Lords of the Ring: 5 Jewelers Targeting the LGBT Wedding Market
Statute after statute is falling -- Pennsylvania’s most recently -- and the writing on the wall is clear: Same-sex marriage equality will be the law of the land, and sooner rather than later. As the marrying month of June has arrived, more and more gays and lesbians will walk down the aisle and enjoy a lifetime of the same rights and protections as any other married couple.
And with the rings to prove it. Several jewelry design firms have long served the LGBT community regardless of the law, carving the hopes and dreams of a population in gold and diamonds. Here are five that have come out of the closet to say so.
Celtic "knotwork" designs have held artists in a headlock since the 19th century, but what is 200 years to a tradition going straight back to the Bronze Age?
"We hand-make wedding bands in much the same way as they would have been made thousands of years ago," says Gwern Evans, Director of Rhiannon Jewelry, whose wedding bands would blend seamlessly in court of King Arthur...or Game of Thrones.
Based in Tregaron in the hills of southern Wales, Rhiannon is already famous in industry circles for being the last jeweler in the world to use Welsh gold, but hit superstar status in the British LGBT community for designing the first same-sex wedding held in Wales.
The fantastical Dyfrdwy ring, whose intricate knots evoke two lives intertwined, is particularly popular and a shining example of Celtic art. There’s no denying the inspiration; the museum over the smithy is a veritable treasure trove of ancient Celtic broaches, pins, and swords.
Consider strident LGBT ally Udi Behr the thinking man’s jewelry designer: Among his many collections are the 1138 line, whose moniker comes from the 1,138 federal rights gays and lesbians are denied, and his Love and Pride collection that was inspired by San Francisco mayor Gavin Newsom’s attempt to legalize same-sex marriage.
"My jewelry has a story to tell," says Behr. "When I understood the inequality of marriage and what it presents to people of the LGBT community, I decided to lend my talent and create a collection that would give a percentage to fight for marriage equality."
And thus was born Behr’s Love and Honor rings, with their distinctive triangular "trillion cut" diamonds and a portion of proceeds going to LGBT equality organizations. Any bride-to-be doing her research will recognize the classic solitaire, princess, and channel designs, but Behr’s symbolism is a clear salvo from gays and lesbians claiming the institution of marriage as our own.
In this Type A age, it is not unusual for couples to customize their rings from scratch. EDGE caught up with award-winning designer Lisa Krikawa, for whom unique rings are her industry stock and trade.
"Each piece is a work of art, designed between the client and our modelers and goldsmiths," says Arizona-based Krikawa, whose partnership with the LGBT community goes back to the studio’s founding 16 years ago. "We are able to build unbelievable things."
Time to brush up on your Japanese; Krikawa specializes in mokume-gane, a mixed-laminate forging style first used in 17th century Japan. By fusing thin layers of differently colored metals, designers achieve a distinctive "liquid" pattern that is specific to each piece. With this as the foundation, customers can then add stones or sculptural finishes for a ring unlike any other before or since. For couples tying the knot, Krikawa is quick to recommend her rose gold mokume lines, whose lustrous hues recall glowing coals.
Proposition Love Jewelry donates 10 percent of the company’s profits to organizations supporting marriage equality, gay rights initiatives, LGBT youth and anti-bullying programs, and HIV/AIDS activism. Oh, and they make great wedding rings, too.
"We decided to create a wedding line that supports our community," says Sam Street, who, along with husband Jonathan Tucker founded the company in response to the passage of California’s notorious Proposition 8. They also found themselves facing a peculiar niche market that Prop 8’s fall and similar same-sex marriage legislation revealed: Diamond engagement rings are not made for men.
To fill the void, Street and Tucker introduced the Love Is Love collection, whose bowed triangle motif is a company hallmark. Masculine but understated, the line combines dazzle with restraint so artistically done that Macy’s now includes it in its retail collection. For those eschewing gemstones, the same line includes rings where the triangles are symbolically intertwined.
Not all of us can afford Tiffany. Jim Carrey, in "I Love You, Phillip Morris" even admitted it when he said, "Being gay is expensive."
A common addition at gay pride fairs and stores and on the lower end of the budget spectrum, Pride Shack nevertheless lands on more than a few shortlists. In looking for rings representative of strength and endurance against impossible odds, many couples are foregoing gold and platinum for steel and tungsten.
Another strongpoint is the almost dizzying selection of jewelry Pride Shack has available. Not only does the company appeal to men, women, and transgenders, it also caters to communities within the LGBT family, such as bears or leather aficionados, who can be particularly exact with regards to what they wear and how they wear it. The pinpoint accuracy of Pride Shack neatly answers such demands, getting so specific as to include military and even Masonic pride lines.