Bands of Outsiders
By Marilyn Kennedy Melia - CTW Features | posted on February 22, 2012 at 9:25am
The price of gold skyrocketed more than 200 percent in the past five years, paving the way for alternative-metal jewelry and placing further emphasis on the importance of appraising and insuring your jewelry
“With this ring I thee wed.”
Yes, a band is integral to the wedding ceremony, but there’s no dictate on what it should be made of or how it should look.
As the cost of gold has climbed over the past few years, more couples are sealing their vows with bands of “emerging” or “alternative” metals like titanium, tungsten carbide and cobalt.
According to TheKnot.com’s 2011 Engagement and Jewelry Study, the average wedding-band cost was $1,126 for brides and $491 for grooms, and that 70 percent of brides and 34 percent of groom choose white gold rings. Jewelers report that many of these emerging-metal bands retail for anywhere from around $100 to a few hundred dollars.
“There has been a big jump in emerging metals since 2008 for men’s bands,” observes Amanda Gizzi, spokeswoman for Jewelers of America, an industry trade group. Gizzi points to an independent report showing “that in 2008 just 8 percent of men’s bands were made of tungsten carbide and now it is 20 percent, and now titanium makes up 13 percent of men’s bands.”
Made of industrial-sounding metals, men like the rugged image these alternatives convey, says Gizzi. Adds David Craig Rotenberg, a certified gemologist and owner of David Craig Jewelers, Langhorne, Pa.: “And some men work a lot with their hands, and they’re saying, ‘I don’t want to damage an expensive ring,”
Moreover, many men are worried about the costs of their marriage, and are attracted to the lower price tag, Rotenberg notes.
While men are the main market, more couples are choosing matching bands made of a mix of titanium and gold, relates Edessa Kerkinni of WeddingBands.com.
To be sure, all that glitters may not be gold.
But whatever your ring is made of, if it’s costly, you’ll probably want to insure it against theft or loss.
Here, a look at the growing popularity of non-traditional materials, and how to protect your precious choice:
The Gold Rush
The price of an ounce of gold has climbed during the past years of economic turmoil, rising by some 28 percent in the first nine months of 2011.
Jewelers must keep buying gold, and that’s why their price tags also rise.
The price of a gold ring will depend on its weight and design, Rotenberg explains. Some plain, narrow bands of 14-karat gold may be relatively inexpensive, perhaps in the $300 range for a woman and $600 for a man, but they can rise considerably from there.
Besides price, there are many attractive attributes to alternatives, a primary one being “that they are usually hypoallergenic so they can be worn by people allergic to other metals,” notes Brenna Neal, Sears jewelry marketing officer.
The Jewelers of America’s online arm, the Jewelry Information Center (jic.org), lists titanium, stainless steel and tungsten under “white metals,” a category that also includes sterling silver, platinum, white gold and palladium. Cobalt, another white metal, also is gaining popularity, notes Glenn Miller, vice president of contemporary metals at Stuller, a jewelry manufacturer. Edward Mirell, a contemporary-metal designer, offers lines of wedding bands in BlackTi, a titanium that has been treated to change its natural color, and Timoku, a “wood-grain metal” that combines both black and gray titanium.
One important caveat: Should your ring size change, these rings can’t be made smaller or larger. However, many jewelers offer a ring replacement plan for an extra fee, Gizzi adds.
Ceramic is another option that tends to be favored by women, adds Miller, since it comes in colors and is lighter, but it could shatter or chip if dropped on hard surface.
The Right Protection
Indeed, experts advise asking about the properties and care of any ring you consider.
“The first thing I did after I got engaged last year was to call my [insurance] agent,” relates Nicole Mahrt Ganley, who, as spokeswoman for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America, says she knows the importance of establishing special coverage for a valuable ring.
At typical homeowners or renter’s insurance policy will pay for theft of jewelry.
But reimbursement amounts are limited, and may not be enough to compensate for an expensive ring, notes Joseph Harrington of the American Association of Insurance Services.
For broader coverage, add specific endorsements to your policy, or a separate “floater” policy specifically for jewelry coverage, says Harrington. For either, ask your agent what specific risks are covered—such as “mysterious disappearance,” Harrington suggests.
The extra costs for endorsements vary, but Mahrt Ganley shares: “I pay $50 extra annually for an extra $4,000 in coverage.”
Moreover, you don’t have to have renter’s or homeowners insurance to obtain coverage, some companies offer specific jewelry policies, says Gizzi.
The Current Value
An insurer will want to know that it’s compensating you for a piece that is worth what you say it is.
Often, if you’ve recently purchased a ring, the receipt is proof enough of value, relates Mahrt Ganley.
With the escalation in the price of gold and other precious metals, its important to have an independent appraisal to verify current worth about every two years, says Howard Rubin, secretary of the National Association of Jewelry Appraisers in Rego Park, N.Y., a trade group which provides referrals of certified appraisers who charge by the hour.
Insurance firms vary in how they want to establish jewelry values, says Harrington. Some policies, he explains pay an “agreed value”, whereby the insurer and insured agree to an amount that would be paid in the event of a loss, while others may specify an appraisal.