A couple of months ago, one of my readers asked if I could write a post about wedding bands and options for men. To my surprise there are a ton of options for men! So here goes!
Wedding rings have become an almost universal symbol for marriage. And like so many things when it comes to men, they can be rather dull. Most men’s rings are a simple gold band, while we girls can have a plain band or a diamond band, or a sapphire or a ruby or a . . . . . . . . . . .
Men’s wedding bands are actually a new tradition. Sad to say but it really is just a marketing ploy. Women seem to have been wearing rings since time began, be it an engagement ring or a ring given during the ceremony. They say that it began as a rope tied around a woman’s finger to remind her that she was the hostage of the man who had kidnapped her. Some say the Egyptians invented the modern concept of the wedding ring. However, until recently, it has always only been women who have worn wedding bands.
The main reason why men never wore wedding rings was because they didn’t have to. Look at societal titles. All men are a ‘Mr’ but women are ‘Miss’ or ‘Mrs’ (now Ms as well). ‘Miss’ is an unmarried young woman while ‘Mrs’ is married or widowed. It was always most important to know who owned who or what (and yes, women were considered a piece of property like anything else a man owned). If you were an unmarried woman, you were “owned” by your father, and therefore free to be pursued for marriage. However, if you wore a ring everyone knew you were married and “owned” by your husband and therefore not available to court. No one ever needed to know if a man was married or not for it did not affect his social status.
So what should one do if you want something besides the traditional gold band? (Personally I’m not a fan of men’s jewelry. Not because I don’t like men wearing jewelry, but because it’s all so overly masculine looking.)
Let’s take a look at what some of the options are for wedding bands mainly for men but also for women.
Yellow gold is the most common material used for the band. Interesting to know that gold comes in many colours. Below is a band made out of pink gold which looks a bit like copper:
Here is a white gold band which looks like silver or platinum:
Green gold, which is yellow gold that has been mixed with other metals:
Black gold, like green gold, is gold with other elements added to it:
There is also blue, purple, grey, and red gold.
Gold is a good choice because it doesn’t tarnish. Gold usually has other metals like copper added to it to give it more strength as it is a very soft metal. The carat number (symbol is K or KT) stamped on the band tells you the purity of the gold. Unlike gems, where their carat is by weight and can go on until eternity in number, gold is by purity and only goes to 24 carats. 24 carats is pure gold and is very bright but soft. While in many parts of the world 24 carat gold jewelry is standard, in North America most everyday jewelry would be 10, 14 or 18 carat gold. 24 carat gold is fine for a dinner ring, but not something that you would wear digging in the garden!
Below I show how the purity content of yellow gold effects the colour:
As I write this post gold is selling at just over $1,200.00 an ounce. This results in a high cost for gold jewelry. If a gold ring is not in your budget consider another metal like sterling silver.
In ancient times, and even up to a few hundred years ago, silver was more valued then gold. Sterling Silver in 92.5% silver, the remainder is copper. The real thing will be stamped with the number 925 in the same fashion that a gold ring will have 10k or 18k for its gold content. Sterling Silver is harder then pure silver and silver itself is harder than gold. In the U.S. only silver that is 90% silver (stamp 900) can be called silver. There is also Britannia silver, which is 95.8%, but this is used more for tableware and since it is more pure, is more prone to tarnish. Sterling silver is sometimes plated with very fine silver to give it a shine. It can also be plated with Rhodium or gold.
It’s good to know that while silver rings can be re-sized (but usually not more than once) much will depend on the ring. Jewelers tend to hesitate in re-sizing a ring with diamonds as the heating process can cause the diamonds to pop out.
Another option is a silver-gold alloy, the most common one being Electrum.
Electrum has been valued in the Mediterranean since the beginning of human appreciation of metals. It was valued by the Egyptians, the Hittites, and the Greeks. It is a natural occurring mixture of silver and gold and because it is naturally occurring it can contain 90% gold to a 45-55 split. Sometimes it has copper or other trace elements which will of course give it a different colour. Because of the silver content it is stronger than gold, but because of the gold, there is no tarnish. It has been called white gold and green gold, but unlike those metals which get their colour from gold being mixed with copper or some other element, electrum is a silver and gold mix with only the slightest traces of other elements.
Below are some interesting metal options for men’s rings which would make for a very distinct ring.
Tumbaga is a Spanish name for a gold and copper alloy from South America. These distinct rings are not readily available so you would have to consult with a jeweler to have one custom made or find one from a designer on Etsy.
Shibuichi, which means ‘one fourth’, is a Japanese alloy of silver, copper with a hint gold. Custom rings are unique in that they embrace imperfections compared to mass produced jewelry. Below a women’s ring (photo source ~ tumbler.com); bottom left a men’s ring from Stones Throw Studio; on right, rings from designer Daniel Icaza.
Another material you may want to consider is Platinum. Platinum looks like silver or white gold. Like gold, Platinum is sometimes mixed with other alloys, so check that when you are looking into it. For a ring you want the other alloys to be a either cobalt or ruthenium which will make it harder and less likely to get warped from wear. Platinum is heavier then gold so you may want to take your man with you when choosing and see what is comfortable on his hand. Platinum can be twice as expensive as 18k gold, however, it is longer lasting and since it is worth more, can be more of an investment.
If you like Platinum, but don’t have a load of cash, check out rings made of Palladium.
Now-a-days even metals that are not considered “precious” are being used for jewelry.
Tungsten. Every time I hear this metal I say in my head, “I need Tungsten to live. . . TUNGSTEN!” Ah, The Simpsons . . . how you have ruined me!
Tungsten is very hard and therefore very durable. This may be a good idea for a man who has a dirty job, or who works with his hands a lot. An FYI, tungsten is so hard that in a emergency it can’t be cut off . . . so, there have been times where the finger was what got cut off instead. The good news is that it’s not that expensive! There are many tungsten wedding bands available on Etsy.
Zirconium – not to be confused with the synthetic gemstone cubic zirconia - is new to the jewelry world. It is not a natural metal, but is made from purifying zircon with chlorine. It is sometimes mixed with titanium. It is tough and inexpensive to buy. While it does not tarnish easily it can scratch. Zirconium bands come in grayish white and also black. Black zirconium is simply oxidized gray zirconium, which is why black is better for jewelry since its already oxidized and won’t discolour. I found many cool and unusual zirconium bands at Love2Have and Stonebrook Jewelry on Etsy.
Titanium rings are durable, do not tarnish and are inexpensive. This metal is non-toxic, non-tarnishing, and hypoallergenic. However, it is hard to re-size metals like these because their strength, so make sure that it is the right size for your man. For more information on titanium go to titaniumrings.com.
You could also think about a non-metal materials like wood. Wooden rings are a great alternative for those with allergies or if the traditional materials are just too expensive. Wood rings are also socially responsible since wood does not have to be mined nor does it even need to be cut down as the ring can be made from re-used materials. The downside is that they are not as long lasting and you really have to take care of it. So no washing dishes or mixing cement with it on! Below are pictures of wooden wedding bands from the Canadian company Touch Wood Rings. Another great site is Simply Wood Rings.
Wedding bands can also be custom made from materials that are meaningful to you, like grandpas old broken violin or guitar that is up in the attic and then set with a diamond from grandma’s old broach.
But again, if you are going for something like Tungsten, you may want him to go with you and try things on, or even pick it out for it can’t be re-size easily.
Hope you enjoyed the post. It’s amazing the options there are for men when it comes to wedding bands. Down the road I will do a post about inserts, like diamonds, rubies and the like as well as design options!