Wedding Bands: An Overview

When my parents were planning their wedding, somehow they forgot to get wedding bands until a day or two before the wedding. Having no idea that jewelers typically make wedding bands to order (or at least size them to order), my mom and dad quickly gauged by the panicked clerk’s face that they were in a bit of a pickle. The salesman was able to find a couple of display rings in 10K yellow gold and the most basic of designs that fit my parents. To this day, their bands are inscribed not with loving words or their wedding date, but instead with restocking-codes with the model numbers in bold block print. While there’s something cute about it-- their naivete and their happy-go-lucky attitude to just keep those-- it’s definitely not the way to do it.


Custom Engagement ring and eternity style wedding bands made by Secrète Fine Jewelry in our Bethesda workshop.

Historical and Cultural Significance

Before you begin selecting your wedding bands, it can be helpful to reflect on the significance of the tradition. According to GIA, as early as 200 BCE gold bands were worn by women to signify a contract of business and love (it seems we 21st Century pre-nup holders aren’t the first to pay attention to the business end of the bargain). Other sources trace the tradition back 4800 years to Ancient Egypt. The practice has evolved over time, and men adopted the practice of wearing bands only in the last few decades, according to BBC.

Their significance is not tied to any one written document or believe, but rather to the lore attributed to them in your culture and tradition. For many, the circle is to symbolize an unending shape, as your love never ends. They’re worn on your 4th finger because they used to believe the vein in that finger ran straight to the heart, and on the left hand because your heart is on the left side of the body. For some its an emblem of love, and for others, it’s a way to publicly declare, “I’m taken.” Wedding rings have a place in the wedding liturgy of most mainstream Christian denominations. There are also guidelines in many traditions for what the rings might consist of, including a Jewish custom of using a ring without stones. Other Eastern traditions include gifts of gold jewelry, if not necessarily gold, between the bride and groom before a wedding. As our wedding ceremonies evolve over time, our symbolism adapts, but the millennia-old tradition of wearing wedding rings will always be a way to outwardly profess our love and commitment.

This amazing handmade engagement ring by Secrète in 18k white gold and diamonds required a custom-designed half-circle wedding band. Looks great!


There are so many choices when it comes to customizing your own wedding bands. In our showcase at  Secrète Fine Jewelry in Washington, DC, we calculated over 600,000 permutations in the basic ring display between widths, common sizes, common metal types, styles, and finishes-- not even including the infinite number of possibilities available when custom-designing a ring from scratch. Let’s run down a few of the options to make it a little more helpful.


Secrète just made this beautiful emerald and diamond wedding band as a loving present to a husband who had lost his original ring. 

Metal choices:

Most couples choose a precious metal for their wedding bands, like gold or platinum.

  • Gold: Gold is a precious metal that has been valued for its beauty since prehistoric times. Its natural color is a rich orange-yellow, but it can be mixed with copper, silver, nickel (or modern hypoallergenic nickel alternatives) to create white gold, yellow gold, or rose gold. Gold’s purity is measured in karats. Pure gold is 24K, but 24K gold is too soft for almost all jewelry applications. 14K gold is 58.5% pure, no matter what the color. 18K gold is 75% pure, no matter what the color.

  • Platinum: Platinum is a harder, heavier precious metal than gold, and is naturally a steely-white color. It is normally mixed at 95% purity. It’s very hypoallergenic, and it’s very resistant to bending or scratching, making it a sturdy choice for anyone. It tends to mellow into a matte-sheen over time, making it a very elegant, low-maintenance choice.

  • Paladium: Paladium is relatively new on the precious metal scene, offering many of the benefits of platinum, typically at a lower cost. Palladium can be harder for a jeweler to work with, however, requiring specialized tools and extra that may offset the savings from the lower metal costs.

  • Silver: Unless a couple has a strong sentimental reason for wanting silver wedding rings, most jewelers will recommend against it. Silver is a soft metal that bends and scratches much too much for the daily wear a wedding band will get. If you like the look of white metal, white gold or platinum are much better choices.

  • Modern metals: Tungsten (the element used for light bulb filaments), ceramic, titanium, steel, and even silicone have been made into wedding rings in recent years. Each of these options has its pros and cons, but most jewelers can accommodate these requests when a customer wants to go this route. Many contemporary metals are impossible to resize, impossible to remove from your hand if there’s an injury, or not as durable as traditional materials.

  • Diamonds and Gemstones: Diamonds and gemstones can be added to almost any wedding ring design! Some couples use diamonds because they symbolize “forever,” while others might incorporate each other’s birthstone or simply a favorite color.


This amazing band is set with a cluster of tsavorite garnets and diamonds. Available at Secrète in DuPont Circle. 


Classic Wedding Band Styles:

  • Half-round: Rings that are a little domed are called half-round. These are the most traditional style.

  • Milgrain: Milgrain is a tiny little row of dots around the edge of a band. It gives the ring an antique vibe, without being too over-the-top.

  • Flat: Flat rings have a more modern look, with right-angle edges.

  • Flat-edge: This style means there’s a little step down towards the edge.

  • Slightly-domed: The happy medium between the modern flat style and the classic round.

  • Eternity band: This style has diamonds all the way around.

To learn more about what you like for wedding bands, stop by our DuPont Circle or Wildwood location today to try some on!

Abigail Bracy