Although many people's minds leap to engagements and weddings when they think of rings, this versatile jewelry piece has been used throughout history as a means of identification, to carry a family crest or seal, or to denote love and respect. The perfect circle of a ring symbolizes the eternity of life and the cycles of the Earth, making it an ideal presentation for special life occasions.
Meant to commemorate one of the major transitions in your life, the sacred bond of marriage, your wedding ring may be the most significant jewelry purchase of your life.
Although engagement rings are more often worn by women than men, wedding rings are normally exchanged during the ceremony and are worn by both partners to signify their commitment to one another.
In some cultures, wedding rings feature symbols, such as the Irish Claddagh ring or the trinity of interconnected rings used in Russian Catholic weddings. In the U.S., the wedding band is traditionally one piece, with no seam, representing the eternal unity of marriage.
Women's Wedding Rings
Wedding rings made solely of platinum, yellow gold, or white gold are traditionally used for wedding ceremonies, and can be selected or specially designed to match almost any engagement ring. In many cases, couples choose to coordinate the women’s wedding ring with the groom’s ring.
For brides who prefer a more extravagant look, more elaborate women's rings can be set with diamonds or a combination of diamonds and gemstones. With eternity bands, diamonds or gemstones are often wrapped entirely around the ring. In another variation, a few stones may be set in a row or in a unique pattern. In addition to wedding ceremonies, these are often given as anniversary gifts. Diamonds vary widely in size, cut, color, and clarity, and the selection of high-quality stones is essential to the appearance and longevity of your wedding ring.
Whatever metal, gemstones, and setting you choose for your wedding ring, it should be comfortable and should reflect your personal style.
Men's Wedding Rings
Men's wedding rings have become increasingly popular in the past several decades. The male wedding ring is usually part of a pair that the bride and groom exchange during the wedding ceremony to complete their vows.
Men's rings are traditionally thicker than women's wedding rings, but there is no set style. They are most often a simple band of platinum, yellow gold, or white gold that pairs with the bride's ring, but they can also be set with small diamonds, gemstones, or textured designs. Other types of metals, such as palladium, titanium, tungsten, and stainless steel, are growing in popularity for men’s wedding rings.
Diamond Engagement Rings
An engagement ring is a symbol of a couple's intent to marry. Almost always given during the marriage proposal, the engagement ring is usually selected by the groom, often with help from the mother, sister, or friend of his future bride. Once a couple is engaged, the woman wears the engagement ring as a token of her devotion to her fiancé.
Solitaire Engagement Rings
The most popular style for engagement rings is a classic setting of gold or platinum with a single or "solitaire" diamond taking center stage. The solitaire diamond is a timeless symbol of fidelity and commitment. This simple ring can make an elegant or dramatic statement depending on the size and cut of the diamond and the style of setting selected.
Side Stone Rings
A diamond setting with additional side stones is another popular style for engagement rings. This striking setting features a larger center stone, usually a diamond, flanked by complementary diamonds or gemstones.
Matching Diamond Ring Sets
Engagement rings and wedding rings are often sold as a matched set. This allows the bride to comfortably wear the two rings together after the wedding without worrying about a clash in styles.
Ring sets are usually designed to allow the simpler wedding ring to slip into place below the diamond engagement ring. You may choose to have the two rings welded together after the wedding to keep them from rotating or slipping apart. This also helps to prevent friction caused by the rings rubbing against one another– a problem that is more common in softer, high-carat gold.
Alternative Engagement Rings
Diamonds are the most popular adornment for wedding and engagement rings, but they are by no means the only option. Many people choose a more unusual gemstone for their engagement ring, such as a ruby, aquamarine, sapphire, or pearl, or even a semi-precious stone like amethyst quartz or the diamond look-alikes cubic zirconium or moissanite.
Gemstone Center Stones
If you're looking for a more unique engagement ring, an emerald, ruby, or other center stone can provide a refreshing alternative to conventional diamond rings.
Some of the most popular alternative gemstones include blue sapphires (which represent faithfulness), emeralds (a symbol of peace, hope, and revival), and rubies (a sign of passion, love, and glamour). Pearls are a common choice for elegant, antique-styled jewelry and engagement rings and are a symbol of purity, faithfulness, and innocence. Any of these gemstones can be used with the same settings and metals as a diamond engagement ring.
A promise ring represents a promise made either to yourself or to another. The nature of the promise varies—it can be a vow to achieve an important goal, a promise of loyalty to a friend, or, most commonly, the promise that comes before an engagement.
A pre-engagement promise ring can be given by either a man or a woman, and may be worn by either gender. This ring represents a promise that you will one day marry. It can be made of traditional metals (platinum, yellow gold, white gold) and may be embellished with small diamonds or other gemstones.
Although the promise ring is not a tradition for all couples, it is a surprisingly popular choice among those who wish to give a symbol of commitment to their partner but don't feel ready for an engagement ring.
The Claddagh ring is an Irish ring with a long history dating back to the ancient Romans. It bears the symbol of a crowned heart held by two hands. The hands are a symbol of friendship, the heart of love, and the crown representative of loyalty.
The Claddagh ring may be worn today by both men and women as a cultural symbol as well as for an engagement or wedding ring. The position and direction of the ring are used to denote the wearer's relationship status.
Irish and Celtic engagement ring styles other than the Claddagh are also very popular, preferred for their elegance and the intricate detail of the designs.
If you're looking for a ring to give as a gift to a friend, or simply to wear as adornment, a fashion ring may be an ideal choice. Available in hundreds of styles and sizes, fashion rings can be worn by men or women for daily or formal use. They make a perfect gift for a birthday or to commemorate a special turning point or achievement, like a graduation, and they can be personalized depending on your taste, interests, and even your birth date.
Dinner, Cocktail, and Right Hand Rings
Today, many women sport prominent diamond rings that are neither wedding nor engagement rings. This kind of ring is usually worn daily on the ring finger of the right hand and is often called a right hand ring, a dinner ring, or a cocktail ring.
The right hand ring is thought to represent a woman's individuality and is something that she chooses for herself, with her own personality and tastes in mind. Dinner rings come in a much wider range of designs and gemstones than engagement or wedding rings, many of them with wider (or multiple) bands and combinations of different metals.
Because most right hand rings are meant to be worn daily, they are made of the same durable metals as engagement and wedding rings. The strongest and most durable stones are also recommended, including diamonds, pink or blue sapphires, and rubies.
Gemstone Fashion Rings
Gemstones are the most common choice for fashion rings, partly because of their attention-getting colors and also for their range of styles. Available in a vast variety of colors, cuts, and sizes, and sometimes offering the option of personalization, they make classic gifts for recipients of any age. Gemstone rings can be elegantly simple, with a solitaire jewel, or they can be large and dramatic, with an array of stones.
You may want to personalize your choice of ring by selecting the precious stone corresponding to the birth month of the recipient. Birth month gemstones make a beautiful, thoughtful gift for a graduating student, a woman celebrating a business promotion, or a special birthday. See gemstones information to learn about each month’s birthstone.
All-Metal Fashion Rings
All-metal fashion rings are ideal for those who want a simpler, neutral adornment without gemstones. They can vary from the classic elegance of a cool platinum band to ornately worked designs in silver, gold, steel, or other metals.
Some of the most beautiful metal rings boast abstract designs, combinations of Celtic knots, or multiple bands in one or more colors. Other designs depict flowers, insects, or animals artistically rendered on the surface of the ring.
Religious rings are often worn to represent devotion to a deity or a meaningful aspect of a person's spiritual beliefs.
A ring depicting a crucifix, or a saint or angel whose presence is significant in your life, serves as an elegant display of your faith. Some Christian rings use the image of a dove, a fish, or a cross to depict the wearer's belief while others are inscribed with short biblical passages or messages.
People of certain professions may choose to wear a ring representing a deity or saint who represents their work: a doctor, for instance, might wear an emblem of Archangel Raphael, or the healer St. Brigid. Someone who values literature and knowledge might wear an owl representing the Greek goddess Athena, while an animal lover might wear a token of St. Francis of Assisi, famed for his respect for animals and the environment.
Promise rings have recently become more prevalent in religious contexts, with many young women choosing to wear them as a personal vow of abstinence until marriage. These "purity rings" or "chastity rings" are often a simple band, or a sterling silver heart, cross, or combination of crucifix and heart.
Whether you're proposing to the woman of your dreams or looking for a gift for your daughter's high school graduation, a ring can be a powerful token of your love and appreciation. A high-quality ring is a beautiful and sophisticated way to express your identity or to show someone you care.