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For the uninitiated guy about to get down on one knee, the different types of bridal, wedding, and engagement rings can leave you bewildered. This quick guide will explain each of the different types of ring you’ll encounter on your quest to find the perfect ring for your bride-to-be on your engagement, wedding day, and thereafter. By the end you’ll have a clear understanding, and the only thing left to get anxious about is your speech.
Before I explain the different types of ring, there is one important caveat: it doesn’t actually matter. That’s right. There may be generic terms for each different style of ring, but in reality is you choose what’s right for you. If you or your bride love an eternity ring as a wedding band, then that’s perfectly fine.
The terminology you hear is generally a marketing tool – used to describe particular characteristics. You are the final judge as to whether a particular ring suits a particular occasion.
Therefore, it’s all about the wording and what it describes. We’ll bust that jargon now.
This is, of course, the ring which symbolizes the proposal. It’s a symbol of love and commitment, and is likely the first ring you give to your partner, and is usually worn on the left ring finger.
Guys can worry enormously about getting this ring ‘right’ because of it being their first foray into world of grown-up jewelry, being of high value, and of course wanting to please. Whether you choose to buy this ring as a surprise, or choose it together, is a matter for individual couples.
There are several traditions which lead to certain rings being labelled as engagement rings. These are usually that they are diamond, chosen for that old adage: diamonds are forever. Similarly, these rings will typically be gold, white gold, or platinum. Another defining factor is that the center diamond is either a solitaire (single stone), or the largest.
An Extra Note about Solitaires… While the classic definition of a solitaire is that it is a single large diamond on a metal shank (the band), it is also used to describe rings where there are smaller gemstones on the shank itself.
Wedding bands (sometimes referred to as the wedding ring) are the rings exchanged between the couple during the wedding ceremony, also worn on the ring finger of the left hand (for the bride below the engagement ring). In the past, these wedding bands were plain gold flat bands. Nowadays, couples often choose wedding bands which contain diamonds, and for the bride, which complement the engagement ring.
However, even with diamonds included, wedding bands differ from engagement rings because they don’t typically have a larger center diamond as an engagement ring does.
An Extra Note about Wedding Bands… Over the last decade or so a new tradition is emerging amongst brides, which is called stacking. Stacking is when the engagement ring is ‘sandwiched’ between two wedding bands. In terms of aesthetics this can give a wonderful balanced look. The second band is most frequently given after the wedding on another occasion, such as the birth of the first child or a special anniversary.
Sometimes referred to as anniversary bands, these are rings given on a special anniversary. Traditionally, these have had three stones – one each to represent yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We also frequently see five, and seven stone anniversary rings.
In marketing terms, the term ‘anniversary ring’ really is just a descriptor. It doesn’t mean much to the buyer. You choose the right ring to complement the existing set, whatever it is called.
Eternity rings are a subset of anniversary rings, with a few distinctions. They are traditionally given on the first wedding anniversary, or the birth of the first child, but there are no hard and fast ‘rules’. What distinguishes these rings is that they are usually a uniformly sized band and the diamonds, or other gemstones, go entirely around the ring. They symbolize the ‘eternity’ of your marriage.
Going back to the terminology once more – eternity rings are often used as wedding bands, especially for brides seeking the popular stacked look.
As a buyer you do need to be aware that these rings often cannot be altered for size – you need to choose the correct size at the outset. As a result, we see many rings labelled as ‘half eternity’, or ‘size-able eternity’. These rings achieve the continuous look of an eternity ring, but the diamonds don’t go the full way around the shank. This way they can be sized more easily.