Nathan Hartnett has made an art out of getting wedding rings off men’s fingers. But it’s all for a good cause.
The Brisbane resident is the founder of Australian retailer Mens Rings Online, which specialises in designing and selling men’s dress and wedding rings.
It’s a job that allows him to be part of thousands of special days a year. But it has also presented some unusual quality control measures, namely making sure every design has been tested in medical rooms.
“It’s always a concern for people – especially if their job involves physical labour – about what will happen if they buy a ring featuring a tough material like tungsten and then end up in an emergency situation,” says Nathan, who launched the business in 2005. “It’s a fair question, so we decided to test it out. And fortunately, I know a paramedic, so he was able to take the rings into a couple of hospital emergency rooms for us.
“What we discovered was that most hospital ERs have cutting tools made from tungsten, so they were able to cut off our tungsten rings, our titanium rings, our ceramic rings and our other designs.”
It’s just another piece of mind for people who have to prioritise practicality as much as style. And it shows how far the world of men’s wedding rings has come in the past decade or so.
Nathan, who of course chose a band from his own site when marrying, says grooms are increasingly looking for a bespoke approach when it comes to choosing the jewellery with which they will promise to love, honour and cherish.
“It’s just as big a deal for them as the bride and, in their own way, men can be just as picky as women,” he says. “They want style and personality and they definitely want designs that are not boring.
“So it’s all about choosing something they will be happy to wear for a lifetime.”
As an example, he points to the popularity of black rings, which are far from traditional and which run the gamut from stripes, brushed finishes and chequered patterns to inlays of single stones or a red carbon fibre.
“I think what men love about black rings is that they are so different,” says Nathan, who also sells ring boxes on Mens Rings Online. “They make a powerful statement and you can really tell when someone’s wearing one because it stands out so much against their skin.”
It’s very much a ring for someone who wants the world to know he’s married, and adds weight to the classic argument that black is always the new black.
But that’s far from the only unique choice.
“More and more, people are looking to newer, edgier and, dare I say it, weird things,” says Nathan. It’s all about the rise of the niche – where one size doesn’t fit all, and nor does one style.
Examples of more modern offerings at Mens Rings Online include camouflage designs and also skull rings, which have started to trend well in the last six months or so. These range from actual skull designs to simple bands featuring a skull pattern.
Freemason Masonic rings and Irish claddagh rings are also finding favour, building on the fact “they all have great stories behind them”. So you’re not just buying a ring, you’re also tapping into a well of great history, heritage and character.
Other accents capturing the imagination of husbands to be (and their wives) include koa wood centrepieces, carbon fibre centrelines and matte or hammered finishes.
It’s part of an ongoing process of informing and educating people about what’s possible – and what’s out there.
Ceramic rings – which Mens Rings Online does pretty exclusively among Australian jewelers – are another perfect example.
“These kind of rings have been around for a little while now internationally – mainly in Europe and the United States,” Nathan says. “But they haven’t been a big thing in Australia.
“Part of the issue is that when someone thinks of ceramic objects, they traditionally think of them as being quite fragile. Whereas the kind of ceramic we use is zirconium ceramic, which is actually very tough, scratch proof and light. So it really is incredibly durable.”
He also points out ceramic lends itself to colours such as white – on top of more traditionally masculine shades – which is all part of complementing classic selections such as plain bands in yellow or white gold.
“Once upon a time it was all just about the women’s ring, but things have evolved and now grooms want an equally considered sign of their love and commitment,” explains Nathan, whose visions are brought to life by a Sydney jeweller and include hypo-allergenic options.
He says the most common size for a band is the 6-7mm mark, with 7mm being most popular. “People aren’t looking for super wide or super thin,” he says.
Again, it’s all about balancing practical matters and personal choice, which is something Mens Rings Online stresses as a key consideration.
“When looking at rings, the first question to ask is: ‘What does the groom actually like?’” says Nathan, who ships everywhere from Germany and Ireland to Israel and Spain. “Does he like the feel of a heavy ring or not? What materials does he like? Does he like the feel of a ring on his finger or not?
“After all, it has to work for the rest of his life.”
Occupation and personality also come into play, particularly when considering the popularity of metal rings, ranging from steel to platinum.
“We always say there’s no such thing as a perfect metal, only the perfect metal for you,” says Nathan who offers a free exchange service enhanced by a sizing guide that’s not only online but is also sent out with every purchase.
“For example, if you’re an accountant, we might recommend titanium because it’s light and super strong. This is also a great choice for someone who doesn’t love the feel of a ring but wants to wear one to honour their wife. Or, if you’re a tradie, we might recommend tungsten, as it doesn’t stretch, doesn’t dent and doesn’t bend, so it can withstand your lifestyle. But then it’s quite heavy, so if you don’t like that feel, it’s probably not a good choice.
“The sky really is the limit when it comes to options. So basically, it comes down to what will suit a groom’s lifestyle”
And he does have one final piece of advice – this time for brides as much as grooms.
“We find we do get a lot of last-minute requests,” he says. “So many people focus on the bride’s rings that the man’s is left a bit too late. So we’ll hear from people saying ‘Hey, we’re getting married this Saturday; can you supply something in the next couple of days?’
“So a man’s wedding ring can be a little bit of an afterthought, but we encourage people to make it a bit more of a priority.
“After all, it’s just about the most important piece of jewellery he’ll ever wear.”