There are few precious metals which evoke feelings of any sort, and there’s only one which evokes feelings of warmth, elegance, femininity and romance: rose gold. This alloyed metal has only been in common use since the 19th century, and its popularity had largely faded during the latter stages of the 20th when “modern and slick” ruled the day.
A yearning for a return to more romantic times brought rose gold rings back to the forefront of jewelry design in the 21st century; once again, rose gold engagement rings are big sellers, and antique rose gold wedding rings are much sought-after by brides who want to feel connected to earlier eras. Even rose gold promise rings are popular because of their romantic feel, and men are wearing jewelry featuring the metal as well, with high-end rose gold watches a hot item.
It’s difficult to keep up with all of the jewelry designers who are now incorporating rose gold into their pieces, and it seems certain that even if interest in the metal fades once again, women will be passing their beautiful rose gold rings on to their daughters and granddaughters as valued heirlooms.
Here’s a full look at this gorgeous precious metal – its history, its popularity, and the many ways you can include rose gold in your jewelry collection.
The History of Rose Gold
The use of copper to create a gold alloy with the trademark color of rose gold wasn’t common until Russian craftsmen broke new ground by introducing the metal when they designed jewelry for royalty during the 1800s. Until then, virtually no one viewed rose gold as desirable; even in India, where the Maharajahs favored pink jewels, only 24-carat gold or yellow gold alloys were considered acceptable. But around the start of the 19th century, rose gold become a common metal in the crafting of Russian jewelry and was actually referred to as “Russian gold” during that time.
Appreciation of this “new” colored precious metal spread to Europe, where it became popularly accepted during the mid-to-late Victorian era. The pink hue of rose gold became associated, in many people’s eyes, with the romantic feeling which dominated much of that period. Many of today’s new jewelry designs featuring rose gold were inspired by, or completely based on, pieces from the Victorian period.
The true “coming out” of rose gold was in the late 1920s, in the early years of Art Deco. That’s when Cartier used the metal to design one of their signature pieces of the time, the Trinity Band. This ring featured three bands in a unique design: yellow gold, white gold and rose gold bands were intertwined to form a ring which caught the imagination of the public. A famed French filmmaker of the day, Jean Cocteau, wore two of them at all times which further fed the public demand for Trinity Bands and rose gold in general.
As the Art Deco era continued into the 1930s, tastes briefly shifted away from the metal in favor of monochromatic colors and geometric designs. But the dawn of the “retro” period in the late ’30s saw another increase in the demand for rose gold, primarily with stylized designs and shiny finishes, and mixed with other colored gold or stones. And World War II provided another boon to sellers of rose gold jewelry, because platinum was considered essential for military purposes and the use of platinum was reserved for the war effort. That meant that virtually all high-end rings produced during that time had gold bands. The so-called “retro” style of the period often featured striking and large designs in mixes of yellow, rose and even green gold with lots of oversized precious and semi-precious stones. Hollywood icons were often seen wearing huge yellow and rose gold bracelets, rose gold cocktail rings with enormous jewels, and flower-shaped rose gold brooches.
With the end of the war and changing tastes, rose gold fell out of favor, and that was even more the case in the late years of the 20th century when minimalism and black and white designs became the fashion of the time. It was only around the start of the 21st century that femininity, elegance and color once again dominated the fashion world; add to that a growing popular fondness for all things vintage and antique, and an increasing tendency to view the past through “rose colored glasses”, and the market was ripe for designers like Cartier and Piaget to reintroduce the precious metal to the market. Not only did their pieces receive an enthusiastic reception from consumers, but they sparked a resurgence in the production of rose gold rings and other jewelry at all price levels as well as a reborn interest in antique rose gold engagement and wedding rings. The popularity of those pieces remains high today.
More About Rose Gold
Rose gold is certainly distinctive and beautiful. But where does it come from?
As you probably know, it’s not a natural precious metal. It’s actually a combination of several metals, but it is always considered a form of gold because gold is predominant in the mix, or as it’s known, the alloy. There are different types of rose gold alloys. Crown gold, with just a little copper in the alloy, is 22-carat gold; the more common forms are 18 carat (75% gold, 22% copper, 3% silver) and 14 carat (60% gold, 40% copper). You may also see jewelry made with what’s often called “red gold” which is 75% gold and 25% copper, or “pink gold” which is 75% gold, 20% copper and 5% silver. Crown gold is too soft to be used for rings or most other forms of jewelry, so you’ll almost always see 18- or 14-carat rose gold (or occasional, 10-carat with about 40% gold content) used to make the pieces you buy.
This leads to one of the allures of antique rose gold engagement rings or wedding rings. The copper in the alloy often darkens over time, turning the color of a rose gold ring into more of a dusky red; that natural aging process is what gives antique and vintage rose gold jewelry the appearance of being a true heirloom.
In terms of their ability to resist scratches, rose gold isn’t quite as durable as white gold and is approximately on a par with yellow gold, but any rose gold ring with more gold content (that is, a higher carat level) will wear better than one with less gold in it. You might think that rose gold would be less expensive than yellow gold since there are other metals in a rose gold alloy. That’s usually not the case, however, because copper is a very inexpensive metal; the price of rose, yellow and white gold are comparable because the price of jewelry is based on the amount of gold used and less rose gold is produced.
The unique color of rose gold has found favor for several reasons. Unlike yellow or white gold (or platinum), it looks good against virtually every skin tone. It matches best with neutral tones like beige and cream, but also works well with earthy tones like brown and khaki, muted pinks, blues and greens, and bright colors like turquoise. And it’s understated, so it doesn’t overwhelm any fashion choice or other jewelry pieces. (If you’re looking for a way to truly highlight your rose gold ring, try pairing it with copper jewelry, shoes, bags or belts – it will bring out the beauty of the metal’s color perfectly).
One final note before we move on: it should be obvious, but rose gold is a very bad choice if you’re allergic to copper since there’s quite a bit of that metal in the gold alloy.
Antique Rose Gold Jewelry
With today’s huge interest in rose gold, legitimate antique jewelry made from the precious metal is more in demand than ever. Many women feel that a previous-owned rose gold engagement ring or rose gold wedding ring from the Victorian or Art Deco era gives them a permanent link to a more elegant, ladylike era. Others just adore the look and the value of an antique piece. You can often find amazing rose gold diamond engagement rings (among other treasures) at antique and pawn shops, through Internet vendors, on eBay and even occasionally on sites like Craigslist.
Be careful, though, because without a legitimate appraisal you could easily be purchasing a piece which is simply antique-style: inspired by antique designs, but made recently. One problem you could run into if you purchase based solely on the look of a rose gold ring is that it’s impossible to tell the age of the ring by its appearance. In fact, there are vendors who will take inexpensive rose gold and add a fake patina to it so it looks like an antique. There are others who will sell silver or copper rings plated with a thin layer of rose gold, claiming they’re real; by the time the gold wears off, the seller will be long gone and hard to find. Sticking with trusted retailers is always the best idea, although that’s more difficult when searching for antique rose gold rings because of their relative scarcity.
Types of Rose Gold Jewelry
Let’s start out with the obvious. There are very few pieces of jewelry more elegant and refined than an unadorned rose gold ring, delicately fashioned in a classic Victorian floral style. Understated yet gorgeous, it brings a vision of the refined past to the present day.
However, while that type of vintage keepsake might be the envy of your dinner party guests, it isn’t suitable for a bride who wants to celebrate her betrothal with a stunning rose gold engagement ring or for couples who would like to show their eternal love with rose gold wedding rings. In that case, there are a nearly-unlimited number of options from which you can choose.
Rose gold diamond engagement rings, of course, are the most popular choice. Rose gold provides the vintage look, while a sparking diamond – particularly if surrounded by a halo of pavé diamonds or adorned with side stones which bring out the best in rose gold like turquoise, morganite or amazonite – add a modern feel to the piece. It’s the best of both worlds, and has the advantage of giving the bride “something old and something new” to wear; even if the rose gold band isn’t literally old, it will have the right appearance.
A rose gold wedding ring, naturally, matches perfectly with an engagement ring made from the precious metal. But the pairing of different metals such as white gold and rose gold, first introduced by the original Trinity Band almost a century ago, is still quite popular. Rose gold wedding rings worn with white metal engagement rings probably won’t raise any eyebrows these days, but actually will more likely be seen as stylish fashion statements. That’s in keeping with strong sales for so-called “Russian wedding rings” which are interlocking rose, white and yellow gold bands. The added benefit to choosing rose gold wedding rings is that many men love the classy look of the metal, so convincing the groom to wear a rose gold wedding ring might be easier than you’d imagine. In fact, if he’s style-conscious and can afford it, it might perfectly match his rose gold Rolex, which is one of that watchmaker’s best-sellers.
We’ve already mentioned morganite because there are few semi-precious stones which look more amazing than the gems set in rose gold morganite rings. The pink or peach tones of the stone don’t overpower the delicate appearance of the metal, and they convey utter femininity when worn together. Pinks, lighter blues like aquamarine (a sister beryl to morganite) and blue topaz, and brighter blue/greens like turquoise and green amethyst are perfect matches for rose gold, but rose gold morganite rings are among the cocktail rings most in demand these days.
Rose gold isn’t just for bridal jewelry or cocktail rings. Rose gold promise rings are a popular choice for those who want to be sure that the visible symbol of their promise is sufficiently romantic in appearance, rose gold pendants and brooches (for those who still wear brooches) are a definite throwback to vintage, classic styles, and the metal is also seen used to make earrings, bracelets, and as mentioned earlier, watches.
However, this antique – or antique-looking – delicate precious metal is most often the component which makes rose gold rings so desirable in a very modern age.