Wedding rings have a long and colourful history, from the simple hemp or reed rings of ancient Egypt through to the modern gold and diamonds seen commonly today. These days, they are seen as an important part of the wedding ceremony for most Western cultures.
The History of Wedding Rings
The first evidence we have of the exchange of wedding rings comes from ancient Egypt, around 2000BCE. Simple braided rings of hemp or reed were exchanged, and placed on the left-hand ring finger. This finger was chosen because it was believed that the finger held a vein leading directly to the heart. The ring shape was chosen because a circle was a symbol of eternity, and it signified the everlasting love of the couple.
Later, in Greek and Roman times, wedding rings were more often made of precious metals, and were part of the bride’s dowry as well as a promise of faithfulness. These customs filtered into Christianity through the Roman Empire, and have stayed with us ever since. In modern times, the wedding ring is not confined to religious contexts, but is seen as an integral part of wedding ceremonies in many cultures.
What to Consider When Choosing Wedding Rings
Your wedding rings should last you a lifetime, and should suit your style and your lifestyle. They need to be a good mix of beauty and practicality.
The first thing to consider is what material they should be made out of. Most people choose yellow or white gold, but other popular choices include platinum, silver, rose gold, titanium, tungsten, or even soft and flexible silicone. This choice is often dictated by employment requirements - someone working with their hands a lot might want to avoid the softer precious metals as they are more likely to be worn away or deformed. Therefore, popular choices for tradespeople include tungsten, titanium or silicone, with a precious metal band possibly tucked away for special occasions. On the other hand, office workers don’t have that same concern about damaging the ring, and so precious metals symbolising the preciousness of the relationship bond are often chosen.
If a gold ring is chosen, another consideration is what fineness the gold should be. The most common finenesses available in New Zealand are 9ct and 18ct, although 14ct and 22ct are also available. Some chain jewellers also produce 10ct gold jewellery. Generally, when buying a gold ring, 18ct gold is seen as the best balance of durability and fineness, while 9ct is often chosen on the basis of affordability. If an engagement band is in the mix, it’s a good idea to have the engagement and wedding bands out of the same metal or same fineness of gold, as mixing metals next to each other can result in excessive wear on the softer metal.
Another option to consider is mixed metals within the same band, where multiple tones of gold or gold and platinum are mixed together in artistic ways to create a special band.
Another thing to take into consideration is whether you want any gemstones set in your wedding bands. It is not uncommon for wedders to be set with a few shot-set (or flush-set) diamonds, or even a channel of diamonds or mixed stones, depending on the wearer’s preferences. Options for coloured stones are somewhat limited by the everyday wear of the wedding band - only hard stones like rubies or sapphires are really suitable for wedding bands, unless the wearer is at peace with the idea of having to replace broken stones occasionally.
Matching the Engagement Band
If the wearer of the wedding band also has an engagement ring that they plan to wear on the same finger at the same time, the shape and style of the engagement band should be considered when choosing a wedding ring. Some engagement rings have large centre stones which mean that the wedding band will need shaping around them, and indeed some engagement rings come as part of a ‘bridal set’ that looks incomplete if the wedder is worn without the engagement ring.
Matching Each Other
These days, most couples choose to both wear wedding rings. This opens up a whole new list of questions - do you want them to match? Do you want them to just be similar or co-ordinated? Or do you want to match each one to the individual? Each of these options has its merits. Matching or co-ordinated rings look amazing, and are a beautiful statement of unity. However, if one partner works a trade job and the other an office job, this may not be practical. Depending on budget, one way around this is to have matching ‘dress’ rings for the wedding and special occasions, and more practical ‘everyday’ rings for situations where a beautiful diamond and gold creation is not practical.
As mentioned above, some engagement rings require the wedding band to be shaped around them, or they don’t sit together well. As well as this, though, there are some wedding rings available that are deliberately shaped into slightly different shapes as a stylistic preference.
A wedding ring is usually designed to be worn every day, and therefore should be comfortable to wear. One way to ensure comfort is to make sure that the ring is a comfortable profile to sit on the finger well. A ‘comfort fit’ profile is when the inner surface of the ring that is in contact with the finger is slightly curved, and this can add to the wearability of the ring. The other option for the inner surface of the ring is the plain or flat fit, which is more simple and classic.
A wedding ring can have anything from a gorgeous high polish finish to an understated matte or brushed finish, to a rustic hammered look. This is another matter of preference, although the most popular option is the high polish.
How to Buy a Wedding Ring
Buying a wedding ring is a bit different to buying an engagement ring. Engagement rings are often bought as a surprise for one partner, but wedding rings are usually part of the joint preparation for your big day. It can be a lot of fun as well as a beautiful bonding time to choose the rings you will wear together, but it’s a good idea to have a chat before you go out ring shopping to make sure you’re both on the same page about things like style and price. There’s nothing more awkward than having a disagreement in a jewellery store because you haven’t talked these things through as a couple!
In addition to all the things noted above, there are some other considerations you might want to bear in mind. Do you want something affordable from a chain jeweller, or do you want something more unique from a local manufacturing jeweller? Your local jeweller may not have as much stock on hand, but they can often create the ring of your dreams at a reasonable price. You could look at chain jewellers for ideas, and then go to a manufacturing jeweller with those ideas and work with them to create the perfect ring.
Remember to ask about warranties on the workmanship and size of the ring. Chain jewellers will have a standard policy, while small manufacturing shops will be likely to be more flexible but a good jeweller will always stand behind their work.
Buying wedding rings is an exciting process, and your jeweller should work with you to make it as smooth and enjoyable as possible!