Every couple wants an engagement ring that perfectly reflects the union of their two personalities. But when my now-husband, Bill, decided to propose, he had something more to consider: my sensitive skin doesn’t let me wear metal.
What’s a groom to do? He found a solution both beautiful and possible in a ring made entirely of wood by David Finch. Finch produces handmade rings at Touch Wood, the company he and his wife, Nicola, run from their off-the-grid farm in western Canada.
For our rings, Bill chose a band of blue spruce flanked by kauri wood. The greenish spruce represents evergreens in the mountains we love. The reddish kauri wood, from an ancient tree found in New Zealand, reminds us of the first trip we took together. The rings are lined with a hardwood, birch, for strength, and they’re even engraved (“Amor est vitae essential,” or “Love is the essence of life”).
The result: rings that didn’t cost a fortune (wood rings typically cost less than $1000), couldn’t possibly involve blood diamonds, and represent the way we see ourselves and the kind of business we like to support.
Rings incorporating found materials are more popular than ever, partly because they are as personal as you want them to be. As the Touch Wood website explains, each wood has its own appearance (gnarled juniper, smooth maple, red cherry, deep purple African Blackwood) and meaning (willow, for example, is “a tree of emotion, love, intuition, and poetic inspiration”).
Brad Eaves makes rings of wood and shed antlers, as well as more traditional materials like copper and turquoise, in rural Utah. On his Staghead Designs website, he explains that when he was looking for a wedding band, “All the designs were the same and all the materials were the same. Where did my uniqueness fit in?” Once he started making custom rings, “I found out I wasn't the only one who wanted that uniqueness, that wildness.”
Now, he gathers his materials from surrounding forests to make custom rings and donates part of his profits to humanitarian work in the Dominican Republic.
Marlon Obando Solano, a Nicaragua native, and his wife, Amy, sell custom wood rings from their Naturaleza Organic Jewelry website, on Etsy, and at galleries in Louisville, where they live. Solano’s work mixes wood and metal and often features intricate inlays of symbols ranging from animal prints to Mayan numerology.
A number of artists sell wood rings on Etsy, ranging from a simple and inexpensive zebra-wood band to a rosewood ring with crushed-glass inlay and beyond.
Skaters getting hitched can buy rings made of old maple skateboard decks. “The story of that skateboard continues on through the person who rocks this awesome ring,” SkateBetty owner Sheena Crookes writes on her Etsy page.
There are a few small downsides to wood rings: they’re not quite as durable as all-metal styles (don’t wear them in hot tubs!), and they require occasional maintenance. They’re not adjustable (we went to two jewelry stores to make sure we had the right size numbers).
One other problem, as we discovered firsthand: the more you explore your options, the harder it is to choose. It’s a good problem to have.