Any ring or band can be used to symbolize a couple’s union. “It's the meaning of a wedding ring that's important, and this can be achieved even with the plainest washer,” says Tanya Coulthard, city editor of WEDDINGBELLS, a national magazine owned by Los Angeles-based wedding planning site weddingchannel.com. “Keep in mind that you're going to be wearing this ring every day, so it should reflect your personality and work well with your lifestyle,” says Coulthard.
As with all things nuptials, however, there’s some lingo to learn and decisions to make before shopping for a ring or band. Some designers even distinguish between a ring and a band, says Coulthard. For example, designer Scott Kay, known for sparking the platinum trend, insists a ring has top and a bottom. A band, on the other hand, is the same all the way around. Most shoppers will find what they want even if they use the terms interchangeably.
Historically, couples wore the same ring, typically a simple gold band. Some religious traditions still dictate that couples exchange rings with no breaks or markings. But these days, anything goes. She may choose a simple band, priced at $100, to match an ornate engagement ring. He may opt for a diamond studded ring, which may cost several thousand dollars. Or vice versus.
Many metals to choose from
The most important decision a couple makes is the choice of metals, says John Baird, a company spokesperson for cyber jewelry shop bluenile.com. Standard options these days include yellow gold, white gold and platinum.
Platinum, the most expensive and durable of the three metals, carries the most cache. The rare metal is naturally “white” or silver. The term “white” rather than silver is used to describe the color to avoid any confusion with the metal silver, says Baird. As a matter of fact, 100 percent platinum is too hard to make into jewelry that is has to be mixed with other metals. For guaranteed quality in platinum, look for a ring that is stamped 950 Plat or Plat, which means it’s 95 percent platinum, says Baird.
White gold is a popular choice for couples who want a “white-metal look similar to platinum, but at a slightly lower price point,” says Baird. Gold is not naturally white but when coated with a metal called rhodium looks white or silver in appearance.
Yellow gold and white gold cost about the same. In the long run, white gold may be slightly more costly than yellow gold because the rhodium plating fades with time and needs to be re-plated.
In general, gold doesn’t tarnish, rust or corrode but it’s also highly malleable, says Baird. So although 24k is the purest form of yellow gold, jewelers usually recommend an 18k yellow gold ring alloyed or mixed with silver, copper, nickel or zinc for added strength and durability, he adds.
New trends for all budgetsNewly engaged couples on a tight budget may start out with a white gold ring and then upgrade to platinum on their fifth anniversary, says Carley Roney, co-founder of one-stop wedding shop theknot.com. To help newly engaged couples sift through their options, The Knot posted a wedding ring finder online. Couples can’t purchase their rings from The Knot but can use the cyber guide to isolate styles and designers they like. Currently on display is a collection of 120 wedding bands from 18 designers. The online ring finder is divided into categories by price, metal, gender and style, from vintage to modern.
The newest trend in wedding bands is rings made of mixed metals. “Two–tone rings are happening,” says Pinny Gniwisch, one of four rabbis that run ice.com, a Champlain, N.Y.-based cyber shop. Some rings even combine three metals, such as the tri-color rings for men or women at ice.com, now on sale for $250 or $225, reduced from $500 and $450 respectively. Most customers spend about $250 for a wedding band, says Gniwisch who says his shop targets middle America.
There’s also a proliferation of new metals on the market, especially for men’s rings, says Esther Fortunoff, executive vice president at Fortunoff Fine Jewelry, known for its moderate prices on fine jewelry. Most new metals, such as titanium and tungsten, have an "updated industrial look," says Fortunoff. The new metals are not only lightweight but also durable.
Other wedding ring trends seem to be in the eye of the beholder. One emerging trend is to sandwich the engagement ring between two wedding bands, says Baird. Britney Spears’ double-banded engagement ring started the trend, he explains. Most consumers, however, purchase the wedding bands on separate occasions to celebrate different milestones, says Baird. Some couples purchase one ring for the wedding, and the other on the first anniversary.
Stackable rings at manufacturer/designer christopherdesigns.com have been used to surround engagement rings, says a company representative at Christopher Designs. Suggested retail price for the bands is $1,000-$3,000 each, depending on the gemstone and metal.
The ring of the moment is the channel-set diamond ring, says Roney. “It’s what everybody wants,” says Roney. Channel set just means the diamonds are flush with the top part of the ring rather than protruding as in many engagement rings.
Quirkier ideas include rings that magnetize to each other or rings with secret messages, says Rooney. For example, designer Tammy Kohl created a series of hinged rings. The treasure rings open similar to a traditional locket to reveal a hidden messages and/or gems inside.
In the end, Fortunoff may have the best advice. Trends and celebrities reportedly have an impact for some, she says. But for most of us, personal style should guide our decision. “Once the couple is standing in the store, what somebody else is wearing is not important,” says Fortunoff. “It’s important to remember you do intend to wear this piece of jewelry for a long time,” she adds.