JEWELRY White gold and platinum popular for wedding rings
Traditional yellow-gold is no longer the dominate metal for wedding jewelry.
Platinum and white gold have cut deeply into sales of traditional yellow-gold engagement and wedding rings.
"The trend has been on the move for about the last five years," said Joseph Licata, owner of the jewelry shops that bear his name in Toledo and Sylvania, Ohio.
He attributes the surge in popularity to a major advertising push that the platinum industry began six to seven years ago. At that time, he said, yellow gold accounted for probably 80 percent to 90 percent of his ring sales to brides and grooms. Today, it's down to about 60 percent.
"Everyone asks to see the platinum, but not everyone buys it," Licata said.
That's probably because they suffer sticker shock.
Although market prices vary, an ounce of platinum costs generally twice as much as an ounce of gold -- roughly $850 to $900, compared with around $425. Once the platinum is fabricated into a ring, the price can be three to five times more expensive than gold, according to jeweler Jeff Hoffman.
Platinum is more labor-intensive to work with than gold, explained Hoffman, owner of Diamond Designs by Hoffman in Toledo.
He said couples who want the look of platinum without the hefty price tag will go to white gold, which tends to be just a little more expensive than yellow gold: $5 to $10 more on a $200 item, for example.
The average person wouldn't be able to tell the difference with just a glance, Hoffman said. "The biggest difference you would notice is the weight. Platinum is so much heavier. It's more dense," he said.
That also makes it more durable and scratch-resistant than gold.
Years ago, sales of white metals were hampered by a perception that they were cheap-looking, said Greg Barrow, a co-owner of Barrow's Jewelers & amp; Horologists in Toledo.
The popularity of two-tone jewelry about a decade ago helped women make the transition in thinking, he said. Also, younger women -- what he calls "the under-30 club" -- began buying white gold and platinum, and older women took notice.
But the primary force was, and is, the influence of celebrities, he said. "Everything is based on what the stars are doing. They dictate what's going on in the industry."
At Harold Jaffe Jewelers, company president Jeff Jaffe said that "18-carat white gold seems to be the preference for people not opting to do platinum."
Other options that have much smaller pieces of the market include a pink gold, called rose gold, and carbide steel, according to jewelers. David Cameron, owner of Broer-Freeman in Toledo, said he has sold some titanium wedding bands for men.
Cameron noted that thanks to Internet research, today's young brides and grooms are much better informed than in the past.
On the national level, a survey by WeddingChannel.com found that 29 percent of brides choose platinum settings and 48 percent go with white gold. "I would imagine that's because it's the look of platinum but the price of gold," said Rosanna McCollough, WeddingChannel.com editor-in-chief. Yellow gold was the choice of just 15 percent of the brides who responded to the survey, McCollough said.
Other survey results include:
U59 percent of brides "either picked the exact ring that they wanted, or they gave (the groom) ideas of what they wanted, and that's a lot different from years past when they were surprised," McCollough said. The guys are welcoming the idea, she added.
U13 percent of grooms are proposing without a ring. "It's not about the ring. It's about the commitment to the other person that begins with the proposal," McCollough said.
UThe average cost of the engagement ring is just shy of $5,000 ($4,976) and the average size of the diamond is 1.4 carats.
U The most popular diamond shape is round (43 percent), with the princess cut (square) second at 31 percent.
Mix and match
Other trends in engagement and wedding rings, she continued, include designs with a vintage, heirloom-quality look for the bride, and a move away from matching rings for bride and groom. More men are choosing the design and metal they like, and it need not match the bride's, McCollough said.
Expensive colored diamonds -- fancy yellows, for example -- are becoming more popular, especially for second weddings, according to Jaffe, but "it seems like first-timers still want the traditional white diamond."
"Everyone seems to be moving up in size. Larger diamonds seem to be preferred," Jaffe said. The average diamond sale has increased from third- and half-carats to "well in excess of a carat to a carat and a half," he said.