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For many people the wedding ring is the first piece of fine jewelry (or even jewelry at all) that they will wear. It’s something you are going to wear every single day, so you want it to be perfect, right? This expectation can make shopping for a wedding ring feel like a very daunting task. Where do you even start? Well, like most things in a relationship, the best place to start is by having a conversation with your partner. As a jeweler who is regularly meeting with couples who are ring shopping I’ve found there are three key things to talk over before you start looking.
1. How important is matching to you?
This is a really important issue to talk over with your partner. It’s good to know where you both stand on this. Some couples want their rings to completely match, others don’t care if they match at all, and still others try and find a common element (like style or metal). This is totally up to you. There is no right or wrong approach.
Having rings that totally match (style, metal, finish, etc.) is a much trickier thing to figure out and requires making a lot more compromises. Keep in mind, if you go this route, it may mean not getting your ideal ring. So if one of you feels strongly that the rings need to match, you’ll want to have a conversation to figure out what you think the most important aspects of your wedding ring will be (for example metal color, texture or no texture, classic or modern, etc.). That way you’ll be prepared and know where you’ll need to make concessions.
In my experience, having a goal of one matching component (like they are the same metal) is an easier method than totally matching. That way each person gets a ring that they love. Also, having a shared element and a different element is so symbolic of two unique people coming together. Sometimes you’ll surprise yourselves. I’ve met with couples that decided to go that direction, but ended up falling in love with matching rings.
2. Do you want a handmade ring or a mass produced one?
With a handmade ring you are usually able to get something that is more customized. Many designers create bespoke rings that are made to order just for you. Some designers are open to tweaking aspects of the design further for something a bit more customized. Select jewelers will work with you to create a one-of-a-kind custom ring. Be aware that generally the more customizing you do, the longer the lead-time and the more expensive the ring becomes.
Going the handmade route is also more sustainable. Small handmade businesses will have a smaller environmental footprint than large manufacturers. You’re also supporting a local economy and helping keep artisan skills alive. Not to mention that a handmade ring is unique. No two handmade rings will be exactly alike, and a handmade ring is imbued with love and attention from the beginning.
The advantages of buying a mass produced ring are that they will typically be less expensive than a handmade one, and since they aren’t custom made, they usually have a shorter lead-time and more lenient return policies.
Another big difference between a handmade ring and a mass produced ring is the difference in the treatment of white gold. Commercially, almost all white gold is rhodium plated. This gives it that bright white almost chrome look. Often (but not always) handmade rings are not rhodium plated. Rhodium plating is just a surface treatment, so it wears off and needs to be taken in to a repair shop to be re-plated (aka “dipped”) every one to two years, which can be an annoying maintenance to keep up with. Rhodium plating also covers up poor craftsmanship and the lovely true color of white gold, which is a warm white. Maybe you can tell, I’m not a fan of rhodium plating. Un-plated white gold is a nice option for someone who wants a soft white colored ring — not a stark white ring. This is also something to keep in mind if you’re trying to match your engagement ring, or you can always just mix metals so that they aren’t matching at all. I love a rose gold wedding band paired with a white gold engagement ring.
3. What’s your wedding ring budget?
Budget is going to effect where you shop, what metals you choose, dimensions of the ring, whether it has stones, and how much customizing you can do. Talk over your ring budget before you go shopping. Since your rings and photos are the most lasting part of a wedding, it makes sense to allocate more money to these things (though I admit, I’m totally biased as a jeweler). If you are on a tight budget for your rings this will play a bigger role in what you ultimately choose. Be ready to shop around longer and make some compromises.
Metals are a big component in price. The higher the karat gold the more expensive it will be. If 18k gold is out of your budget, consider 14k or 10k. If you want a platinum ring but can’t afford it, consider a palladium or white gold one instead. While I don’t typically recommend silver for a wedding ring because it’s such a soft metal (it doesn’t hold up well for long-term everyday wear) it’s a good option if you are tapped out with all of the other wedding expenses. A silver band could be a great short-term ring that you will plan on replacing on an anniversary down the road when you don’t have all the other wedding expenses to worry about.
The dimensions of the ring also play a major role in the price. If you are looking at bands without any stones, then a wide chunky band is going to cost a lot more than a narrow thin band. When something is made with precious metal (gold, platinum, and palladium) adding or subtracting as little as 1/4mm in one direction or another can greatly effect the price. If you are working within a tight budget be ready to compromise on the width or thickness of the ring. Maybe a 5x1.5mm band is your ideal dimensions, but in reality the 5x1.25mm or the 4x1.5mm version may be within your budget.
Adding stones, engravings, and other customizations are going to increase the price of the ring. Setting stones is very labor intensive so that can really drive up the price. As I mentioned earlier, the more customizing you do the more expensive it can be. If you are planning on going the fully custom route, keep in mind your ring may cost up to 2x-3x than a standard offering.
While these are important things to talk about before you go swoon over all those lovely rings, remember to stay flexible and leave yourself open to surprise. You might fall in love with a ring outside your budget, so are there other places you can cut costs? Talk about these things ahead of time, but be open to changes and compromise.
What to Read Next:
- 24 Creative Wedding Ring Dishes to Keep Your Rings Safe
- 30 Modern and Ethical Wedding Engagement Rings for Every Budget
- 6 Tips for Couples Shopping for Ethical Wedding Rings
- Aide-mémoire’s New Engagement Rings Will Bring a Little Wabi Sabi to Your Life
- Handcrafted Wedding Rings by Lolide Are Anything But Ordinary
Aran Galligan is the owner and designer behind Aide-mémoire Jewelry, an all-inclusive, queer woman-owned small business that focuses on handmade, eco-friendly fine jewelry, wedding bands, and engagement rings. Aran has worked with thousands of couples to help them find their perfect ring.