Making the lifetime commitment to another person is a big step, and should be commemorated properly with a wedding band that will last a lifetime - and even longer. Don't spend more than you can afford, but remember this investment is meant to last longer than an automobile or even a home - it's meant to last for a lifetime.
Whether in search of a style for personal preference or cultural reasons, consider whether to buy his and hers wedding bands, or whether each partner will choose one that reflects his or her own personal tastes. Sometimes, the ring that will look perfect on the groom's hand might not have a matching wedding band that will fit the bride's.
The concept of a wedding band actually originated from ancient Egyptian beliefs. People of this culture believed that wedding bands forged an eternal band of love that would be present in the afterlife as well. Ancient Greek culture contributed to the tradition through the wearing of a wedding band on the third finger of the hand, because this finger was believed to be linked straight to a person's heart by a vein.
Some cultures hold very strong traditions concerning wedding bands, and for people from those cultures, going against these traditions can be uncomfortable or even heart-wrenching. If either spouse has strong cultural ties to a particular style of ring, following that person's heart is probably the best route to go.
For example, traditional Irish Claddagh rings were designed specifically to represent the eternal commitment of love. The three symbols in the ring - heart, crown, and clasped hands - are meant to signify love, eternity, and friendship.In comparison, a Jewish wedding band, by tradition, is an unadorned, unbroken circle of gold that is designed to signify purity and the eternal union of two persons in marriage.
Another cultural tradition with strong spiritual connotations is the use of Russian wedding rings. These rings feature three different bands that interlock, and are a representation of the Holy Trinity. Often, each of the bands is a different color of gold, including white, rose, and yellow gold.
Gold or platinum? Which is better?
Most styles of wedding bands can be purchased in either gold or platinum. The ring's finish may be brushed, which usually gives a more contemporary appearance, or polished, which is typically more classic or traditional in appearance. Some people choose based on the bride's engagement ring, while others mix and match metals to suit their personal tastes.
Gold wedding bands have traditionally been used for marriage. Rings may be sold in different shades of gold, including rose gold wedding bands or white gold wedding bands, which is most complementary on persons with fairer skin tones. In contrast, yellow gold wedding bands usually look best on persons with darker skin tones. Platinum also complements fairer skin tones well, but is somewhat more expensive than white gold.
Since pure gold is quite soft, jewelers use other metals to make gold mixtures so that the ring will be stronger and more durable. The amount of gold in a ring is designated by karats. Rings with higher karats have more gold and are more expensive than those with a lower number of karats. For example, a 24-karat (24K) gold ring is lustrous and shines brightly, but is more likely to become bent as a result of usual wear and tear.
An 18-karat (18K) gold ring is much more sturdy than the 24K ring, and contains 75 percent gold. The least expensive of these three, and the most sturdy, is a 14-karat (14K) gold wedding band. Although 10-karat (10K) gold is sold, these rings are usually very cheap and not very durable, generally making them poor choices for wedding bands.
Platinum wedding bands are becoming popular once more. This metal is extremely durable and bends or breaks much less easily than gold. It also shines more brightly. Many antique and estate wedding rings were made of platinum around the turn of the 20th century.
Alternative Styles and Settings
Although wedding bands are usually made of a simple piece of metal, jewelers have developed many techniques for making each band uniquely attractive. For example, some people prefer rings made of a dual tone, dual metal. Others prefer a textured wedding band, or opt instead for an engraved or etched wedding band.
Some couples prefer wedding bands that contain stone settings, such as a diamond wedding band, or even a gemstone-encrusted band. Typically, these rings use prongs that keep one or more stones attached to the band. One popular style of diamond wedding band is the eternity band. Eternity bands use one of three types of settings to hold the diamonds in place around the band:
- Shared pong settings: These rings feature a metal wire with grooves that are designed to hold the diamonds in their place next to one another.
- Channel settings: The diamonds appear to be set beside one another straight into the band. Metal does not show between each stone. In rings that use bar channel settings, metal may be visible on each side of the stone.
- Pave settings: The manufacturer drills holes into the ring, and sets diamonds in each hole. The ring's surface appears to be "paved" with diamonds.
Hand size and shape can also be a factor. Remember that people with smaller hands or delicate fingers will probably prefer a smaller, narrower band than people with larger or squarer hands. Since a wedding band is designed to last for a lifetime, it's probably a good idea to shop for the purchase together. This will help you both to start learning to make decisions and negotiate as a team, which is what you'll hopefully be doing for the rest of your life!