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Ten years ago, if you went to the jewelry section of a store and asked for LGBT wedding rings, you might have been met with a puzzled expression or directed to a selection of novelty rings emblazoned with rainbows. But what a difference a bit of jewelry enlightenment—the legalization of same-sex marriage in several states, and ultimately the Supreme Court’s recent ruling on the topic—have made. Now several artisans and companies are crafting engagement rings, wedding rings, and anniversary rings especially for the LGBT community, filling an underserved niche that couldn’t be more pleased with the variety on offer.
For Israeli-born designer Udi Behr of the New York City–based Love & Pride, who has designed for TV shows such as Revenge and True Blood, as well as for pop-culture icons such as Gwen Stefani, Cyndi Lauper, Sharon Stone, and Pam Grier, the biggest misconception in the jewelry industry is that LGBT customers are one specific personality type. “The LGBT population comes in different shapes, colors, and tastes,” he says. “Before looking at rings, they look at the company. They go to a company they feels supports them. You don’t buy their business; you earn their business.”
Herman Rotenberg, owner of Unusual Wedding Rings in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, agrees. “We’ve been selling to the LGBT community for over 25 years,” he says. “They do their research, read the reviews. In the past they were afraid of being judged if they went shopping in a store. They feel comfortable shopping here.”
Behr explains that while some customers want a traditional wedding band, others prefer rings that celebrate their LGBT identity. For the former, Behr crafts plainer bands made distinctive with elements like texturing, contrasting edges, or mixed-metal designs. For the latter group of customers, Behr gets a bit more fanciful with his shapes, and often incorporates symbols such as triangles, rainbows (made with sapphires or through a unique metal-heating process), and Love & Pride’s “love +” symbol. “We are proud of the struggle and support the struggle,” says Behr, whose company donations a portion of all sales proceeds to causes important to the LGBT community. “But at the end of the day, it’s the aesthetics of the design, the quality, the originality that make our rings special.”
While the market for these wedding rings may be different, the materials used—yellow gold, white gold, and platinum are the most popular choices, according to Rotenberg, though rose gold is currently trending—are the same as those of opposite-sex wedding rings, and prices are comparable. So far, men and women appear to be buying the wedding rings and anniversary rings in equal numbers, while women are the largest consumer group for engagement rings.
So what is Behr’s best advice for a couple looking to purchase an LGBT wedding ring? “The first thing to consider is the budget,” he relates. “Then they should look at what is important to them—what do they want to communicate through the aesthetics?” Rotenberg notes that many same-sex couples make more interesting design choices, and most forgo matching bands because, “the rings should match the personality of each person rather than each other.”
Rotenberg hasn’t merchandised his store any differently since adding LGBT-friendly rings, but he has created a second version of his website with a homepage speaks directly to this audience. He reports that of his online sales, about 80 percent come from same-sex couples.
Customers of both Love & Pride and Unusual Wedding Rings can rest assured that they’re buying something that not only honors their commitment to one another and the LGBT population, but also is unique and meaningful. “Don’t worry—I’m not going to do a line for Donald Trump,” Behr says with a laugh. “I don’t go by trends; I go by what I think is beautiful and timeless. I am as much inspired by what I see as by what I don’t see. Those are the pieces I want to create.”