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Compromise between silver and white gold?


#1

I have been asked by a young couple to make their wedding rings, and
they have approved my design. I seldom get asked to do this, though I
like making wedding rings. The past ones I have made have been
fabricated, but this one must be cast.

They originally wanted silver, but are now considering white gold,
for better wear. I have done almost no work with white gold, so I’m
a bit concerned about setting the stone (a sapphire). Also, they may
balk at the cost (not determined yet) and revert to silver-- easier
for me, of course, though less profitable.

So I have two questions.

  1. Is it a lot harder to flush-set in white gold than yellow?
    Anything special I need to do differently?

  2. Is there any compromise between silver and WG? In other words, is
    platinum sterling or some other alloy of silver a better choice than
    traditional sterling? Dan Grandi, at Racecar, says plat doesn’t
    really alloy with silver and just stays in “balls” in the silver
    (his term), so he doesn’t recommend it. What say you all?

Thanks!
Noel


#2

Hi Noel, How about using Paladium? It’s still expensive but I think
more maleable than white gold. I like its’ color.

Jennifer Friedman
ventura, Ca


#3
So I have two questions. 1) Is it a lot harder to flush-set in
white gold than yellow? 

Yes, especially with the nickel white golds. The metal is simply
stiffer and harder, so you too need to push the tools harder. That
increases the difficulty and chances of damaging stones with a slip.

Anything special I need to do differently? 

Just be careful. The process is the same, you will just need to work
harder to get it to work. If you use palladium white golds instead of
nickle white golds, the difference between them and yellow golds is
less, and there are some of the less bright white nickel white golds
that are also softer than the whiter colored ones. In some cases, you
may find it useful to bring out the hammer handpiece and move a bit
of the metal that way. This has it’s problems, since it disturbs the
original shape of the surface, sometimes creating a bit of a dip
around the stone, which if you don’t want it, then means the rest of
the surface has to be taken down to match. But if you’re making the
ring, you can allow for that…

But if you’re worried, how about another traditional setting method?
That’s the 3x5 method where you put your finished ring, before
setting stones, in a 3x5 mailing box and send it to a specialist
stone setter or other jeweler friend who may be more experienced with
such stone setting. No shame in that, by the way. It’s in the
interest of the customer and in the interest of getting the highest
quality end result to use the services of a specialist when what the
ring needs is some operation you’re not properly equipped or
experienced enough to handle

2) Is there any compromise between silver and WG? In other words,
is platinum sterling or some other alloy of silver a better choice
than traditional sterling? Dan Grandi, at Racecar, says plat
doesn't really alloy with silver and just stays in "balls" in the
silver (his term), so he doesn't recommend it. What say you all? 

You might also consider palladium. While it’s not as cheap as it was
even a year ago, it’s light weight sometimes makes it still cheaper
than white gold. Maybe not by all that much, but a little at least.
And while it may not be the easiest to work with, at least you can
say that in general, stone setting in it is pretty easy, since it’s
fairly soft, with durability that’s better than it’s softness might
lead you to worry about. Better at least, than silver, by a fair
margin.

Hope that helps
Peter Rowe


#4
Dan Grandi, at Racecar, says plat doesn't really alloy with silver
and just stays in "balls" in the silver (his term), so he doesn't
recommend it. What say you all? 

It is only true if you melt it conventionally, but to your main
question. Cast silver does not last. Unless you willing to fabricate
it, go with gold. That said, sapphires in white gold looked washed
out, so consider yellow gold instead. Setting should not be a problem,
but appearance might. At the very least, consider prong setting, so
the stone has a chance to breathe some sunlight.

Leonid Surpin
www.studioarete.com


#5

Noel- No problem at all setting in white gold. Some alloys of white
do tend to be a bit hard and springy. Just be sure to talk to your
metal supplier and ask for an alloy that moves easily. Also be sure
that the metal has not been heated and quenched hot after casting.
Wait til it cools before de-vesting.

if you have a good palladium caster, I’d recommend palladium. It’s
easy to set, almost just like platinum. It’s also half the price of
gold and will wear soooo much better than silver. Silver is just
simply not up to the task of long term every day wear. Oh, and never
apologize for your prices. Jewelry is a luxury item. Folks expect to
spend a lot of money.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer
www.timothywgreen.com


#6

Hi Noel,

Personally, I wouldn’t recommend silver for wedding rings; it wears
far too quickly. It’s certainly a lot cheaper than the other precious
metals, but is not really practical for rings that are worn
permanently.

You don’t mention where you are, so I don’t know if 9ct gold is
appropriate. If it is, then the current price per gram here in UK is
approx 14, or about 14 times the price of silver. 14ct is about 20 x
silver, and 18ct about 28 x silver.

These relative prices are more pronounced if you compare the cost
per unit volume. Taking silver as 1, then 18ct white gold is 43, 14ct
is 24.8, and 9ct is 16.

If your customers are keen on white metal, then I would suggest
palladium as a suitable alternative. It is very white (whiter than
white gold), and currently just over 16 x silver price/gm (or 18/unit
volume). Yes, it’s clearly much more expensive than silver, but not
as expensive as white gold. And the difference reduces when you add
the design and making costs. Plus, it will last far longer than
silver. I prefer palladium to white gold; it looks better and is
easier to work.

Here’s a photo of a palladium ring that gives some indication of the
colour.

Regards, Gary Wooding


#7

Hi Noel,

Here are some of my experiences, observations and opinions of white
gold.

Question 1. Flush setting in standard nickel white gold can be a
challenge. Nickel and gold alloys are usually hard and somewhat
brittle. Although there aren’t really any differences in procedure,
there is much less room for error in cutting the seat as you can’t
really move the metal around very much if you take just a hair too
much metal out. Flush setting in palladium white gold on the other
hand is not nearly so difficult and is actually a lot like setting in
yellow gold. The downside to the palladium alloys are their drab,
dirty gray-brown color and the challenges associated with casting.

Question 2. As you already know, there is no such thing as the
"perfect" metal. All have strengths and weaknesses. Any use of any
metal involves compromises, so I’m not really sure what you are
asking. It is very much possible to flush set sapphires in white
gold, I do it all the time. Just be sure to anneal the piece where
the stones will be set before setting. Soldering white gold can be a
challenge as well as it often develops a black, sooty firescale that
works better than yellow ochre at preventing solder from flowing.
Flux, flux and flux some more, heat up gently, flux it again, use a
very slightly reducing flame, and heat your solder pick a little bit
before you get it near the piece. If either one is appreciably colder
than the other, that fluffy black stuff will probably form. Once it’s
there, flux won’t flush it away, you will have to stop and clean it
all off before the solder will flow.

White gold will almost certainly wear much better than sterling, you
can use much thinner cross sections and achieve far more strength,
especially if fabricating. It is also possible to get a much higher
polish with white gold as compared with sterling. The finish will
last a lot longer too. It’s other main advantage is the profitability
you hinted at. Contrary to much of the public discourse these days,
profit is not a dirty word, imho.

There are a lot of different alloys for white gold. None are as
white as silver but some are whiter than others. If rhodium is part
of the equation, color doesn’t matter as much (until it starts
wearing off), but I hate rhodium and don’t use it unless a customer
insists. Stuller’s X-1 is popular, but I don’t have much luck with
it. I get porosity in almost every casting. It is like rock to forge
and cold-work. But it is white, which is about the only thing
positive I can say about it.

W.R. Cobb makes a nickel bearing white gold alloy for 14K and 18K
that is every bit as white as X-1, but is much easier to work with.
They call it “Precise White”, and it’s all I work with anymore. It
can be a challenge to cast with as well, but as long as a high flask
temp is used and the metal isn’t over-heated it works pretty well. I
use the same alloy to cast and fabricate with. The casting alloy
works very well for casting ingots and it rolls, draws and cold-works
remarkably well. I particularly like the warm, very slightly
off-white color of 18K Precise White for Gent’s wedding bands,
especially when a combination of matte and high-polished finishes
are employed. Well cut, E-F color diamonds really pop when set in it,
but don’t draw attention to it’s color as so often happens when
standard nickel or palladium white gold alloys are used.

Palladium white gold is pretty easy to work with (for white gold),
but when cold-worked it work-hardens surprisingly quickly. Stone
setting with it (when annealed) is a lot like setting in yellow gold.
I understand it is possible to cast without ultra-high-tech
equipment, but I don’t have any experience casting it. I either send
it out for casting or far more often, buy 6X6 square wire and
fabricate with it, even when there is a lot of waste (I hate sending
anything out). It lasers OK, better than nickel white gold and a lot
better than silver, but not as easily as 14K yellow gold. It is also
hypoallergenic, which for those few people that are allergic to
nickel bearing alloys can be a huge deal. The one issue I have with
palladium white gold, especially 18K is its icky brownish gray color.
Not white, not warm, just icky. As to it’s long term wear
characteristics, I don’t have enough long-term experience to draw on
to give you a good answer, but my guess is that it will wear much
like yellow gold of the same karat.

Hope you find this helpful.

Dave Phelps


#8

Noel

I recommended palladium white gold for flush setting. The color is
whiter as well. Also white gold should not be quenched it should be
left to air cool. I like working with it and the finish is beautiful
and holds up so much better.

I explain to my clients their wedding band are the one thing they
have for ever it is a symbol of the commitment so they should not
shy away from paying for what they want the rest of the wedding is
gone in one night (cut back on flowers or a few guest) Also you can
see if they have any old gold to recycle or they can ask family
member for there broken jewelry to help towards the rings. I have had
couples when asking the family this have gotten enough scrap gold to
pay for the rings and brides maids gifts as well. And the family feel
like they are part of the wedding. Everyone wins.

Good Luck
Lauren


#9

Silver is just simply not up to the task of long term every day wear.

As I sit here wearing a silver ring I made over 10 years ago, and
never take off - not for gardening, cooking, pool, ocean, nothing - I
have to say I would respectfully disagree with that. I’m sure HOW you
make the ring matters; but I can’t imagine a ring getting much more
wear than mine does! That said this is a bezel setting, not prong…
but I have a gold ring my husband gave me years ago that I have to
periodically redo the prong tips… keep losing little diamonds…

Beth Wicker
Three Cats and a Dog Design Studio
http://www.bethwicker.com


#10

I don’t do much cast work, so my experience is with fabrication.

I like palladium a lot; I usually use H&S’s 950 alloy. It is whiter
than any white gold in that it has less yellow- which is what the
scales measure- but it is a lot more gray than silver (as are the
14k’s).

For fabrication, I’ve also used Stuller’s X-1, and it’s worked OK-
but it’s not the bright white people are looking for; to my eye, it’s
not that much different than 14k palladium white, so in general I
don’t see it as advantageous to work with, since the color’s similar
and it’s a lot of hassle. I may check out the Cobb alloy that a
previous poster recommended.

In wear, my experience is that hardened Argentium rings show about
as much wear after 2-3 months as Pd or 14k do after a year or so.
That’s why I mostly prefer not to make silver wedding rings, unless
it’s for people who are really crazy about silver and know its
qualities; people who choose it on price are less likely to be happy
with that choice when it persists in acting like silver, and not 14k.

I personally would not want to try to flush-set anyting in the
whitest 14k nickel white golds!

I tried some sterling with 3.5% Pt once, from ABI, and there were
serious porosity issues in the mill goods I got. This was several
years ago and may have been improved since. I’m happier with the
3.5% Pd sterling from H&S, but thus far no clients have liked it
better than the Argentium and I can’t really see that it’s superior.

I sure wish there were a middle-priced but still sturdy option
between 14k and sterling! For a couple of years Pd fit the bill…
but it’s gone up enough that it no longer is all that much cheaper
than 14k, and there’s really nothing in the middle that I know of.

Best of luck!
Amanda Fisher


#11
Silver is just simply not up to the task of long term every day
wear. As I sit here wearing a silver ring I made over 10 years ago,
and never take off - not for gardening, cooking, pool, ocean,
nothing - I have to say I would respectfully disagree with that. 

I’ll support that, my friend owns a Viking ring that is not only in
one piece, but is only just yellowing after 10 centuries, it’s pretty
much pure silver.

If pure silver can stand wear, sterling definitely could.

Also if you go to thew British Museum, you can search the collection
database and you will find many examples of silver rings that have
survived well over the centuries.

Regards Charles A.


#12

It seems like when I have to do white gold wedding bands or
platinum, my clients want flush set stones. I always have issues with
flush settings but when I sit down and do it, the stones go in and
stay in. I’ve flush-set tiny diamonds and sapphires in white gold
without any problems, but I’ve very choosy how I work with white
gold. I will only work with the palladium-based white gold, which is
a lot easier to work with and cleans up so much nice than the
nickel-based white gold. It’s not a problem flush-setting tiny
stones in palladium white gold, although I do recommend you have a
slight dome on the ring band for easier setting. Also, try to work
3.5mm or smaller for best flush setting. Once you get up to 4mm and
larger, then you will have a big headache trying to make the
darngone stone stay in.

After 27 years in the business, I occasionally sit back and reflect,
“wow, it’s so great to be able to set all these georgous stones”,
even if it takes a chunk out of you in the process. Today, I did a
perfect rectangular tube bezel setting for a client and it felt
wonderful, since I hadn’t done one in a year. Ring came out perfect,
stone looks fabulous, client was thrilled, all is good with the
world.

Joy


#13
I recommended palladium white gold for flush setting 

Yes, it seems everyone does. My usual caster does not offer it, and
I am also told it is an unfortunate color, as a rule. Using just
palladium seems to solve these issues, if a reliable, recommended
caster will cast that!

Recommendations?

Noel


#14

Beth- A simple ring with a bezel set stone should last a long time.
However after 42 years in the trade, I have seen a number of once
lovely silver rings that had lovingly crafted designs in the metal
that were just completely smeared into undetectable blobs after only
a few years. Silver should last forever, but you have to be careful
to design for the inherent softness and keep the design very simple.
Because we work with our hands, Tim and I wear 24 kt plain bands for
every day wear to protect the very nice rings we made for each other.
Most folks will tell you never to wear a 24 kt band. "It’s too soft."
Well yes, for anything decorated or intricate. We just wear them as
plain “beater bands”. they really look knocked about, but yummy and
rich at the same time. I mad the comment I did because I just don’t
want to have a newbie think it’s ok to spend hours designing a lovely
intricate ring and thinking it will look good in a few years.

Have fun and make lots of jewelry.
Jo Haemer
www.timothywgreen.com


#15
Silver is just simply not up to the task of long term every day
wear. As I sit here wearing a silver ring I made over 10 years
ago, and never take off - not for gardening, cooking, pool, ocean,
nothing - I have to say I would respectfully disagree with that. 

Life styles of the average jewellery wearer have changed drastically
over the last decade or two. Some people are very careful with their
jewellery and other belongings and some are what I call “Wallbangers”.
They crash their jewellery into anything and everything that comes
near them. There is a changing attitude toward how people respect of
appreciate the things they have and this reflects on how they treat
them. I see jewellery made 150 years ago that was in mint condition
until the latest owner destroyed it in less than a month. Most of the
pieces I make are purposefully substantial in form and structure
partly because that is the style I like to make but also to ensure it
last as long as possible.

Thanks
Phil W


#16
Using just palladium seems to solve these issues, if a reliable,
recommended caster will cast that! 

Techform in Portland OR, or AU Enterprises, Berkeley MI both do a
good job.

James Binnion
James Binnion Metal Arts


#17

I’ve been working with Teresa at Techform for a number of years now
for my platinum, palladium and palladium white gold casting and I
have nothing but good things to say about them.


#18

I don’t find 14k palladium white gold to be “an unfortunate color”.

If you put it next to palladium, in good light, and look very
critically- it’s somewhat more creamy- which may or may not be a
negative. Most people can’t tell the difference, in my experience.

It is definitely darker/grayer than most (brittle) 14k nickel white
gold alloys; I don’t know that I’d call that “unfortunate”! It is
what it is.

Personally, I hate the color and “chrome-iness” of rhodium plating,
but that’s always an option if someone finds the natural color of the
metal they want undesirable, and don’t mind buying into regular
re-plating.

I’d encourage you to find a caster that will work with the metal you
want.

Good luck!
Amanda Fisher


#19
As I sit here wearing a silver ring I made over 10 years ago, and
never take off - not for gardening, cooking, pool, ocean, nothing -
I have to say I would respectfully disagree with that. 

Perception is reality, however, anyone on this forum who does
sterling silver jewelry repair knows the limitations of sterling for
long term wear. For any example of something that has lasted a long
time, I can supply hundreds if not thousands of examples of rings I
have repaired over 35 years that have been distorted, bent, prongs
destroyed by normal wear, bezels ground away, cracked shanks, ect.
For those of you that are smitten with any kind of fantasy of the
durability of sterling, I double dare you to set a one carat diamond
in a four prong head (the same size as what would be normally used
for white or yellow gold) for a customer and see how that goes…
Most gold rings that have been run over by an automobile are usually
not too hard to repair, most sterling rings are destroyed.

Richard Hart G.G.
Denver, Co.


#20

I have to agree with Amanda about the palladium white gold.

I have been working palladium white gold (mostly 18kt) for nearly 12
years and it is without doubt one of my favorite metals both
aesthetically as well as its working qualities. In fact it is my
metal of choice for my line inlay work giving the most contrast to
the various colored golds. I tend to tell my clients that it has a
pewter like warmth and here in the NW it is very well received with
my clients. On a satin finished band, flush set colorless diamonds
pop rather than competing with a truer white metal. It’s a different
look for sure, but one that has a specific quality and uniqueness
that gets noticed in a soft spoken manor.

“When one-of-a-kind is important”

Jim Dailing