Finishes and Care December 02 2013
Metal finishes are a surface treatment. Satin, matte, and brushed finishes are different names often used to describe the same finish, or variations of a non-shiny finish. Since finishes are a surface treatment, they will change with any wear, and will eventually wear away entirely. But finishes can be re-applied from time to time.
During the course of wearing a wedding band it will acquire scuff marks. This can happen fairly early into wearing a ring, just like a pair of shoes will show scuff marks pretty quickly. Scuff marks (unlike scratches) are superficial – they can be seen but not felt. Scuff marks can be made by hard leather, wood and plastic (such as purses, briefcases, dishes, steering wheels). Scuff marks are a process called “burnishing”. Scuff marks on a matte band will be shiny, whereas scuff marks on a shiny band will be matte. Some people feel that they are not as obvious on a ring with a shiny finish than on a band with a matte finish. Scuff marks can be easily removed by re-finishing the ring.
Scuff marks do not effect the integrity of the ring. So if left, the finish will take on its own patina which is considered to be the normal look of a wedding band. Many people take pride in this as it signifies the passage of time.
Deeper marks on a wedding band (the kind that can be felt) are scratches, dings, and gouges. No metal is impervious to scratches, and wedding bands take a lot of abuse. Any metal can scratch, but how quickly that will happen depends on metal, care and lifestyle. Some rings (like silver) will change immediately, where as gold, platinum, and palladium rings will hold up much better. Industrial metals like stainless steel and titanium will resist scratching for much longer. Textured bands will hide scratches much better than a smooth wide band.
Palladium and platinum will scratch and ding faster than 14k gold, but on palladium and platinum no metal is removed when scratched. So over many years a platinum or palladium band will hold up better than gold. A gold band will become thinner over time because the metal is rubbed away.
When caring for your ring, there are two ways you can go. You can try to keep the ring as pristine as possible, taking care not to scratch it, and having it regularly re-finished. Or, you can wear your ring and consider the scratches and dings as evidence of your years of marriage.
With silver, palladium, platinum, and gold bands, it is important to remember that it is fine jewelry. So if you do not want your ring to bend, scratch or gouge, it should be treated with some care for it to last. Any metal or stone harder than it, can scratch or gouge it. Remove your ring before doing heavy work (like moving furniture or rock climbing), and always store it in a safe spot where you won't lose it. See this blog post about taking your ring off.
Additionally, be aware that chlorine, especially at high temperatures, can discolor gold jewelry. Do not wear gold jewelry while using chlorine bleach or while in a pool or hot tub.
Many commercial white gold rings have been rhodium plated, or "dipped". Plating is just a thin coating of another metal on the surface of the base metal, and like finishes they will wear away over time. If your ring has a rhodium plating, it will need to be re-plated once a year in order to maintain the look. Rhodium plating is a very toxic process and bad for the environment. I do not plate any of my wedding bands for these reasons.
Rings can be re-finished from time to time, which will remove many scratches, gouges, and scuff marks. However, every time it's re-finished it removes a little bit of metal making the ring thinner over time.