Reflective Jewelry Brand Catalyst Kyle Abram (right) and husband Runyu at their small, Covid-safe wedding ceremony in September 2020.
SPECIAL NOTE: WE CAN CREATE YOUR LGBTQ+ WEDDING RINGS BY REDESIGNING OLD OR INHERITED JEWELRY, OR USING FAIRTRADE GOLD! With decades of experience, our artisans will create exactly what you're looking for — and we'll back it with a Lifetime Guarante.
Looking to work with an awesome small artisan studio with excellent cred? Call our shop at 888-733-5238 or email info (at) reflectivejewelry.com for a free consultation. —Marc Choyt, co-owner
I (Kyle) live in Manhattan, and for the past 5 years have worked remotely for one of Santa Fe, New Mexico’s top custom designer jewelers…who also happens to be the only Fairtrade Gold jeweler in the USA.
At the start of 2020, I saw marriage on the horizon with my then-boyfriend. But, this revelation left me with a few things to figure out. For queer couples, the “proper” steps to take aren’t always so clear.
Yet, there is a flipside:
We don’t face the same labyrinths of rigid expectations that many straight couples do. We make our own rules.
I determined to take full advantage of this, as you’ll soon see!
A quick look at our custom designed wedding rings, which are both non-traditional for men but uniquely embody who we are.
Luckily, I have an insider track to all the issues! This really allowed me to carve out my own path, in ways few others would be able to.
In this article, I’ll share with you my process of picking out our wedding/engagement rings, planning the proposal, and how our wedding day turned out.
I’ll give you insider tips you won’t find anywhere else on ethical sourcing, detail the process of creating a custom designed wedding ring, and go over your options for your own rings.
My Big Fat Gay Proposal!
Let’s start with the good stuff: the proposal!
By July 2020, I had scoped out what Runyu wanted from a ring, added my own personal touches, and had it created and in hand.
But now, how was I to propose?
You’ve probably come across a bridge like this before, perhaps even contributed a lock yourself. Placing a lock on a bridge had become a bit of a running joke between Runyu and me — he thought they were corny, and I insisted, insisted, and insisted that we needed to participate! Because, it’s just so romantic.
So, I was quite pleased with myself when I came up with my proposal idea.
At the time, we were living in Pittsburgh — and several blocks from our apartment was a quaint park, with an old torn-down foot bridge that had a fence across the entrance. The perfect location!
I purchased 120 (120!) used padlocks off eBay — which, conveniently, all shared the same key. Over several weeks I painstakingly wrapped each one in glow-in-the-dark tape, sneaking away where I could to complete a few at a time. (Not so easy when you live together and both work from home, as many of you may know!)
When I was ready, I told Runyu I was going “for a bike ride” — and spent the next few hours setting up this:
Lockpiece even glowed in the dark!
After a nice Fourth of July picnic, strolling the scenic route home through the park — just as the sun went down, and the lightning bugs came out — I popped the question!
In that moment I knew I had made the right decision with his ring. His answer, as you may have guessed, was a yes!
Now, let’s talk about how this might apply to you:
In a Gay Relationship, Who Proposes? (AKA: The Biggest Elephant in the Room)
To come up with your own plan, we need to go back to the beginning. And the first question, of course is: are you going to propose? Or is your better half?
Thankfully, this was an easy one for me! I do work for a jewelry company, after all — so it seemed obvious that I should be the one to plan a proposal.
The Reflective Jewelry gallery; in Santa Fe, NM.
With that settled, the next big question was: Should I design a ring to present at a surprise proposal? Consult Runyu on the ring design first? Or, propose without a ring and head to the drawing board together, but after the fact?
All of these are valid options for you and your partner. This is a really intimate decision that only you can answer.
Personally, I didn’t want to pass up this once-in-a-lifetime chance to surprise my man with the perfect ring — one that not only was exactly his style, but even fit properly!
Imagine the look on their face when you pull out a ring like one of these!
Finding out what Runyu wanted from a ring was a years-long process, sneaking in where I could little “off the cuff” questions about what he “theoretically” wanted “one day” from his wedding and/or engagement ring.
Determining his ring size was a little more tricky. My company sends our free ring sizers, so I got one “for myself” when I was “thinking of ordering myself” a designer ring…and had him try it out too. Because, “why not?”
Here’s the thing:
How you get the info on what your partner wants from a ring, and what their ring size is, is going to vary based on your individual situation! If they’re already a jewelry person, you may be able to borrow and measure one of their existing rings, for instance. Or, they may have a best friend that knows all about what style they really want.
If you’re really lucky, they’ll be dropping you hints — maybe even a Pinterest board.
Our Open Rope style, as shown on Pinterest. Our Open mount style, with its low-set center stone, is the ideal engagement ring for your active lifestyle.
Choosing an Ethically-Sourced LGBTQ+ Wedding Ring
As a member of the BIPOC community, I see ethical sourcing as intimately tied to racial justice, social justice, and environmental justice for producer communities. The jewelry industry — particularly when it comes to diamonds and gold — has a long and bloody history rooted in colonialism, and continues many neocolonialist practices today.
Small-scale gold miners, for instance, are some of the most exploited people in the world. There are 40 million of them worldwide, struggling each day to feed their families — often on less than $2/day. And, small-scale gold mining is the #1 global source of mercury pollution.
This Tanzanian man is mixing gold dust, water, and mercury together in the same pan he will later use to feed his family. Video shot by Marc.
I’ve been studying ethical jewelry issues for over four years, under the guidance of Reflective Jewelry co-owner Marc Choyt — who has been a pioneer and activist in the North American ethical jewelry space for over 15 years. As an intern, I proposed the idea for and was the sole editor of what became our Ethical Jewelry Exposé: Lies, Damn Lies, and Conflict Free Diamonds.
Much of the marketing of ethical jewelry in recent years, including the term “conflict free diamonds,” is mere cover-up for atrocities that were never fully reckoned with — just swept under the rug.
Knowing what I knew, here was the dilemma:
How can I present the love of my life with a ring that doesn’t exploit an impoverished person of color — or, with one that may even contribute to a more beautiful world?
Fortunately, it is possible to create just such a ring!
Here’s how I did it:
[ If you have any questions about creating custom LGBTQ+ wedding rings, Marc is here to help! There’s no charge for consultation, and he'll give you a price quote. Call at 888-733-5238, or email info (at) reflectivejewelry.com ]
Creating an Ethical and Custom LGBTQ+ Engagement Ring
Take a look at the ring I had created for Runyu. Can you guess what the stones are?
Answer: The center stone is a purple trilliant-cut sapphire, and the accents are padparadscha sapphires!
Why this particular design, you ask?
As mentioned, I had spent some time gathering info on what Runyu wanted in terms of a wedding or engagement ring. He did not want to wear both a wedding band and an engagement ring, but preferred one ring that was sort of a “combo” — essentially, a wedding band with a center stone! (More on considering your options in just a bit!)
I also knew that he wanted something a bit unusual — a purple, trilliant-cut center stone.
This was going to be tricky.
Fortunately, I had a few strings to pull — and pull I did!
The best part? I didn’t have to settle on the ethics!
All of these stones come from suppliers we have a long relationship with. And, all are traceable back to small-scale mines with excellent labor conditions. This one was from our Sri Lankan source which we describe here (link)
When it comes to sourcing ethical gemstones, there are options out there! You can get more background here.
What about the band and bezel setting, you ask?
They are, of course, made in 18K Fairtrade Gold!
Fairtrade Gold vs Recycled Gold for your LGBTQ+ Wedding Ring
A wedding ring is deeply sentimental representation of your love, your commitment, your union with your One and Only. It’s also the one piece of jewelry you know your spouse will be wearing every day for the rest of their life!
Unfortunately, this precious little item — which represents some of the highest ideals of mankind — is often tainted by wretched sourcing conditions and the exploitation of some of the most vulnerable people in the world. I wanted, I needed to align the sourcing of this ring with its beautiful, beautiful symbolism.
I have been delving deep into the ethics of gold sourcing for some time. When it comes to Fairtrade Gold vs recycled gold, the answer is clear.
Recycled gold is just “dirty gold,” rebranded as “ethical.”
Though you may have heard that recycled gold is the “ethical” solution, don’t be fooled!
Here’s the reality:
Gold always has been, and always will be, recycled. And, because of the metal’s inherent value, and their complete lack of alternative livelihoods, small-scale miners are going to keep on mining it. If we want to positively impact them, their families, and the Earth, we need to engage with miners to mine safely.
At best, recycled gold allows us to feel like we keep our hands clean — while ignoring the situation of our brothers and sisters in the Global South. This doesn’t square with me. (We explore recycled gold vs Fairtrade Gold in more detail here.)
By choosing Fairtrade Gold for Runyu’s ring, I feel like I helped create a more beautiful world — by reducing poverty and exploitation, and lowering global mercury contamination.
Our Fairtrade Gold comes from Macdesa, a small-scale mine located in Peru.
If you’re curious for more:
Our Fairtrade Gold landing page contains a wealth of information.
But let’s get back to the ring design!
As mentioned, Runyu’s “wedding ring” is actually more of a typical “engagement ring” style — aside from the atypical stone choices, that is!
Let’s get into why I chose this design, what I chose for myself, and what your options are:
Engagement and Engagement Ring Traditions for LGBTQ+ Couples
In the US, gay marriage was only legalized federally a few years ago. I’m stating the obvious, because this is significant: when it comes to engagement and wedding traditions, we don’t have a rulebook!
We had our gay wedding day just the way we wanted!
We’re in a unique position to pick and choose aspects of our own cultures that speak to us, in ways heterosexual couples sometimes cannot. We can also start fully from scratch if we so choose, because who’s to say we can’t?
It’s a silver lining to the newness of it all, and something I personally wanted to take full advantage of.
So, here’s what we were working with:
In a traditional heteronormative arrangement, the man proposes to the woman with an engagement ring, which is often set with a diamond. Then, the couple picks out their wedding rings, which sometimes match each other and sometimes do not.
Wedding rings typically do not have large center stones, but may contain small accent stones. And, because the woman will be wearing two rings on the same ring finger, she needs to decide how best to fit these two together — be it a physically interlocking design, two thin bands, complimentary stylistic elements, etc.
Our Flow Bridal Ring Set and Trinity Twist Bridal Set are two examples of interlocking wedding and engagement ring sets.
As gay men, we could have gone the traditional men’s route: wearing only a wedding band. Certainly not a bad choice! One popular, simple wedding band style can be found in our Comfort Fit collection:
You can’t deny: these handmade wedding rings are both classic and stunning!
However, I urge you to consider your options! Without being bound by some of the burden of tradition, you can really do things your way.
Take, for example, the “Management” ring:
Men’s Engagement Rings (AKA: The Management Ring)
Regardless of how you feel about the name, the “Management” ring has been on the rise in recent years — often, though not exclusively, for LGBTQ+ couples.
We do have a category for Men’s Engagement Rings on our site. However, our gendered categories are arbitrary, and meant to function as suggestions based on our experience of what customers are typically looking for. If you want to expand your search to our full range of offerings, please allow us to point you to our All Engagement Rings grouping.
That being said, there are some practical purposes that often mean men’s and women’s wedding rings might look different:
Women’s vs Men’s Engagement Rings and Wedding Rings
In the most general terms, men’s wedding rings tend to be wider than women’s — for two reasons: 1) Men tend to have larger hands, and want something that looks more substantial. And 2) Women tend to wear their engagement ring and wedding ring together on the same finger, and thus want both to be thin.
Our “Men’s Wedding Rings” and “Women’s Wedding Rings” labels are arbitrary. As far as we're concerned, these rings would look great on any hand!
But the way we look at it, if a man is wearing it, it’s a Men’s Engagement Ring — and vice-versa. Again, please feel free to browse our All Wedding Rings and All Engagement Rings groupings.
Taking another look at Runyu’s ring and mine, you can see that I have a somewhat wider band than Runyu:
Case in point…it’s really what speaks to you. (FYI, we both regularly get compliments on our rings!)
Let me simply re-emphasize:
Do what you want! If you want to wear a wide engagement ring along with a wide wedding band on the same finger, that’s your choice! Alternatively, who says both rings need to be worn on the left-hand ring finger?
In fact, wearing one ring on each hand was something Runyu and I considered — and it could be the route that speaks to you!
[ Are you feeling inspired? There’s no time like the present! If you’d like to speak with Marc, give him a call at 888-733-5238 or email info (at) reflectivejewelry.com. There's no obligation whatsoever! ]
Creating Our Custom Designed LGBTQ+ Wedding Rings
As mentioned, Runyu was really drawn to idea of a trilliant-cut purple center stone — and I knew he wanted a thin band.
But, in what color or karat??
There are six standard options: yellow, white, and rose gold, each in 14K or 18K.
Fortunately, I knew Runyu liked yellow gold. And for you too, picking a color might be easy. But, what about a karat? Is 18K always the better option, and 14K the cheaper?
The short answer is: No. In general, we actually recommend 14K for white gold rings! If you like, check out our guide to Gold Weddings Rings.
If you prefer a White Gold Wedding Ring look, you may want to consider Platinum Wedding Rings or Stainless Steel Wedding Rings. You can find the pros and cons of each in our short guide on White Metal Wedding Rings.
If you’re most curious about Platinum Engagement Rings vs Palladium Engagement Rings, pop over to this brief piece comparing the two.
Once I had settled on 18K Yellow Fairtrade Gold for Runyu’s ring, I added some other touches. After receiving the purple sapphire, I decided the angle it would be set at. I then sought out a few accent stones that were, again, atypical — but which I thought would work well in the ring and add an element of surprise.
This was the idea I was hoping to bring to life while searching for accent stones. I can't even draw a ring, let alone begin to fathom making one out of metal by hand! It's times like these that artisan work really awes.
Runyu’s ring is essentially a variation of our Simplicity design. Still, when creating a custom wedding or engagement ring design, we usually ask customers to send us a sketch of what they want their ring to look like. You don’t have to be an artist, it just helps to put it down on paper. Here’s what I emailed our Master Goldsmith Michelle:
Now that you’ve seen my artistic abilities, you can be sure we won’t judge yours too harshly!
I still remember receiving the completed ring in the mail. Because Runyu and I were both home, I had to hide the package straight away. Waiting to sneak a peak was torture! But when I finally did, I was honestly blown away by how it had come together.
And, as for my ring:
I’m a big fan of Two Tone Engagement Rings and Two Tone Wedding Rings. I like how they stand out from other ring designs, and the way the metals work together. Take a look at these examples, and you might see why:
These two tone LBGTQ+ wedding and engagement rings are just a few pieces from our wide-ranging collection!
Our two tone rings often pair a base of Sterling Silver or White Gold with a design element in Yellow Gold — or, they might feature some other combo of White, Yellow, and Rose gold. This article contains useful information about two tone wedding rings.
Early on, I was drawn to Helen’s Flores motif. And though her Flores models are often offered in a 14K White Gold base with an 18K Yellow Gold motif on top, I ultimately chose to reverse this coloration.
(As custom jewelers, we can very easily make this sort of modification to our designs!)
But now, a new dilemma: I had no idea what center stone to choose.
After weeks and weeks of looking up different stones, it finally hit me: Emerald was the answer I had been looking for!
My stone (as with all of our Emeralds) comes from a trusted supplier we have a long relationship with, who works with small-scale miners in Zambia. Knowing where my Emerald came from was essential, but I also can’t get over that shade of green:
Do the accent stones look familiar? They should!
Matching LGBTQ+ Wedding Ring Sets
So yes, Runyu and I wanted our rings to speak to our individual tastes. But still, these are wedding rings! They’re meant to symbolize a union, not our individuality.
If our rings weren’t going to share a motif, I thought they should at least share accent stones. And really, who wouldn’t love to have these beauties in their ring?
If your thinking is along the same lines as mine (and it’s OK if it isn’t!), there are many, many options for how to tie you and your partner’s rings together. Your rings could feature the same motif, same metal choice(s), similar stylistic elements, or similar center or accent stones, for example.
Consider these two pairs:
These custom wedding rings match each other perfectly!
Of course, your rings don't need to match perfectly, or even at all. It’s a bit of a balancing act, not unlike marriage!
Here, another look at our rings together. Can you believe both were made entirely by hand?
Now, there’s one thing we have yet to discuss: you guessed it! Diamonds.
[ Designing custom LGBTQ+ wedding rings may seem overwhelming, but it can actually be a lot of fun! If you'd like some help, give Marc a call at 888-733-5238 or email info (at) reflectivejewelry.com ]
Choosing a Diamond for Your LGBTQ+ Engagement Ring
Click here to browse our database of lab grown diamonds. Or, click here to browse our database of Canadian mined diamonds.
If you have concerns about the ethics of sourcing a diamond for your ring, do not fret!
There are options out there.
That being said, here’s what’s most important to understand:
The ideal diamond would come from a small mine, benefit someone’s local economy, and have some sort of fair trade certification. Unfortunately, this diamond does not exist.
Do not believe those who tell you their diamonds are “conflict free" (or “beyond conflict free”) and therefore ethical!
In short: “Conflict free” does not mean what it implies. In fact, we see it as a term rooted in racism, because it sweeps under the rug the deaths of 3.7 million Africans during diamond-funded wars of the ‘80s and ‘90s. More on our call to Boycott Conflict Free can be found here.
While neither is perfect, we offer you two choices and searchable databases for your center stone: Canadian mined and lab grown. In terms of ethics, each has benefits and drawbacks — which we break down for you here.
Let's get back to me and Runyu:
My Big Fat Gay Wedding
At the start of this article, I gave you some details on the proposal.
But, if you’re wondering how the rest of our story goes:
Though it was 2020, we decided we didn’t want to wait to tie the knot. Neither of us wanted a huge production of a wedding, so Covid gave us a great excuse.
Just two months later, in September, we conducted a small, self-uniting Quaker ceremony at a rustic Airbnb in Amish country. Just three others attended.
The celebration was small, but it was plenty of fun!
And as for my ring:
As hinted above, I didn’t fully decide on my ring’s design until after I proposed to Runyu. This didn’t matter much to me, as I knew what I wanted was a wedding ring, not an engagement ring.
Now that I have my ring, I absolutely love it — and can’t wait to put it on every morning!
Creating Your Custom LGBTQ+ Wedding Rings or Engagement Rings
I’ve chosen to share with you the story of Runyu’s ring and mine because the pair is a great illustration of how varied wedding ring styles can be — and, because they are both “non-traditional” (dare I say queer) in a certain sense.
But, what you choose to wear could be very different!
I’ve gone through a lot of info in this article, and understand it can feel a bit overwhelming at first. Don’t worry if you don’t have all the answers!
We have a team of artisans with over 80 years of combined experience creating Custom Wedding Rings and Custom Engagement Rings. As makers, our specialty is using rare old-world artisan techniques rooted in the traditions of the Southwestern United States.
Our artisan makers will use their own custom handmade tools, hammers, anvils, and an old cottonwood stump to craft your wedding ring. Get a closer look in this video!
It’s this artisanal maker approach that sets us apart. While nearly all wedding rings are mass-produced, using 3D CAD/CAM rendering machines, our Wedding Rings and Engagement Rings are forged by hand — infused with artisan energy and a tangible love of craft.
However, we can also take advantage of the most modern techniques available!
Aside from my ring and Runyu’s, here’s one more example of custom wedding rings made entirely by hand:
These rings represent our popular Playa style. Curious about the process of making a Gold Wedding Ring by hand? We break down the steps here.
And here’s a ring we created using CAD/CAM computer modeling software:
This ring is the perfect illustration of where CAD/CAM really shines. With computer modeling, we can show you exactly what your ring will look like before we begin crafting it. We went back and forth with this client many times before creating the finished piece.
If you’d like to learn more about our Custom Wedding Ring design process, just click here.
Repurposing Old Rings, Jewelry, and Gold into a New Wedding Ring Design
Here’s something else amazing about custom jewelers who work with their hands:
We can turn your old gold, jewelry, and rings into a brand new design!
Turning an inherited ring or pendant into a brand new wedding or engagement ring design is a beautiful way to give continuity and new life to well-worn pieces that are filled with the energy of love. We can turn your grandmother’s wedding ring into a new design that speaks to you — or, even reset her diamond for you.
Sometimes, a cherished piece just doesn't work with your personal aesthetic. Let us help you breathe new life into it!
With gold at near record high prices, this is also a great way to save $$$! Our artisans can transform any old gold into a new design — even, say, working from an old silver spoon and baby bracelet:
If you’d like to redesign your old jewelry or gold into a new wedding or engagement ring design, you can find out more here.
Next Steps for Creating Your Custom LGBTQ+ Wedding or Engagement Ring
Think about what feels right for you and your partner, then simply email Marc, co-owner and President, at info(at)ReflectiveJewelry.com. He’ll be happy to talk it through with you over the phone, Zoom, or in person in our Santa Fe, NM shop.
My rings are by no means the first LGBTQ+ wedding rings Reflective Jewelry has created since opening their doors in 1995, and Marc is here to help!
Here you can see examples of two-tone rings, a three-tone ring, and several white gold rings!
LGBTQ+ wedding rings should be a true expression of the beauty and commitment in your relationship. If you take a moment to look at our 195+ Five-Star Google reviews, you’ll see why we’re in our 26th year of business!
If you prefer, call us at 1-888-733-4238 during our business hours. Or if you’re local to Santa Fe, come by 912 Baca Street!
Here's the bottom line, the one thing you must absolutely keep in mind when it comes to gay/lesbian/queer/LGBTQ+ wedding rings and engagement rings:
Do what makes you and your partner happy!
It’s really that simple. 😉
Thanks for reading!
Kyle Abram has been Brand Catalyst at Reflective Jewelry since first interning with us in 2017. In addition to his brand management and SEO work, he is deeply involved in working to move jewelry sourcing toward social, environmental, and racial justice — a passion he shares with Marc, who has served as his mentor.
Kyle is a signatory of 2020’s BIPOC Open Letter to the jewelry industry, has functioned as a representative for North American jewelers to the USAID Zahabu Safi (Clean Gold) Project, has appeared as a featured speaker at the Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference, and is a regular feature writer for Jewellery Business Magazine. He holds multiple roles with Ethical Metalsmiths: serving on their Advisory Council and Action Coalition, and as an Editor/Author for their blog The Source. He is an inaugural recipient of the Black in Jewelry Coalition x GIA Distance Education Scholarship, and pursuing his Graduate Gemologist certification. Kyle holds a BA from Brown University in Contemplative Studies.