Many couples seem to spend half of their time before the wedding talking about, looking at, shopping for and purchasing the bride’s engagement ring and wedding band. In most cases, it’s really the bride doing most of that “work”, with the groom trying to look somewhat interested in the process.
The man’s wedding ring is a very different story; the couple seldom spends time searching for unique men’s wedding bands. At best, they choose a companion band which matches the woman’s rings. At worst, they make a last-minute selection with the key qualification being “Yeah, that one looks pretty good”.
Here’s why that approach doesn’t make sense: a man’s wedding band often gets more attention than his wife’s engagement and wedding rings – and not just from ladies doing a status check on his left hand. The majority of married men regularly wear little or no jewelry other than their wedding ring, so an unusual wedding band really stands out. In fact, it can say as much about a man as his clothing or the way he wears his hair.
If you’re ready to take a step beyond a ring which is simply a twin to the bride’s ring, and would like to make more of a statement than you would with a simple gold band, we have some suggestions for selecting an attractive and unique men’s wedding band. We’ll get to them right after we first answer the question: “When did men start wearing wedding rings, anyway?”.
The History Of Wedding Bands For Men
The concept of a bride and groom exchanging wedding rings dates back about 5,000 years, when men and women in ancient Egypt would exchange rings made from hemp or other natural materials to show their never-ending love for each other. The wedding ring, which eventually was fashioned from metal during Roman times, continued to be a tradition throughout history with rings becoming more ornate over the years, particularly in Europe. However, rings were ordinarily just worn by the woman; in fact, many cultures considered the wedding ring to be nothing more than a symbol of a monetary exchange, with the ring serving as “payment” in return for the bride. Many cultural historians believe the wedding ring often signified that a woman was “owned” by her husband, while men, believed to be the dominant sex, had no reason to wear a ring to prove dedication or “ownership”.
The first widespread wearing of men’s wedding bands came during World War II, as many soldiers serving far from home chose to wear rings to remind them of the wives they left behind and hoped to see again. After the Korean War the custom of men’s wedding bands became more common among civilians, and is almost universal today.
What To Consider: Colors
A plain gold or silver wedding ring is – to put it plainly – plain. One way to spice things up and easily make men’s wedding bands unique is to choose them in an unusual color.
An obvious color choice for unique male wedding bands is black. The most common metals used to make men’s rings look contemporary and stylish are blackened cobalt and tungsten carbide.
- Cobalt is a terrific choice for a wedding band, because it is very much like white gold: light, strong and hypoallergenic (as long as there is no nickel or tungsten in the alloy), with the added benefits of being more scratch-resistant and less expensive than gold or platinum. The major drawback is that cobalt rings are more difficult to resize than gold. One important consideration is how the black color is achieved; make sure that the cobalt alloy has been completely blackened and is not simply covered with some type of black plate which will wear away quickly or chip easily.
- Tungsten carbide is becoming used more and more often for wedding bands because it’s stronger and more durable than silver, gold or platinum. Cheap tungsten wedding bands are known for being brittle, but that’s not an issue if you choose a ring made from high-quality material. Like cobalt rings, they are quite scratch-resistant; however, they’re not easy to work with and can’t be resized. Also, as with cobalt bands, stay away from ones which only are black because they have been covered with a colored plating material.
One other colored, unique men’s wedding band is fashioned from rose gold. Needless to say, this color is often chosen to match a rose gold ring worn by the bride, but there are a number of masculine styles on the market to choose from. Most of them are two-toned rings with a smaller band of rose gold inside white gold (or black tungsten or cobalt), or a dominant white gold band with a rose gold beveled edge. They are probably not everyone’s idea of a man’s ring, but there are some guys who can pull off the look.
While on the subject of two-toned rings, mixing metals like white gold and yellow gold is a way that many leading jewelers create unique wedding bands for men. One of the two metals can be used as an inlay for a layered look, or in patterns or other designs which lend themselves to a more masculine appearance.
Finally, there is at least one company which offers titanium wedding bands in nearly any shade of brown, blue, yellow, orange, violet or green, thanks to titanium’s ability to take on different shades when exposed to certain levels of heat or electricity. If any of those colors feels particularly manly to you (we’re thinking brown or blue here), you’d certainly have a unique men’s wedding band.
What To Consider: Variations
If you don’t want to go the “color route”, there’s an almost infinite number of ways you can customize the usual metals used for rings to create a unique wedding band.
One approach worth considering is varying the texture of a traditional ring. Perhaps the most masculine looks we’ve seen are in rings either with forged finishes, or actually forged by hand. These bands have a rough and rugged look, definitely manly and usually modern. It’s common to find some of the most-attractive contemporary patterns in either forged tungsten carbide or cobalt; forged gold rings have a more traditional look. As you would expect, hand-forged wedding bands can cost as much as ten times more than ones with forged finishes. Another great choice for men’s unique wedding bands is a hammered texture, with the rough appearance lending a masculine look to the ring. A sandpaper, brushed or matte texture is more subtle, but still adds a manly appearance to an otherwise-smooth band with a mirror finish.
One other option for men is a pipe cut band, which has no rounded edges and looks almost as if it had been cut from a long length of pipe. Its somewhat-rough appearance is a wonderful contrast to the more feminine styles of rounded wedding bands.
If you haven’t browsed online or at a jewelry store recently, you would probably be amazed at the number of changes you can make to an “ordinary” ring, to turn it into a unique men’s wedding band which will stand out in a crowd. Here are just a few of the possibilities:
- Vertical panels evenly spaced around the ring, in either the same or different shades. Small gemstones can also be included to highlight one or more of the panels.
- A horizontal “stripe” running around the ring, which can be an inlay of the same or a different metal, in the same color or a contrasting one.
- A “coin edge”, with a series of small grooves along the top and bottom of the band similar to the grooving on a coin.
- Hand etching or laser engraving in your choice of pattern, text or shapes; this usually looks best on a textured ring. One exceptional example we’ve seen is a Celtic knot pattern etched in a mix of colors.
- Additional cuts made into the ring itself to interrupt the flow of a normal rounded band; one spectacular modern men’s wedding band we have seen features alternating thin, evenly-spaced triangles cut into the top and bottom of the ring.
A few minutes of browsing online will show you an entirely new range of variations you’ve probably never considered when thinking about unique masculine wedding bands.
What To Consider: Stones
It’s somewhat unusual for guys to have gemstones in their wedding rings. So, it stands to reason that appropriate use of stones can create some pretty unique men’s wedding bands.
The best use of gems in a ring, at least for most men, would be understated rather than gaudy; the stones call attention to the ring by attracting the eye, but aren’t featured to the point where the wedding band would look like a piece of woman’s jewelry. Small diamonds are perfectly suited for this purpose, because their reflective properties will catch the eye quickly without being the centerpieces of the band. There’s no limit to the imaginative types of men’s rings available with stones; there’s everything from pave styles with dozens of tiny diamonds, to subtle placement of small stones around the band, to panel rings with diamonds in the center of each panel. Of course, for men who like to make a definitive fashion statement many more possibilities are available, such as larger stones set in a channel around the ring to form a crown or eternity band. Some jewelers even offer “novelty” wedding bands that you certainly wouldn’t see anyone else wearing – even in a large crowd – such as Gemvara’s “Snake Eyes” ring which features two diamonds set with one above the other, to look just like a pair of dice showing “ones”.
There’s no rule, of course, that men have to use diamonds if they want stones in their wedding band. Most major jewelry retailers can use just about any stone to make their men’s wedding bands unique, including common choices like emeralds, rubies and sapphires, and more unusual choices such as smoky quartz or black onyx. It isn’t difficult to find an online retailer or jeweler who will be happy to mix and match your selection of diamonds and other precious or semi-precious stones to create a masterpiece all your own.
What To Consider: Other Choices
Men are at a distinct disadvantage when it comes to one type of wedding band: vintage or antique rings. That’s because, as mentioned earlier, the custom of men wearing a wedding band is only about sixty years old. Unless you can find bands which have been handed down from people’s grandfathers, it’s unlikely you’ll find truly vintage men’s unique wedding rings – and if you happen to find one, it probably won’t be particularly unusual.
However, there are some antique-style men’s bands carried by retailers; some of those you can find are scroll rings which feature small engravings at the top and bottom of the band or more ornate ones around the center, art deco-style rings with flowers and scrolls crafted into platinum or white gold, or even exquisitely-detailed Victorian-style wedding bands (for men!) if you really want to attract attention.
That is probably too much for most males, though; more to their liking could be the types of custom-designed wedding bands that high-level jewelry artists can create. Several online offerings which attracted our attention were American Wedding Bands’ titanium ring with an inset sculpted to look like army camouflage, and an amazingly-modern and masculine band featuring swirling layers of stainless steel and black oxide coating from Andrew Nyce Designs. Finally, for the nerds out there, Tungsten Affinity’s Lord of the Rings tungsten wedding band is designed to be a replica of Tolkien’s One Ring complete with the full elvish inscription. Maybe that one isn’t overly masculine, but it’s certainly unusual.
A man will have his wedding band for (theoretically, at least) his entire life. In most cases, it attracts no more attention than would a drugstore watch or a silver-plated cross pendant. For a piece of jewelry so important and so much a part of a man’s life, there’s no reason he shouldn’t at least explore the huge selection of unique men’s wedding bands on the market – if not to make a statement for other to see, at least for his own personal enjoyment.