If you are in the market for two tone engagement rings or two tone wedding bands, you’ve probably already discovered that rings range from either mass-produced inexpensive designs to the exquisitely crafted handmade masterpieces.
Once you start researching two tone wedding rings, you’ll discover that there are many critical considerations and few places where you can find trusted information on these specialty wedding rings in one place.
Buying a two tone engagement ring is not as simple as purchasing a simple wedding band. Take something as basic as your choice of precious white metal. Should you choose palladium, platinum, white gold, stainless steel, or silver? If you want to contrast the white with yellow or rose gold, should it be 14K or 18K gold? What are the advantages and drawbacks of each?
Where and how is the wedding ring made? In a sweatshop in China, or in a small artisan studio by American jewelers? Is the precious metal in the two tone wedding band ethical, or did it destroy an entire ecosystem?
This article on two tone engagement rings and wedding bands will cover four general areas: Gender, Metal Choice, Fabrication, and Ethics. Best of all, you’ll learn not only critical things to consider, but also insider information that many jewelers would not tell you because it goes against their financial interests.
GENDER TOPICS ON TWO TONE ENGAGEMENT RINGS
1. What Distinguishes A Women’s Two Tone Engagement Ring From A Men’s?
Here’s the quick answer to this question: if a woman wears a two tone engagement ring, then it is a woman’s ring! The same applies to a man, or to anybody else.
Your wedding ring or engagement ring is your choice alone. It is very subjective, and the most important issue is what feels right to you.
We dive into this issue and others more thoroughly in our Definitive Guide to Lesbian and Gay Engagement Rings — which covers, among other things, the "mangagement" ring, tips for the proposal, and an overview of our custom engagement rings and custom wedding rings process.
Keeping all this in mind... what traditionally distinguishes a men's two tone wedding band from a women's comes down to two issues: width of the wedding ring and style.
2. Width of Two Tone Wedding Bands
Men’s hands are, more often than not, larger than women’s hands. Therefore, men generally choose wider wedding rings than women.
Based on my experience as a jeweler for over twenty-five years, mens wedding bands are generally between 5mm and 8mm.
Most wedding bands for women have a width of between 2mm and 5mm. This smaller size is not just because of the generally smaller size of women’s hands compared to men’s. It also has to do with the preference of many women to wear their two tone wedding bands with their two tone engagement rings, together known as bridal ring sets.
Generally speaking, most women are comfortable wearing their wedding band and two tone engagement ring with a combined width of under 8mm.
The actual width of a two tone wedding band is one of the determining factors in style—which brings us to the second gender matter.
STYLE CONSIDERATIONS FOR TWO TONE WEDDING BANDS
3. Styles Of Two Tone Wedding Bands
The style of a two tone wedding band is obviously a highly personal choice, but it can be helpful to have a bit of historical perspective.
The first recorded wedding rings were exchanged in Egypt, about 6000 years ago. They were made of braided hemp. Ancient scrolls recently deciphered indicate that, during the nine plagues, couples cut off their bands and smoked them—just to relieve a little stress. (Just kidding!)
Seriously, though—even back then, wedding bands were a sign of commitment between two people, and also the community that witnessed the exchange. The styles of their rings were a reflection of the culture and the times.
These days, two tone wedding bands are both deeply personal and public because they represent a vow to one’s partner witnessed by the broader community.
Regardless of the style of one's two tone wedding ring, all wedding rings are innately symbolic simply because of their circular shape. The circle itself represents relationship, wholeness, unity, and connection to the greater “circle of life.”
There are an infinite number of men’s and women’s two tone wedding bands styles, but we can break these into two broad classifications for simplicity: classic and designer.
Our Marcello wedding ring can be made with wide or narrow bands, different metals and colors, and with different textures on
the metal, depending on your preference.
4. Classic Two Tone Wedding Bands
For some couples, the choice of two tone wedding bands is simple: a variation of a classic band. These bands stylistically lean toward the traditional wedding band, without design on the surface of the ring. They are variations of a timeless style which most likely your parents, grandparents, and even your great grandparents wore.
Within this traditional style, a two tone wedding band can be made with the metal flat topped or dome topped. At Reflective Jewelry, because we make these rings in house by hand, we can alter the width. The top surface of the ring can be squared off or rounded at the edges.
Regardless of what classic two tone wedding band style is chosen, it will be an minimalist yet elegant representation of your loving commitment.
Two models from our Flores Wedding and Engagement Ring Collection. This two tone bridal set, consisting of an engagement ring and matching wedding band, was handmade in our studio in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
5. Designer Two Tone Wedding Bands
If are open to two tone wedding bands that have more unique designer elements, then the actual wedding bands' surface becomes a canvas upon which jewelers can create captivating design motifs. The wider the band, the more room for a design or pattern!
Perhaps you and your partner are entranced by the beauty and wonder of the night sky. Then, perhaps, our two tone wedding band inspired by Van Gogh’s masterpiece, the Starry Night might be the perfect choice:
Two variations from our Starry Night Wedding and Engagement Rings Collection — a wide, bordered, two tone wedding band (left) and a thin, gold engagement ring (right). Both pictured featuring diamonds.
A two tone wedding band can actually represent some essential talismanic quality in a relationship, while at the same time remind us of our cultural connections. The lines in the Narrow Two Tone Celtic Arches Wedding Ring represent two paths weaving together:
Our Narrow Two Tone Celtic Arches Wedding Ring. The knotwork on this Celtic wedding ring pattern illustrates a dynamic creativity that reaches up toward the heavens, and then down to the Earth.
Pictured left with 14K Yellow Gold borders and White Gold center, and right with 18K Yellow Gold center and White Gold borders. Explore our Celtic Arches Collection.
Our Bordered Rope Wedding Ring, another from our Celtic Wedding Ring Collection, is a simpler design that is nonetheless profound. Two lines weave together in an unbroken cycle, mirroring the journey of romantic partners:
Our Bordered Rope Wedding Ring, pictured here with 14K Gold borders and Sterling Silver center. Explore our Rope Collection.
You can also choose to have a more pictorial motif, such this two tone wedding band design featuring a floral motif:
Our Borderless Persephone Wedding Ring with Gems, shown here with 18K Yellow Gold design over 14K White Gold Base. Explore our Persephone Collection.
6. Two Tone Wedding Band Style Recommendations
You choice comes down to what is more important to you between the various factors of width, style, and design. There are no fixed or absolute rules.
If you see something that you like but isn’t quite right and you are working with a custom jeweler that specializes in two tone wedding bands, then it is often possible to vary the width of the design to accommodate wearing a wedding ring and engagement ring at the same time.
You can also mix and match style elements in order to accommodate a common motif. For example, our Flores Collection can be modified basically any way you desire, and is shown on our site in a huge range of styles.
One distinct advantage with working with a designer studio is that you can vary the widths, and create custom wedding bands to match your desires.
Our two tone Celtic Link Wedding Ring.
PRECIOUS METAL FOR TWO TONE WEDDING RING OPTIONS
7. And The Best Metal For A Two Tone Wedding Ring is...
The best precious metal choice for a two tone wedding ring can be a complicated decision. You are not just choosing one precious metal, but two.
Among metals with natural color other than white, yellow gold is the choice. Rose and white gold are yellow gold colored with alloys.
The natural white precious metals for wedding rings include silver, palladium, and platinum. Among the natural white metals and white gold, there are distinct advantages and disadvantages of a two tone wedding ring, based upon hardness, cost, and the actual whiteness of the metal.
Since it is possible to combine any of these metals, I’ll explain the options—starting with gold—then offer my opinion as to which the best choices are.
8. Best Gold Options For Two Tone Wedding Rings
Let’s start with the basics.
When jewelers discuss gold wedding rings, they speak in terms of “karat.” The word "karat" is a variation of the word "carat," which originated in ancient Greece, where carob seeds—which are rather consistent in weight—were used as a unit of measurement.
"Carat" has become a unit of weight in the measurement of precious gemstones, while "karat" now refers to the percentage of gold in jewelry.
Twenty-four karat (24K) is .999 pure gold. An 18K wedding ring would be 75% gold, while a 14K gold wedding band would be 58.5% gold. The balance is various alloys, which we will discuss below.
Though this information might be familiar to you, really understanding can be very helpful. Jewelers will almost always recommend 18K gold because it is more profitable for them.
After reading this next part you will see clearly why, with white gold, we recommend 14K for two tone wedding rings, while with yellow gold, we recommend 18K. With rose gold, you can go either 14K or 18K, depending upon your color tone preference.
Our Felicity two tone wedding rings, handmade in our Santa Fe studio, come in a range of style and color options. Explore our Felicity Collection.
9. 14K Gold vs. 18K Gold in Two Tone Wedding Rings
Ultimately, our recommendation of whether to choose 14K or 18K gold for your two tone wedding rings or two tone engagement rings depends upon your color and color tone choice.
If you want yellow gold in your two tone wedding ring, we recommend 18K. Gold already has an illustrious beauty and warmth, and an 18K gold ring has that much more gold and therefore a stronger gold feeling and color, which would make more of a statement for your ring.
If you are considering rose gold for your two tone wedding ring, then the choice is a matter of partiality. An 18K rose gold is going to be a bit lighter in color than a 14K rose gold ring, which has more copper alloy in it. If you want a stronger rose color, go with the 14K. Again, it will be less expensive, more “rosey,” and harder.
If you want white gold in your two tone wedding ring, then we’d suggest going with 14K again. A 14K gold ring has more alloy in it, and therefore is going to be whiter.
Two other advantages to going 14K white gold over 18K white gold for two tone wedding bands: the lower karat is less expensive and more durable. Gold in itself is a very soft metal and the more it is alloyed the harder it becomes.
But, how does white gold compare to silver, palladium, and platinum in two tone wedding rings?
Image source: http://platinumguild.com/files/pdf/RealWhite.pdf
10. How White is Your White Metal in Your Two Tone Wedding Ring?
Let’s start first with this issue of “whiteness.” The graph above was developed by Gretag Munsel from a color spectrophotometer to address this question.
As you can see, the whitest metals are the natural white metals. Platinum and palladium are comparable. Silver is slightly whiter than platinum. White gold, however, has a broader range of whiteness, from white to more of a beige color.
But the most relevant question here is, is the white in the white gold white enough? In fifteen-plus years of selling white gold wedding rings online to people who could not actually see them in person we have never had a ring returned for not being white enough.
Nevertheless, to create a white gold wedding ring that looks like a platinum wedding ring, jewelers came up with rhodium plating. Rhodium is a natural white metal in the platinum family of metals.
Plating is controversial, as shown in this article I posted several years ago. We do not recommend this process because rings have to be re-plated every few years. Wedding rings should be enduring and not require maintenance like a car or vacuum cleaner.
11. White Metal Comparison for Two Tone Wedding Rings
These days, white metal rings are the most popular choice and we sell more white gold than yellow gold wedding rings. Most two tone wedding rings are a combination of white metals and yellow gold.
We cover the pros and cons of various white metals extensively in this article. If you're most curious about Platinum vs Palladium Wedding Rings, allow us to point you to this short piece.
Silver is also an excellent choice for a two tone wedding ring. A two tone gold and silver wedding ring is going to be less expensive, and is especially appealing to those who like to wear gold and silver jewelry at the same time, or interchangeably.
In terms of whiteness, I don’t feel it is enough of an issue to sway a decision in any serious way. The deciding factor often comes down to budget and personal preference.
FABRICATION OF TWO TONE ENGAGEMENT RINGS
12. Who Are The Makers of your Engagement Ring?
Many jewelers won’t even raise this subject of how a ring or piece of jewelry is made, but we do feel that it is important to consider. American manufacturing means American jobs. The maker’s movement is an important cultural phenomenon in America today.
Wedding rings and engagement rings are intimate and personal possessions. For some, the only consideration is price. Understandable...but given that the wedding ring is the one piece of jewelry that couples wear all the time, a little flexibility might be a good idea. Should not the wedding ring reflect the uniqueness of the relationship itself?
Essentially, the choice comes down to rings that are mass-produced versus those that are studio made.
In this case, you may want a piece that is made with love by a skilled artisan who has dedicated his or her lives to a perfect a craft.
The choice is simple: work with a small jewelry studio.
The jewelers who work in our shop have spent decades perfecting their craft. They love what they do, and that skill and pride goes into the making of the ring.
13. Mass Produced Die Struck or CAD/CAM Two Tone Engagement Rings
For chain jewelry stores and their mass-market websites, where the primary consideration is price, mass production is the rule of thumb. Though a two tone engagement ring has great symbolic meaning to you and your partner, to the seller it is purely a commodity, most likely made in China. The conditions under which it was made and who made it are of little consequence. Sad, but very true.
The primary method of making such rings is usually through CAD/CAM or die striking. With the CAD/CAM process, components of a ring are drawn up on a computer screen, sent to a wax-modeling machine, and then reproduced in a repetitive casting process.
With die striking, one piece of steel “strikes” another piece in order to form, with 50 tons of pressure, wedding bands.
While the material may be different, the soulless, efficient manufacturing processes in making these two tone wedding rings is not that different from how you might create the pots and pans sold at a discount store.
Our Donegal Eye Two Tone Engagement Ring features 14K Yellow Gold over Silver. Pictured left with a diamond, and right with a sapphire. Learn about our ethical diamond sources and gemstone sourcing, and explore our Donegal Collection.
14. Handmade Two Tone Engagement Rings
Between gold, pure flame, and dedicated artistry, there is a special alchemy. You can choose to have a handmade two tone wedding ring made by someone who has dedicated a lifetime to achieve a high level of mastery. The patience and craft it takes to have a beautiful and enduring partnership can truly be reflected in the actual creation of the ring itself, which is a kind of offering of sorts from the artisan jeweler to the couple.
Although entirely handmade, these rings need not be overly expensive, especially working with gold and silver. This two tone Flores Design, a lovely gold over silver two tone wedding ring, sells for just $425.
Our two tone engagement rings are made entirely by hand, fabricated with sheet metal, wire and design elements. The technique is hundreds of years old, a modern day extension of a traditional jewelry techniques that were originally brought over from the Spanish Conquistadors who settled in the American Southwest over five hundred years ago.
But, the final consideration is—where did that gold and silver come from?
The Ethics of A Two Tone Engagement Ring
15. Where Does The Metal Come From?
Precious metal can be sourced on the open market, it can be from recycled sources, or it can be from fair trade sources.
Many people concerned about the impact of mining prefer to purchase from jewelers who use “eco-friendly” recycled metals. Certainly, using 100% recycled gold to make wedding bands is better than utilizing gold from massive industrial mining operations.
Using recycled precious metal does not prevent the ruining of our ecosystems from mining, child labor, or the heavy use of mercury. In fact, it avoids these critical issues completely by making the supply house the source of where the metal comes from.
Here’s the deal: Large-scale mining is about the politics of greed, while small-scale mining is about the politics of bread.
About 15 million small-scale miners produce about 15% of the world’s gold supply, yet they make up 90% of gold mining labor. Their lives are characterized by extreme poverty and exploitation. We can help them by purchasing a wedding ring made of Fairtrade Gold.
Fairtrade Gold is the best opportunity that these miners have to work their way out of distress and into a better life. It’s backed by Fairtrade Gold certification, an independently audited set of benchmarks created by Fairtrade International.
If you still are not sure about Fairtrade Gold versus recycled gold, read this article I wrote: 15 Reasons Why You Should Buy Fair Trade Gold Jewelry Over Recycled Jewelry.
In choosing to make your two tone engagement ring or two tone wedding ring out of Fairtrade Gold, you have assurance that the environment was not polluted with mercury and that the miners themselves were paid an authentic price for the value of their gold.
If you really wish to have a two tone wedding ring that even in its making reflects the more beautiful world you wish to see, then the best choice is simply Fairtrade Gold.
Our two tone engagement rings are as distinctive as they are stunning! Left, our Two Tone Open Rope design; right, our two tone Windsor Bridal Set.
Each is made using Fairtrade Gold, and available with an ethically sourced diamond or ethically sourced colored gemstone, such as the sapphire pictured.