Words by Jen Faull and Emma Langman
Once the wedding cake has been scoffed and the confetti has drifted off on the breeze, your wedding ring will remain as the lasting symbol of one of the most important days of your life. So finding the perfect ring should be near the top of your ‘to do’ list when you’re planning your celebrations.
With so many options out there, finding the dream ring can be a tricky business. While some couples start the search with mere weeks to go, it’s generally worth allowing a little longer for it. “I would recommend you start looking at least six months in advance,” suggests Lorna Reynolds of Colin Campbell & Co (colincampbellgoldsmith.co.uk). “That will allow plenty of time to try on different styles and see what looks good with your engagement ring, and what suits your style and budget.”
Harry Brown of Chisholm Hunter (chisholmhunter.co.uk) agrees: “There are so many designs available and you want to be sure of your choice, so start the search as early as possible.”
If you’re feeling a little overwhelmed, choosing which metal you like best is a good place to start. Platinum and gold (whether yellow, white or rose) are the most common options nowadays. “Fashion trends often dictate the popularity of metals – platinum, for example, is very popular just now,” reveals Harry Brown. “We’re also seeing a return to warmer hues of yellow gold and rose gold, which can be a flattering choice for fairer skin tones.”
While the aesthetic is important, durability is also a significant consideration. “White gold is still very popular, but the maintenance and upkeep of the rhodium plating is something that most couples would prefer to avoid,” says Lorna Reynolds. Platinum is the most precious of metals and is very durable. It is also naturally hypoallergenic so it’s ideal for those with sensitive skin. Palladium, a rare and lustrous silvery-white hard metal that has a lot of similarities with platinum, is a good choice for the chunkier-looking bands that many men prefer. “Palladium has become very popular with men, although we have made a palladium solitaire for one bride,” says Lorna Reynolds.
Once you’ve decided on the metal, the next step is deciding whether to include gemstones in your ring – and if so, which ones and in what style of setting.
First a bit of background: with names like ‘bezel’, ‘channel’, ‘gypsy’ and ‘claw’, settings can be difficult to get to grips with. A channel setting has two long tracks of metal that hold a row of gemstones side by side. A claw setting, more commonly seen in engagement rings, usually has four or six metal claws that raise the stone above the band to allow in the most light – this helps to make the stone sparkle. A gypsy setting, meanwhile, has stones ‘sunk’ into holes so they are flush with the band’s surface. The earliest method of setting gemstones into jewellery was using bezel – a technique where a gemstone is surrounded by a thin, flat piece of metal.
Seek advice from your jeweller on what will work with your engagement ring, budget and lifestyle. “Gypsy or channel-set rings are the lowest-maintenance settings if you’re hard on your hands,” says Lorna Reynolds, “but pavé, grain and claw-set are popular too.” A high setting, like claw, won’t work if you lead an active lifestyle, as there’s a chance it will get caught.
Most women will already have an engagement ring by the time they go shopping for a wedding ring, so the next step is picking a stone that will complement it. “Diamonds are still the most popular choice of gemstone,” states Harry Brown. “They offer a classic look that will never date and the fact that they come in a variety of cuts, clarities and colours means they can suit a range of budgets.” That said, admiration for Kate Middleton’s beautiful sapphire engagement ring has inspired a revival in coloured stones such as rubies and emeralds.
To ensure your wedding band and engagement ring work well together, try them both on in store. Look at different widths and styles to see which best suits the shape and fit of your engagement ring. As Lorna Reynolds explains, “Even the weight can make a difference between almost right and perfect!”
A look back to the past is increasingly popular too. “More and more brides and grooms are seeking vintage-inspired designs,” says Harry. “For example, the milgrain design, which has a subtle beaded edge, is reminiscent of antique wedding rings.” More couples, too, are incorporating family stones or heirloom pieces into their design as they look for a unique ring that will connect the past and present. At Colin Campbell & Co, Lorna Reynolds regularly works with vintage pieces. “We frequently remake and remodel old, inherited wedding rings and heirloom pieces which have a real emotional importance to the new wearer,” she says. If this appeals to you, talk to your jeweller who’ll be able to advise what is practical and possible.
Once the design has been decided upon, it might take several weeks for the ring to be ordered or made. “It can take eight weeks from an initial consultation for a bespoke ring to be ready,” says Harry Brown. Bear in mind that some independent jewellers have on-site workshops where minor alterations can be made, often in just a couple of hours.
Once everything is finalised, the rings can be kept in the jeweller’s safe until just a few days before the wedding – anything to limit the chances of the best man losing them!
Above all, a wedding ring should be a reflection of your taste and style. “ Your dress will be worn for one day but your ring will be on show for the rest of your life, so it makes sense to take your time,” advises Harry Brown. And if you don’t see what you’re looking for, ask – most jewellers can outsource or make the ring of your dreams.
Above: Gents’ 9ct white gold handcrafted 6mm band, £345, and ladies 18ct white gold ring, £1995, John McKay Jeweller