Perhaps the most intimidating question for a jewelry novice on the verge of marriage is this: what is the difference between an engagement ring and a wedding ring? While it may seem like both of these rings feature many of the same elements, several distinctions make each unique.
The two biggest differences between an engagement ring and a wedding ring are as follows:
First, engagement rings are made for women!
Sorry gents, but engagement rings are strictly for the ladies. This isn't to say men aren't deserving of something special too, it just isn't going to be an engagement ring.
Men eventually get a ring of their own, and it comes in the form of a wedding ring. Additionally, many couples exchange engagement and/or wedding gifts in addition to rings on their wedding day. But, as far as determining the difference between an engagement ring and a wedding ring, the fact that only the bride-to-be receives one is a pretty important distinguishing factor.
Second, engagement rings feature a diamond (or some other precious stone).
The engagement ring absolutely must feature some kind of precious stone. While this can be done in various ways, i.e., several smaller diamonds or a different kind of stone like a sapphire or emerald, the diamond solitaire is the classic choice.
Diamond rings and engagement rings are so closely connected that it almost seems redundant to say "diamond engagement ring." When comparing a wedding ring and an engagement ring, the most noticeable difference between the two is the diamond's prominent role in the engagement ring.
Deciding on a diamond for your engagement ring
Now that you know how important a diamond is to an engagement ring's identity, how do you go about choosing the perfect ring? The first step in correctly distinguishing between a wedding ring and an engagement ring is to have a working understanding of diamonds and their role in an engagement ring.
Choosing a diamond for your engagement ring is vitally important, as the diamond is one of the biggest distinguishing factors between an engagement ring and a wedding ring. While there are certainly cases where diamonds are a piece of a wedding band, the diamond solitaire is unique to an engagement ring.
The differences in diamonds
Diamonds, especially those used in engagement rings, are usually characterized by two distinguishable differences: diamond grade and diamond shape. Understanding these two elements will help you easily and properly identify a ring intended for a proposal vs. a ring intended for a wedding ceremony.
Grading a diamond
Every diamond that you purchase should have a grade. Suppose you are purchasing a diamond from a certified San Diego jeweler, such as CJ Charles. In that case, they will provide the paperwork that corresponds to that particular diamond. Think of a diamond grade as a fingerprint. No two are exactly alike, and every diamond used for engagement rings receives one.
Grading diamonds is done by two major players in the jewelry universe, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) and the American Gem Society (AGS). While the GIA is considered the gold standard in diamond grading, the AGS is also a well-respected source for diamond grades.
Diamonds are graded based on how they score in four categories. Those four categories are:
- Carat - the weight of the diamond
- Clarity - how flawless the diamond is
- Cut - how well-shaped the diamond is
- Color - the lack of color in a diamond or the saturation of a fancy color (such as yellow, pink, or blue)
When navigating how to choose an engagement ring, pay attention to these Four C’s. The better the diamond does in each category, the more expensive the diamond becomes. This grading process is why diamond engagement rings are often so much more expensive than wedding bands. Because the emphasis of an engagement ring is on the diamond, the value of the engagement ring itself is tied to the diamond's overall value.
Finding the right shape
Once you start to have an idea of the type of diamond you are looking for in terms of a grade, you can turn your focus to the shape of the diamond itself. A diamond's shape is different than the cut, though these two terms are often used interchangeably and sometimes incorrectly.
The shape of the diamond refers to the outline of the diamond when viewed from the top. Some examples are round, square, rectangle, and even heart shape. The cut is how the diamond is faceted. The two main styles of faceting are “brilliant'' which is made of kite and triangle facets and makes for a sparkling pattern and “step” which looks like stairs of the diamond that descend towards the center.
Some of the most common styles include Round Cut which is a round shape with brilliant facets, Princess Cut which is a square shape with brilliant facets, and Emerald cut which is a rectangle shape with step facets, all of which are different styles of engagement rings. While you might see round cut diamonds in a wedding band, it is highly unlikely that you would see the other styles of diamonds like Princess or Emerald in a wedding band.
Weighing cost to find value
Expensive diamonds are typically the types of stones that take your breath away, but don't let that be the deciding factor. There are many combinations of carat, color, cut, and clarity that translate to a brilliant diamond.
The value in diamond shopping is found when you can make a small concession in one or two of the four C's without sacrificing brilliance. Because of how the diamond grading system is set up, there are tier breaks that represent large differences in price.
For example, a diamond that registers as a VVS1 will be much more expensive than a VS2. There is a tier break between what is widely considered the more elite tier of very, very small included and very small included, but often this tier break doesn't translate into any visible difference.
Wedding bands for women
From an elegant thin band forged from a single piece of rose gold to a floating diamond eternity band, there are ample amounts of styles to choose from for a wedding ring. As discussed previously, wedding bands are usually more understated and less diamond-centric than their traditional engagement ring counterparts.
While wedding bands for women are usually not diamond-centric, many wedding rings for women include precious stones. Most commonly, wedding rings for women feature a gem-encrusted band using a channel setting that allows the jewels to be even with the surface of the ring itself.
Wedding bands for women can also feature design elements that complement the engagement ring. There are so many incredible and creative ways to turn two beautiful rings into one cohesive piece of jewelry, and CJ Charles can show you how. With the help of our experts, your stunning engagement ring and beautiful wedding band can combine to create an absolutely stunning piece of marital jewelry.
Wedding bands for men
A wedding ring for the groom is just as important as a wedding band for the bride. Remember, while a bride gets two rings, a groom will traditionally only have one. Though many men do not put much thought into their wedding band, at CJ Charles, we encourage a hands-on approach. A men’s wedding band is an important piece of the marriage. Besides the obvious outward sign that you are taken, the wedding band is a physical reminder of a much deeper emotional bond.
It may not be a common word for a man's vocabulary, but there is no reason that a groom's wedding band shouldn't be beautiful. There is also no reason that the ring's beauty can't stem from the ring's rugged, and striking nature. Beauty comes in many forms, and it should be present in men’s wedding rings.
Wedding band styles for men
Just like wedding band styles for women, men’s wedding rings can range from a solid piece of titanium or silver to a jewel-encrusted gold band. It is important to remember that there are no hard and fast rules when selecting wedding bands for men, and personal preference should absolutely rule the day.
Most men’s wedding rings are designed to be elegant but understated. Wedding rings for men are classically designed to be an impressive piece but not so boisterous that it calls attention to the band itself. Many men need a guiding hand when selecting their wedding band, and CJ Charles can help you find the perfect wedding band for your preferences and style.
Picking out the perfect trifecta
Whether you and your fiance are taking a team approach to the rings, or whether one of you is doing it alone as a surprise to the other, CJ Charles is here to be your sounding board. With so many styles of rings to choose from and the small differences that define each one, we encourage you to lean on our expertise to find the perfect engagement ring style and matching wedding band for your wedding day. Our friendly staff and incredible selection will deliver nothing short of the perfect trifecta of engagement rings and wedding bands for you and your partner. From finding a perfect engagement band or vintage ring, to learning how an engagement should ring fit, our jewelry store can help you with all your wedding jewelry needs.
At CJ Charles, we want you to feel confident in your jewelry buying experience. That's why we answer your questions with a clarity that allows you to move forward on your journey and come to us for advice in the future! Check out our engagement rings in San Diego to see for yourself!
Brides. Engagement Ring vs. Wedding Ring: Do You Need Both? https://www.brides.com/story/wedding-ring-engagement-ring-etiquette
The Diamond Pro. Engagement vs. Wedding Rings: Here’s What You Should Know. https://www.diamonds.pro/education/engagement-ring-vs-wedding-ring/
The Knot. The Difference Between an Engagement Ring and a Wedding Ring, Explained. https://www.theknot.com/content/whats-the-wedding-ring-etiquette