July 06, 2022
For millennia, rings have been worn as a symbol of love, faith, and achievement. But what materials were early rings made of? Back in the olden times, when the world was not chock full of the technologies of today, humans weren’t able to use the common modern materials we expect today. Prior to the development of metals like gold and silver, rings were often made from more perishable materials like wood, bone, ivory, and even grasses. In this article, we’ll dive into some of the most common materials used to make rings over time and why we chose to focus on bamboo.
As you may have guessed, we lean heavily towards wooden rings and, in particular, bamboo. We love the material because of its gorgeous grain, incredible strength, and its second-to-none sustainability. There are over 1200 species of bamboo, some of which can grow over 2 ft. a day.
Remember that plants are the Earth’s best resource in taking carbon out of the atmosphere and putting it into natural long-term storage. Plants sequester carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis and this happens more when the plants are growing, especially during the warmer months. This means that plants that grow quickly are able to sequester much more carbon from the atmosphere and help in the fight against the massive amounts of carbon humans are putting in the air via the burning of fossil fuels (which are full of carbons since they are derived from ancient plants.) So, on top of bamboo being gorgeous and incredibly strong, we love it because it may be one of the keys to saving our planet.
That’s good information about the planet, but how does that relate to rings and why does it make bamboo a good choice? While bamboo is a grass, it is considered one of the hardest “wood” materials on the planet. This is measured by the Janka Hardness rating, which measures the pounds of force it takes to press a steel ball (7/16”) halfway into the wood, hence determining its hardness. This is typically great for determining types of flooring or for furniture materials that can stand up to wear and tear. For rings, it is important for durability and scratch resistance. Another good metric is tensile strength which is strength under tension (as it relates to the weight of the material). While a ring doesn’t directly work under this type of tension, it’s a good indicator of qualities that make a material good as a wooden ring.
Our bamboo has a tensile strength that is higher than steel with a Janka Hardness of 1650 lbf.
While we think bamboo is the perfect “wooden ring” material for many reasons like its stylish look and superior strength and durability, there are many popular woods that make for great rings. Generally these materials have a beautiful color and grain and are robust enough to hold up against the wear and tear of the stresses that rings face in an active human lifestyle.
The Koa Tree is native to the Hawaiian Islands. Known for its deep rich colors and incredibly varied grain, Koa wood has been sacred to Hawaiians and was even, for a time, reserved only for Hawaiian royalty. Koa means “warrior” in Hawaiian and was used to make everything from weapons and bowls, to canoes and the first surfboards. A Hawaiian Koa Wood Ring has become a popular choice for a men’s wedding ring. Janka Hardness: ~1220 lbf.
Whiskey Barrel Rings
Whiskey Barrels are much more than just a wooden booze box. Making a whiskey barrel is a practiced art form passed down for generations via apprenticeships. There is an incredible process required to fit and fire barrels so they can properly store and flavor whiskey. Recycling and upcycling old whiskey barrels and bourbon barrels has become a huge trend and can be great material for wooden rings. Whiskey Barrel Rings have become very popular as wooden wedding bands for men. While Oak trees are found all over the world, whiskey barrels are typically made from American White Oak, which is a hard and gorgeous wood with consistent color and predictable grain. Janka Hardness: ~1360 lbf.
Walnut wood is a very popular hardwood because of its beautiful deep chocolate tones and gorgeous open grain. It is found primarily in the Eastern United States and is often used to make instruments and high end furniture because of its looks and ease to work with. You guessed it, it also looks great on your finger. Janka Hardness: ~1010 lbf.
Cherry is a craftsman favorite in the industry. It’s a wood that is stable, easy to work with, and has an incredibly deep rich red color. While it is a softer wood than some that we have mentioned earlier, it has a great Earthy tone that is another popular wood wedding band. Janka Hardness: ~1010 lbf.
Other Wood Rings
As you may have started to notice, wooden rings can be made from nearly any wood. Choosing the right one depends on your preference of color, grain, and feel. You may also want to choose a material because of a personal connection to a type of tree that you like or something you grew up with.
Metals like gold, silver, and iron have been staples in human history and have always been highly sought after because of their rarity, look, and their physical properties. Metals have been used to construct the modern world and help us do everything from drive cars to communicate through phones. Some metals, like gold and silver, have even been used as, and to back, currency until governments recently removed backing from their currency. Still, these metals have remained extremely popular and have become status symbols with use in jewelry.
For centuries, gold has been prized for its beauty and durability. Early cultures associated gold with the sun and with power, and it was often used in ceremonial and religious objects. Gold rings became popular during the Renaissance, as a symbol of wealth and status. Eventually, the wearing of gold rings became more widespread, and they came to be seen as a symbol of love and commitment. Gold is often thought of as THE precious material, such is the reason that gold wedding rings have been the go-to for decades.
Also very popular, generally more for women’s wedding rings, white gold is typically a mixture of 75% pure gold and 25% zinc or nickel. This mixture changes the color from yellow to a metal that is much closer to silver in color.
Another gold alloy is Rose Gold. Rose Gold is similar to White Gold in that it is typically a mixture of 75% gold and 25% copper and is another precious metal that is popular as a woman’s wedding band.
While Gold and Silver have long been the norm when it comes to wedding bands and engagement rings, there have been recent trends towards other precious metals that were not previously considered ring material. Particularly for men’s wedding rings, there has been increasing popularity among metals such as platinum, palladium, titanium, and tungsten.
Platinum rings and palladium rings have been an “exotic” alternative to white gold or silver, but at a significantly higher price. A driver in the new popularity of these materials is that they are more scratch resistant and durable than gold and silver. Many men have been looking to get away from the silver color and have been doing so with a titanium or tungsten wedding ring, which are a darker color and some of the hardest materials on the planet.
In case you’re wondering if there’s a hardness measurement for metals like the Janka Hardness Rating for wood, there is and it’s called the Mohs Hardness Scale which rates hardness on a scale from 1-10. For the materials listed above, the ratings are as follows: Silver (2.5 - 3), Gold (2.5 - 3), Platinum (4 - 4.5), Palladium (4.75), Titanium (6), Tungsten (7.5).
So, why is that important?
While precious metals are common for rings and wood up-and-coming, here are a few other interesting materials that have been common throughout the history of man..
Ivory is a hard, white substance that is found in the tusks and teeth of animals. It became a prized material surrounded with controversy because of the excessive slaughter of animals to get it. The ivory trade ballooned and threatened the existence of many animals around the planet. Ivory rings have been found in burial sites dating back to ancient times, suggesting that they were once used as status symbols or markers of wealth. In more recent history, ivory rings were often given as gifts between lovers or as symbols of purity and innocence. Whatever their meaning, these rings have always been prized for their beauty. To assist in animal conservation, it is now illegal in many places to create new ivory items.
Carnelian is a semiprecious stone that ranges in color from orange to red, and it has been used in jewelry since ancient times. The word carnelian is derived from the Latin word for flesh, due to its characteristic hue. In the medieval era, carnelian rings were thought to ward off evil spirits, and they were often worn by knights going into battle.
Gemstones have been used in jewelry for thousands of years. Early rings were often made of simple materials like wood or bone. It wasn’t until the late Middle Ages that gemstones began to be used more regularly in rings. By the Renaissance, gemstone rings were quite popular among the nobility. Diamonds became particularly fashionable during this time period.
For centuries, pearl rings have been a symbol of wealth and prestige. Unlike other gemstones, pearls are not found in the ground but are instead created by a special type of oyster deep in the ocean.
This makes them exceedingly rare, and their value has long been reflected in their price. In ancient Rome, only the most powerful citizens could afford to wear pearl rings, and even then, they were often reserved for special occasions.
For example, in 47 BC, Julius Caesar is said to have gifted his wife a pearl ring on the day of their victory at the Battle of Zela. While pearls are no longer quite so rare, they still retain their status as a luxurious item and continue to be a popular choice for engagement and wedding rings.
So there you have it, a quick rundown of the history of popularity and upcoming trends in ring materials. While we appreciate the history and aura around precious metals, we love the wooden ring trend. Aside from the look and feel, it is something that has really helped us reconnect with nature and our roots. It’s funny how something as simple as a bamboo ring can be a simple reminder to keep perspective or help take your mind to a more relaxing place, but it certainly does the trick. When rings act as a symbol of love, achievement, and even fashion, shouldn’t the symbol be sustainability?