Preparing for a wedding can be a busy time with so much to arrange. Perhaps the most important purchase is the wedding rings, as most of the other details, the flowers, the cake the music band etc. are all gone the next day. However the wedding rings remain as an eternal shining reminder of your love and of this special day.
This is an in-depth guide intended to help you choose the right rings for you and your partner and also provide you with the background knowledge to find the right wedding rings for you online.
1) Don’t leave it to the last minute.
With so many things to arrange for the wedding, many couples will leave the wedding rings purchase to the last minute. However this could mean you have insufficient time to order the rings you like best. Some rings can take 4-6 weeks to order, especially if you require bespoke hand-made rings or a shaped ladies ring, but even many standard designs can take 2-4 weeks to order. Also if you ordered a ring and it arrived in the wrong size it may need to get sent back and replaced or sized, which could take more time.
You may also need plenty of time to look around and see what is available and make the right decision, so plan this purchase well in advance of the wedding, ideally at least three months before your special day.
2) Decide on your budget.
Decide on your maximum budget before you buy, but bear in mind the metals you would like as the cost of the rings will depend largely on the choice of metals and whether or not they are diamond set.
In addition the wedding rings are arguably the most important wedding purchase and it is a good idea to be sure to have sufficient budget for the rings you want. It would be unwise to spend most of the budget on the cake and flowers etc. which will be gone the day after the wedding and compromise on your choice of rings, which will be the eternal reminder of this day.
3) Matching wedding bands or individual.
Many couples now like to purchase matching wedding rings, and many varieties are available. However in making this decision, there are several factors to consider. Firstly, do you both like the same style or same colour of metal? Often men and ladies have different tastes in wedding ring styles and choosing matching bands could mean one partner compromising on what they like. This is probably not a good idea as each person should enjoy wearing their wedding ring. For instance many men now like to buy titanium and zirconium wedding rings, which are hard-wearing, matt finished and understated whereas ladies tend to prefer bright shiny metals.
Also the choice of the ladies wedding ring is often made to match with the engagement ring, and may need to be shaped to fit.
As a general rule, I would suggest that if you have different taste in the style of wedding ring you like, you should each choose an individual ring that appeals to you. However if you both fall in love with the same style and it will also match with the engagement ring then why not choose a matching pair.
4) Choose the metal for your wedding ring.
There are many possible precious metals to choose from for your wedding ring, the most popular are 9ct 14ct and 18ct white, yellow or rose gold, platinum and palladium.
The ladies wedding ring will usually be the same metal as the engagement ring as, they are likely to be worn together. The same metal will match best in appearance and should avoid any issues with one ring wearing over time due to differences in hardness of the metals.
When jewellery is made from precious metals, usually alloys are used. An alloy is a metal which is a combination of the precious metal and other metals. If pure gold or silver were used for jewellery, they would be very soft, this hardness would not be ideal for most jewellery purposes. Therefore alloys are used to give different colours and working properties and to keep down the cost of the metal.
Gold is generally available in the UK in 9ct 14ct and 18ct purity standards This carat value refers to the amount of gold which is in the alloy. 24ct gold is pure gold, therefore 9ct is 9/24 and 18ct is 18/24 gold. This can also be expressed in parts/thousand – 9ct is 375 parts/thousand 18ct is 750 parts/thousand of gold. Yellow and rose gold alloys are usually made by adding copper and zinc to the gold, more copper is added for rose gold to produce a deeper reddish colour. White gold is made by adding silver for 9ct or palladium for 18ct.
As white gold is really yellow gold with the addition of white metals, the alloy may be slightly yellowish in colour, therefore white gold is often plated on the surface with rhodium metal (rhodium plating), which is a hard naturally white metal. Unfortunately rhodium platings will wear off every year or two and will require regular re-plating. In the long term this can be expensive and actually over time platinum which is naturally white and does not require re-plating is likely to work out cheaper. However natural white gold can now be purchased (white gold without any plating), these vary in colour, some have a slight yellowish tinge, but there are some which are now fairly white, however they can not be as bright a white as platinum or palladium.
Platinum is the most precious of all metals, it is said to be pure, rare and eternal. The purity refers to the purity of the alloy, generally 950 parts per thousand pure as opposed to 750 parts/thousand for 18ct gold. Because of this high purity platinum is very kind to the skin. No-one is allergic to precious metals (gold, platinum & silver), the metal allergies some people encounter are caused by a skin reaction to the other metals which can be found in the alloys. Platinum is also very rare it is estimated to be around thirty two times as rare as gold, though it is only a little over twice the price of 18ct gold. Finally platinum is called an eternal metal as it is hard wearing and does not lose metal when scratched, unlike silver and gold. This allows it to be re-polished after years of wear to restore it’s appearance.
Palladium is a newer precious metal which is now hallmarked in Britain. It is one of the platinum group of metals and is naturally white in colour. Palladium is also light and fairly hard wearing and has become a very popular choice for wedding rings as it is less expensive than 18ct white gold and will not require re-plating.
Many men nowadays are less fond of the shiny appearance of precious metals, or they may require a harder wearing metal if they work with their hands. This has made industrial metals such as titanium, zirconium and tungsten carbide popular choices for men. Titanium and zirconium are light, non-allergenic and extremely hard-wearing. Zirconium is black in colour and titanium is generally either a shiny white or a greyish colour, it may also be coated black or various colours can be achieved without coatings. Tungsten Carbide is the hardest metal known to man, it is scratch proof and very heavy.
The best way to find the right metal for you is to try rings on in various metals and see which metals you like the look of and that suit your skin tone and your budget.
5) Choose your ring width
The choice of ring width can be influenced by a number of different factors, such as the size of your hands, personal preference and the cost of the metal.
In general the ladies wedding ring will be about the same width as the engagement ring, which is usually two to three millimeters in width. Often ladies will also wear a third ring on the same finger, the eternity ring. This ring is usually purchased after the first year of marriage or after the birth of the first baby. Therefore, when choosing the wedding ring it may be a good idea to leave enough room on the finger to add an eternity ring later.
The most popular widths for gent’s rings are five to six millimeters. Some men particularly men with large hands may like a wedding ring up to ten millimeters wide. It is not common for men to choose a width of less than four millimeters.
Sometimes a particular width will be required if a large diamond is set in the ring, in order to accommodate the width and depth of the diamond within the band.
Plain bands are also available in various depths or thicknesses, usually described as light, medium and heavyweight. When purchasing a precious metal, particularly with platinum, the choice of width and thickness will have a massive bearing on the price as the cost of the ring is determined by the amount of precious metal.
6) Wedding ring style.
There are a huge variety of wedding ring styles to choose from. The most popular style is still the plain wedding ring, which is classic and never dates. However plain wedding rings now come in many profiles and you may wish to try on different shapes and widths to see what appeals to you. The main shapes are explained below, some of these shapes also come in light, medium or heavy-weight.
Court Shape – Rounded inside and outside (the rounded inside is known as a comfort-fit and makes the ring comfortable to wear, this also makes the ring slightly heavier and deeper than the D Shape).
D Shape – From a side view this ring is shaped like a D, the flat edge goes over the finger and it looks rounded on the outside (similar to the appearance of the court shape when worn). The D Shape is generally less comfortable than a court shape, however it is less expensive as it contains less metal. D Shape rings are also usually less deep and can therefore often fit under the diamond of an engagement ring better.
Flat Edge – This ring has a flat edge on the outside. The inside which goes over the finger may also be flat edged (shape is called flat flat) or comfort fit (shape is called flat court).
Other Plain Band Shapes – There are also other newer plain band shapes such as concave or flat with bevelled edges and D Court (halfway between a D Shape and a Court) etc. The best idea is to try on or look at many different styles and choose what appeals to you. If in doubt it is hard to go wrong with the classic traditional D Shape or Court Shape.
If you would like something more unusual, there are many other alternatives to the classic plain wedding band, including two-tone (bi-colour) rings (usually two-tone rings are white and yellow gold), celtic knotwork rings, russian wedding rings and various designer wedding rings with interesting patterns or textures. It is worth considering, when purchasing a textured ring, that most textures can come off with years of wear and return to shiny, however the finish can usually be restored by a good jeweller.
7) Handmade, Shaped or Bespoke Design Wedding Rings.
When the ladies engagement ring is an unusual shape, or a twist design or if it has a large diamond or unusual shaped diamond, it is often necessary to have a wedding ring specially made to fit with the engagement ring. These shaped wedding rings can be purchased ready made in various designs. However it is often very difficult to find one that will be an exact match for an unusual engagement ring. Many will fit fairly well, but usually some gaps will remain or the bands will not fit together properly. Some off the shelf shaped rings fit well, but are lacking in design features or don’t look good when worn without the engagement ring. For these type of wedding rings bespoke jewellery design can be ideal.
A jewellery designer can consult with you and design a unique wedding band to fit exactly together with your engagement ring, without leaving any gap. Although a one-off hand-made ring will be more expensive, it is a unique piece and many customers will enjoy taking part in the design process. Jewellery designers often have computer design software that will allow them to show you a computer image of how the ring will look before actually making the ring, alternatively some can make a mock ring in silver to show the style before making the real ring.
However bespoke design is not only for shaped wedding rings, if you want a ring made which is unique and individual and designed the way you want it, this is the best option. Bear in mind that this will often cost over double the price of a similar mass produced ring.
8) Diamond set or plain bands.
The plain wedding band is still the most popular style of wedding ring. However many ladies and in recent years more and more men, like to have a diamond or diamonds set in the ring.
Eternity rings and half eternity rings have become very popular choices for ladies wedding rings, particularly if the engagement ring is diamond set on the shoulders. It is worth noting that full eternity rings, where the diamonds are set all the way around the band, cannot be sized later, so a half eternity ring is often a more sensible choice. If the engagement ring has diamonds on the shoulders a half eternity can often be found with the same type and setting of diamonds which go the same distance around the band, which will match beautifully with the engagement ring.
When choosing matching bands it is often popular to have the ladies set with a diamond and the man’s without, however some couples will have both rings diamond set. Many men also like to have a diamond set in their wedding band, even when choosing a titanium ring.
9) Have your fingers measured.
It is very important to have your fingers professionally measured before purchasing wedding rings, particularly if you are going to purchase online.
Many websites offer a sizing strip you can print off cut out and place around the finger. However this method of sizing can be very inaccurate. The finger size can also vary depending on the weather with fingers expanding slightly in hotter weather. A professional jeweller, will take many factors into account when measuring a finger and ordering a ring, such as the current weather, and the width and profile of the ring being ordered. It may be worth having fingers sized on a few occasions to be sure the sizing has been done correctly and the ring will be comfortable in different weather, or with hands hot or cold.
This is one advantage to buying from a jewellers shop instead of online, as the jeweller will measure the fingers as part of the service and take responsibility for the finger sizes he has advised if the rings are ordered. With many websites if the customer determines the finger size and asks for the ring to be specially made, the website cannot take responsibility for wrong sizes being ordered and will not bear the cost of re-sizing.
The shape of our fingers is also a factor as some people have more prominent knuckles. When the knuckle is larger than the finger, the best size is the smallest size which will comfortably fit over the knuckle. Otherwise the ring will look too big and be uncomfortable when it is worn. Some people’s fingers are larger past the knuckle and for this finger shape, it is important that the ring is tight enough that it cannot slip off and be lost.
Some people who have problems with arthritis or have broken their finger in the past, may consider purchasing a type of ring that has a hinge and closes over the finger, so it does not need to go over the knuckle, the hinge is well hidden in these rings and is not noticeable. However this type of ring can be expensive and hard to find.
UK finger sizes are measured by letters of the alphabet and also half sizes (e.g. M1/2) these are usually measured by the leading edge of the ring, this is the extent to which the leading edge of a ring travels up a jewellers sizing stick. However, usually, wide rings will be measured by the centre of the ring and some jewellers use this method for all ring widths. It is therefore worth checking whether a finger measurement is a centre or leading edge measurement.
Different countries use different sizing scales for measuring rings, for example the UK sizes are different to the system used in most of Europe, and the USA uses another scale again. Sizing conversion charts are available on the internet, which show how to convert ring sizes of one country to the same size from another sizing system.
10) Shop around before you buy, then make your purchase.
With so many styles to choose from and places to buy, it’s a good idea to look around for the best designs and lowest prices. The main decision is whether to buy from a jewellers shop or to buy online.
Generally jewellery shops should provide a high level of service, they will be happy to measure your fingers and will usually have knowledgeable employees who can help you decide on the right style and metal to choose and also answer any questions you have.
Online shops can often offer a wider range of styles as they can put the full product ranges of various ring makers on their website without holding all styles widths and sizes in stock. In addition as the costs of running a jewellery business online are much lower than a high street jewellery shop, the prices of the rings tend to be considerably lower.
Many customers now go to jewellers shops to try on some ring styles and have their fingers measured, but then buy online to take advantage of the lower prices on offer.
When you have decided on your choice of metal, style, width and design, accurately measured your finger sizes and shopped around to find the best place to buy, you can make your purchase with the confidence that you have found the right ring for you at the right price. Your wedding ring will be an eternal reminder of this truly special occasion.