Wedding bands are very specific type rings. They are in a league of their own, defined by purpose and symbolism far exceeding their ornamental function. For men, the wedding band is the most common piece of jewelry and for many – the only one. Wedding bands are worn by women and man all over the world day and night which is also making them the most frequent piece of jewelry. Because they are hardly off one’s finger, the wedding bands are expected to be comfortable, durable and hypoallergenic. Obviously they are also expected to fulfill one’s aesthetic standards, but while the first three requirements are compulsory, this one is highly subjective and allow wide diversity. The comfortable wear of men’s wedding band depends on many factors including the shape of one’s finger. There are however some common factors which I would like to point out:
In order to be comfortable the wedding band must be “comfort fit”. This means the internal wall of the band must be rounded and not flat. This ensures that the edges are softened and there is only small part of the inner surface of the band in contact with the finger giving it space to “breathe”. In order to have the inner wall rounded for comfort fit, the wedding band should be sufficiently thick and therefore heavier than the average flat wall one. This could be used as entry level indication of quality. The thicker the wedding band the more generous the comfort fit and respectively the higher the price. Cheap wedding bands focus on the use of minimum amount of precious metal and have no room for comfort fit. In order to make their wedding band lighter some manufacturers leave them with seriously sharp edges. Watch out for these when shopping on low budget. Other issues concerning the comfortable wear are related to specific wedding bands designs. Sharp outer edges, small sticking out detail and deep carved high ornaments are some of them. The rule of thumb is that the simple uncomplicated designs are the most comfortable ones. I am not implying that everybody must wear classic half round comfort fit band, but I also can’t deny that they are the most comfortable ones.
Looking at the durability factor one can’t help but notice that almost the same rules apply. To have wedding band that will not change its round shape even though most excessive banging we need thickness, a body of solid metal. The average thickness of low end 4mm men’s wedding band is 1.5mm. Comfort fit becomes possible at about 2mm. thickness, while good quality high end wedding band should be 2.3 – 2.7mm. The type of metal is also very important durability factor. Here is good to differentiate the hardness of the metal form its abrasion resistance. Some hard metals will wear off much faster than some softer ones with higher abrasion resistance. 10k gold for example is probably the hardest gold alloy but it is wearing off at very rapid rate. The educated choice of white metal is definitely pointing to platinum and palladium, depending of personal preferences and budget. The two metals have identical look and mechanical properties with vast difference in specific weight and price. Palladium is 40% lighter than platinum and identical item cost +/- 4 times less making it the perfect wedding bands white media. Both metals are hypoallergenic and highly abrasion resistant. The gold is the best (and the only) metal for these who prefer yellow wedding band and my opinion is that traditional 4.5mm 18k yellow band with well defined dome is the one that suits best most men. Low carat gold alloys have diluted color and low precious metal content and while they are possible option I will not recommend them. White gold wedding bands have low score in every segment of assessment. Their natural color is not appealing; they need expensive maintenance (rhodium) they are wearing off fast and are more expensive than identical palladium band. The popular alternative metals like titanium, tungsten, zirconium etc. are not part of this study since they don’t belong to the precious metal group.
On the design side I will advise my fellow men to keep it simple, for quality and aesthetic balance speak much better than complicated detail. Of course this is my aesthetic point of view and I am far from trying to prove it is the right one. Design is a personal choice reflecting ones personality and taste and every design is right for the one who chooses it. In my experience as studio jeweler however I repeatedly came across men regretting their choice in design since it proved to be impractical. Most of them were men with active lifestyle, and/or professions requiring them to work with their hands. In many cases the unsuitable design was chosen by the fiance as part of wedding set. It is not a bad idea to forget about how nice the two matching bands look together in the box at the ceremony and consider the long years of wearing the bands that lies ahead. Impractical for most men are wedding bands with small detail, including engraving especially in gold since the ornaments will wear off in about one year and turn into deep scratches. Shadow lines and hollowed designs which will eventually gather grease and cause skin irritation. Complicated mix finishes (matt and polished) which will look good only for few days and very high (over 3mm) bands which will bruise the neighboring fingers. Whatever you wedding band choice, remember that the few classic men’s designs which survived the test of time have one thing in common – they were practical like most of the men themselves.