Tag Archives: wedding bands

Ring Fingers: Who’s Right…What’s Left?

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In America, when we want to perform a perfunctory assessment of whether someone is married or not, we scope out the fourth finger on their left hand and check if there’s a ring situated there.  In essence, we are investigating if someone did indeed like it, and if they put a ring on it.  However, this tried and true method for seeing if you have a shot (romantically) with a particular individual may not play out so seamlessly in some other corners of the globe.  Why?  Because in some countries and cultures, the wedding/engagement ring is worn on the …wait for it… right finger.

Before delving into this , you may want to edify yourself on the general history of wedding rings, so you fully understand how far back and complicated the whole international betrothal ring routine is.

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Ok, let’s start with the basics.  In many Western cultures, the ring is worn on the left hand because (according to legend) there is an artery that runs the course of your left arm and channels right into your heart.  Hence, once the ring is placed on that prized left digit, an unbreakable, eternal bond is forged between your heart and the person who placed the ring on that spiritually connective finger.  It’s quite the cute explanation.  So why doesn’t every country adopt this adorable practice?  Well, if we can take a break from unbridled nationalism for a moment, we can see that there are several important factors at play in other global territories.  Up until fairly recently, all Indian women wore their wedding rings on the right hand for one immutable reason; the left hand is viewed as “unclean.”  The right hand is used for fun and positive things, such as eating and squeezing a baby’s cheek; the left hand is used for cleansing oneself after using the restroom… So not the best location for an esteemed and symbolic piece of jewelry.  Another group that adheres to the right-ring-hand principle (for a somewhat similar reason) is the Greek Orthodox clan.  They keep with Roman rituals in many respects, and the relevant one here is that the left hand is considered to be evil or “sinister.”  In the Latin tongue, ‘sinis’ means left, and ‘dexter’ means right.  Ergo, the left hand and left-handed people were thought to be not so great; therefore there was no way anybody was putting a lovely ring on that dastardly hand.

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Other lands that go along with the right hand wedding band motif are some of the Nordic ones, including Denmark and Norway.  Perhaps they are just chilly there and prefer to keep their left hands in their pockets a lot, while the right one conducts all necessary functions of life (just a theory).  Moving a few kilometers east, the nations of Bulgaria, Poland and mother Russia still contain entire populations with right-hand-ring bearing peoples.  The actual explanation here is rooted in religion.  There are a few biblical references to The Lord telling people to put rings on their right hands – and eat yummy fatted calves, rejoice, etc., etc.  It appears the devout people of these places aren’t about to break this tradition anytime soon.

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Finally, there are some wedding ring idiosyncracies that utilize a custom known as the ‘ole switcharoo.’  In sultry Brazil, both males and females wear engagement rings on their right hands.  Once they exchange vows – bam – they switch them over to the left.  In the opposite hemisphere, the Netherlands and Germany do the reverse; start with the left, switch to the right (keeping in accordance with the ‘cold left hand theory’…)  People of the Jewish faith perform a nifty switch too; the wedding ring is first placed on the index, or pointer finger,  because it is the most important.  Decorum has the wearer shift the ring over to the fourth finger, after the glass has been smashed and everyone has cheered ‘Mazal!’

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While some people are strictly traditional, rigidly adhering to past customs, there will always be a rebellious sect, carving out a unique niche for themselves.  As cultures continue to mix and mash, time will tell what wedding ring habits will stay the course and which ones will fall by the wayside.  As we collectively revel in the past and explore new and exciting options, only one thing is truly for certain; your grandma wants you to settle down and stick a ring on one of those fingers, darnit.

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-Joe Leone 

Setting Rings in Motion

Riveting Ring Setting Types

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When choosing a ring, a ton of thought goes into the precious gemstone(s) that will be featured.  Lest you forget, the mounting plays a huge role in the overall aesthetics of the ring as well.  Commonly (and, technically, inaccurately) referred to as the “setting” (‘setting’ is the act of placing a stone into a “mounting,” the physical object), the choice and formation of the metal utilized here is just as important as the way the mounting looks.  Here are the most popular setting options available, as well as some of the lesser seen varieties.  A close inspection of each band/mounting type will help to give you a better idea as to what setting is right for your particular ring finger, your loved one’s…or your cat’s paw.

If loving you is prong, I don’t want to be right

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Prong Setting

Ah, the perennially prominent prongs.  A prong setting is the most ubiquitous in the world of diamond rings, especially engagement rings.  Prongs are small metal hooks that hold the stone (hopefully) securely in its spot.  Most rings will feature four of the talon-like pieces to keep their gem held tight (just like a raven’s foot), but some have six, or even more.  The reason why everybody loves prongs so much is because with this brand of setting more of the stone is visible.  The more visible the stone, the greater the opportunity for light to hit it at various angles.  The more light, the more bright (or “brighter” …for those of you who prefer correct grammar).  The only major downfall of a prong setting is that the metal hooks can get caught on clothing items, other pieces of jewelry and in rare cases, the mouth of fish.  If the precious metal of the ring is soft, like gold or platinum, the prong can easily bend – if it’s titanium, like Sia sings, it probably isn’t going anywhere.

Bez Friends

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Bezel Setting

The second most celebrated setting is the bezel.  This is probably the most secure variety out there, so it’s good for the ring-wearer-on-the-go (not exactly sure where they are going, but you get the idea).  One cool thing about the bezel setting is that in order for the center stone to be properly locked into place, the mounting must be custom made.  This gives each ring a certain uniqueness to it.  For a little “peek-a-boo” light action, there is the partial bezel.  This sub-style leaves the sides of the stone open for some serious ray penetration and subsequent brilliance enhancing.

Why so tense?

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Tension Setting

A tension set stone looks as if it’s being magically held in place, therefore a great pick for mystical men and whimsical women.  The way a tension setting is structured is a highly scientific process, using sophisticated calibration techniques; the jeweler doesn’t just ram the diamond into the metal and then have a cigarette.  The gemstone dimensions are precisely measured and the metal then has minuscule divots cut into the main open areas.  The stone is delicately placed in the opening and then violà, held in place due to the pressure the band is exerting on it.  The end result is that the gem is suspended there, for all of eternity.   Since this process is so complicated, tension setting can be expensive.  However, if you want the ‘look for less,’ you can opt for a “tension-style” setting.  This basically is a subtle bezel setting that has still has the band converging in the middle, giving off the impression that it’s actually tension set, and that you are an authentic baller.

Don’t change the channel 

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Channel Setting

Do not go into a jeweler’s shop asking for a “Chanel” ring, unless you are prepared to part with a hefty sum.  A channel setting is used for stones of a more diminutive nature, that are set in a nice little row (like, for instance, adorable ducklings sitting on a log).  These are often used in wedding bands (as there is typically no large, center stone), and have seen a recent rise in popularity, as designers are mixing gems of different or alternating colors in the band.

Raising the Bar

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Bar Setting

This setting version is essentially the same as the channel, only instead of fully encapsulating the diamonds from all sides, the bar type band leaves the sides of each stone exposed.  Again, this is ostensibly so more rays of light can bombard the stones and refract out in a dynamic rainbow of organic opulence (aka: sparkle).  A great setting if the actual setting you met your betrothed at was a bar – or if they just spend all day there now.

The road to ____ is pavéd with good intentions 

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Pavé Setting

The pavé setting is similar to the channel setting, except the diamonds/stones typically are even smaller and do not look as if they are as deeply set into the band.  A series of little dazzlers encircle the whole ring, so an overall effect of ne’er-ending sparkle is achieved.  Using a very precise drill, the jeweler makes infinitesimally small holes throughout the band and then sticks the baby diamonds in there.  This style can look elegant on the right person, but may come across as over the top on someone with more understated tastes (for a more subtle pavé style, there is the eternity band, which is completely inlaid with diamonds, but doesn’t have a center stone).  One of the biggest gripes people have about pavé set rings is that once those buggers are in place, it becomes nearly impossible to re-size the ring.  Bottom line if you want a pavé ring: get the size correct off the bat / don’t ever gain or lose weight.

Oh, halo there 

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Halo Setting

Hark!  The heavenly halo setting sings!  This is definitely a miracle performing mounting, as the halo setting makes the center stone look significantly larger.  If you really want to make that puppy pop, you can have a double halo, and get even more bang for your buck  The angelic halo, which can be round or square, encircles the radius of the diamond with other, smaller diamonds.  It’s basically like having a full pavé setting around your center stone, and a virtual angel watching over your diamond’s every move.

The Flushing Bride

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Flush Setting

To qualify as a flush, the band of the ring needs to have a hole drilled into it so the center stone can literally rest flush in the shank (band).  The end result looks like a tension set band and a bezel had a sturdy looking baby, and this is it.  This is one of the more secure setting breeds; a veritable Fort Knox of mountings.  It’s a somewhat masculine look, hence it often shows up in men’s bands.  Men who love fancy, glittery things, that is.

Cluster Bucks 

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Cluster Setting

Here’s the deal with cluster settings; they’re yet another beautiful deception in the duplicitous and riveting ring milieu.  A group of smallish stones are lumped all together, to either create the appearance of a more massive, cumulative stone, or to aid the overall gemstone mass of ring that contains a center stone.  Cluster settings are basically the reason why one must always ask for a distinction in “carat weight” versus “total carat weight.”  A cluster of ten delicate diamonds which weigh 3 carats total, will typically not be worth nearly as much a single stone weighing 2 carats.

Take Me to Cathedral

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Cathedral Setting

This is as delicate and pulchritudinous a ring mounting as they come.  Lifting the stone to blessed heights, the cathedral setting emulates the grand spanning arches of an actual basilica.  The gem is literally raised off the finger, usually with fetching, stretching prongs, but can also be tension or bezel set (it’s simply the comely church-like aesthetic that defines this setting).  Just watch yourself; the added height makes this potentially arrogant ring ripe for breaking, as envious worldly elements seek to rend it back to earth – or worse, farther down below… like Australia. 

Use Your Illusion 

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Illusion Setting

Known in the jewelry world as the “illusion setting” (as in “It’s not a trick…it’s an illusion”), here we have a small diamond or other gemstone featured in a band that has an elaborate metal framework surrounding it.  Usually, the diamond would be at the center of a flower shape, with petals jutting out on the sides.  These guys were popular during the Retro period, and would routinely showcase hearts, additional floral pattens, intaglios, itty bitty side stones, and in very rare cases, hashtags.  If it hasn’t been made clear yet, the “illusion” referenced here is that while the diamond/ring in reality may be of a meager nature, it appears to be quite sizable and expensive (apologies to any prideful magicians out there).

Vintage of Innocence 

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Vintage Setting

We saved one of the best for last, the vivacious vintage setting.  These preterite pieces may incorporate a variety of the previously listed mountings, or elements intrinsic to them.  However, a primary distinguishing characteristic in most vintage settings is the use of intricate metalwork.  The term for this is filigreed, yet most people from yesteryear were certainly not ‘greedy’ in their displaying of gems and metals with a fervent flourish.  Filigreed is comprised of a nexus of metal threads, woven together to form a delicate pattern.  It can incorporate tiny beads, balls and baby baubles.  These are great rings for those who not only appreciate the past, but revel in it.

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-Joe Leone