It’s hard to beat the wedding ring as a symbol of enduring love, especially as so many brides and grooms these days are going for matching bands
Words by Jessica Kiddle
While he did go down on one knee (well, two, actually, as he seemed to collapse slightly under the weight of all his nerves), my fiancé didn’t propose with a ring. He assumed that after a decade of dating, I’d know which one I wanted.
He was right, and while some brides like the element of surprise, I was glad to have a say in the decision. However, it wasn’t simply a case of me pointing to ‘the one’ in a shop window and him swooping in to make the purchase. No, there was far more to the ring-purchasing process than that.
Tracey Brown, director at Chisholm Hunter, suggests that’s exactly as it should be – after all, this is a piece of jewellery that you’ll wear for the rest of your life. “Lots of our brides-to-be have a very clear picture of what their dream ring looks like,” she says. “But, just as with wedding dresses, it’s not until you try on different designs that you really start to get a proper idea about what’s right for you – how the hue of the metal matches your skin tone, how the different cuts of a diamond can complement your hand shape, or even how you would like a detail of your partner’s ring to reflect your own.”
So, where to start?
Sharing is Caring
Firstly, there’s your fiancé’s opinion to take into account (yes, you did read that right). From the design and metal of their band, to details of cut, colour, carat and clarity of a diamond – today’s grooms, it would seem, are now as invested in the ring-buying process as women. “In the past, while most men have been aware of how important the engagement and wedding ring are, they have not been quite as ‘engaged’ in the decision-making process,” says Tracey Brown. “In recent years, though, we’ve definitely noticed more men making specific requests to our jewellery professionals.”
She is not alone in spotting this trend: Joanne McLeish, designer at The Ringmaker, has also seen a growing number of grooms get creative. “Men are taking more of an interest in the design process,” she says. “Not only do they have more of an open mind about what they want for themselves, they also have ideas for their partners’ rings too.”
Game, Set and Match
As well as giving both parties creative input, many couples like to shop for an engagement ring together because it means they can pick their wedding bands at the same time – and therefore get the perfect matching set. “If the gent has decided to involve his fiancé in the purchase of the engagement ring, it makes sense for them to look at matching wedding bands,” says Michael Laing of Laing Edinburgh. “These should complement each other and sit flush.” Think bands shaped to sit next to a solitaire, or one that contains similarly cut gemstones to your engagement ring.
For uniformity, bridal sets – which are designed so that the engagement ring and the wedding band fit together to look like one piece – can be an elegant choice, and one that, for the bride, is often more comfortable on her finger than two separate rings.
The two ls
Whether it’s an engagement ring or a wedding band that you’re looking for, there are two very important things to consider before making that all-important purchase: lifestyle and looks. And that applies to the boys as much as the girls.
“Lifestyle definitely has an impact on your ring style and metal choice,” says Michael Laing. “The harder you are on your rings – if you are regularly handling glasses or lifting things, for example – the more knocks they could sustain, so a ring set with diamonds around it or stones in high-set claws may get damaged.”
Whatever your lifestyle, comfort is also key. “Both your engagement ring and wedding rings are to be worn every day, so think about comfort,” says Gareth Mundie of Ian Mundie & Son.
As far as the second ‘L’ goes – looks – it’s about what you like as well as what suits you. “You don’t want to choose something that’s too fashionable as this will date,” says Michael Laing. “There are some beautiful classic designs with contemporary twists that will stand the test of time. We have seen a real demand for the more classic and Art Deco-style rings which have enduring appeal.”
For that contemporary twist, men, meanwhile, are opting for rings with a satin or brushed finish, or a small groove or line to add detail. “We recently introduced a ring with an unusual brick-effect pattern to our collection which we expect to be a big hit with grooms who are looking for something different,” says Tracey Brown.
Show Your Metal
Rose gold might be having a fashion moment, and yellow gold is certainly making a comeback; but before deciding on a ring, brides-to-be need to consider what’s the most flattering for them. “Asians, Africans and Caucasians with very pale skin and dark hair look better wearing silvery-toned metals like platinum or palladium, or even white gold if it has been rhodium-plated to give it that bright platinum colour,” says Joanne McLeish. “Alternatively, people with ‘warm’ skin tones (people who naturally have red, brown or strawberry-blonde hair) seem to suit warmer-toned metals, like yellow gold, rose gold, white gold in its natural state, and copper.”
The metal you choose doesn’t just influence the look and feel of your ring, it also will dictate how long it lasts. Men and women who do physical jobs need to consider this. “Gold is the more traditional metal of choice but the higher the carat, the softer the metal so it’s not a great choice if you work with your hands,” explains Michael Laing, who adds that more people are picking metals such as white gold and titanium as well as industrial-style scratch-resistant metals like tungsten and titanium.
The most hard-wearing (and most expensive) metal is, of course, platinum. It’s the classic choice, but palladium is a good budget-friendly alternative. “It has a fantastic white colour and is lower density than platinum,” explains Gareth Mundie. “That means men can go for a very chunky ring without it feeling too heavy. It is also hypo-allergenic and needs less maintenance than white gold (which needs refinishing every 18 months).”
So, having taken into account everything from what flatters your skin tone to the kind of job your partner does, what happens if you simply want to go for a completely different ring to that of your husband-to-be?
Don’t worry. It might be traditional to have matching rings, but it is by no means essential. To get around this obstacle, why not decide to have a matching element? “Having the wedding bands made in the same precious metal makes for a perfect match,” says Michael Laing. “Men normally opt for a broader band than women, but having them made from the same metal ensures uniformity.”
Or, if that’s not an option, why not have them engraved with the same message? Other favourites work as a pair, such a having “I don’t know much…” on one ring, and “…but I know I love you” on the other. And after all, like the rings they’re written on, what better symbol of marriage is there than two halves of a sentence becoming one whole?
Ring the changes
Some men, Prince William for one, are simply not the wedding-ring type. This is where wedding watches come in, whether it’s a pocket watch – which offers the perfect surface for engraving – or a designer wrist piece. Just remember that, like a diamond, this is an investment which can increase in value over the years, so it should be a considered purchase – just like a ring.
“Not every man is comfortable wearing jewellery, so a watch can be a replacement wedding band. It’s a statement of commitment, and a quality timepiece can act as the same thing,” says Michael Laing whose Edinburgh store stocks Scotland’s largest selection of luxury watches. “Our advice would be to have a budget in mind and use a watch specialist’s advice to identify a watch that you not only love, but which will hold its value.”
Making it personal
Katie Callahan, designer at The Ringmaker’s Edinburgh studio, married her husband Craig earlier this year on the Black Isle. She tells us the story behind designing their wedding rings
“I designed my wedding ring to match the dimensions of my engagement ring perfectly so they complement each other as a set. It was handmade in platinum with a lovely satin finish to give it a modern feel. I had originally thought about setting diamonds in the band but decided to leave it simple for now as there is always the option of adding stones at a later date, perhaps one every year on our anniversary.
Craig also chose a band in platinum, as he needed something very strong and durable for his work in chemical engineering. He chose a classic style with soft rounded edges, as his only stipulation was that the ring had to be comfortable.
To add a unique, personal touch we had both rings engraved inside with a quote from a poem that was read at our wedding ceremony. My ring says ‘I carry your heart with me…’ and his says ‘…I carry it in my heart’. We loved being able to add this subtle detail to our rings as it holds so much sentimental value to us. Every time we look inside them we are reminded of how special our day was.”
Katie’s top tips for going bespoke:
• Allow plenty of time – making a piece of bespoke jewellery by hand can take around eight weeks.
• Keep an open mind when first browsing and don’t rule out anything.
• Prioritise rings in your wedding budget. Remember, you’ll be looking at them every day for the rest of your life and they’ll need to stand the test of time.