With This Ring, I Thee What?
By ANDREW ADAM NEWMAN
Published: May 26, 2010
Enlarge This Image
Ryan Collerd for The New York Times
HAND SIGNALS The ring that Della Beaver wears indicates that she is single.
Enlarge This Image
Steve Hebert for The New York Times
Wanda Dibben turned her wedding ring into a divorce ring, stitches and all.
But these days the symbolism of a gold band — or its absence — may not be so clear-cut.
When her divorce was nearly final three years ago, Wanda Dibben, 41, who lives outside Kansas City, Mo., asked a jeweler, George Rousis, to transform her wedding ring into a divorce ring. Ms. Dibben, who had been married 13 years, said she had been “very attached” to her wedding ring and hoped that reconfiguring it could “be kind of a buffer into my independence again and help facilitate healing.”
Her jeweler severed the gold band and refashioned it into a ring with a gap, across which strands of silver are stitched. For Ms. Dibben, those strands represent her son, Trevor, now 14, “because although the bonds have been broken, the stitches still keep that unity together,” she said.
While divorce rings are not exactly all the rage, they are showing up here and there, as are other rings that are worn on the ring finger but signify something else. Single and looking? Perhaps you need a silver band with a symbol of Mars or Venus on it, like the ones designed for gay or straight people at MySingleRing.com. The site says that those who wear its rings project to the outside world: “I am an intelligent, empowered individual and available to meet the same.”
And they aren’t the only ones thinking outside the jewelry box.
Harold Thompson, who has been divorced twice and lives in Wilmington, N.C., is a founder of the D Jewelry Company, which sells divorce rings online. Its tag line: “Building self-esteem one person at a time.”
His rings, which resemble traditional wedding bands except for a gap in the center, sell for $200 to $500. They have a “dual purpose,” according to the company’s Web site, not only as “attractive jewelry,” but also as “a healing tool for broken hearts.”
Never married? No worries. The Ah Ring, which stands for “available and happy,” is a $350 band with diamonds that is meant to be worn on the pinky. The ring’s meaning is hard to discern, because it looks like a silver band sprinkled with diamonds.
And the Web site that sells it, apparently not wanting to ward off any potential customers, says that while the Ah ring was “originally created for confident and joyful single women,” others can wear it because the “Ah” can also stand for “attached and happy.”
Della Beaver, who lives outside Philadelphia and manages operations for a medical referral service, bought herself an Ah Ring for her 50th birthday last June. She has never been married.
“Usually men buy you diamonds, and I was like, ‘Why can’t I just buy my own diamond?’ ” Ms. Beaver said. “So the ring was liberating for me, because I don’t need others to tell me that I’m beautiful, I’m sexy, I’m intelligent, I’m fabulous just as I am.”
Women are not the only buyers in this category. Tim Gould, the president of My Single Ring, said that of the nearly 1,000 rings he has sold since starting the online business last year — at $40 each — about 30 percent have been to men.
One customer, Brian Chapman, a 31-year-old real estate agent in Chicago, said that his ring has been an “icebreaker” because women strike up conversations about it, and that it has led to as many dates in the four months he has worn it.
Mr. Chapman, who wears the ring on his right ring finger, said that some dates followed women approaching him and joking that he had his ring on the wrong finger, suspecting that he’d put his wedding ring on his other hand to disguise being married.
Andrea Helms, 36, an operations manager at an insurance company who is from Chicago, said she wears My Single Ring “to say that I’m comfortable being single” but in a way that is more discreet than “a neon sign on my forehead that says ‘single and looking.’ ”
It did indeed get her a date: Ms. Helms was at a Chicago Cubs game wearing her My Single Ring when she was approached by Scott Gilbert, an owner of the company, who naturally was also wearing the ring. He asked her out, and they dated for a couple months — though not anymore — during which time Mr. Gilbert continued to wear his single ring as a “marketing tool,” Ms. Helms said.
She said that some of her friends think wearing a ring that telegraphs one’s availability has its downside. If an unwanted suitor won’t leave you alone, it’s hard to play the boyfriend card.
In that case, a woman might prefer the Ms. Taken ring, which at $30 is more of a gag gift. Also introduced in 2009 — and scheduled to be featured in Snuggie-like infomercials in June — it is a silver-and-crystal engagement-ring look-alike that can be slipped on as needed to thwart the advances of pushy guys.
Then there is a more serious emerging category: specialty rings for gay men and lesbians. When Jeffrey Hames, 48, and Kenneth Daniel, 36, who live in Memphis and will be married in September on Cape Cod, decided to wed, “I did not want to go the traditional route, like Zales or other jewelers, where their wedding rings are tailored to being for a straight man and a straight woman,” said Mr. Daniel, a payroll administrator.
The couple shopped at LoveAndPride.com, which sells wedding and commitment ceremony rings for same-sex couples by the jewelry designer Udi Behr. They selected matching white gold rings, each costing $1,895 and consisting of two interlocking bands bearing the classic male gender symbol (a circle with an arrow pointing up and to the right). Mr. Hames and Mr. Daniel are both wearing one of the bands during their engagement and will exchange the second during their ceremony.
Meanwhile, the resale market for used engagement and wedding rings is booming, with popular online auction Web sites like IDoNowIDont.com, which Josh Opperman helped found after his fiancée broke off their engagement, and ExBoyfriendJewelry.com (tag line: “You don’t want it. He can’t have it back.”).
For those who prefer not to part with them, however, the Wedding Ring Coffin is a casket-shaped box for decommissioned rings. According to Jill Testa, the founder of the company that sells them, the personalized engraved messages that customers have ordered for the coffins include, “He broke my heart but I broke the bank” and “The end of an error!”
A version of this article appeared in print on May 27, 2010, on page E7 of the New York edition.