“Oh right, I need a wedding band, too!”
Far too many couples spend all of their jewelry-shopping time – and budget – picking out a beautiful, expensive engagement ring. It’s only afterward that they realize they haven’t given any thought to their wedding bands.
That shouldn’t be the case. Wedding bands symbolize a couple’s (hopefully) eternal love; it’s not right for couples to make them last-minute purchases. There are so many different styles of bands available that any bride and groom can find rings they’ll be proud to wear every day, whether they’re searching for matching wedding bands or unique rings which fit their individual personalities. Even better, they’re almost always much less expensive than engagement rings.
Don’t be one of those couples forced into a last-minute scramble to buy rings that you’ll be “stuck with” for years. Here’s an overview of the different types of wedding bands you’ll cherish forever.
Classic Wedding Rings
Despite the amazing selection of wedding bands on the market, many couples still opt for the classic circular metal band representing a love without beginning or end. This ubiquitous style can be either simple or ornate, but can match almost any engagement ring or jewelry and is never a bad choice.
Classic wedding bands are most often crafted in one of two traditional precious metals: gold or platinum. There are also alternative metals used for wedding rings which are gaining in popularity. They each have advantages and disadvantages, but the decision often is made for you – when you see “the perfect wedding band” and fall in love with it.
Gold Wedding Bands
The most timeless of choices, elegant gold wedding bands can take on very different looks depending on their color. Traditional yellow gold wedding bands have been the de facto standard for generations, and even though they don’t have the “modern” appearance that many people desire in the 21st century, they remain quite popular. By contrast, those looking for a contemporary ring have made white gold wedding bands their number-one choice over the last thirty years. And somewhat surprisingly, rose gold wedding bands, evocative of an earlier era, have made a huge comeback recently thanks to an overall resurgence in the popularity of vintage and antique jewelry and clothing.
Other factors which can play into a decision between white and yellow gold wedding bands include price (their initial cost is usually comparable, but white gold wedding bands are plated with rhodium so they should be replated every few years at a cost of about $50), skin tone (yellow gold complements warm skin colors better while white metals match better with cooler skin tones), and the colors of other jewelry you usually wear. Rose gold wedding bands will also be more flattering to people with warm skin colors, but the decision to go with rose gold is almost always based on its antique look rather than secondary factors. One other choice when buying gold wedding bands is between 14 and 18 carats; 18 carat bands sound more prestigious because they have more gold content, but that makes them more expensive and easily scratched. Most people opt for 14k gold. One other note: when the plating on an 18 carat white gold ring starts to wear off, it will look “more yellow” than a similar 14 carat ring, because of its extra gold content.
Platinum Wedding Bands
Over the last ten or fifteen years, platinum wedding bands have become a very popular alternative to white gold rings. The two look similar when new, but platinum is naturally white and doesn’t have to be rhodium-plated, so the white color of a platinum wedding band will never fade. It’s also a stronger and more durable metal than gold, is 100% hypoallergenic, and develops an attractive patina over the years. Of course, there’s usually a price to be paid for advantages like that – and in this case, there’s literally a price to be paid: platinum wedding bands are substantially more expensive than their white gold counterparts. They’re also much heavier than gold rings (a comfort consideration for some people), and are more prone to scratching.
Titanium Wedding Bands
Those who want a white wedding ring sometimes opt for titanium wedding bands, made from a precious metal which has the same white color as platinum and white gold (and is also hypoallergenic) at a much lower cost. There are added benefits to titanium: it’s the strongest metal you can buy (three times stronger than steel), it can be colored if desired, and it’s extremely lightweight, making it very comfortable to wear. If you’re guessing there are drawbacks to titanium wedding bands, though, you’re right. Because titanium is so hard it cannot be resized, which means you can’t have a titanium wedding band altered if you gain or lose weight. Palladium and tungsten are sometimes offered as alternatives to titanium or platinum wedding bands; tungsten is greyer, heavier, more scratch resistant and more expensive, while palladium is whiter, lighter and affordable, but like titanium cannot be resized.
Silver Wedding Bands
One of the least expensive precious metals, silver is often considered by couples looking at wedding rings. Since you’ve probably owned at least one sterling silver ring in your life, you already know the potential drawbacks, though: the finish is unlikely to last long, and the metal gets dinged and dented easily. There’s a large assortment of silver wedding bands available, but they should primarily be considered as a budget or short-term option.
We’ve spent quite a bit of time discussing metals, but a precious metal wedding band doesn’t have to be plain or ordinary. Different borders, finishes, inlays, engravings or ridges can turn a simple metal band into a one-of-a-kind ring with special, personal meaning.
Gemstone and Diamond Wedding Bands
It’s easy to understand one of the major reasons that classic, precious metal wedding bands are so popular: many women don’t want their wedding ring to “overshadow” their engagement ring. However, others have discovered that a more ornate band featuring diamonds or other gemstones can actually highlight or enhance a showy diamond engagement ring.
As you’d probably expect, the most popular of these rings are diamond wedding bands. There are three common styles used to incorporate diamonds into a wedding ring. One features a row of small pavé or micropavé diamonds running halfway or completely around the band; another has small diamonds set into a decorative and protective channel running around the middle of the band; the third type of diamond wedding band uses shared prongs to set the diamonds around the band for maximum reflection of light. All three approaches create an extra layer of brilliance which accentuates the visual effect of a beautiful diamond engagement ring, particularly if that ring has a pavé band or a pavé halo setting.
These types of diamond wedding bands are similar or identical to the eternity bands and anniversary bands advertised as gifts to be given by a husband to a wife on a special anniversary. Typically, eternity bands have identical diamonds running around the entire ring (symbolizing eternity) while the identical diamonds on anniversary bands run halfway around the band. Since there’s no functional difference between these rings and diamond wedding bands, there’s no reason they can’t be used as wedding bands.
Stunning alternatives to diamond wedding bands are rings featuring other precious or semi-precious stones, either set by themselves or as accents in combination with diamonds. Among the most popular gemstones for these rings are rubies, sapphires, emeralds and amethysts; it’s important to coordinate the stones in the wedding band with those in the engagement ring, but the counterpoint created by the colors in a diamond engagement ring and a gemstone wedding band can be breathtaking.
We have primarily focused on wedding bands for women so far, and we’ll get to men’s wedding bands shortly. But it’s important to recognize that gemstone and diamond wedding rings can also be great choices for male wedding bands too. Keep reading to find out more.
Matching Wedding Bands
The phrase “matching wedding bands” can actually have two different meanings:
- Wedding bands which match the bridge’s engagement ring
- Men’s wedding bands and women’s wedding bands which match each other
The term most commonly refers to the rings worn by the bridge and groom, so we’ll first focus on those choices. We’ll discuss so-called “bridal sets” in a bit.
It wasn’t until the middle of the 20th century that men routinely began wearing wedding rings. The practice started during World War II as soldiers wanted reminders of the wives waiting for them at home. When the war ended, those men continued to wear their wedding bands, and rings for both brides and grooms became a Western tradition.
Wearing matching wedding bands is a romantic way for a couple to show the world their continuing love. It’s easy to find matching rings if the bride and groom have decided on simple, precious metal bands, and many wedding band sets for the bride and groom are easily found. However, fancy or ornate wedding bands “for her” may not be suitable wedding bands “for him”. There are many ways around that problem, though – because matching doesn’t have to mean identical.
First, let’s examine ways to create matching and distinctive metal rings. Inlays, engraved or raised designs with special importance to a couple such as braids, Celtic knots, antique designs or meaningful quotes are easy ways to convey the message “we belong together” to anyone who sees the bride and groom. Milgrain edging on rings is quite popular these days, and it’s a beautiful way to create identical, antique-style his and hers wedding bands.
You can take the same approach to create matching (but not identical) wedding bands. For example, if the milgrain border is more subtle on the man’s ring and more ornate on the woman’s, the rings are obviously a set yet just different enough to highlight the difference between women’s rings and wedding bands for men. Similarly, a men’s wedding band in white gold could have a masculine, hammered finish while the women’s companion white gold band could feature a more feminine smooth or matte finish. White-and-yellow gold matching wedding bands could feature white borders with a yellow center for the bride and the opposite design for the groom. The possibilities are endless.
Most men are not going to want a flashy wedding band with dozens of blinding diamonds. However, there are many men’s diamond wedding bands which can match their bride’s yet appear more masculine. They range from brushed, hammered or patterned rings with small channels set with diamonds similar to those in the bride’s ring, to grey or black rings with one diagonal “stripe” of several diamonds matching the woman’s wedding band – and that’s just touching on the many variations possible. The judicious use of blue or green gemstones like sapphires or emeralds can also be a method of matching the bride’s band without loading the man’s band with sparkling diamonds.
Naturally, men’s diamond wedding bands aren’t for everyone. There are literally thousands of other styles of unique men’s wedding bands available at jewelry stores or online. Today’s biggest trend for men: wedding bands fashioned from blackened cobalt or tungsten carbide; as black rings they definitely have a “manly” look to them and can be customized in many ways, but have the drawback mentioned earlier – they’re difficult or impossible to resize.
Another approach to unique men’s wedding bands involves the actual ring design. Vertical panels on wedding bands for men are an easy way to create a masculine look, as are distinctive edgings, patterns etched onto the band (we’ve even seen wedding bands with etched dice the primary feature of the ring, and others with a camouflage pattern) or contemporary, artistic cuts made into the band itself so that it isn’t a perfect, round circle. A talented designer can create breathtaking male wedding bands which complement or match the more feminine wedding band designed “for her”, or stand on their own as handsome pieces of jewelry.
As promised, it’s time to consider wedding bands for women which match their engagement rings. Brides with a good eye for design, or jewelers with lots of experience, can certainly select a pair of rings which match perfectly and look as if they were created to be worn together. The easier way to ensure that the color, design, gemstones and overall look of a wedding band perfectly matches the engagement ring, though, is through the purchase of a pair of rings designed to do exactly that: bridal sets. The two rings are created to look like one, unified piece of jewelry; bridal sets take the guesswork out of buying a matching wedding band, and are usually less expensive than selecting two rings individually.
Wedding bands are often an afterthought for couples planning a wedding, but there’s no reason for that to be the case. They can – and should – be beautiful, meaningful pieces of jewelry which will be worn for a lifetime. With a little advance planning, they can be one of the most precious reminders of both a special day and a precious relationship.