Otherwise engaged

Posted on 02 Aug 2013 at 8:00am

Developments in marriage equality have triggered a rush on wedding bands

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INTERLOCKING LOVE | Brother and sister jewelers Darin Kunz and Kim Burgan say men — gay men especially — have become more involved in designing symbolic bands since the overturning of DOMA by the U.S. Supreme Court.

 

ARNOLD WAYNE JONES  | Life+Style Editor

The Supreme Court’s decisions involving marriage equality earlier this summer have meant a lot to couples anxious to express their commitment publicly and have it acknowledged and sanctified by their government. And no industry has seen the practical effects of those decisions quite as concretely as jewelers.

“It’s been pretty spectacular on a lot of different fronts,” says Kim Burgan, co-owner of the Uptown private jeweler Nine Eighteen. “It was an amazing step in the right direction. And it has already made a significant impact on our business.”

In fact, it took no more than a few days after the court decisions were announced before Burgan and her brother and business partner, Darin Kunz, noticed an uptick in gay couples seeking wedding bands and engagement rings.

“We’re at the front end of the trend,” Kunz says. “[Since the decisions], for the first time since we’ve been in business we’re working with more gays and lesbians on bridals than straight couples — easily twice as many at any one time before. We can’t wait to be a part of this.”

Even previously committed couples — those who have exchanged rings in holy unions or other ceremonies — are approaching

Burgan and Kunz about formalizing their relationships in line with the new laws.

“We have two male clients who’ve worn matching bands for a while,” Burgan says. “One of them wants to add a carat-plus diamond into his partner’s band” to symbolize their now-legal “engagement.” “We’re seeing a lot of that — turning a band more into an engagement ring.”

Kunz, who is gay and active in charitable causes around town (especially DIFFA), attributes some of this newfound interest in gays finding a way to be part of the larger culture.

“I think being engaged is a part of the marriage process [for heterosexuals],” he says. “For a long time, we’ve been denied that — we go from dating to one day, magically, you’re ‘partners.’ We’re used to creating our own way, but now we can include family and tradition [in our process].”

engagement-ringKunz says he’s seen a lot more formality in courtship in recent months. “If a partner doesn’t call his father-in-law-to-be, he’ll call a brother or sister to ask for a blessing,” he says. “We have one lesbian couple, and one of the girls is Indian; her parents are the product of an arranged marriage — so, very traditional. When [the couple] told the Indian girl’s mother their plan to marry, the mother was very happy for them and offered the traditional Indian garbs she wore for her wedding. I think it’s very exciting as a gay person to see this response of tradition and importance of family when we’ve been told forever that we are untraditional. Perhaps we don’t see that as much with straight couples because we take it for granted.”

But there are ways gays are remaining on the cutting edge.

“The big thing I’ve noticed is [clients] have been really interested in being part of the creative process. We’re seeing men go for a little more detail — a pattern in the gold or edging. And the gay men almost all want diamonds,” Burgan says.

And they are getting deeply involved in the design, not wanting to buy off-the-rack bands.

“We have noticed less of an emphasis on budget than on design, uniqueness and symbolism — like having a certain number of stones that represent something special between the two,” Kunz says. “It’s fun for us to help them create that so that when someone is looking at your wedding band they say, ‘That represents you.’”

Still, the gays can go over-the-top.

“We just did a 5-karat pavé men’s band,” Kunz says, “not in a Liberace way, but not subtle! It still looked very masculine.”

For more information about customizing bands, visit Nine-Eighteen.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition August 2, 2013.

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