is like choosing a groom without having spoken to him first. (Even though he looks like Brad Pitt he might turn out to be a dud.) Your ring should respect your lifestyle: Those who enjoy sports or music should opt for a slimmer ring with rounded edges (appropriately called a "comfort fit"), rather than a wide, bulky band. Those who work with their hands will want a simple, solid metal ring, as stones can come loose and carvings will trap dirt. And those who are highly allergic to certain metal alloys will want to invest in platinum, as its purity renders it hypoallergenic for most people.

Inspect for Quality

Wedding bands should have two marks inside the band: the first is the manufacturer's trademark (which proves that the company stands behind its work), and second is the quality mark (24K or PLAT, for example, which proves that it's what they say it is). If the ring consists of two or more metals, make sure there is a quality mark for each.

Think Style

This is a ring that's going to have to look cool for a long time, so select a style that will look as great with jeans as it will with that Armani suit you're going to own in 20 years. Stick with a basic shape and a clean finish, and avoid unusual stones that will be over next week. Mix metals -- like many ring designers are doing -- if you're someone who wears both gold and silver on a day-to-day basis. Make sure your wedding band is one you'll want to wear 'til...well, you know.

Knot Note: You don't have to marry your ring. If you can't afford your hearts' desire, swing what you can (white gold) with the promise of an upgrade (diamonds) on your third anniversary.

Be Different

Just because you and your fiance are a perfect match doesn't mean your rings need to be. Feel free to pick wedding bands that reflect each of your style sensibilities and tastes. Some aspect should match, which can be as simple as metal or inscriptions.

Size It Right

Never finalize your ring size in the morning (you retain water from the night before), after exercise (fingers swell), during menstruation (swelling, again), or when you're extremely hot or cold. Do your "final fitting" when you are calm and your body temperature is normal.

Rings, clockwise from top: A vintage white gold ring with an emerald cut center stone by Christopher Designs; Stackable white gold rings with diamonds or blue sapphires by Suzanne Felsen; An intricate openwork platinum band of diamonds by Fusaro.

-- Joanna Saltz

See More: Engagement Rings , Wedding Accessories + Wedding Jewelry