How To Find The Right Wedding Rings For You (Part 1)
By Michael Freedman
Preparing for a wedding can be a busy time with so much to arrange. In many ways the most important wedding purchase is the wedding rings. Most of the other purchases for a wedding, for example the flowers, the cake, wedding cars and the music band etc. are all gone after the big day, however, the wedding rings remain as an eternal shining reminder of your love and of this special day.
This in-depth guide to purchasing wedding rings (also known as wedding bands), is intended to help you choose the right rings for you and your partner and also provide you with the background knowledge of metals, diamonds and ring styles etc. to find the right wedding rings.
Wedding rings are usually made from precious metal and will be worn for many years, so they should be comfortable to wear and a design should be chosen which will retain its appeal for years to come. The wedding band can also become a valuable heirloom for future generations. The circular shape of a ring is symbolic of undying love.
Allow Plenty of Time to Choose and Order Your Rings
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.
Many jewellers, both shops and online jewellers, offer hundreds of different wedding ring styles, as these styles can be made in a wide variety of metals, widths and finger sizes and as precious metals are very expensive, it is not possible for jewellers to stock every possible variety of each wedding ring style, therefore in many cases it is necessary to order the ring you want.
Some rings can take 4-6 weeks to order, especially if you are buying bespoke hand-made rings or a shaped ladies ring, but even many standard designs can take 2-4 weeks to order. Also if the finger size of the ring is not perfect when it arrives it may need to get sent back and replaced or sized, which could take up additional time. You may also need plenty of time to look around and see what is available, in order to make the right decision, so plan this purchase well in advance of the wedding, ideally at least three months before your special day.
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. It is also worth noting that the price of hand-made bespoke rings is likely to be much higher than off the shelf designs.
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.
Metal prices fluctuate all the time and the raw price of precious metals is the main factor in the cost of precious metal wedding rings, unless they are set with expensive diamonds or gemstones.
Of the most commonly used precious metals, platinum is the most expensive wedding ring metal and an average men's platinum wedding ring is now likely to cost over a thousand pounds. 18 carat gold, rose gold or white gold is the next highest priced, then palladium, then 9 carat golds.
Unfortunately, the prices of precious metals are currently very high, this is due to many factors, including the increase in demand for these metals in emerging economies, the use of precious metals for other purposes (e.g. platinum for catalytic converters in cars, gold for electronics, medicine, dentistry etc.) and also they have become important commodities for financial investment. During the recent global financial crisis, gold was seen as one of the few safe havens for investment, which again significantly drove up the value of gold.
Gold has increased in price massively over the last few years, for example at the beginning of 2000 the price of gold was around 280 dollars an ounce this increased to around 850 dollars an ounce by early 2009 and currently at the beginning of 2012 the price of raw gold is around 1750 dollars an ounce. Therefore the price of gold wedding rings is now more than double what they were only a few years ago.
Choosing The Metal For Your Wedding Ring
This is probably the most important factor with regards to choosing wedding rings. Descriptions of the characteristics of each metal can get quite technical, however I will try to describe the properties, purities, advantages and disadvantages of each metal in terms which are easy to understand and as brief as possible.
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. Gold alloys can also be made in other colours such as green or purple gold, however these colours are far less commonly used than white, yellow or rose gold.
The ideal metal for 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 potential issues of one ring wearing over time due to differences in hardness of the metals.
When jewellery is made from precious metals, usually metal 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, the hardness would not be ideal for most jewellery purposes. Therefore various alloys are used to achieve different colours and working properties and to keep down the cost of the metal.
In the UK and most other countries, jewellery made from precious metal alloys must be tested and hallmarked to be legal for sale, when they are described as any particular precious metal. The hallmarking office will test that the metal alloy in a wedding ring contains the correct number of parts per thousand of precious metal and if the metal of the ring is up to the desired quality standard, then they will mark the metal purity on the inside of the band as part of a hallmark. The hallmark also contains a few other marks which show the location of the assay office who tested the piece of jewellery and a mark for the jewellery maker or retailer who submits the piece for testing. The hallmark is very small and usually a magnifying glass or jeweller's loupe is required to read these marks.
In Britain, hallmarking standards are very high and precious metals must contain at least the minimum necessary number of parts per thousand of precious metal, whereas some other countries allow greater tolerance on the level of quality. So if a British ring is described as 18carat gold, it must contain at least 750 parts per thousand of gold. A ring with 749 parts per thousand of gold would fail an assay for 18 carat quality and would therefore be marked as the next highest gold purity standard (14 carat).
Many people have skin reactions to jewellery metals. It is worth noting that no-one is allergic to the noble precious metals gold, platinum & silver which are hypo-allergenic metals. The metal allergies some people encounter are caused by a skin reaction to the other base metals which are contained in the alloys of these precious metals which are used for jewellery making.
Therefore, metal alloys which have a higher content of precious metal will be more kind to the skin. This would apply to high gold carats such as 18 carat or above and also platinum and palladium which are 950 parts per thousand pure. Lower qualities of these metals are also available now, so it is important to be aware of the metal purity you are buying. Other metals such as the industrial metals popular for mens rings are also hypo-allergenic, these include, titanium, zirconium and stainless steel. These industrial metals are usually used for jewellery making in their pure form and are therefore very kind to the skin.