Platinum Wedding Bands: History, Nostalgia & the Market

The exchanging of wedding bands is commonly most attributed to ancient Egypt approximately 6,000 years ago.  Relics such as papyrus scrolls provide evidence of the exchange of braided hemp or reed rings between spouses.  The Western custom of wedding rings can be traced to ancient Rome and Greece when early Christians adapted the custom.

Now, if you've been following Inspired Antiquity for a while now then you are probably aware of my passion for platinum wedding (and anniversary) bands.  I started collecting them years and years ago.  Anytime I would find one, I would snap it up!  Initially, I tried to limit my focus to only bands with diamonds in them but as my tastes changed and grew, so did my collection.

Just a few platinum & gemstone / diamond bands all in a row.

I began to see how well color played with platinum.  I often wore the bands as stacking rings and the addition of color made the stack more versatile and as well as more customizable.  The first gemstone platinum band that I bought was an emerald one from a seller on Ruby Lane.  It was a pave set eternity band from the early 20th Century.  The emeralds were a wonderful spring grass green and the thinness band made it perfect for stacking with my existing collection.  

The very first gemstone platinum band that I ever bought myself was this emerald eternity band from a seller on Ruby Lane.

Since the emerald band, I've added other gemstone bands such as rubies.  I even found a few empty mountings and had them restored to their original grandeur or had other replacement stones such as orange sapphires.  Of course, there are a few gemstone bands still on my Wish List such as blue sapphires, onyx and topaz.  Naturally, I would still never turn down a good diamond or impeccably engraved wheat pattern band either!

This is a modern band that is tops on my Wish List!  A rainbow gemstone half eternity band that is available in white, yellow & rose gold as well as platinum!  It simply scream "SUMMER FUN!" to me & maybe I'm just not ready for fall yet!  It's available over on Etsy from Sarriel.

Even though my tastes have changed and expanded over years of collecting, there have been a few constants.  Primary among those constants is that the bands be platinum, either 900 or 950.  Platinum is one of the heaviest metals and was first discovered in 1557.  In the 1700's it was discovered in South America and the word "platinum" is derived from the Spanish word "plata." which means silver.  It is found in gold bearing sand and in silver.  Platinum was used very rarely until the late 1880s, because it takes such a high heat (1755C) to work with and heating equipment at the time was not adequate.  During the 1920s, however, platinum became the most popular metal used in jewelry.  Estate rings or antique filigree engagement rings made in the early 1940s in platinum are almost impossible to find, because it was restricted for use in the war efforts of World War II.  Palladium was used frequently during these years in place of platinum.  Palladium is a cheaper material and does not weigh as much as platinum.

Talk about band with the nostalgia factor going for it!  This diamond & platinum twist band  is available from  Gems4Borth on Etsy.  This band dates to the 1930s & has the most amazing twist pattern with diamonds throughout.  Another on my Wish List!

One of the other constants in my wedding band hunt has always been the nostalgia factor.  I have always had a particular fondness for bands with any sort of inscription inside them.  There is something about the way that hand engraving was done in the early part of the 20th Century especially.  The script-like fonts that took up the entire width of the band.  Some of my favorite inscriptions are the ones with a date and a sweet message such as "Forever Yours" or "Providence Made Thee Mine."  The sweetness of the sentiment coupled with the occasion it represents gives the ring's story weight and brings its history even more to life for me.  

The history of inscribing bands, dates back to 15th Century posey rings.  They were called posey rings because a short verse, often from a poem, was inscribed on the band.  In the beginning, posey ring had bold designs and the words were inscribed on the outside of the band.  As time went by, the designs of the bands became simpler but the inscriptions became more and more personal.  This forced goldsmiths to improve their techniques and learn to engrave on the inside of the rings, keeping the messages private and close to the wearer.  This shows a shift, from marriage being an agreement when an ornate ring signified a profitable arrangement between two families to marriages founded in love, with simple rings formed from gold coins, bearing inscriptions such as “Love me and leave me not” and “Two bodies, one heart.”

A 17th Century posey ring in The Met's collection with the inscription “A Verteuous Wiffe Prolongeth Liffe.”

As with most of history, it often repeats itself.  There has been a sustained trend in the bridal industry of late of brides wanting antique or vintage engagement rings and wedding bands or a combination of both modern and antique / vintage.  Twenty years ago, when I first started my collection, finding the bands for a reasonable price was relatively easy.  They didn't quite have the popularity that they do now.  I would often find them for around $100 from dealers, pawn shops and the like.  Personally, I always enjoyed the ones with dates or initials engraved inside the bands which often made brides wanting them for their own wedding set pass them over.

However, because of the resurgence in popularity of these bands among new brides coupled with the limited supply, I have noticed that prices have been on a steady increase over the years.  Obviously, as with all collectibles, condition is everything.  Engraved bands with very little wear to their outer hand-engraved edges or gemstone bands without any chips or cracks can command a premium price. 

The exact same solitaire with four different platinum bands.  Each band gives it a completely new look from the platinum hearts (top left), modern ruby & diamond bubbles (too right), refurbished 1930s orange sapphire band (bottom left) to the diamond eternity band (bottom right).

Whether you get the bands at a steal of a price or are willing to pay a premium, the one thing that I think makes them the most versatile of finger accessories is the ability to mix and match not only together but also with other rings.  Paired with a solitaire and you have an endless combinations of ways that you can give your wedding ring a new look.  Or, stack diamond bands with a colored solitaire ring for a bit of a more modern, avant-garde look.  Another option, mix eras and styles as well as colors.  Although I tend to lean towards Art Deco bands, I have added a few modern interpretations to my collection simply because they appealed to me.  However you decide to mix and match your collection, don't confine to yourself!

Diamond & platinum bands from various eras all stacked together with an emerald-cut tourmaline solitaire.  I love the way a stack of  different bands look with a colored center stone.  It gives a whole wedding set a modern, edgy feel that I just really, really adore!

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