Choosing Your Unique Ring Style – Eight Elements to Consider
Some people can look at a picture of a ring style and say, "That is what I want!" And it works. But what about the rest of us? Who hasn't tried on a friend's ring that looks amazing on them and it just looks "OK" on us?
Each of us has our own finger shapes, finger lengths, knuckles too prominent or not, fingers that are thick or thin. These aspects of our hands factor mightily in whether a ring that we think is pretty will make our hand look pretty.
That Dream Ring Needs to Get a Reality Check
I hate to say it, but that dream ring you've been wanting forever might not be the most complementary design on your hand.
As a Santa Barbara jewelry designer, I've spent years guiding brides-to-be, moms, grandmoms and big knuckled guys to complementary designs for their custom rings. I'll share my process here.
Make Your Ring Do its Job!
Ring Job 1: Make Your Hand Look Good
Your hand isn’t merely a mannequin upon which to dangle random rings. Rather, hands and rings should complement each other according to various characteristics.
Hands and fingers come in many different shapes, sizes, colors, and ages. What looks good on one hand may not look so spectacular on another.
Ideally you should by yourself or with help, work out what design elements present your hand in the best light. Look at the ring style you're considering at a distance with a mirror as well as up close to see the impression your ring gives on your hand.
Ring Job 2: Hold up to Your Lifestyle and Roll with the Punches
Also, your lifestyle is a player in the game of designing your ring. If you are athletic and active with your hands, a delicate design may lead to frustrating down-time for maintenance of your ring.
Sometimes wide and low are the only option with a busy, art making lifestyle. The hammered finish adds to the beauty in this simple style. It also hides dings and bangs nicely. See Vicki's story.
You’ll want to make sure you pick a style that is strong enough for your lifestyle. Consider adding a texture or two to your design if you know your ring will get some banging around. Textural elements are like jewelry camouflage, nicely concealing scratches and dings on your ring.
Eight Elements to Consider When Choosing a Ring Style for Your Best Look
Height. My rule of thumb: hands over 30 years of age often look better with a bit more height. Hands under 30 can usually go with lower profiles.
- Size of Central Element. Age and finger size determine overall dimension. The larger the finger, the larger and wider the center element should be. Larger gemstones typically look best on mature hands. Younger and smaller fingers look more balanced in smaller-sized center gems or design elements.
- Width. Larger and more mature fingers look better in wider-shanked rings. Smaller and younger fingers look better in narrower-shanked ones. Those with big bones should try on rings with wider shanks. (The shank is the bottom part of the ring that rests under the finger.)
Straight vs. Curved shank. I have no hard and fast rule with regards to which looks best. I have noticed that clients who have shorter fingers sometimes find a curving ring shape as opposed to straight to make their hands look more feminine and their fingers look longer. My advice is to try on an assortment of both types to determine which complements your hand the best.
- Taper vs. No Taper. On one hand, many of today’s popular rings involve straight shanks descending from the center element. On the other hand, tapered designs can create a beautiful effect, making your hand look more feminine. Try on different tapered shanks and see if one particular taper ratio works for your hand.
Textures and Finishes. Younger hands usually do better with smaller designs and high polish finishes. A high polish finish can highlight the smoothness of your skin. Hands over 30 benefit from textural finishes and more complex design components. All ages look nice in engraved detail rings.
- Color. Yellow gold? White gold or platinum? Warm skin tones tend to look best in yellow and rose gold. Cooler skin tones tend to look better in white metals. Some skin tones seem to look good in all metal colors! Try on different colored rings. See which color metal complements your skin more: yellow, white or rose.
- Personality. Who you are and your character, are “X-factors” in helping to determine the best size and scope of a ring.
Tiny rings can look unbalanced on people with big personalities. Conversely, a big bold ring can look out of place on a more reserved individual.
People in the public eye, speakers, actresses and members of the celebrity culture or those that want to be, need to wear bolder and larger rings.
The poster child for big center elements on an engagement ring has to be Kim Kardashian.
This is a Great Start For Your Custom Designed Ring
These are not hard and fast rules; these ideas are meant to help guide you in choosing the size and shape of a ring style that best complements your hands and fingers.
Once you’ve figured out these basics, you can look to fill in the blanks that lead to your dream ring. Will you gravitate toward vintage? Geometric? Modern and simple? Bold? Curvaceous?
When you're ready for next steps check out my Jewelry Design Series. Have fun with it!
Your Personal Jeweler,
I always pick delicate rings for my small fingers, do you have any examples of larger rings that look good on small fingers?
I see you have answered my question, I will look for curved shanks!
Oh Yes, my wife is one of those people that can see a picture and it just works for her. Some people just have the eye for it. I am definitely not one of them. I have bought jewelry for her and every time I did it, it was just the wrong style, look and everything you can imagine. When giving a gift I let her choose. I even let her choose the cigar ring style for me because I know she has the eye.
Thanks for letting me know how lucky your wife is that you want to get her jewelry and want her to love it. Sometimes letting her guide you in what she likes is just the best way to go.
Your Personal Jeweler,
It’s beautiful. I like this pared down style and hope to see it – well on someone, one day.
I’m not sure which ring you liked best. I’m glad you liked one.
Your Personal Jeweler,
This is so fascinating! I always knew this was an art, but I had no idea how much age and personality played a role in how a ring looks on you. I will keep this in mind. Very interesting!
I’m pleased that the style tips found fertile ground in your imagination! Finding your personal style is definitely an art. And your personality is an important factor. In this article I talk about how a unique client and I found a very different style to use for her engagement ring:
See you again.
Your Personal Jeweler,
I think this is why I don’t wear rings-I can’t figure out works best for my big-fingered, sasquatch hands!
Dear Linda, You are so cute. Your hands are certainly not Sasquatch looking. When I last made a ring for Mrs. Sasquatch, she had not only super large finger/claws, but had bent knuckles and webbed hand/claws. Mr. Sasquatch said he wasn’t buying her any more jewelry because she kept breaking the stuff he bought her at Target. So I custom made a very wide, but curving band that went from the lower web to the higher web of her finger/claw. I had to shove a bit to get it over her knuckle. She almost bit me, but remembered herself at… Read more »
Now this is a article worth sharing. The ideas in this article are clearly a distillation of years of experience in ring design.
What do you do if someone wants a design that clearly is wrong for their hand?
Has this happened to you?
Thank you for sharing your knowledge!
Dear Tracey, Thank you for your question. I did have a client who wanted a very wrong for her hand design. I said up front, my plan is to make this in wax two sizes too large so we can try in on you without breaking the wax. I do charge for extra design time and new wax designs if it is more than simple changes. She said OK, not knowing that she soon would be having a closer acquaintance with those actions. When she tried on the hand carved wax, she looked at it. I said nothing, biting my… Read more »