The ultimate guide to buying a wedding ring

From your choice of metal, carat and gemstone to matching 'his and hers' styles, we've put together an easy-to-follow guide to help you make a confident decision, and buy a wedding band to last a lifetime

By Maria Jakobsen

Choosing your wedding ring is one of the most important preparations for your big day. A symbol of eternal love and unity, the wedding ring represents a new chapter of your life. From diamond set to plain, from platinum to yellow gold, read on for our guide to choosing the perfect wedding ring – one which will proudly shine on your third finger for a lifetime. 

1. Coordinate with your engagement ring

“If the wedding ring is going to be worn alongside an engagement ring, it’s essential to ensure they complement each other. This might mean having the wedding ring fully shaped around the engagement ring or opting for a wishbone style,” says Jessica Flinn-Allen, designer and chief-executive officer of the UK-based Jessica Flinn Fine Jewellery.

For an engagement ring with an unusual centre stone, like a large oval-cut solitaire, or an offbeat setting, Flinn-Allen recommends shaped wedding bands as a popular option. The “wishbone” ring, in particular, is a wedding band with a slight ‘V’ shape, designed to fit around an engagement centre stone which would otherwise cover a section of a traditional wedding band. 

Choosing a wishbone wedding ring that sits flush against the engagement ring may require some trial and error, as they all come in slightly different shapes. If nothing seems to fit nicely next to your engagement ring, some jewellers offer bespoke services that can design a wishbone ring with perfect curvature.

Affordable engagement rings
Yumé Jewellery Bark wedding band in 9K white gold

2. Consider your choice of metal

When choosing the metal for your wedding band, many choose the same as their engagement ring. This is a classic, timeless look, while also a safe bet in terms of the longevity of both rings. “One tip I give our clients is to ensure your wedding band will complement and be comfortable to wear with your engagement ring,” says British designer Ruth Tomlinson. “However, the most important thing is to have fun with your wedding jewellery, don’t be afraid to mix metals and stones.”

The tradition of matching metals is far from a set-in-stone rule, and has grown increasingly popular. Celebrities such as Isla Fisher and Keira Knightly wear mixed metal wedding sets, as does Kate Middleton, who pairs her platinum engagement ring from the late Princess Diana with a simple yellow gold wedding band. 

“Mixing different colours for engagement and wedding ring has become more common in recent years, having a white gold engagement ring and a yellow gold wedding can be very eye catching,” says Aishleen Lester, founder of fine jewellery brand Le Ster. “I am also a really big fan of mixing white and yellow gold within in the one ring – it gives the design an attention to detail that feels really modern.”

Alternative engagement rings
Ruth Tomlinson wide decorative band with diamonds

Whether or not you decide to mix your metals all boils down to your personality and style. However, there are a few things to be aware of.

The most popular metals for wedding rings are gold and platinum. Gold comes in various different colours and carats, with yellow being the most traditional. A soft metal, gold must be mixed with other precious materials in order to make an everlasting wedding ring. The higher the caratage, the more gold elements per 1,000 parts.

9ct gold = 375 parts gold per 1000 

14ct gold = 585 parts gold per 1000 

18ct gold = 750 parts gold per 1000 

22ct gold = 916 parts gold per 1000 

24ct gold = 999 parts gold per 1000

This means that an 18ct gold ring is purer than a 9ct gold ring. However, because gold is a soft metal, the 18ct gold ring is far more prone to scratching. Therefore, if you wear a 9ct and an 18ct ring next to each other over a long period of time, the hard 9ct ring might damage the softer 18ct ring. This is why it’s recommended to choose the same carat gold for both the engagement and wedding ring, as they are pieces you’ll be wearing for a lifetime. This applies to all colours of gold; yellow, white and rose. You’re also unlikely to find many wedding bands in 22ct or 24ct gold, as these are considered too soft for daily wear and can break easily.

cushion cut diamond and platinum ring
Garrard diamond and platinum ring

3. Should you choose white gold or platinum?

White gold, platinum and silver are the most common cool-toned metals for wedding rings. While silver is the most affordable, it’s the softest of the three, and prone to scratches, dents and changing shape over time. 

White gold is created out of a composition of 75% pure gold, and 25% palladium, and is plated with rhodium, which gives it its shiny white colour. However, as this rhodium plating wears down, the ring will start to look yellow, and needs to be re-plated at a workshop. While many jewellers offer these services, it’s good to be aware of the extra maintenance cost required with this metal. Typically, white gold engagement and wedding rings must be re-plated every 2-3 years due to everyday wear.

Platinum offers a very similar shiny white-grey colour, but as opposed to white gold, this colour is natural when polished. While platinum builds up a natural patina over time, its shine can be easily restored with a simple polish.

White gold is slightly more affordable than platinum, and is slightly lighter wearing, so a good choice for those not used to wearing rings. If you have sensitive skin, however, platinum is the most hypoallergenic of all metals used to make jewellery. The hypoallergenic properties of white gold depend on the metals it is mixed with. Sometimes, if white gold contains high amounts of nickel, it can cause skin irritation.

Engagement rings for Valentine's Day
Liv Luttrell recycled 18ct gold diamond ring

4. Diamonds or no diamonds? 

Plain wedding bands have always been the traditional way to go. However, diamond-set styles are growing increasingly popular, opening up a new world of options – from channel-set to claw-set, princess to round-cut. When it comes to choosing between a plain or diamond-set wedding band, here are a few different pairings that work well together: 

Plain shouldered engagement ring and plain wedding band

A simple solitaire engagement ring with plain shoulders looks classic and traditional next to a plain wedding band. Or for a bit more personality and modernity, opt for a plain band in a different colour, such as white or rose gold. 

Plain shouldered engagement ring and diamond-set wedding band

The combination of a plain shouldered engagement ring with a diamond-set wedding band is a contemporary look where the wedding band enhances the engagement ring’s sparkle. 

There are a few different options for diamond-set wedding rings. A claw-set design means that the diamonds are visible from the side of the ring, and this exposed diamond setting often provides ample sparkle. With a channel-setting, the diamonds are set between two walls of metal. They are nestled against each other, as opposed to a grain setting where, in addition to the walls, the diamonds are separated with tiny beads of metal. 

Diamond-set engagement rings come with all kinds of different diamond cuts, round brilliant-cut being the most common. Princess and emerald-cut diamonds tend to be channel-set to protect the corners of each diamond. 

Alternative engagement rings
Annoushka 18K yellow gold and diamond Yes ring

Diamond set engagement ring and diamond set wedding band

This pairing may be too busy for some, especially with a cluster engagement ring, but it’s still a popular option. Finding a good match for the diamond-set shoulders of your engagement ring can really make it shine, rather than steal focus. 

Finding a wedding band with a similar diamond setting and cut to your engagement ring is usually a simple way to achieve a cohesive and elegant look. If your engagement ring has claw-set round diamonds on the shoulders, opting for a claw-set wedding band with round-cut diamonds will make your wedding stack appear a match made in heaven. It’s also common to choose a wedding band with a similar width to your engagement ring, whether plain or diamond-set, although any rule can be broken if you see a ring that captures your heart.

Engagement rings for Valentine's Day
Mappin & Webb 18K white gold oval cut ruby and diamond ring

5. Experiment with gemstones 

“Historically, wedding rings were plain and simple, but that’s no longer the case. Today, we’re seeing more gemstone wedding rings being purchased, whether they’re set with earth-grown or lab-grown diamonds, or coloured gemstones. Each brings a unique touch of personality to the piece,” says Flinn-Allen. 

A gemstone band is a great way to inject colour into your wedding stack or match an existing gemstone on the engagement ring. While some prefer a minimalist diamond band alongside a gemstone engagement ring, others enjoy the uniqueness of a full gemstone set.

It’s also important to consider how your wedding ring will wear over time. “Coloured gemstones massively differ in hardness. It is likely you will wear your ring all day every day, therefore I would recommend choosing a stone 8 or higher on the Mohs scale,” says Lester.

Some gemstones over 8 on Mohs scale include: ruby (9), sapphire (9), topaz (8), aquamarine (7.5-8), emerald (7.5-8). Amethysts, tourmaline, garnet, peridot, citrine and quartz are also close alternatives at around 7. Pearl on the other hand, is ranked a 2.5 meaning it’s easily scratched.

6. Matching ‘his and hers’

Matching ‘his and hers’ wedding bands are a traditional and popular choice amongst couples. Discuss with your partner whether or not you want your wedding rings to match, and try on a few different options together.

The most common ‘his and hers’ bands are plain in yellow gold, white gold, or platinum. Getting bands crafted in the same metal will lend a coordinated look, even if you decide to go with slightly different widths. 1.5-3mm is the most common width for women, while men tend to stick to 3mm and above, with 4-6mm being the most common. However, width is a personal preference and should take into account the size and shape of your hands.

7. Opt for a ring outside of the mainstream

“There really are no rules here and it’s what works with your stack or alternatively something that could be worn on the other hand. Men have become more bold choosing a gemstone in their wedding bands or even engagement rings too,” says Laura Kay, director of the London contemporary designer boutique, Tomfoolery. 

Alternative engagement rings
Shaun Leane Aurora ring

Indeed, the options are limitless, from twisted styles to double bands, and anything you can imagine. If you have an idea for a unique wedding band that you haven’t seen elsewhere, there’s also the possibility of going bespoke.

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