This old ring: How to decide between vintage and custom

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A ring design that merges the past and present often has a deeper meaning for its wearer. "It actually tells their own story," said Charlottesville metalsmith Martha Keith. Photo: Natalie Bell Photography A ring design that merges the past and present often has a deeper meaning for its wearer. "It actually tells their own story," said Charlottesville metalsmith Martha Keith. Photo: Natalie Bell Photography

When it comes to your wedding band, when you know, you know. Unless you’re still stuck at the first step: deciding on a “look.”

Assuming you’re searching for bands with a bit more personality than you might find at a chain retailer, there are, essentially, two options: vintage or custom. We asked local metalsmith Martha Keith, whose commissioned work includes everything from pendant necklaces and stud earrings to money clips and, yes, wedding bands, to weigh in on making the right choice.

As she put it, for most people, the draw of a vintage ring is that it has history. It’s likely been worn before and carries with it its own story. If it’s a family piece, that gives the ring an extra touch of sentimentality, which can be appealing.

“Aesthetically, vintage pieces typically remind us of a different era,” said Keith. “It might be a style that the wearer just resonates with, and that in itself can be really meaningful.”

A custom piece, on the other hand, starts from a blank slate. It might include design elements that recall parts of your love story, or gemstones with a particular meaning–and, best of all, it will be uniquely you.

If you’re still unsure, there’s one last option: Combine the best of both worlds.

“A lot of my clients come to me because they were given vintage pieces from family and they want to update the style to suit them today,” Keith said.

In that instance, she works with clients one-on-one to brainstorm all of the possibilities of what they might like in a ring. From there, she reels in the big ideas to the essential, perfect components just for them. A design that merges the past and present often has a deeper meaning for its wearer. “It actually tells their own story,” Keith said.

Whatever you choose, Keith has one last important piece of advice: “Pick the one that truly peaks to you,” she said. “It’s very personal, the decision of what ring to choose to represent this huge love that you’ve found. I encourage folks to go with their gut.”

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