The average American spends an average of about $6000 on an engagement ring. As a third-generation jeweler, I designed my own wedding ring about fifteen years ago, using precious metal and diamonds, and being in the business I was able to spend considerably less than this figure.
But this isn’t about how much to spend on a ring. The reality is that your budget determines that for you. If the cost of your wedding jewelry seems steep, consider this perspective into why we should use precious metals, which are particularly significant for sacramental Catholic marriage.
In Exodus, the Lord gives Moses very specific instructions on how to create the vestments, the Tabernacle, the Ark of the Covenant, and more. The Lord’s chosen materials? Gold. Silver. Bronze. In fact, gold and silver are each mentioned approximately 200 times in the Old Testament. Similarly, wife is mentioned 228 times.
What does this mean for us? To start, it means the inherent value of certain physical materials is something that the Lord pays attention to. It is part of his vocabulary of creation.
This is because he created everything. And among those created things are the chemical elements of silver and gold. An entire star has to explode in a supernova for Him to make them! When speaking to Moses, God chooses these materials specifically and calls them by name, in Exodus. He even gave the artisan Bezalel the special talent of creating “artistic designs in gold, silver, and bronze.”
In Genesis, after Abraham’s wife Sarah died and their Isaac had yet to be married, Abraham must have experienced tremendous considering that Isaac was the son of whom God had promised countless descendants. So Abraham sent a servant to his own land in order find a wife for Isaac. The servant followed dutifully and took 10 camels to the city of Nahor.
The servant prayed to the God of Abraham:
...if I say to a young woman, ‘Please lower your jug, that I may drink,’ and she answers, ‘Drink, and I will water your camels, too,’ then she is the one whom you have decided upon for your servant Isaac. In this way I will know…”
Enter Rebekah, carrying a jug on her shoulder with which to draw water. The servant “ran toward her” and the prayer was answered in exactly the way he asked God to make it clear, at which point he presents her with a ring. Of course, it’s made of gold.
That’s the depth of the heritage of wedding rings in precious metal.
Deep down, we all know precious metals mean something. That some things are sacred.
A Styrofoam cup, for instance, isn’t used for a chalice during the liturgy of the Eucharist, but silver or gold. We participate in the sacrament of Eucharist regularly; it is sacred yet it is commonplace. We honor and revere this sacrament, and our choice in materials shows this. As Catholics, our marriages are first and foremost a sacrament. So similarly, our choice in wedding ring materials is an opportunity to honor and revere this everyday sacrament.
Admittedly, the cost of precious metals can certainly be a financial sacrifice. Yet marriage itself is a sacramental sacrifice. The precious metals we choose allow us a unique way in which to offer thanks and praise to God for our spouse. The metals we choose can reflect a fitting expression of our view of this sacrament.
They allow us to look at the meager 118 elements God created and choose the same precious materials he chose. To co-create alongside him something that is both old and also new, a precious symbol of love and honor and tradition. Something universally precious.
About the Author: After a consecration to the Immaculate Heart of Mary, Jesse Ross was filled with the Holy Spirit "to create artistic designs in gold, silver, and bronze," as prescribed in the Book of Exodus. He decided to leave a tenured position to follow in the footsteps of his father and grandfather as a jeweler. Jesse and his wife, Angie, are Co-Founders of 31:Four Artisan Jewelry, an all-Catholic design and manufacturing studio based in the Orlando area. They are teaching the trade to their four children, who will be fourth-generation jewelers.