Bouquets fade and cake gets eaten, and you’ll probably never wear your dress again. But your rings are designed to last a lifetime, so it pays to get them right
Words by Holly Jones
Wedding bands and engagement rings have been an important part of marriage ritual ever since Roman times, and they are still as important today as they were centuries ago. I spoke to four Scottish ring experts – Lesley Elder from John McKay Jewellers (johnmckayjewellers.co.uk), Tim Hardie from Timothy Hardie Fine Jewellery (timothyhardie.co.uk), Lauren O’Neil from John Macintyre & Son (johnmacintyre.co.uk) and Neil Smith from Orro (orro.co.uk) – and asked for their tips and advice on buying these enduring symbols of love and commitment. Do carats matter? Is stone size more important than clarity? And how much should you pay? We have answers to all these questions and more.
The first thing to do, says Lesley Elder, is to “determine your budget”. This may not strike you as the most romantic thing to think about when making such a wonderful decision, but “it is all too easy to get carried away when we see a ring we love”, so have a budget in mind before you even start looking.
But, says Lesley, you could save money: “The price of diamonds is the same unilaterally, as is the price of the metal.” It is manufacturing and design costs (and profit) that varies between shops, so get recession-savvy and shop around. It’s always worth asking for a discount.
Think about the style of rings you’d like and which metal you prefer. Ideally, your engagement ring will be made of the same metal as your wedding band – and not just for the sake of aesthetics. According to Tim Hardie, “Platinum is very hard and can wear into a gold setting over just a few years.” In other words, if you choose a platinum engagement ring, you’d be best opting for a platinum wedding ring too.
“It is the strongest and most durable metal, so for a ring you’ll be wearing every day for the rest of your life, platinum is a great choice,” says Lauren O’Neil.
It is also the purest of all precious metals and, unlike some, won’t need any maintenance. “It may cost more than white gold at the outset, but the fact that it doesn’t need replating means there are no future costs to consider. Over time it may end up costing less than a cheaper white gold ring,” advises Neil Smith.
But for all platinum’s undoubted good points, it is undeniably very expensive, and gold is actually pretty hard-wearing too. So if you fancy gold, go for it. It varies in colour, from the traditional yellow to a warm rose shade. “And if your budget won’t allow for platinum, try 18ct grey gold – it’s an unplated gold alloy,” suggests Neil.
Some metals need to be plated, often with rhodium, to ensure they keep their colour (“Most white gold rings are plated to make the metal appear whiter,” say Neil), but this wears off over time and needs replacing every couple of years. It’s another expense to think about.
As we all know, diamonds are a girl’s best friend and are by far the most popular choice for engagement rings. But other coloured precious stones have seen a surge in popularity. If you want rubies, sapphires, emeralds or aquamarines, bear in mind that they are less hard-wearing than diamonds, so it is crucial to buy quality certified stones.
In fact, it’s not worth risking buying a precious gem unless it is certified. “Do some research before buying a diamond and only buy a stone with clarity of Si, Vs, Vvs or If,” advises Neil. “Anything lower than Si in clarity will not have the sparkle you want” – and what’s the point of a gorgeous diamond without the glitter?
We can have your message engraved in your very own handwriting – or even laser-engrave your fingerprint on to your ring
If you’re unsure, says Lesley, just think about “the four Cs – the carat, cut, clarity and colour”. These will guide you in making sure your gemstones are as good as they can be.
Diamond-studded wedding bands are becoming popular but these could give you problems in the future. “They are very difficult to re-size if your finger size changes,” warns Tim.
You will be wearing your ring every day for the rest of your life, and its shape and proportions can make a big difference to the fit and comfort. “The most popular shape of wedding band is a court band, curved on the outside to match most engagement rings and curved on the inside for comfort,” says Lauren. If your engagement ring is an unusual shape, it is worth getting your wedding band shaped to accommodate it, to avoid discomfort and wear, and to make the rings fit together perfectly.
“Form follows function,” according to Neil from Orro, “so always try on an engagement ring with a wedding band to make sure the setting is compatible with another ring. Many brides-to-be don’t give this enough consideration and later encounter problems finding a wedding band which will sit next to it without leaving a gap.”
Lesley points out another issue: “There are so many rings on the market with shanks and settings that cannot be altered. But an engagement ring or wedding ring has to last a lifetime, so it is important to find out if it can be altered before you buy.” That way, you’ll avoid expensive alteration costs.
“I would suggest you also remember to leave enough room for a future eternity ring,” adds Tim. These rings, symbolising never-ending love, are usually given on significant anniversaries or at the birth of a first child. The traditional eternity ring has a continuous line of identically cut gemstones.
Once you have chosen both your dream engagement ring and wedding band and they fit together perfectly, it is time to consider what goes on the inside. “It’s nice to add a simple engraved message on the inside, or even on the outside,” says Lauren. “We can have your message engraved in your very own handwriting or, for something really unique, you could laser-engrave your fingerprint onto your rings.” That sounds like a truly romantic touch.