If You Like Him, It's Now OK to Put a Ring on Him

Some women stake claim to fiances by putting ring on it; some men don't mind.

Nov. 11, 2009 — -- Jennifer Barth and Jarrett Gabel are in love -- and they're on a mission.

They're on the lookout for the perfect engagement ring.

"I think we like something kind of brush metal, something silver and pretty clean and simple," said Gabel.

They drop in on Diane Frassanito at Frassanito Jewelers in Huntington, N.Y.

But this show-and-tell isn't for Barth.

"All the girls want everyone to know that their guy is taken, and there's no better way than to see a ring on his finger," said Frassanito.The ring shopping is for Gabel.

"This is very nice," he said, hefting a ring. "I like this one a lot."

A man wearing an engagement ring: think he's gone a bit loopy?

Well, he is head-over-heels in love.

Gabel popped the question this past New Year's, after picking out a beautiful diamond ring for his college sweetheart, Barth. And it got him thinking.

"It's not fair," he said. "She gets diamonds, I should get at least one."

Laugh all you want. Gabel's not alone.

More and more guys are wearing what some are calling a "man-gagement" ring, from mainstream designers like Scott Kay.

"I think people are really just open to looking for new ways to commemorate their relationship, to celebrate their love and showing it earlier on before the big day," said Elayne Fluker of brides.com.

When it comes to a marriage proposal, the ring has always been the thing. Just ask Beyonce, who had a huge hit last year singing, "If you like it then you should have put a ring on it."

In fact, the tradition of presenting his and hers engagement rings to one's beloved is said to date all the way back to the 15th century. In many European countries, couples exchange matching gold bands before tying the knot. Now, the male engagement ring is starting to take hold here in the United States.

"It's almost not fair, buying an engagement band like this and only wearing it for six months," said Gabel.

We asked Fluker how exclusive a club this "band of brothers" is.

"I would say the men's engagement ring is definitely having its moment," said Fluker. "I don't know if it's a movement yet, but I think it's definitely having its moment."

A Woman Claims Her Territory

They may be marketed as "engagement rings," but these little guys have a style all their own. They're made of rugged materials like steel, rubber and cobalt. Some rings have tough-guy names like Rope and Gothic.

Isn't this really a marketing ploy by jewelers to sell more merchandise?

"No, I wouldn't say that," said Brad Gross of H.L. Gross & Bro. Jewelers in Garden City, N.Y. "If you think about it, a woman is engaged and wears an engagement ring on her finger, oftentimes [for] north of a year. And a guy's engaged during that same time and walks into a bar as a free man ... so I think for $350, $400 for a woman to claim her territory, it's catching on pretty quickly."

It's catching on with the A-list as well.

Take the $15,000 Neil Lane ring like the one that singer Jennifer Hudson presented to her boyfriend David Otunga.

"This is the reminder," said Fluker, admiring its heft. "The fabulous reminder. Very cool."

A considerably more modest ring, by Simons, retails for about $400. It's stainless steel, and even has some diamonds. Its design is also a nod to the traditional women's engagement ring.

"[The design] makes it a little bit more special than just your average throw-on ring," said Fluker. Gabel and Barth visited three different jewelry stores on Long Island.

"I feel like a king with this on," said Gabel, checking out a chunky option.

Gabel showed guys can be just as finicky as girls when it comes to shopping.

"This is a little too bulky," he said of one ring. "This is nice too. It seems a little too skinny though."

But not all couples are in love with the idea of man-gagement.

According to a survey on brides.com, 55 percent of women surveyed said they would not buy their fiances engagement bands. But that leaves the 45 percent who said they would.

"The ones who would said they that felt like the engagement ring shouldn't be something that's just for the bride," said Fluker.

"Those that didn't said that they weren't sure that it was something that their fiancée in particular would be open to."

Gross said that when a man comes in to get an engagement ring, he usually comes in with his fiancée.

'Now Your Game Is Over Even Sooner'

"Usually, [the men] are dragged in," Gross said. "They are."

Gabel said that was not the case with him.

"She's not forcing at all," he said. "She wouldn't make me do anything that I wouldn't want to do."

Still, it's not always easy being a trailblazer.

"A couple of people just asked me what I was thinking, or am I -- this is the final straw," said Gabel. "Your wedding is pretty much game over, but now, it almost feels like if you put the ring on early ... well now your game is over even sooner."

Officially, it won't be "game over," as Gabel says, until next summer. Which means that soon it will be time to start looking for a wedding band.

"I think what we'll end up doing, I think, is wearing [the engagement ring] on my other hand," Gabel said. "I've heard that's a good option. Otherwise, there's a lot of talk about handing it down, making it a family heirloom."

Of course, not every guy will embrace the man-gagement ring. Even if he can't put his finger ... on exactly why.