Wedding rings can be a tricky thing to navigate, but hopefully this will give you an insight into different styles, stones and settings along with tips and tricks to make you feel more at ease when searching for that forever ring.
Firstly, let’s debunk some myths. A lot of people believe that you and your partner should have the same metal - this is not true! Traditionally couples would have matched rings but today there are so many options that it’s totally okay not to match metals. At the end of the day, you will both be wearing this ring forever (hopefully!) so it’s important that you love it. So, let’s take a look at the history of wedding rings and where it all started.
Wedding rings actually go as far back as the Egyptians who made their bands out of braided reeds and hemp. Egyptians believed the ring represented eternity - the never ending circle. The circle also represented the shape of the moon and sun - which the Egyptians worshipped. It was also believed at the time that the hole in the middle of the ring symbolised a portal into the unknown. It was the Egyptians who created the tradition of wearing wedding rings on your fourth finger as they believed in the vena amoris, literally translated to the ‘vein of love’. They believed that this vein on your fourth finger ran directly to your heart. Since then we have always worn our rings on this finger in the Western world, so much so that our fourth finger is now commonly described as our ‘ring finger’. Although this belief isn’t anatomically correct, we still continue the sentimental theory.
The Greeks and Romans
The tradition of wedding rings was carried on by the Greeks and Romans, however they started to use different materials such as bone, leather and ivory. Metals were slowly introduced, typically iron would be used but for the extremely wealthy we saw the introduction of gold and silver bands. Rings at the time often depicted Eros or Cupid - the God of Love. The Romans began the tradition of engraving the rings - a personal touch we still see today. During the Byzantine Empire rings were also engraved with figures of the couple. This moved onto ‘Posie rings’ where a short verse would be inscribed on the ring. As time went on the messages became even more personal and often engraved onto the inside of the band, therefore keeping the message more private and closer to the wearer. ‘Fede rings’ were then introduced and became hugely popular - featuring two hands clasped together. After Fede rings came ‘Gimmel’ rings. Synonymous to the Renaissance era, these rings were composed of 2-3 interlocking bands, which when joined together, created one ring. The bride and groom wore each ring during the engagement and come the marriage the bride wore both - signifying a union.
So, when did the rings start incorporating stones? Starting in Medieval times, rings began to be set with gemstones. Rubies were used to symbolise passion, sapphires to symbolise the heavens and diamonds for strength. It wasn’t until 1974 when Francis Gerety created the iconic slogan for De Beers ‘A Diamond is Forever’ that a diamond ring was seen as the most common. However, when it comes to wedding rings, there really are no rules! Well, just one. When picking out your wedding band it must be the same hardness as your engagement ring. Otherwise one will scratch the other. When we say ‘hardness’ we mean the gold content - you cannot have a 18ct engagement ring paired with a 9ct wedding ring. Similar to stones metals have different hardness ratings on the MOHS Scale of Hardness. For example if your engagement ring was gold and you paired it with a platinum wedding band, overtime the bands would become heavily scratched and scuffed. On the MOHS scale, gold scores a 2.5 whereas platinum scores a 3.5. The scale looks a little something like this:
- Silver: 2.5-3
- Yellow gold: 2.5-3
- White gold: 2.8-4
- Platinum: 4-4.5
But just because you cannot combine certain metals it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy a two tone combo in your rings! Gold comes in a variety of colours and as you can see from the MOHS scale you can pair silver and gold together. You can even pair white gold and platinum together if you are careful!
You can choose whether you want a plain band or perhaps something with a bit of sparkle. It’s become increasingly popular to opt for a wedding ring with diamonds. Although many also choose a plain band so they can add an eternity ring at a later stage either for an anniversary or a push present (blog post on that here.) There are many pros and cons to both. If you are somebody who uses their hands a lot in their career or as a hobby then a plain band is perhaps the safer option. Dirt can get under the diamonds and diminish that shine. By opting for a plain band you can still compliment your engagement ring and keep it clean!
If you do decide to go for a band with a bit of sparkle this can add to the stress of finding one you love. There are many different settings you can choose from; for example, channel set, claw set, pavé or even spectacle set! But before you panic about what all of these mean, let’s go through them so you can work out which setting is best for you!
The channel set was at it’s peak in the 1980s-90s due to it’s combination of protection, sparkle and modernity. As you can see, the channel setting is where diamonds are set along two walls of metal either on half of the band or fully. The stones are closely set together meaning there are no claws or bezels. A channel set ring is definitely most cost effective if you are after something with diamonds in. This is due to the way it is set - it maximises small stones whilst making imperfections appear a lot less visible - you can hide variations in the diamonds and the fact the jeweller didn’t have to set each stone individually reflects in the cost. That’s not to say that this type of setting means your diamonds wont be high quality! It only means you wouldn’t be able to see inclusions as well as perhaps you would in a single stone - the illusion of more diamonds draws your eye away from these things. There are pros and cons to a channel set wedding ring. Cons are you need to keep this ring very clean - any lotion or dirt that gets under the stones means the sparkle can diminish very quickly. You don’t want to let anything accumulate. However a very big pro of this setting is that there are no prongs therefore you wont snag your clothe. The metal edges help protect the stones making this setting very durable subsequently being able to wear it without worry for most activities - just make sure to clean it! We recommend cleaning this setting about once every two weeks at home - just boil a little water, let it cool so the water is lukewarm, and add some fairy liquid, let the ring sit for a bit and with a soft brush or toothbrush just gently brush and residue away and watch your diamonds sparkle! We would also recommend getting it professionally cleaned at a jewellers every year - we can do this for you in store within a matter of minutes, so just pop in and ask!
The claw setting is perhaps our most popular for those seeking a diamond wedding band. This setting uses several ‘prongs’ or ‘claws’ to keep the diamond in place. This type of setting first became popular during the 19th century due to the way it made the diamonds sparkle compared to the older settings originally used. The claw setting is a simple way to show off larger stones without anything either side (like the channel set) or underneath them (like the bezel set - onto this setting in a moment!) thus making the diamond appear sparklier than the other settings. The diamond sits in metal prongs or claws that extend from the shank to keep it in place. The design elevates the diamond for optimal light refraction and brilliance. The claw setting can use anywhere from 4-10 prongs, however this up to you and what look you would like. For example, the 4 claw setting is the most classic however the famous Tiffany 6 claw setting creates a more decorated and ornate feel for the ring. Within this setting comes even more choice; which type of claws you would like. The most common claw is the rounded one - it’s small form means you can see more of the diamond, once again adding to that additional shine. Another style is pointed claws, this setting is best for someone who is really worried about claws loosening and diamonds falling out! Perhaps someone who uses their hands a lot, either in a job or hobby. This means they can still benefit from a diamond ring but have that added safety. The next setting is flat tab claws. This setting is exactly as the name suggests - prongs that are flat! There are a lot of pros to this setting - it shows off the diamonds fire and brilliance, they are easy to clean and require minimal maintenance. However a few cons are that they offer less protection than their fellow settings and often snag on things like clothes and hair. Overall, this setting is incredibly popular and can make your diamonds shine but perhaps aren’t made for someone who is very practical and uses their hands a lot.
Pavé (pa-vay) comes from the French ‘paved’ as the setting looks like a road paved with diamonds. A pavé ring can be a single row of diamonds or multiple, however typically for a wedding band it would be one single row. The diamonds are typically held in place by small metal beads or claws. Tiny holes are drilled into the ring to allow room for the diamonds to sit in - this adds extra security to a pavé set ring. However, that being said this type of setting means that if the ring is struck by a hard blow it could possibly result in the loss of a stone, nevertheless the diamonds are often very small and easy/cost effective to replace. A con of this setting is that it is often more expensive due to the labour that it needs. With each stone needing to be handset and carefully placed this means pavé settings are often more expensive due to their craftsmanship. They are also harder to clean due to there being a lot of areas for dirt to get into and stay lodged. However, there are also many pros to this setting; it adds a lot of sparkle to your ring which you can add either first time or further down the line. This is very normal for people to get a plain band and come a baby or anniversary milestone often they will ‘upgrade’ their ring.
A bezel setting means that the diamond is held in place by a metal rim or ‘bezel’. This setting is probably the most secure of them all, this offers safety without suffering beauty. They add a sleek and modern look to your wedding ring. If you want to include a bit of sparkle to your band but don’t want to go the whole hog then this setting perfect for you! A bezel setting holds the diamonds in place with a thin metal rim that covers the outside of the stone. This means your diamonds are kept secure and protected whilst still showing them off. A pro of this setting is that holds your diamond safely whilst offering a modern and sleek look. This comes along with the added pro of incredible durability. If you’re someone who uses their hands a lot and is very active then this setting is perfect for you! They are also easier to maintain and clean thanks to the simple design. As there are no prongs to check or clean it means you will have a much easier time taking care of the diamond and the ring itself. Cons can be that it hides the diamond more than other settings, often making the diamond appear smaller than it actually is! And therefore it can make the brilliance less powerful. Because the setting wraps around the diamond it prevents light from entering the stone on the sides thus reducing the amount of light that the diamond can reflect. However, because of this it means your ring won’t snag on clothes and protects it from damage. Often in other settings continuous wear and day to day activities mean the diamond can be hit against something causing cracks or breakages. With the bezel setting not only is less likely to happen but if it does then you are protected as the setting itself can hide visual flaws. As the setting covers more surface area than perhaps a prong it means this can disguise some common flaws found in a diamonds appearance.
A bar setting provides stability for the diamonds whilst allowing light to pass through the stones meaning your stones not only shine but are also safe. Bar settings also create a stunning symmetry in wedding bands. Cons of this band are; you have a slightly higher chance of chipping the stones due to them protected by less metal compared to the bezel set for example. This means that whilst this setting is safe, if you are an active person who’s job or lifestyle involves using your hands a lot this perhaps isn’t the safest option for you. Resizing of these rings can also be costly - you’re most likely to change ring size throughout your lifetime and the way these stones are framed can make the process of shaping the ring a difficult one. However never fear! If you have your heart set on a bar set wedding band there are a lot of pros as well. This setting functions very well for stacking - ideal for a wedding ring! The way this setting is made means that it stacks easily next to most engagement rings. This setting also offers more visibility to your diamonds due to the lack of metal involved. Consequently your stones will appear brighter and more brilliant as more light can pass through the diamonds. This setting really adds an additional sparkle to your finger as the stones are more exposed compared to a channel setting for example. If you’re looking for sparkle and for your stones to really shine whilst maintaining safety and security - the bar set sounds the best for you.
With any big decision like wedding bands it’s always best to check. We have a number of rings in store that you can try on with your engagement ring to see what you like best and which suits your ring to help you make the perfect decision. It’s important to remember - if you fall in love with a ring but perhaps you feel your job will affect the setting etc then that doesn’t matter! Go with what you love but after reading this you can be aware of how to prevent stones falling out/becoming tarnished. Happy searching and congratulations!