Ask a Jeweler: Shady Platinum, Sizing Up Your Rings, and the Case For Sapphires
1. My engagement and wedding rings were custom made by a local jeweler in platinum, and have the PLAT marking. I noticed (after over a year of wearing them) that my rings were attracted by a magnet, yet my husband’s platinum band isn’t.
I recently took the rings back to my jeweler to be cleaned, and I intended to ask him, but I chickened out. The rings cost us several thousand dollars, and the jeweler gave us a valuation certificate when we bought them. Should I be worried?
Don’t worry, your jeweler is legit! Here’s why:
One hundred percent pure platinum is too soft to be used in jewelry, so to make it durable enough for everyday wear, platinum has to be mixed (or alloyed) with another metal. Same goes for gold and silver, by the way. Most platinum jewelry made in the United States these days is 95 percent platinum and 5 percent some other metal (although it’s not uncommon to see different ratios). In your case, I’m guessing the 5 percent Something Else is cobalt, which would make the whole ring magnetic. Platinum/cobalt alloys are often used for casting detailed pieces (like an engagement ring with prong settings).
Your husband’s ring is likely made with a different platinum alloy, probably iridium, which is not magnetic. Platinum/iridium is more commonly used for fabrication work (like taking a piece of platinum wire and then shaping it into a simple band).
Hopefully that put your mind at ease, but in the future don’t be a chicken about asking your jeweler! The PLAT stamp and the valuation he gave you are guarantees of your purchase. If you are worried you bought something on the pretense of incorrect information, it’s his job to fix the problem ASAP. Any honest jeweler will be happy to oblige.
However, the internet seems to have lots of conflicting advice ranging from “you can’t do it, you’ll destroy the ring” to “you can do it, but only within certain parameters” to “just lose weight, fattie!” (that last one’s not so helpful).
So is it possible to increase the size of my ring? Are there certain questions I need to ask/things I need to look for to be sure a jeweler will do it correctly? Or do I just leave it where it is and hope I never need to remove it in an emergency?
I hear this one a lot. Essentially, the person who told you, “You can do it, but only within certain parameters,” is correct. Also, just to clear things up, channel-setting looks like this:
If that’s not an option for you ring, I’d see about getting the stones re-set in a band that fits you more comfortably. Finger claustrophobia is never fun.
Also, what do I do if my above questions are moot because I really want an opal engagement ring? What if it’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted in my life, but I’ve read way too much about them breaking/chipping/falling-out to spend a significant amount of money on them? Do you possess some sort of magic that would prevent any of those tragedies from taking place? Do you know a jeweler that does?
I feel like Love With a Side of Blood is a Lifetime Original waiting to happen. In all seriousness, though, if you want to get an ethically-sourced engagement ring, you have to go way deeper than just avoiding diamonds. Mining operations that focus on other gemstones and precious metals are often guilty of the same environmental degradation and human rights violations as diamond mines. The best way to avoid supporting these dubious enterprises is to buy estate pieces or pieces from vendors that use only recycled, ethically sourced, or lab-grown materials. Luckily, lots of companies are starting to offer products that fall under these parameters. Brilliant Earth is one of the bigger guys, but lots of small-scale artists are starting to use ethically sourced materials as well. Anywayyy, this is a big topic that I could go on about all day but you asked about…
Sapphires are a great choice for engagement rings because they are very durable and come in all colors of the rainbow.
In researching your question I called up Kaye, Zales, and Jared’s and they all said they could get me a “lab-created” sapphire if I wanted. Not that I would recommend shopping at those places if you can help it—Kay commercials make me throw up in my mouth a little—but it confirmed that synthetics are easily available all over the place. You just have to ask! I’m not sure where you were looking, but even “the purple ones” will be a tiny fraction of the cost of natural sapphires. Color doesn’t make much of a price difference when it comes to synthetic corundum.
Other nice sparkly gems that come in all sorts of colors are tourmalines and garnets. Bonus points for tourmaline: a lot of really nice ones are mined in Maine, so you can buy those to avoid human rights issues.
1. Use the design of your ring to protect the opal. I would recommend a bezel setting (a bezel is a strip of metal that goes all the way around a stone) where the opal doesn’t stick out too far past the metal.
Top photo via eastpole/flickr.