INSTEAD OF A DIAMOND SOLITAIRE, many couples opt for a nontraditional wedding ring. Some skip the engagement rings altogether or design their own with the guidance of custom jewelers.
Here's a look at some options and stories from couples who went the unconventional route due to their personal taste, budget, ethics or sentiments.
Many couples design custom engagement rings and wedding bands with the assistance of a jeweler. With a custom ring, you can be sure your ring is unique and meaningful.
Savannah Pearce, owner of local salon Rocket Science, has a traditional wedding ring by Tiffany, but her husband David wears a custom-made platinum band. "David's is ... a one-of-a-kind [piece featuring] the mountain range that you can see across the bay from where I was born, essentially a diorama of my birthplace," she says.
Custom rings can take weeks or months to make depending on the complexity of the design, so allow plenty of lead-time. Andrea Arcuri-Hoover, a hair stylist at Salon Diversions, wears a ring her husband Richard had custom made for her by friend Grayson Carroll of Artisan Jewelers in Lafayette. The ring depicts the moon and stars. The Hoovers also got matching tattoos the day after their wedding
"Grayson was inspired by a piece he saw at a museum in Chicago," Hoover says. "Richard told Grayson his idea and they collaborated via email for a few months."
Jessica Fite made the simple bronze cigar bands she and her husband Chris wear.
"Chris refuses to let me upgrade them to gold even though his turns his finger green every day," she says.
"Jessie Fite, they're the best wedding rings ever," Chris responds. "You made them. Doesn't get any better than that."
Vintage or antique rings
Rings more than 100 years old are considered antiques, and those older than 50 years are vintage. Estate jewelry simply means previously owned. There are good deals to be had for vintage and antique rings, which often carry smaller stones but are rich in detail and craftsmanship.
Sarah Brown, a digital strategist in Austin, Texas, has a verging-on-antique ring. "We didn't want to spend a lot and all the new rings started to look the same after awhile, so we found mine at one of the jewelers on Wabash (Avenue) in Chicago," she said.
If you desire a new ring that looks old, there are reproductions or the option to design your own.
Local shops such as French Quarter Gem & Lapidary, Magpie, Wellington & Co. and M.S. Rau Antiques offer vintage, antique and estate rings in a range of prices.
Some families honor the tradition of passing down jewelry. This is good news if you enjoy heirlooms or if your family doesn't mind you altering the rings. Stones and metal also can be repurposed into new pieces.
New Orleanians Daniel Perez and his wife Rita combined vintage, custom and family heirloom elements into their nontraditional wedding rings. They wear Daniel's grandparents' wedding bands.
"We skipped the jeweler process and had family involved who were happy to pass on heirlooms," Daniel says. "Plus, since the rings were from family, they meant more to us than something that we could pick in a store."
Diamonds are not every girl's best friend. There are dozens of gemstones available in every color, but choose wisely — softer stones can become chipped or scratched.
"Durability should be an important factor in stone selection, especially for engagement rings," says jewelry designer Chesley Adler of Adler's Jewelry. "Only consider softer stones if you have a tolerance for repairs. Ask your jeweler to advise on how specific stones hold up on the hand over time."
In much of Europe, couples wear simple matching bands. The diamond solitaire engagement ring is common in the United States, but wedding rings, like many things, are culturally specific.
"In Germany and many parts of Europe they just do very simple matching bands. No diamonds," says Sam Winston, a New Orleanian who met his wife in Germany.
Mod Dance Party DJ Kristen Aul wears a silver wedding band handmade by a jeweler in her husband's village in Germany. "No engagement rings," says the Louisiana native. "I cook and work in a restaurant here in Germany, and I shudder at wearing rings while working, much less bacteria-ridden stone settings." Practicality: yet another fine reason for selecting wedding bands.
Adler's Jewelry (722 Canal St., 504-523-5292; www.adlersjewelry.com)
French Quarter Gem & Lapidary (527 St. Philip St., 504-524-9596; www.facebook.com/frenchquarter- gemlapidary)
M.S. Rau Antiques (630 Royal St., 504-523-5660; www.rauantiques.com)
Magpie (4529 Magazine St., 504-891-1333; www.etsy.com/shop/magpievintagejewely)
Symmetry Jewelers (8138 Hampson St., 504-861-9925; www.symmetryjewelers.com)
Tiffany & Co. (The Shops at Canal Place, 333 Canal St., www.tiffany.com)
Wellington & Co. (505 Royal St., 504-525-4855; www.wcjewelry.com)