Dear Mr. Smith: I recently inherited a gold ring with a single diamond in it. It is very understated and not enormous. It doesn't seem to be boasting of anything (such as a Super Bowl win or an engineering degree). My wife says it should replace my wedding band or be worn only for special occasions. I would like to wear it permanently along with my band. What is your take?
Rings for men are very tricky, and so my advice on them is rather draconian: I am against them. Jewellery on men is always risking looking too flashy. This includes bracelets: The rule for bracelets is never, not of any kind. Same with necklaces. It's very simple: Gentlemen do not wear necklaces. No chains, medallions or religious emblems, at least not in plain sight. One should also avoid tie clips and bars, collar bars, diamond-encrusted watches and even overly large gemstone cufflinks. Any large ring will make you look like a gangster or a pope.
I acknowledge that this is an extremely conservative and censorious position, but I still recommend embracing it. It comes from a knowledge of class shibboleths. For some reason - and I do know this is irrational - it is acceptable in old-money circles to display one's wealth by wearing a well-cut suit but not by showing off actual precious metals and gemstones. Fine dark wool, as expensive as it may be, is still sober and still carries the whiff of the practical. Ditto for heavy leather shoes - they are still designed for walking.
Men's wedding rings - which have one sole function: to warn women not to flirt with you too strenuously - should be kept plain. The ring you describe could function as a wedding ring, as long as its single diamond is set right in the band instead of on top of it, like a woman's engagement ring. So if you really want to wear it, you should, as your wife suggests, use it for that purpose and store your original band in a drawer.
Russell Smith's new novel, Girl Crazy , was recently released.