No piece of jewelry is as ubiquitous and culturally important as the wedding ring. Generally simple and always emotionally important, the vast majority of wedding rings use a band-style design – one of the most common and instantly recognizable ring designs. Unlike the widely-given engagement ring, wedding rings (also known as wedding bands) tend to be subtle and minimalistic visually.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that they’re of minimal significance to their wearers. Across multiple cultures and hundreds of countries, wedding rings remain one of the most important jewelry types, and also one of the most common. While engagement rings have only become a major part of our culture in the last century, wedding rings for women date back several centuries in human history.
That’s just wedding rings for women, though. As many will no doubt be surprised to hear, wedding rings for men are a fairly modern custom. Until the early 20th century, it was usually only the bride that received a ring after getting married, and rarely even the bride that would be given a ring which symbolized engagement. Both customs, at least in the West, are less than a century old.
However, their single century of existence has made them one of the most significant jewelry pieces available. This brief buyer’s, owner’s, and ring shopper’s guide explains the history of wedding rings for women, the etiquette associated with wearing a wedding ring, and the different materials that are commonly used to create and decorate wedding rings for women.
Wedding Ring Styles: Engraved Rings, Wedding Bands, and Combined Wedding-Engagement Rings
Unlike engagement rings, which are typically ornate and decorative, the majority of wedding rings are simple and fairly nondescript. The most popular wedding ring design is the standard band, one of the most instantly recognizable ring designs. Most couples opt for matching bands in either gold or silver, with small additions such as engraved names and inlayed jewels occasionally added.
Despite their simple design, wedding rings for women are often incorporated into other jewelery pieces, the engagement ring in particular. Many women opt to combine their engagement ring with their wedding ring after getting married, creating a combined ring in the process. In the UK, rings with both engagement, wedding, and commemorative elements are becoming quite common.
Engraved rings are particularly popular in English-speaking nations, with personal names and short phrases proving popular. French wedding rings often contain a series of three interlinked rings – an interesting combination of terms symbolizing “faith, hope, and love” as in Christian tradition. This practice, however, has become less common in the last fifty years, as most rings are now plain.
There’s a reason for this simple design, one that goes beyond frugality or modesty. Most wedding rings are designed to be simple, as they’re worn for the entirety of one’s married life. This has left many wedding rings for women with little aesthetic flourishes or ornate jewelry, as comfort is the primary goal. Most simple wedding rings are designed to be worn alongside an engagement ring.
Wedding Ring Culture: Should You Wear it 24/7 or Not?
There’s a debate, albeit not a particularly serious one, about how and when a wedding ring should be removed. Some couples insist that their rings are a part of them, unable to be taken off even if they become uncomfortable. Others take a more relaxed approach to wearing their wedding rings, giving themselves the opportunity to remove wedding rings for women or men should they feel like it.
It’s up to you, your partner, and the two of you as a couple to decide when and why you’re allowed to remove your ring. While some couples view their wedding rings as infidelity preventers (this is actually the historical reason for wedding rings for women even existing), others think of them as a symbol of their love that can be removed when it becomes inconvenient or uncomfortable.
Wedding Ring Materials: Platinum, Gold, and Other Alloys
Wedding rings for women and men can be made of a variety of materials, with almost all religious organizations allowing couples to marry using any ring. Plastic, rubber, and stainless steel rings are all accepted by most religious groups or secular marriage services, although the majority of couples opt to use a different construction material for their wedding bands.
Gold wedding rings are by far the most common, along with steel wedding bands and sterling silver rings. Gold bands are typically made of either white, standard, or rose gold, with bands made larger for the groom than for the bride. Some wedding rings feature precious stones or other inlay objects, although this practice is fairly rare in Western culture and Christian weddings.
Finally, many couples opt to use a combined wedding-engagement ring, which will use a shared or similar material for both rings. These two-part engagement and wedding sets are popular amongst couples in the United States, and are typically purchased together at the time of engagement. Most married couples wear the same wedding rings over time, though some wear commemorative rings.
Wedding Ring Etiquette: Should it be Worn Alone or With An Engagement Ring?
There’s no single set of wedding ring ‘rules’ for couples to follow. While many women prefer to buy their wedding and engagement rings together, some women choose not to wear an engagement ring at all after they’re married. It’s truly a case of personal choice, and there’s no reason to follow in the wake of social custom or tradition when it comes to engagement or wedding rings for women.
Choose your wedding ring, of if preferred, a wedding ring and engagement ring combination, based on personal preference and comfort. Unlike other removable jewelry, a wedding ring is worn almost constantly after marriage. For this reason, it’s best to shop for wedding rings for women that offer a level of comfort and aesthetics, not a focus on looks and intricacy at the expense of comfort.