For Better or Worse
Wednesday, October 10, 2012
Making your own wedding rings is a truly romantic notion, but will it be the happy ending you hoped for, or a recipe for disaster? Julia Rai investigates.
A recent episode of Don't Tell the Bride, in which the groom made the wedding rings himself, caused a flurry of enquiries to organisations that provide a make your own wedding ring experience. So is this one of the most romantic things you can do or a recipe for disaster?
Even with the economic climate we find ourselves in, weddings still continue to be lavish, expensive affairs for many couples. The average cost of a wedding in 2012 is predicted by Wedding Magazine to be around £20,200, slightly up from the 2011 average. Couples are prepared to spend lots of money on their big day and romance is high on the agenda. So let's compare the cost of shop bought wedding rings and those you make yourself.
Comparing the costs
First of all, don't expect the make it yourself option to be cheaper than the high street. Mass-produced wedding rings are often made overseas where labour costs are lower. The cost of precious metals has soared in the last few years so the metal cost is always going to be high. But production costs and bulk buying by high street jewellers and online retailers means that the cost of a ready-made ring will almost always be less than a handmade item. Consider this though; a mass produced ring is indistinguishable from any other. You can personalise the ring by getting it engraved but that's about it.
Some suppliers have a flat fee for the tutor and workshop time and then the cost of the metal is calculated depending on your ring sizes and the design of the rings you want. Others have a total price for the whole experience. Shop around to see what you get for your money and make sure you are getting the size of ring that you want. Some of the 'all in' prices limit you to the weight of metal and this may restrict your choice of width and thickness in your finished rings. If you have very large fingers, you may find yourself paying more than the quoted price! Whatever way the company works, expect to pay more for the experience of making your own wedding rings than buying mass-produced rings.
Assessing the quality
What about the quality of rings you've made yourself? Most couples that choose to make their own wedding rings are complete beginners. For many, it is the first time that they've ever attempted jewellery making at all and they go straight in with probably the most important piece of jewellery they'll ever own using expensive metals such as gold or platinum.
So what sort of quality can you expect as a beginner? This is going to largely depend on the quality of the teaching. A good teacher who is used to working with precious metals and complete beginners should be able to guide you through the process to guarantee a good result. Look at the organisation's track record and how many satisfied customers they have.
"We've had hundreds of couples make their rings with us and they're always amazed at how well their rings come out," says Lisa Cain, director and principle wedding ring tutor at the Mid Cornwall School of Jewellery. "We only work with metals we know are easy for beginners to use successfully, like 18ct gold, platinum and palladium, and this always guarantees a good result."
Enjoying the experience
Time and again, people who have made their wedding rings with Lisa say the same basic thing. "Just to spend the day together creating the rings was special enough, but the finished result is better than we could have imagined," say Ben and Rohanna who made their rings in August 2011. Anna and Graham agree, "Looking at the pictures of other peoples' rings we couldn't believe how they turned out and we're so pleased with our rings although we still can't believe how good they look!"
So what about the romantic aspect? There are a number of organisations around the UK that offer this service. The romance factor is greatly influenced by where you make your rings. Getting away to a costal or country location and combining the ring making day with a romantic break has to score highly on the romance scale. But then maybe having a day out in a big city is more to your liking and there are plenty of options for combining a city break with making your wedding rings.
Normally, couples make each other's rings so if one of you is a control freak, you may find it stressful! But there's no doubt that making this potent symbol of your love for each other by hand is a very special experience. "Making our own wedding rings has been a fantastic and symbolic experience," say Hannah and Alan. "It's great to leave with rings that it took time and effort to make for one another. It means we feel much closer to the jewellery and will also carry that experience around with us!"
Find a class near you
If you would like to try making your own wedding rings, then here are a few of the places from up and down the country that offer courses.
- South West, Cornwall: Mid Cornwall School of Jewellery, www.mcsj.co.uk
- London: London Jewellery School, www.londonjewelleryschool.co.uk
- West, Herefordshire: Sue Lane, www.suelanejewellery.co.uk
- Scotland, Edinburgh: Donna Barry, www.makeweddingrings.co.uk
- South, Nr Chichester: West Dean college, www.westdean.org.uk
- South East, Hove: Laila Smith, www.crossstreetworkshop.co.uk
- West Midlands, Manchester: Selina Campbell, www.selinacampbell.com
- East, Lincoln: Richard Bett, www.makeweddingrings.com
- North, Selby Yorkshire: Robert Feather, www.robertfeatherjewellery.co.uk
- Midlands, Warwick: Nicola Louise, www.nicolalouise.com