Don’t Buy It: Wedding Bands

2 06 2009

There are several reasons to “don’t buy it” when it comes to wedding rings. For women, their history includes the ancient Roman tradition wherein a man could claim you as property via the gift, and  for men, they are a delightful 20th century marketing invented need. And even if the history doesn’t trouble you, well, when it comes to diamonds and gold, as Racialicious says: exploitation is forever.

My husband and I were married in 1995. I was ambivalent about the symbolism of the whole situation: Well beyond the rings, I was reflecting on the reality that if he were female, there’d be no wedding at all. So the first don’t buy it approach we took to weddings rings was just…. don’t buy it. We didn’t have rings for the first 13 years of our marriage, and that worked out fine.

Sometime this year, though, we felt ourselves softening up towards them. But not softening up so much that we were willing to shell out that two months’ salary that the diamond shillers are always urging on you.

My husband and my mom came up with a don’t buy it solution to the problem of the blingy engagement ring. On Valentine’s Day, he gave me my grandmother’s wedding and engagement band set, which she had once upon a time had soldered together. We had the two rings separated and restored at a local  family-owned jeweler (for about $700), and now I have a gorgeous heirloom diamond ring for my engagement band, and my brother has the other ring to give on bended knee someday. The jeweler said that the rings — which were heirloom-quality to begin with — had quadrupled in value when the work was complete, so that $700 was worth the investment. If you are thinking of asking someone to marry you, you might consider asking both your folks and your future in-laws if there’s a family ring that you could hand down.

For the wedding bands themselves, we came up with another don’t buy it solution. We made them. Here they are (I made his; he made mine):

They are sterling silver, not gold. (We could have made them in 14k gold, for about $200-300 per ring, but I like the symbolism of a wedding ring that needs to be polished.)

I’d like to assure you that I have no talent whatsoever at handskills in general, and had never made jewelry before. We made these in one evening in a $35 class (yes, that included the price of the silver) offered by the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, but similar classes are offered in other places, by craft groups and independent jewelers. In Minneapolis, for example, you can do the same thing at Veberod’s Gem Gallery. (Please do comment if you know of other places in other cities.) I have heard that many small, independent jewelers — even if they don’t offer classes — may be willing to rent you studio and instruction time to make your own ring, so if you can’t find a class and want to do this it may be worth a call to explore the option.

Making your own rings qualifies as an intensely romantic, meaningful date, and you get a quality ring made from materials you choose. Having done it, I can’t imagine why anyone would buy them: they were easy and fun to make (with a teacher’s help and supervision), inexpensive, and they are deeply meaningful to us.

What have been your don’t buy it solutions to the come hither call of the wedding industry?

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5 responses

10 06 2009
» Batter Up For The 181st Festival of Frugality on the Festival of Frugality

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16 06 2009
Meredith

My husband proposed with his grandmother’s ring, and I found a wide gold band for him at a pawn shop ($60?).

11 07 2009
Auntali

First marriage exh and I had sterling silver rings made for us. My current dh and I bought me a wedding band with diamonds to save on an engagement ring. I now have my daunt’s vintage diamond engagement ring that I wear every day.

12 07 2009
whereshallweeat

You can make this sort of thing at many paint-your-own pottery studios. Many of them have expanded their offerings to various kiln-fired arts and silver clay is very popular in these studios.

As for me, I wear my husband’s late mother’s engagement ring & wedding band. It’s lovely and it’s all I really need.

22 07 2009
StaciM

I think it’s great to make your own wedding ring. The idea of an engagement ring does seem overrated, and a plain band seems more practical for everyday wear than one with stones on it. It was odd how in the MSN article about this that you were portrayed as being anti any ring at all, as opposed to just making your own.

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