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With These Several Rings, I Thee Wed

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Married people don’t always wear wedding bands or engagement rings — at least not their original ones.

The longest stretch of time that Mike Wirs wore his tungsten wedding band was in 2019, on his wedding day and during the weeklong honeymoon afterward. Since then, he has been sticking with the silicone rings that he purchased in bulk on Amazon.

“I had already let my wife know that I would not be wearing that most of the time because of occupational hazards,” Mr. Wirs said of the tungsten band.

As a former car mechanic in Deerfield Beach, Fla., he said he had seen colleagues’ skin burned and peeled because of metal rings, and he even took one co-worker to the hospital when his metal-ring-clad thumb was hanging by a ligament. Wearing metal rings is “a big no-no in a hands-on type industry,” he added.

Now Mr. Wirs’s job — estimating the cost of repairing crashed electric vehicles — mostly takes place at a desk, but he still prefers wearing silicone bands while his official wedding band sits in a night stand “collecting dust.”

Mr. Wirs, 35, is not alone in owning duplicate or substitute wedding or engagement rings — some married partners choose to do the same for reasons varying from safety to style. “I don’t always wear my ring when I’m running errands,” said Sarah Kunst, 37, the founder and managing director of a venture capital fund in San Francisco. She often leaves her diamond engagement ring at home in favor of a simple half eternity band or no ring at all, a decision she believes makes sense for “not attracting attention if you’re in an area with higher crime rates.”

Leading up to her Aug. 17 wedding, Dory Zayas, a freelance writer in Manhattan, was worried about losing her diamond engagement ring during her two-week honeymoon in Bali and Hong Kong.

“I was just nervous to be wearing this piece of jewelry that costs so much more than anything else I owned,” she said. Ms. Zayas, 38, received as a gift a second engagement ring made of cubic zirconia and silver, as well as a dupe wedding band, all for less than $100. “In a photo it does the job and just gives me peace of mind while I’m traveling,” she said.

Jewelers are getting in on the dupe game. The Clear Cut, an online jewelry store, offers complimentary 1, 1.5 and 2-carat lab-grown diamonds, which the company calls travel rings, with the purchase of a natural diamond ring of $10,000 or more (though customers pay about $1,500 for the band they’re set on). Benchmark Rings, a men’s brand, offers free “casual rings” with the purchase of certain ring styles, while the Source in the Rochester, N.Y., area offers a “buy one get one free” deal.

The practice has its skeptics. “I think it’s so important to spend your money on things that are going to matter to you in the long run,” said Adrianna Vargo, a certified financial planner at Domain Money in Cleveland.

She believes some customers should skip the expensive ring altogether. “If you’re not going to wear it, then there really isn’t a point to spending a ton of money on it,” she said. “I’d rather see my clients putting that money to use on something that they care more about, whether that’s travel or a down payment on a house.”

But for those who do have expensive rings, there can be hidden expenses for not purchasing a replica. Jill Stier, a contract manager in public health who lives in Manhattan, learned this the hard way: by taking a trip to the emergency room one week postpartum.

Ms. Stier, 34, gave birth to her second child on Aug. 29. “Halfway through my pregnancy, I took my rings off because I noticed my fingers were so swollen,” Ms. Stier said. “I was like, ‘I don’t want to get these stuck on here.’”

Around that time, Ms. Stier considered buying a copy engagement ring, with cubic zirconia, for $100, but decided against it and simply went ringless for the remainder of her pregnancy.

On Sept. 5, the date of her newborn son’s bris, Ms. Stier’s husband suggested she wear her rings. By 10 p.m., the engagement ring was impossible to remove at home. “I was in so much pain,” said Ms. Stier, who walked five blocks to a hospital. “They cut it once, and it wasn’t enough. They had to cut the ring in two different places.”

Ms. Stier said she’s waiting for her finger to “go back to normal” so she can get her ring repaired and resized. In the meantime, the emergency room co-pay cost her $300. “I should have just gotten a duplicate,” she said.

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