Some couples are forging bonds while forging their own gold, oxy-propane torches in hand, to create do-it-yourself wedding bands.
Most couples want their wedding to be awe inspiring. And therein lies the foundation of an enormous industry that, for a price, can guarantee bragging rights for the betrothed, whether it’s beachside fireworks, a chocolate-candy-bar multitiered cake flown in from Napa or flower-covered candelabra.
But in an age when it’s possible to outsource the entire affair, some couples are now forging bonds while forging their own gold, oxy-propane torches in hand, to create DIY wedding bands.
“It just makes a difference to put blood and sweat into the ring that he will wear his whole life,” said Millie Hale, 23. She made a dragon-scale-patterned white-gold band for her husband, Ralph Hale, also 23, a lover of, that’s right, the game Dungeons and Dragons. “It’s special to me as well as to him. Plus, it’s a good story to brag about at parties later on.”
The couple — both second lieutenants in the Air Force but based in separate cities — spent $2,415 to make each other’s wedding bands in a daylong workshop called the Wedding Ring Experience, which now has eight locations, including Atlanta, Chicago and San Francisco, where the Hales made their rings. Last year the company, headquartered in San Diego, held 340 workshops nationwide, up from 160 in 2007, an official said.
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“Obviously, forging something by hand is much more intimate than using a credit card,” said Adam Nadel, 44, a photojournalist, who made rings with his wife, Sara Zatz, 35, at another company, New York Wedding Ring, under the guidance of Sam Abbay, a goldsmith, before their 2009 nuptials.
“We both torched,” he added. “Torching is very important — that’s the forging. It was fun because the ring starts glowing, and it’s rather dramatic and unexpected.”
Zatz, the associate director for Ping Chong & Co., a theater group, acknowledged she wasn’t particularly adept at crafts.
“My first reaction was, ‘No way,”‘ she said. “What I said to Sam was, ‘If it looks like I made it, I don’t want to wear it.”‘
To her surprise, the 12-hour day in Abbay’s workshop in Manhattan was not the disaster she feared.
“I thought it would look like a misshapen lump of gold,” she said. Instead, their rings — his platinum, hers gold — include a circle of each other’s metal.
The ring-making workshops are so new that Carley Roney, editor-in-chief of theknot.com, a wedding planning site, acknowledged that she had never heard of them before a reporter told her about them. She quickly warmed to the idea.
“It takes some of the simple commercialism” out of getting rings, Roney said. “It’s truly romantic. It’s making someone dinner versus ordering takeout.”
Be forewarned. Making a ring in a day is about as challenging as a souffle is for a newbie cook.
“It’s not really easy, but we control every step of the way,” said Sarah Wan, a jeweler in Toronto who teaches a wedding-band course and who owns the Devil’s Workshop, a gallery. “We only take two couples per class. They are working with gold. If they go too far then we’re in trouble.”
Gold can melt like cheese, said Wan, who pulled an all-nighter before her own wedding to make her fiance’s white-gold band because she was so swamped with planning till then.
“It melts quickly when it’s ready to go,” she said, “then we have to fill in that section again with new metal.”
Such a setback befell Basilica Bliachas, 36, an actress — not once but twice — at Abbay’s studio as she toiled to make a band for Krikor Gazarian, a manager at a fast-food restaurant.
It happened the first time as she soldered it; the second time the ring broke as she impatiently started to hammer it for a textured finish before it was cold.
“It was really a pain in the neck, but we were laughing about it,” Bliachas said. The couple, who have known each other since they were children in Venezuela, were married in August at City Hall in Manhattan; they are planning a Greek Orthodox ceremony. “I was trying to get focused, but I had my husband there.”
In December 2010, Gazarian had flown to Athens, where his future wife was working, to propose with a princess-cut diamond on a white-gold engagement ring that he had hammered himself during a session with Abbay. At first, he did not tell her he had handcrafted it, but showed her a video of him making the ring.
“She was so touched,” Gazarian said. The couple then decided to make their wedding bands together.
Lewis Barnes, the chief executive of the Wedding Ring Workshop chain in the United States, said that a handmade ring can be a deal-closer.
“We have quite a few young men come in and make an engagement ring,” he said. “It takes a rather tough-minded lady to say ‘No’ after he says: ‘Will you marry me? I made this with my own hands.”‘
The cost of a hand-forged ring varies, depending on the design and materials (and metal prices are volatile). The Wedding Ring Experience, which costs from $995 to $2,600 for two rings, requires a deposit after couples choose their metal, to lock in a price, Barnes said.
Some people bring their own metal. Christopher Michaud, 34, a product strategist at Huge, a digital agency in Brooklyn, and his fiancé sawed in half a South African Krugerrand, a gold coin and a family heirloom, as the raw material. The rings, made with Abbay for roughly $2,000, cost less than the thick platinum bands from Tiffany’s that they had first considered for about $4,000.
“There’s always a double take when we say, ‘We made the rings,”‘ said Michaud, who recently proposed to Andrew Cohen, 33, a lawyer. “They say,’Ohhhh, who made the rings?’ and we say, ‘No, we made the rings with fire,”‘ he said.
His band — white-gold outside and the Krugerrand crown gold on the inside — has a clue about its pedigree. A tiny line where Cohen fused the ends together is visible, but like so many in love, Michaud sees imperfection with rose-colored glasses. “I kind of love it,” he said, “because it reminds me of when we made it.”