I was in my early 20s when I fell in love with a woman named Sheila. Jeweler Jane Koplewitz is my sister and she was the first person I told that I was involved in a same-sex relationship. Without hesitation she asked, “Who’s the lucky woman?”
When things got serious between Sheila and me, Jane asked, “If you decide to get rings, can I have the honor of making them for you?”
A full two decades before gay marriage would be legalized in New York, Jane was offering her design work to couples who wanted wedding or commitment rings. Over the years, she has worked with dozens of gay and lesbian couples. Now that same-sex marriage is happening all over, she has experienced a flood of interest for unique and meaningful designs.
Jane’s goal as a designer is to make the experience of choosing rings a joyous one — symbolic of the first of many decisions a couple will make together.
“Realize that a ring, as compared to earrings, pins, and necklaces, is jewelry that is viewed intimately by the wearer, as well as observers,” Jane says. “What do you want to see, and how do you want to feel when you look at your wedding ring on a daily basis?”
Here are a few things couples should consider when creating jewelry that represents their love:
Traditionally, a man gives a woman an engagement ring and both exchange bands on the day of their wedding. But what happens when conventional gender roles are no longer valid? Women, it seems, double up on the bling.
“My experience is that when lesbian couples buy rings, they express interest in both engagement and wedding rings,” Jane tells me. “If they choose only a wedding ring, then instead of a simple band they tend to choose a ring that looks more like an engagement ring.”
Male couples are usually less interested in an engagement ring and more intrigued by originality.
“Men focus on making their wedding band distinctive, by adding features such as embossed textures or small diamond accents.”
A couple who decide to have custom-designed rings usually do so because symbolism is important to each of them. If this sounds like you and your partner, remember to start designing your bands months before your wedding.
“You will need to plan in advance and contact your jewelry designer at least three months before you want your rings to be delivered,” Jane advises. “This allows you to work closely with your designer and to see the rings in the various stages of design. And don’t be afraid to start the process a year before your wedding!”
Many of her same-sex clients have chosen designs that are metaphorical. One lesbian couple decided to symbolize their unity by choosing two independently designed rings that fit into a single ring when placed together. Another couple wanted a design that included lightening bolts because the moment they were struck with the realization that they were in love occurred during a thunderstorm.
Metals used in the construction of the ring should also be well thought out.
“People get confused about the purity of gold,” Jane explains. “Twenty-four karat is 100 percent, 18 karat is 75 percent, and 14 karat is 58 percent gold.”
Today, modern metallurgy offers gold, platinum, palladium, and other mixed metals as options.
“Color options for metals include white-, green-, and pink-gold, as well as gold of varying degrees of yellow,” Jane says.
The best white metals are platinum or palladium because both are extremely strong and are a beautiful, bright white color.
A couple may decide that it wants gemstones in the wedding rings as well as in the engagement rings.
“Many contemporary rings incorporate flush-set small gemstones — sapphires and diamonds are by far the best gems for this kind of application,” Jane says.
Diamonds and sapphires also offer a rainbow of colors and if you choose diamonds, it’s always a good idea to be aware of where they come from.
“I use what is known in the industry as conflict-free diamonds, which means the gemstones are responsibly mined,” Jane explains. “Many jewelers have made this commitment, as well as choosing to work with recycled metals when possible, which I do in many of the rings I create.”
No matter what motif you choose for your rings, the weight, durability, and placement of gemstones are affected by daily activities. For instance, one of Jane’s clients was a physician and wanted to make sure that her wedding band allowed her to easily change her hospital gloves throughout the day.
To be completely sure of a ring’s true coziness, it’s wise to head to a showroom.
“Do a lot of viewing and trying on as you begin the process of choosing your wedding bands,” Jane tells me. “What you think you will like may be very different from what is comfortable on your finger. You may have been very surprised by how you found each other and, likewise, you may find yourselves surprised when you choose the design of this timeless symbol of your love for each other.”
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