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The Perfect Match
'Adding a personal touch makes a unique statement. It's really one of the first rituals of adornment. By personalizing the rings, couples are sort of modernizing tradition, and expressing their commitment by being involved in the process.' --Liseanne Frankfurt of LFrank Jewelry, Venice (World Gold Council)

Certain buying basics apply to all jewelry, but when it comes to choosing wedding rings that you will love and can live with forever — the pair of bands you'll wear for countless anniversaries to come — a different set of shopping tips apply. Here are some practical suggestions to finding, affording and caring for your all-important wedding rings.

Narrow Your Choices
Because this is one of the few pieces — if not the only piece — of jewelry you'll both shop for and wear, make some preliminary decisions (flip through magazines and browse jewelry stores to get ideas). What color metal are you interested in — yellow or white? Perhaps all the jewelry you own is gold, but he wants a white metal to match his watch. Compromise: Look for bands that have both yellow and white metals. Are you interested in something simple or eye catching? What about a wedding band with diamonds or colored gems?

Set a Budget
A set of simple 10-karat gold bands starts at around $250; plain platinum bands cost upwards of $600 apiece. Diamonds can add considerably more to the cost. The price of engraving on the inside of the wedding band depends on the font and whether you have it engraved by hand or machine.

Start Browsing Early

Begin looking for your wedding bands at least two months before your wedding date. This gives you time to browse and revisit rings that catch your eye. (Browsing is an important part of the process: Don't skip this step and buy the first thing you see.) Allow even more time if you're interested in a custom piece. Keep in mind that engraving can take up to one month.

Think Practical
Keep your lifestyle in mind at all times: What's the point of buying something pretty if it makes you uncomfortable or you have to remove it often (and increase your chances of losing it)? Remember: You will wear this band every day. The idea is to choose something that becomes a part of your life seamlessly. For example, those who enjoy — or pursue for a living — sports or music should avoid wide, bulky bands and opt for a slimmer ring with rounded edges (appropriately called a "comfort fit"). Those who work with their hands a lot might want to avoid the hassle of a diamond engagement ring or wedding band and opt for something simpler that can't trap dirt. If you're allergic to certain metal alloys, invest in platinum. Its purity renders it hypoallergenic for most people.

Adding a personal touch makes a unique statement. It’s really one of the first rituals of adornment. By personalizing the rings, couples are sort of modernizing tradition, and expressing their commitment by being involved in the process.’  —Liseanne Frankfurt of LFrank Jewelry, Venice

Do the 20-Year Test
Don't be afraid to be different, but make sure the style you choose is something you'll still want to wear in 20 years (not to mention at all the jobs, PTA meetings and social functions in between).

Be Smart About Size
Most people rarely take their wedding bands off; they wear them through summers, winters, exercise, menstruation, pregnancies — all times when your fingers swell and contract due to heat, cold, water retention and weight gain. To find the size that will best weather all these changes, do your "final fitting" when you are calm and your body temperature is normal. Never finalize your ring size in the morning (you retain salt from the night before); after you've just exercised (fingers swell); or when you're extremely hot or cold.

Check for Quality
This applies to all rings, but it bears repeating here. Make sure wedding bands have two marks inside the shank ("ring" part of the ring): the manufacturer's trademark (proves they stand behind their work) and quality mark (24K or PLAT, for example — proves that it's what they say it is). If the ring consists of two or more metals, make sure there is a quality mark for each.

Keep It Clean
Cleaning your wedding rings is a cinch. For a ring with no stones, simply rub it with a soft, lint-free cloth (chamois is good). Grease can be removed by dipping the band in alcohol; tarnish can be cleaned with a solution of soap, water, and a few drops of ammonia (simply brush the ring with a soft toothbrush, rinse — make sure the drain is closed — and dry with a soft cloth). If your wedding ring has stones, wash and soak it in warm sudsy water; brush with a soft toothbrush or eyebrow brush; rinse; and pat dry with a soft lint-free cloth.

Protect Your Investment
Yes, metals — even platinum — are vulnerable. Real life will never allow your rings to be completely blemish-free, but avoid wearing your ring when doing rough work or sports (which can nick and scratch your rings) and when working with concentrated chlorine, such as that found in bleaches, cleaners, and swimming pool disinfectants (which can cause pitting or discoloration to your band). Nicks and scratches are most obvious on matte finishes and most easily affect platinum, which is softer than white or yellow gold on the surface, but more durable overall. Luckily it's easy for your jeweler to reapply — or change — the finish or plating on your ring to restore its former glory.

Safety First
You'd be surprised how easy it is to lose your ring. Hopefully, you've chosen something that you rarely have to remove. When you absolutely have to put it in a designated place so you'll always know where it is (pockets don't count) and never near a sink. If it doesn't fall down the drain on its own, your cat will help it along. The most dangerous time to remove your wedding ring? When you're away from home. That's when rings are most likely to be lost or set down and forgotten.

Lori Seto