The definitive guide to wedding rings

The Definitive Guide to Wedding Rings

When planning for your big day, you and your spouse surely have a long list of to-dos. However, one of the most important tasks is the selection of your wedding rings. Our wedding rings guide is here to help you.

While it may seem simple at first, the plethora of options can cause confusion and stress. Well, no bride or groom needs more of either of those emotions, so this guide is here to help.

Learn the ropes to picking wedding rings, some lingo you should know, and even how to pay for them. By the end, you will have a better understanding of your options and how to navigate this important purchase.

Wedding rings guide:

Let’s get to it.

Wedding rings basics

How does an engagement ring and wedding ring work?

According to tradition, a man presents an engagement ring to a woman when he proposes. The woman wears the engagement ring on the third finger of the left hand (remember the thumb isn’t considered a “finger”). It typically features a prominent gemstone and has an average cost of about $6,351.

Wedding rings are also worn on the third finger of the left hand. However, both people entering into the marriage wear them. They’re usually more simple and less expensive than engagement rings.

Is the wedding band placed on top or underneath the engagement ring?

The wedding ring is worn on the bottom, closest to the heart, and the engagement ring goes right above it.

During the wedding ceremony, the bride often moves the engagement ring to the right hand so the wedding ring can assume its proper position.

After the wedding, the bride moves the engagement ring to its permanent spot above of the wedding ring.

Wedding ring costs

Wedding rings can vary in price depending on the type of metal used in the band, whether it has diamonds or other gemstones, the quality of the gemstones, and more.

A plain band can cost from $300 to $1,500, while a ring with diamonds can range from $1,000 to $6,000, according to Braunschweiger Jewelers.

We’ll break down some of the main cost factors in the upcoming sections.

3 common types of wedding rings

So what is the first factor you should consider in a wedding ring? Well, a good place to start is to identify the general type of ring that you want.

The three common wedding ring types are plain, diamond, and gemstone.

1. Plain

A plain wedding ring is a metal band without any gemstones. However, it may have other embellishments like a contrasting metal inlay or an engravement. Additionally, it can have a finish.

Plain wedding bands are the least expensive type of wedding ring while still offering a variety of options for customization.

2. Diamond

The second type of wedding ring is one that features diamonds. Often, the diamonds are small and will encircle the entire ring (known as an eternity band).

Another popular option is to have the diamonds only encircling half of the band. However, some rings have only one small diamond or just a few.

3. Other gemstones

Lastly, a gemstone wedding ring features gemstones instead of, or in addition to, diamonds. A popular combination is that of sapphire and diamond stones.

Now that you know the three common types of wedding rings, let’s move on to the base of any ring: the band.

The wedding band

When it comes to the wedding band, you get to choose the material, the design, and the finish.

Popular wedding band materials

Many options exist for the wedding band material. Each has distinct characteristics such as its color, strength, durability, and more.

Here’s a look at some of the most popular metals:
  • Platinum. Platinum has a white sheen and is long-lasting, hypoallergenic, and expensive. It’s often chosen to house diamonds.
  • Yellow gold. Gold has a distinct yellow color and is resistant to corrosion, rust, and tarnish. It’s the most hypoallergenic of the gold types but is subject to dents and scratches.
  • White gold. Pure gold and an alloy metal with a white color (like silver or palladium) compose white gold. It’s often plated with rhodium which gives it a nice white luster and a hypoallergenic effect.
  • Rose gold. Rose gold is a gold and copper alloy which produces the pinkish color. It’s often cheaper than yellow or white gold due to the copper and is also stronger. However, it’s not hypoallergenic.
  • Sterling silver. A mix of 92.5% silver and 7.5% copper produce sterling silver. It’s more affordable than other metals and has a nice sheen but will tarnish over time and is easy to scratch.
  • Palladium. Palladium is a white metal that is a member of the platinum group metals. It’s durable while being lighter than Platinum.
  • Cobalt chrome. Cobalt chrome is an affordable bright white metal that is harder than titanium and has a similar weight to gold.
  • Tantalum. Tantalum is a blue-grey metal that is hypoallergenic and scratch-resistant. It’s often coated with a ceramic glaze to give it a black matte finish.
  • Titanium. Titanium is a dark gray color and is durable, hypoallergenic, and lightweight.
  • Zirconium. Zirconium is a white-gray metal that is hypoallergenic and similar to titanium in weight and strength. When treated with heat, a black oxide coating forms, which is resistant to scratches.
  • Stainless steel. Stainless steel is gray and has a nice sheen. It’s a strong, durable, hypoallergenic, scratch-resistant metal that is inexpensive.

The right metal for you will depend on your preferences of color, weight, durability, size adjustability, price, and whether you want a hypoallergenic metal.

What about silicon wedding rings?

In recent years, silicon wedding rings have become more popular due to their adoption by NFL players. The main benefits include the low price (often $20-$50), durability, and easy removal in case of an emergency.

They can be a good alternative for people who want to wear a ring while playing sports or working with their hands.

Design options

The band that encircles the finger is known as the “shank.” The different styles of shanks impact how the ring looks and feels. Common options for wedding rings include:

  • Flat. Flat outer surface with angular edges (good for housing diamonds or gemstones).
  • Comfort fit. Rounded inside edge for comfort.
  • Rounded. Subtly domed outer surface.
  • Knife Edge. Two slanted sides meet at the center point.

Your choice will depend on your preference and if the ring will feature gemstones.

Finish options

A finish can add a nice touch of interest to a ring, setting it apart from the rest. Popular options include:

  • Hammered. Soft indentions are made into the precious metal to give it texture.
  • Milgrain (millegrain). A beaded effect is created along the edge of the band, giving it a vintage look.
  • Matte/brushed. A matte or brushed finish gives a flat and textured look.
  • Satin. The satin finish gives a soft, non-reflective look.
  • Filigree. Filigree gives a vintage look by creating a lacy design with small threads of precious metal.
  • Hand-engraving. You can also have someone custom engrave designs into the precious metal.

As you can see, there are many variables when it comes to the band. You can customize it through the material, design, and finish you choose.

Diamonds

What should you know when shopping for diamonds? You’ll hear about the 4Cs, so you should understand what they are and what they mean for your purchase.

The 4Cs

The international diamond-grading standard looks at the 4 C’s: cut, color, clarity, and Carats.

Cut

The diamond’s tiny mirror-like facets should be symmetrical, proportional, and polished. The better the cut, the more sparkle it will have, and the more expensive it will be.

Facets which have a poor cut or poor placement will cause a diamond to look dull.

Color grade

A colorless diamond’s color grade depends on the lack of color present in the stone. The less color, the higher the quality.

The value of a colored diamond (also known as a fancy diamond) increases as the color saturation increases.

Clarity grade

The clarity grade measures the imperfections of a diamond both on the inside (inclusions) and on the surface (blemishes).

Few diamonds are completely flawless, however, most of the imperfections aren’t visible to the naked eye. The fewer imperfections a diamond has, the more it is worth.

Carats

Carats measure the total weight of a diamond. Each metric carat weighs 200 milligrams. The weight doesn’t always correlate with the cost because a larger diamond could have a lower quality than a smaller diamond. However, weight is a factor to consider along with the other 3 C’s.

Other considerations

In addition to understanding the 4C’s, you should also consider the following:

Shape

Diamonds come in many shapes. However, 80% are round. The remaining 20% consists of other shapes (known as “fancy” shapes) which include the Princess, Cushion, Heart, Emerald, Asscher, Marquise, Oval, Radiant, and Pear. See the impact that shape has on the price below.

Independent certification

An independent certification from a trusted organization provides assurance that your diamond’s evaluation is legitimate.

The most reputable certification labs are the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and the American Geological Society (AGS). Always ask which organization certified the diamonds.

These guidelines will help you identify a quality diamond that’s right for you and your budget.

Other gemstones

If you want something less traditional, you can combine diamonds with alternative gemstones, or forget the diamonds altogether.

Popular gemstones include deep blue sapphire, purple amethyst, green emerald, red ruby, multicolor topaz, and peachy morganite.

The higher the color saturation and clarity, the more expensive the stones will be. Trends also influence the cost. When the demand goes up, so can the price.

Gemstones bring a beautiful, eye-catching touch of color to wedding and engagement rings.

Wedding ring settings

The setting of a wedding ring refers to how the diamonds and other gemstones are held in the ring. Common setting options include:

  • Channel. Two parallel walls of precious metal border a row of gemstones.
  • Pavé/bead set. The gemstones are set close together in a channel and small beads of precious metal suspend them in place.
  • Shared prong. Adjacent gemstones share precious metal prongs.
  • Bezel. A thin border of precious metal encircles each gemstone.
  • Bar. Parallel vertical channels hold the gems in place.
  • Flush. Gemstones are set into the band and only the face shows, which leaves the surface even.
  • French pavé. The metal beads that secure the gemstones have V-shape cutouts so they look like split prongs from the top.
  • Scalloped pavé. This pavé features U-shape cutouts which give a scalloped look.

Each setting option offers a different look. The right pick for you will depend on your preference and budget.

Engagement ring matching

Men often get a wedding band and that’s it. Women, on the other hand, traditionally get an engagement ring and a wedding ring, which are worn together on the same finger.

When two rings will be worn together, you’ll need to consider how they will coordinate. Popular approaches to ring matching include:

  • Perfect fit. A perfect fit refers to a wedding ring and engagement ring that match. They have diamonds of the same size along the shank, the same prong style, and the same metal band.
  • Complementary. In a complementary match, the wedding ring and engagement ring are separate and different but they work together. For example, the engagement ring may feature a diamond while the wedding band has diamonds and sapphire stones. One compliments the other.
  • Mismatch: In a mismatch, two different rings are worn together because a person likes them. They can be any two rings that strike the person’s fancy.

The right match will depend on the look you like best. Keep in mind that some rings are sold in sets to make the decision easier.

How to pay for wedding rings

Wedding rings can run a couple thousand dollars per ring, which is a large expense to pay out-of-pocket. However, you can use loans or lines of credit to pay it off over time.

Personal loans

personal loan is a quick and convenient way to get access to a lump sum. Read SuperMoney’s Guide to Wedding Loans for more details on how to get the best deal.

Many lenders like SoFiLendingClubOppLoans, and Upgrade let you apply online and get an answer in minutes. If you get approved, they will direct deposit the loan into your bank account.

The loans are unsecured, meaning approval will depend on your credit and income. Different lenders cater to different credit scores (i.e. fair to good, good to excellent, etc.), so there’s hope even if your credit isn’t great.

The loans are repaid in installments over a set term and the cost usually involves interest and, sometimes, fees.

Find out what you can qualify for from multiple lenders using SuperMoney’s personal loan engine. 

Credit cards with a 0% APR

Another option is a credit card with a 0% APR introductory period.

Credit cards give you a credit line which you can use and pay off over time. Normally, you pay interest on any balances that carry over past a full billing cycle.

However, with the 0% APR introductory period, you can get more time to pay off a purchase before the interest charges kick in. This route can offer great savings.

However, if you don’t pay off the balance by the time the promotional period ends, you’ll be subject to the interest rate assigned to your card.

Be sure to check what the interest rate will be when the promotion ends and figure out if the terms make sense for your situation.

Browse and personal credit cards to find the best one for you.

Jeweler financing

Some jewelry dealers will offer you financing for your rings in-store. They have the incentive of making a sale so may offer you a good deal. Plus, interest-free promotional periods are common. If you own a jewelry and hate paying discount rates, consider SuperMoney’s point-of-sale financing.

However, the catch is that, if you haven’t paid off the balance by the time the promotional period ends, you could face high interest rates. Further, you may also face retroactive interest that goes back to the time of the initial purchase.

Be sure to read the terms, including the fine print, and compare the offer to other financing options like credit cards and personal loans.

Find the perfect wedding ring for you

Finding the perfect wedding rings will take time and effort. Start by deciding which type of ring you want—plain, diamond, or gemstone. Next, choose your band, shank design, and finish.

Then move on to the diamonds or other gemstones (if applicable). Choose your stones and the setting you like best. Lastly, brides need to think about how they want the engagement ring and wedding ring to look together.

During this process, it’s also a good idea to get preapproved for financing so you will know how much you can get. Then, once you find “the one,” you can make the purchase and move on to the next item on your to-do list.

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