When Susan Carrigan got married 34 years ago, she vowed a lifetime of love to her husband, Steve.
She did not, however, make that same commitment to her ring.
To mark her 25th wedding anniversary, Carrigan did what more and more women are doing: She upgraded her wedding ring.
“I wanted something that better reflected 25 years of marriage,” the Little Canada woman said. “My original ring was used as part of the design for my daughter’s wedding ring. It was meaningful to pass it along.”
It was an age-old idea that rings were a symbol for eternity. But today they’re being upgraded like some people trade in cars.
“It seems to be happening more often and earlier than it used to,” said Bob Moeller, president and co-owner of R.F. Moeller Jeweler in the Twin Cities. “It used to happen at 25 or 30 years. Now it’s not uncommon to see that upgrade happening at 10 and even five years.”
Moeller estimates that as many as a quarter of his customers — mostly women — have upgraded their wedding rings.
“It’s more of a generational thing,” he said. “The younger generations don’t feel the same attachment — for them, the wedding ring is more of a dynamic experience than a one-time thing.”
While Carrigan passed her original wedding ring down to her daughter, the decision for other women to trade their rings is driven by changes in taste, income or to mark meaningful milestones in a relationship, such as an anniversary or the birth of a baby (also known as a “push present” among women of current childbearing age).
At many jewelry stores, the idea of an upgrade is promoted when a ring is purchased. Some jewelers offer a trade-in program for couples whose budgets have grown since they first purchased an engagement ring and will adjust the price of a new diamond or gemstone based on the price of the original engagement purchase.
“There is no downside to upgrading a diamond,” said Eugene Gittelson, owner of Gittelson Jewelers in Minneapolis. “Their value is always going up.”
Alyssa DeRusha married WCCO-TV anchor Jason DeRusha in 1998 when she was 22. Since then, DeRusha discovered Stephen Vincent Design, a Minneapolis custom jeweler, and fell in love with Vincent’s signature modern aesthetic, particularly his tension-set diamond rings.
“[We] had come a long way since our college days and my tastes had changed,” she said. “In 2012, I finally pulled the trigger and I have no regrets.”
The center diamond from DeRusha’s original ring was made into a pendant and some of the side stones were made into stacking rings.
“Wearing a ring symbolizes our love, but to me that love is not just represented by the original ring,” she said. “When we go on vacation, I sometimes just wear a cheap band. I want to wear a wedding ring, but to me it doesn’t need to just be one ring.”
While DeRusha says her husband was supportive of the idea, approaching a spouse with the idea of an upgrade can be a daunting discussion.
Sometimes, it’s the man who makes the first move.
“[My husband] has asked me to upgrade mine, but I can’t bring myself to do it,” said Heather Weirich, of Plymouth. “We were engaged at 21 and he worked hard to buy me the ring he did. It means so much to me, I just can’t upgrade.”
Some say ‘no thanks’
Weirich isn’t alone in her attachment to sentimentality. For many, the symbolism contained in the original ring trumps both carat size and cost.
Last April, a Minnesota woman wrote on Facebook in defense of her “small” wedding ring after hearing from friends and family that the size of her ring didn’t represent the level of success she and her husband had achieved.
“Since when did the size of someone’s ring become an indication of success?!” Rachel Pederson of Eden Prairie wrote. “For me, the ring is so much more. My ring symbolizes a whirlwind, storybook, ‘make you sick’ love story.”
HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” star Joanna Gaines also publicly decried an upgrade. In her book, “The Magnolia Story,” Gaines revealed that she turned down a recent opportunity to upgrade her wedding ring because of the sentimental value attached to the original.
“This is the original diamond I picked, and it’s perfect just the way it is,” wrote Gaines.
A changing of the wedding rings isn’t just for women and doesn’t always cost more, either. Andy Borne has been married for 16 years, but says it might be time to update his ring finger.
“I have often toyed with the idea of downgrading my wedding ring from platinum/gold to some other metal, perhaps molybdenum or titanium just because it’s cool and unusual and gold is so common,” the Eagan man said. “Iridium would be my first choice and it would be an upgrade.”
Minneapolis resident Jessica Reipke adores the sapphire solitaire engagement ring her husband proposed with, she just doesn’t love to wear it.
“I just did not find it to be practical for a pretty low-maintenance person like myself,” Reipke said.
The sapphire ring is worn for special occasions or around her neck on a chain, but Reipke now dons a simple gold band on her ring finger.
“I actually downgraded,” she said. “Simple is where it’s at for me.”