Ah, springtime! When a young man’s fancy turns to thoughts of love. And, in extreme cases, to thoughts of c-c-c-commitment. (Well, gentlemen. If you like it...)

 

The glut of engagement ring and wedding band options can be overwhelming. Princess or pear cut? Solitaire or sidestone? White gold or platinum? And do you really need to spend two months’ salary on a sparkly?

 

Many couples are opting for more affordable, ethical, ecological and original options. Here are a few alternatives to going the traditional ring route:

 

1. Re-purpose old jewelry. “Instead of a wedding band, I wear a ring that my parents gave me for my 13th birthday,” says Allison Outhit, who wed husband James in 2006. “It’s five small braided gold bands held together with a little clip. For me, it symbolizes the five members of my immediate family.” Rings with stories attached can be far more meaningful than new jewelry. If you’ve inherited an heirloom necklace or earrings, have a jeweler reset the gemstones into a band.

 

2. Buy ethically. “There’s nothing I can’t tell you about my jewelry,” says Ryan Taylor, proprietor of the Fair Trade Jewelry Co. (ftjco.com) in Toronto. Taylor designs rings with ethically-mined ore sourced from Colombia via Amichoco’s Oro Verde (Green Gold) program and uses Canadian diamonds exclusively. He encourages customers to do their research and ask a lot of questions. Taylor also suggests dealing with makers as opposed to salespeople.


“They’re passionate and they understand everything about their material. If you’re looking to get the next most significant purchase to a car, you should be getting that sort of service. You should walk out of a place knowing everything about (the ring) you just bought.”


3. Do whatever makes you happy. “Jay and I were this close to getting Batman wedding rings,” says writer Karla Pacheco. “Out of the SkyMall catalogue, no less — those fine purveyors of Lord Of The Rings inspired jewelry, executive phone chargers, and enormous stone Buddhas for the captive airline audience.” Pacheco and her fiancé eventually decided the Batman rings were a touch tacky. They scoured small jewelry shops in their neighbourhood the weekend before their wedding and opted for simple $75 bands. Says Pacheco, “At the end of the day, what they symbolize is more important than what they look like or what they cost.”