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How to Pick Out Wedding Rings

Updated on January 4, 2013
Wedding Rings could be the most important jewelry items you ever buy.
Wedding Rings could be the most important jewelry items you ever buy. | Source

Wedding Rings

How to pick out wedding rings? Buying jewelry can be tricky. There’s probably no piece of jewelry that people cherish as much as they do their wedding rings. Even if the bands aren’t expensive, they have high sentimental value, as they stand for love, commitment, and loyalty. You can find practically any type of wedding ring that you can imagine, and if you can’t, you can always have one custom made to your specific details. Choosing wedding rings is a very personal experience, and jewelers realize this. That’s why there are so many different types and designs. That can be good and bad, in a way. An indecisive couple might have an extremely difficult time choosing their rings. As a result, it’s a good idea to get an early start with the process. Shopping for wedding rings can be fun and exciting, but it can also be rather grueling. How do you get started? Months before the big day, you can browse jewelry stores, online jewelry stores, catalogs, and magazines in order to get some ideas. After seeing lots of examples, you should be able to begin a process of elimination and have a better idea of exactly what you want. That way, actually buying wedding rings will be more enjoyable and not as much of a chore. For advice on how to pick out wedding rings, read on!

Wedding Bands in yellow gold
Wedding Bands in yellow gold | Source

Yellow Gold, White Gold, or Platinum?

With how to pick out wedding rings, you’ll need to decide which metal or metals you want your band to be comprised of. The three most popular choices are gold, white gold, and platinum. Some rings are a combination of yellow gold and white gold or platinum. These are often referred to as “two-toned” rings. To make an educated decision on your choice of metal, it will help if you know a little about each one.

Yellow gold and white gold are both measured in karats that signify the purity of the gold. For example, an 14k ring contains more pure gold than a 10k ring has. The amount of gold in yellow and white gold rings of the same karat will have the same amount of pure gold. The difference is in the types of other metals used. Pure gold is very soft, so base metals are often added to make the gold stronger and more durable. Yellow gold wedding rings are usually comprised of gold, copper, zinc, and/or silver. White gold rings include yellow gold, zinc, palladium, silver, and/or platinum. Platinum bands include platinum, along with other metals – copper, palladium, cobalt, rhodium, ruthenium, iridium, and/or osmium. So…which metal is best for rings?

Each metal or metal alloy has its advantages and disadvantages, so choices are often made purely on the basis of personal preference. For years, yellow gold was the traditional choice, but now more and more couples are choosing white gold wedding rings. Because of the other metals used to make white gold, the alloy is harder and less prone to getting scratched. On the down side, white gold can lose its luster after a couple of years. The problem is that white gold isn’t actually white – it has a grayish cast. The gray shade is usually overcome by layering the rings in rhodium, a rare metal with a white-silver color. The rhodium coating not only makes the white gold whiter, it also makes it harder and less vulnerable to corrosion. Unfortunately, the rhodium layer eventually wears away, leaving the white gold less than bright. When that happens, the ring will need to be coated again. This usually isn’t very expensive, but it is something to think about.

Yellow gold generally keeps its color and luster well, and you won’t have to worry about having a jeweler re-coat it. Just an occasional polish is usually all that’s needed. On the other hand, yellow gold is fairly soft, so scratches are much more likely.

The metal you choose might also depend largely on your budget. With yellow gold and white gold, the higher the karat rating is, the higher the price will be. Platinum might be totally out of financial reach for some couples. In fact, platinum wedding rings might cost two or three times as much as 14k gold or 14k white gold rings. It has some great advantages, though. Platinum is strong and dense, and even when it gets scratched, the metal isn’t lost. Platinum doesn’t tarnish, either. Also, platinum is often paired with palladium, which is another rare metal. When added to platinum, palladium makes platinum rings lighter and less prone to scratching. One disadvantage of platinum rings is that they can be difficult to re-size.

Wedding Rings for Women
Wedding Rings for Women | Source

Wedding Rings for Women

There are literally thousands of different wedding rings for women. If you’re trying to decide which type of ring will look best on you, you might want to consider the shape of your fingers. Generally speaking, thinner bands look better on thick fingers, while wide bands can be worn by women with slim fingers. The color of the metal can have a visual impact, too. Yellow gold looks better on people who have warm skin tones, while white gold and platinum look better with cool skin tones. The color of the metal can also enhance or detract from the color of the gemstones that might be present on the rings. White gold and platinum will make stones with cool tones look brighter, while yellow gold will accentuate the color of stones with warmer hues.

Speaking of stones, let’s talk about those for a moment. Womens wedding rings can be simple, unadorned bands, or they can include stones. Of course, diamonds are traditional for wedding and engagement rings, but nowadays, people are using all sorts of different gemstones in wedding rings and even in engagement rings. You can find rings with rubies, emeralds, blue sapphires, pink sapphires, or pearls, along with bands that are inlaid with abalone or mother-of-pearl. Even if you don’t want gemstones on the bands, the rings can be “dressed up” in other ways. There can be engraving, filigree, mesh, or designs cut into the metal. Now, back to diamonds. They don’t have to be clear or white. Nowadays, diamonds are readily available in other colors and shades, including blue, pink, red, yellow, green, and black. Perhaps you’ve heard of “chocolate diamonds,” which are brown in color.

Of course, if you have an engagement ring, you’ll probably want your wedding ring to somewhat match. After all, the two are almost always worn together. If your engagement ring is yellow gold, you’ll probably want a yellow gold wedding band. Other than that, the field is wide open, so to speak. If your engagement ring is ornate, you might want an ornate wedding ring, or you might prefer instead a toned down, simpler band. This is purely a matter of personal preference.

Now let’s talk about some common sense. Your lifestyle can have an influence on the wedding ring and engagement ring you choose. If you work with your hands for much of the time, a ring with a high set stone can be problematic. A better choice for you might be a wedding ring with no stones, or a ring with stones that are embedded into the band. In other words, the gemstones don’t “stick up,” so they won’t get in the way when you’re working with your hands.

Do you want the bands to match?
Do you want the bands to match? | Source

Mens Wedding Rings

The number of choices for mens wedding rings is almost as overwhelming as those designed for women. Some grooms don’t care at all about what type of ring they have, but for others, it’s an important decision. For some men, a wedding ring is the only type of jewelry they’ll agree to wear, as they might think of jewelry as too “girlie.” These types usually prefer simple wedding rings with few or no adornments. Even a simple band, however, can have some interest. For example, the edges of the band might be beaded, or the band might display a simple engraving or a geometric design. Of course, men’s wedding rings might also be set with gemstones, but they don’t necessarily have to be diamonds. When gemstone rings are selected by or for men, the stones are usually larger and more masculine in appearance.

Most men aren’t too concerned about a ring’s metal accentuating their natural skin tone, either. In most cases, that’s more important to women, so if the bride and groom are to have matching wedding rings, the woman might have a bigger say in the decision. Of course, the rings don’t have to match. In fact, they don’t even have to be similar. A woman who likes a lot of “bling” might be happiest with “fancy” rings, while her outdoorsy spouse might want a ring done in camouflage.

Wedding Ring Sets
Wedding Ring Sets | Source

Wedding Ring Sets

Wedding ring sets are good options for some people, but the term can be confusing. Wedding ring sets can include a matching engagement ring and wedding band, in which case the sets are often called bridal sets. Sometimes the sets might include three rings – the engagement ring, the bride’s wedding ring, and the groom’s wedding band. With bridal sets, the engagement ring and wedding ring “fit together.” In fact, many brides have the two made into a single ring after she’s married. In the case of a three-ring set, the groom’s ring is usually similar to the bride’s. Wedding ring sets might also include ring wraps, ring guards, or inserts.

Most brides want their engagement ring and wedding ring to match or enhance each other. That’s understandable, but there’s no law saying that the groom’s band has to match the bride’s. A bride might choose an expensive, ornate wedding ring, while the groom might prefer a very different design. A couple should do whatever they think is best in this decision.

For brides who want their engagement ring and wedding ring to match, purchasing a set is a good idea when the engagement ring is unique or unusual. In such a scenario, a unique engagement ring might be hard to match when it comes time to buy wedding rings. Also, it’s sometimes cheaper to buy two or three rings at a time than to purchase them individually.

Celtic Wedding Rings

Celtic wedding rings have become very popular in the last few years. These might be embellished with Celtic symbols like knots, the trinity knot, the lover’s knot, weaves, and even dragons. Some of these designs and motifs date back thousands of years. One of the most popular Celtic wedding rings is the Claddagh, which includes a heart, a crown, and a pair of hands. The designs are symbolic, with the heart standing for love, the crown standing for loyalty, and the hands standing for friendship.

Celtic knots and weaves are symbolic, too. They have no beginning and no end, just as love should be. Take the Celtic lover’s knot, for example. The knot is made of lines that are intertwined and never ending, symbolizing the union of two hearts and souls. There are several different versions of the love knot, however. For example, the spiral love knot is a design that’s more than four thousand years old and symbolizes eternity. The four love knot is made up of two lines and four circles, which symbolize the union of two lovers throughout the seasons of the year. The triple love knot is symbolic of strength, spirit, and unity. The round love knot stands for the sun and the passage of time, along with fire, earth, and water. Another Celtic knot, the square love knot, stands for fidelity.

You can find Celtic wedding bands in several different metals and alloys, with a wide range in prices. Some are fairly simple in design, while others might be more ornate. If you have Celtic bloodlines, or if you’re just interested in the culture of the Celts, you might want to shop for wedding rings of this design.

Do you want your wedding band to have diamonds or other gemstones?
Do you want your wedding band to have diamonds or other gemstones? | Source

Unique Wedding Rings

These days, many couples are opting for unique wedding rings. People are “breaking the rules” when it comes to their choice of rings. Some want to find rings that match their personalities, while others might just want to be different. A unique wedding ring might have an unusual design, or it might have a non-traditional gemstone. It could also be a unique color, like black or pink. Some unique wedding rings might have inlays of abalone, turquoise, wood, or colored carbon fiber. They might also have an unusual texture.

Wedding rings are special, and they should have significant meaning for the new couple. You might want to include a symbol or motif on the band that reflects one of your interests, hobbies, or passions. For example, hunting is huge in my area, and believe it or not, camo wedding rings are popular here, especially for guys. When I first heard of these, I thought they must be pretty outlandish. Once I saw a few, however, I actually thought the camo wedding rings were pretty neat. They’re certainly unusual!

And who says wedding bands have to be made of some sort of metal, anyway? You can find wedding rings made of ceramic or carved agate, amethyst, alabaster, turquoise, jasper, red quartz, rose quartz, aventurine, tiger’s eye, jade, and other semi precious stones and materials. With antique wedding rings, you can even find rings carved from ivory.

Don’t feel as if you have to stick with tradition when choosing your rings. The decision should be completely left up to you and your significant other. Shop together for your rings, and don’t take anyone else with you. Of course, once you narrow down your search to two or three of your favorites, you might ask close friends or family members for their feedback. Don’t allow them to have the final say, however. The two of you are the ones who are going to wearing the rings and looking at them every day, so please yourselves.

My grandmother's wedding band is about 100 years old.
My grandmother's wedding band is about 100 years old. | Source

Vintage Wedding Rings

I love vintage wedding rings, but they can be hard to find, especially if they’re real antique wedding rings. Make sure you know the difference between “vintage style” and vintage jewelry. You also need to understand that “antiqued rings” aren’t the same as antique wedding rings. Vintage style, antiqued, and antique-style rings are made to look old, but they’re not really old.

So…what are vintage wedding rings? Technically, antique rings are at least fifty years old, according to some experts. For others, though, the age is 100 years. I’m fortunate to own four antique wedding rings. I have my father’s band from 1941 and my mom’s ring from the same year. I also have my grandmother’s wedding band from around 1910, and it’s rather unusual. Instead of having a diamond, it has a row of several small rubies. That ring is too small for me, and I’ve thought about having it enlarged, but I really like it just as it is. When I wear it, it adorns my pinky finger. My other grandmother's wedding band is around 100 years old.

If you’re lucky, you’ve had a family wedding ring or engagement ring passed down to you. If not, you can begin a search. Where can you find antique wedding rings? Sometimes you can find ads for private sales in newspapers. You can also attend estate sales and auctions. Check out antique stores, too. Sometimes you can even find vintage wedding rings at some unlikely places, like pawn shops. Don’t turn up your nose at pawn shop jewelry! If you’re careful and do your homework, you can find some wonderful old pieces at great prices.

Online jewelry stores can also be a great place to look. Just make sure you completely understand what you’re buying. Gold jewelry that’s less than a hundred years old or less has to be stamped with the karat purity. If the piece of jewelry was made in the U.S., it should also bear the manufacturer’s trademark. With some antique jewelry, however, this doesn’t always come into play. In the United States, it wasn’t required for jewelry to be stamped until 1906. Rings and other pieces of gold jewelry made before then weren’t required to be stamped, so you might find an old ring that’s 14k or 18k gold that’s not stamped, even though it’s “real.” In that case, a jeweler can test the article to determine the gold content.

Cheap Wedding Rings

Because of limited budgets, many couples have to choose cheap wedding rings. You can find inexpensive wedding bands in several different metals and alloys. If you want the look of yellow gold or white gold without the high price, you might want to consider gold filled, gold plated, or gold-washed jewelry. Just make sure you know the difference in the terminology. Of these three examples, gold-filled jewelry is the best. It has to contain at least 5% of pure gold. The layer of gold has to be thicker here than it does on gold plated or gold washed jewelry. Second best of the examples given is gold-plated jewelry, which has to include a layer of at least 10k gold that’s seven mils thick or thicker. Gold-washed jewelry has to follow the least restrictive guidelines of the three, so it has the least value. You might also want to consider purchasing sterling silver wedding rings, which are much cheaper than gold wedding rings.

You can also find some really cheap wedding rings made of metals other than gold or silver. These include tungsten, tungsten carbide, stainless steel, carbon fiber, or titanium. You can find these rings in different finishes, including polished, hammered, mesh, brushed, and matte. Another option is to stick with real gold but to choose narrow bands.

Many young couples struggle financially, so they simply can’t afford expensive rings. If you’re in that boat, you can always get a more expensive ring later. If you get a ring that’s made of quality gold, you might want to add to it at a later time. My mom did this. When she and Dad got married, they couldn’t afford expensive wedding rings, and Mom’s engagement ring had a very small diamond. Years later, when they were better off, Mom took her rings to a local jeweler to have them re-worked. The small diamond in her engagement ring was matched with three other diamonds, and they surrounded a larger diamond that she purchased. She also chose a new setting – in platinum. I’m now the proud owner of the ring, as it was passed down to me when Mom died. By the way, cheap wedding rings didn’t bother Dad, so he continued to wear his original ring, which is a simple 14k gold band. Inside is engraved with “To J.C. from B.B., 12-27-41.”


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