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The ‘alloyed’ truth: Using the right mix for the job

Not set in stone

A white gold setting for a white diamond may seem like a natural fit, but sometimes that's not entirely the case.
A white gold setting for a white diamond may seem like a natural fit, but sometimes that’s not entirely the case.

Custom work is usually dictated by a client’s personal preference for metal colour and budget. I find younger clients may have only ever worn silver jewellery, more due to their financial situation than preference. When it comes time for a more valuable piece of jewellery, such as an engagement or wedding ring, they may just assume white gold or platinum is their best choice. This decision can also be influenced by current jewellery trends and mass advertising. However, I’ve found it can be useful to show them alternatives. Some skin tones and complexions are complemented by yellow metal rather than white, not to mention the fact some gemstones look better in one than the other.

White diamonds usually present better in white metal, although that’s not always the case, as you can see in the photo to the left. I recently made this 18-karat yellow gold organic engagement ring with a tree branch and birch leaf design holding a large oval diamond. My initial inclination was to set the diamond (it was an E colour) in a white gold bezel, but the client really wanted an all-yellow gold ring. Although I had my doubts, I later had to agree that once the diamond was set in a yellow gold bezel, it was a much more attractive piece as a whole.

I encourage my fellow designers to explore the spectrum of coloured metals. Use them to complement coloured gemstones, contrast with each other, and add individuality to your creations. That said, when making multicoloured gold pieces, be aware the colour of polished metal is subtle. For maximum contrast, a matte or textured surface can be preferable. 

Llyn_StrelauLlyn L. Strelau is the owner of Jewels by Design, a designer-goldsmith studio in Calgary established in 1984. His firm specializes in custom jewellery design for a local and international clientele. Strelau has received numerous design awards, including the American Gem Trade Association’s (AGTA’s) Spectrum Awards and De Beers’ Beyond Tradition—A Celebration of Canadian Craft. His work has also been published in Masters: Gemstones, Major Works by Leading Jewelers. Strelau can be reached via e-mail at

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