Help me help him put a ring on it
June 20, 2014 11:49 AM   Subscribe

He's asking me what style of ring I'd like; it's just a promise/"love you" ring right now, but of course it's relevant for the "big one", we both know. Except I don't know what I like. Special snowflake: periodic months-long long-distance situation.

I'm away for months at a time (not forever but for the next couple years thereabouts), so the loving couple going into the ring store doesn't help us with him wanting to get me a token of his affection -now-.

Except I don't wear rings as a decorative item. I don't wear them to go to parties even. I do wear a simple band, which I bought for myself as "pesticide". It's the perfect size (that's the other trouble, ugh), fit, comfort level. Unfortunately, due to our combined situation, I can't mail this ring back and know that it'll make it there safely.

I do like rings with things inset in the band somehow, but hate rings that somehow catch the skin and bite, or poke into the fingers on either side if the ring twists somehow, or that always twists so that the decorative item is underneath, or that I have to constantly clean some sort of gunk out of the decorative elements. Having attempted to be a ring wearer when I was younger, I know these things to a point.

I don't know how to pick ring styles though, when even "inset" styles boggle the mind. I'm not a woman who just loves staring at ring websites or going to the mall to try things on, and I definitely don't look at any bridal magazines or really have girl friends to chatter about these things with, so I'm staring at the Zales site right now in mild frustration muttering things like, "why do so many have gems surrounded by gems? good god" and "I'm a klutz! I can't wear most of this!" and "I don't fucking know!" I also find it frustrating that ring sites insist I look up rings by the occasion rather than something like "mostly plain with some inset stuff". Also, also frustrating that there are so many choices. I know what I don't like, and I know I'll definitely lean toward certain styles if I can only clarify what I want, I guess?

Help? How does a non-girly girl pick out these things, or at least narrow it down? I'm assuming that once I find my, I dunno, top 3 to 5 styles, I'm going to stick to those rather closely and hopefully never have to think about this too heavily again. This is also supposed to be like my current ring, which I pretty much never take off for any reason, and which has stood up to almost 2 years of my "how did I get THAT bruise on my hand?" klutziness (it still has tiny, tiny little dings, like every watch face I've ever owned).

Ugh, thank you for any tips you can provide.
posted by DisreputableDog to Clothing, Beauty, & Fashion (27 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
When I was looking for a ring I just started going to the store and playing with different styles. I was pretty sure I wanted a vintage ring so I started at antique stores alone before I went with my partner.
posted by radioamy at 11:57 AM on June 20, 2014

All those rings look the same so it's no wonder you're having a hard time.

Try googling "nontraditional wedding rings" or "nontraditional engagement rings"
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:57 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Consider searching for men's or "unisex" rings. For reasons that disappoint me, all "plain" bands are generally considered "men's". Many "men's" rings have stones inset (example).

Another thing to consider is two-tone. It's a way to add decorative interest without adding snaggly-bits. (my wedding ring looks pretty much exactly like this one)

And: I am also a non-girly girl, and I also am not the type who enjoys going to the mall to try things on, but honestly, on my ring hunt, going into stores just so see what they had (and how things looked/felt on my finger) was a really important part of deciding what I liked (because I honestly had no idea, beyond "nothing that sticks out because it will fall off")
posted by sparklemotion at 11:58 AM on June 20, 2014

Here's a site with a bunch of listicles that might help.
posted by the young rope-rider at 11:59 AM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

You sort of sound like me, and Etsy was a lifesaver! I never even ended up on ring sites, because the sterile shininess of it all was such a turnoff. Honestly, I started just looking for simple bands on Etsy, hoping I'd find something inset, or just slightly decorative. I'd follow designers I liked, rather than specific ring styles, and I felt that worked out really well.

I ended up with a plain white gold band with the texture of plywood(that ended up being a very specifically "me" thing...specifically plywood, not just wood). It even ended up feeling exactly like my "pesticide", which was just a plain silver band!

ALSO, does he want to pick out a ring for you based on your criteria...or can you just pick out one and tell him that's the one you want? Because man, that whole trusting your partner to get your aesthetic exactly right thing can be rough.
posted by sawdustbear at 11:59 AM on June 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

How do you feel about a band with something special engraved either on the inside or outside? (Not glitzy, not snaggy, not likely to require lots of cleaning.) A search for "message ring" on Etsy brings up some interesting stuff. As for size, can you measure your current ring and send him the dimensions?
posted by corey flood at 11:59 AM on June 20, 2014

Not sure if this is the kind of thing that interests you & your beloved, but I hate rings of all kinds and always said that my wedding band would be a tattoo.
posted by deliciae at 12:00 PM on June 20, 2014

I went through the same thing last year, and honestly I felt very overwhelmed by the whole experience so I completely understand what you mean.

I found the websites frustrating because they seemed to show me biggest/blingiest ones, there were too many choices, and the rings seemed like too much for me. I'm not a ring wearer either and I have small hands, I was afraid that the ring would take over my hand.

Like you, I had one ring that I wore occasionally and like. So I tried to tailor my search to similar styles to to one ring. I googled for unique ladies rings or unique engagement rings, try these searches they will work. I looked at sites such as and, also I'd suggest looking at those sites rather than zales because zales will have more traditional style rings.

I narrowed down to a few styles that I really liked, then went into the stores to try on the styles to see what would work best for my handsize. We didn't buy from the store though, because they all had too much bling on them, and ended back up on one of the sites and ordered from there. This might be a good idea for you too.

You may want to look at bands since you seem comfortable with them. There are great sites out there for unique ring styles, check out the ones above or google for them.

Good luck!
posted by lullu73 at 12:04 PM on June 20, 2014

And regarding fit: I'm not sure how it is where you are (I assume you're where your profile says that you are), but in North America, sales people at stores that sell rings will have no problem with sticking a ring sizer on you to tell you your size. A good sales person will be able to give you further advice for considerations like being between sizes, or how if you go for a wider ring (as the non-girly ones often are) you might need to also go up a quarter or half size. They should give you this advice without expecting you to buy right away.

Otherwise, ring sizers are pretty cheap (even the one that is a giant ring with lots of rings hanging off of it)
posted by sparklemotion at 12:09 PM on June 20, 2014

How about a women's titanium ring? Titanium is lightweight, strong, and comes in pretty styles that won't catch on things.
posted by Marie Mon Dieu at 12:14 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I think what will work best for you is something in a beautiful metal, like platinum or white gold or yellow gold, which is engraved. If you do opt for a stone, inlaid pearls or diamonds would be a nice option that would avoid scratchiness or fiddliness. I'd go to Etsy and look at the inlaid engagement bands or perhaps anniversary bands like this one or engraved bands like this one. Once you find a seller whose product is appealing, you can communicate directly about getting the size right and other individual tweaks.
posted by bearwife at 12:22 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Seconding titanium. My primary wedding ring is titanium + amboyna burl wood (etsy), and my secondary wedding ring (for days when I don't want to damage my good ring) is just titanium. Beautiful, simple, me.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 12:40 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

The search term is "eternity band" or "eternity ring". This style of ring is flat and has stones inset all around. You will always see the blingy things regardless of the way the ring spins and will never catch. The downside is that the ring cannot be resized.

If you want something that is obviously not wedding/engagement then you choose something that is not a diamond. has a reasonable UI that allows you to browse Gemstone eternity rings in a given size (go half size over your usual size) in a given price range. I saw a few good choices in 10k/14k gold under $500, which seems a reasonable set of parameters for a promise ring. Your selection goes up if the budget is to $1000.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:41 PM on June 20, 2014

I was in the same boat as you - I don't wear rings, I didn't like anything I saw online, etc.

You should just spend 30 mins of your life and go into a Zales or a less "wedding-y" jewelry store and try a few different things on. Just say "we are NOT going to buy today, we just want to try different rings on so that he can choose one later" and if you are not going to spend money that day, they will be less pushy.. I ended up going with an engagement ring TOTALLY different than I thought I wanted - I was SURE I would want as little bling as possible, I don't ever wear rings, etc - but when I tried a few rings on it was immediately clear which rings look best on my finger. Write down the model #s you like, and ask for details such as the thickness of the band, or size of stone, etc, and write that down too. Once you know what sizes/shapes of rings look best on you, you can then search for a more interesting ring on etsy or anywhere else.
posted by at 12:52 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

One other thing - if you don't want to be cleaning gunk out of your rings ever, choose bezel set stones. Channel set is another good option. Do not get prong set stones.
posted by crazycanuck at 12:53 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Nthing Etsy if you think you might have nontraditional taste at all.

I thought I didn't like jewelry, but it turns out that I just don't like mass market/corporate/wedding-industrial/traditional stuff. I now have an Etsy wishlist a mile long.

Etsy does have an overwhelming amount of stuff to sort through, but the site's amenable to searches like "skinny bezel ring" or "tiny opal silver" or whatever.
posted by teditrix at 1:38 PM on June 20, 2014

Look for "flush set" or "bezel set" rings. I like Etsy for getting ideas, but it can be hard to wade through so much stuff. Consider looking at local artisan jewelers, too; they're more likely to have offbeat but wearable designs. The big chain stores like Zales tend to have a lot of cheesy designs and make a lot of noise about big expensive diamonds being forever and blah blah blah; feel free to skip them altogether.
posted by Metroid Baby at 1:48 PM on June 20, 2014

Etsy is great, as I have found all the retail stores to be mostly traditional.

Also, something like this might be a direction to go in: Mokume-Gane
posted by Vaike at 2:17 PM on June 20, 2014

There are some rings which may suit your fancy at Turtle Love Co.
posted by ChuraChura at 2:26 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

I found this via the young rope-rider's link; if you do a find on "whisper", you'll find three rings that look close to what you are describing.
posted by miorita at 2:46 PM on June 20, 2014

Nthing Etsy - plus you get to support a smaller artisan rather than a big box generic jeweler. We had our wedding rings made by Metalicious, who I highly recommend. Mine is based off of this ring, and although it has inset detail, it has never (in the 2 years I've been wearing it) had any gunk caught in it (and I garden and bake bread frequently).
posted by melissasaurus at 2:58 PM on June 20, 2014

Yeah I find buying jewellery by Etsy a much nicer experience than thousands of different websites. Every style and price point under the sun is there, and the descriptions are usually thorough so searching for something specific style-wise is often easier. Best of luck, and pseudo congratulations!
posted by smoke at 4:44 PM on June 20, 2014

Regarding spinning - you can ask the jeweler to shape the ring to a Euro shank. That will have a flatter bottom. Voila! No spinny.
posted by 26.2 at 5:10 PM on June 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

About 25 years ago my not-yet wife and I walked into William Weidinger's shop and said "we want wedding rings, but they need to be different for these reasons", the primary one being that my wife is a dentist and wears gloves all day and a big rock with pointy edges would pretty much tear them. Bill then showed us some designs he already had, suggested modifications, and told us to come back in a week to see the mockups. He had modified one of his designs so that the wife could put on/take of gloves without tearing them. The resulting rings even cost less than a big-name store, were handmade, and we still get comments on them. If you click on the 'weddings' tab on his website you'll see that he makes rings that are non-round for exactly the reason you've asked for, and has been doing it for a long time.
Now, you might not be able to go see him, but what you want to find is a jeweler/metalsmith who can work with your requirements. You don't have to buy the mass-produced stuff that's designed for some idealized finger.
posted by Runes at 9:13 PM on June 20, 2014

Clay Pot is a great website for browsing. I've picked out a few that I think you might like: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8. I really love Kate Szabone's jewelry too: 1, 2, 3.

I got engaged last year and I had good luck just going to a jewelry store with Yelp reviews saying they were friendly and not pushy. I got a ring custom made by their jeweler that I'm really happy with. It was really useful just to go in an look at what rings really were and how they felt, rather than just looking at pictures.

You don't have to get an engagement ring. If you like bands, it's totally an option to just get the one ring you like, rather than worrying about fitting engagement rings and bands together.
posted by carolr at 9:29 PM on June 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, seconding caroir's idea of just one ring. I don't have an engagement ring (we didn't really have an engagement, but that's another story), just the two wedding bands I switch off, same as Mr. Meat. I have friends who wore a ring on one hand while engaged and then switched it when they got married. I have other friends who decided they didn't want to buy new rings since they'd each given each other rings over the years, so they just used those. I have friends with ring tattoos instead of jewelry, friends who've lost their rings over the years, etc, etc. You really can choose whatever you want.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 7:34 AM on June 23, 2014

You sound a lot like me. I never found anything in stores that I liked--eventually I just sat down and doodled until I came up with a design that I DID like; we took it to a local jewelry maker, and he made it for us.
posted by hishtafel at 4:41 PM on June 25, 2014

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