(May 28, 2010)

A celebrity's left hand can often break big news. "Sandra Bullock Not Wearing Wedding Ring," one recent tabloid headline read. Another: "Tiger Woods' Wife Spotted Ringless!"

But these days the symbolism of a gold band -- or its absence -- may not be so clear cut.

When her divorce was nearly final three years ago, Wanda Dibben, 41, of Kansas City, asked a jeweller, George Rousis, to transform her wedding ring into a divorce ring.

Her jeweller severed the gold band and refashioned it into a ring with a gap, across which strands of silver are stitched. For Dibben, those strands represent her son, Trevor, 14, "because although the bonds have been broken, the stitches still keep that unity together."

While divorce rings are not exactly all the rage, they are showing up, as are other rings that are worn on the ring finger but signify something else.

Single and looking? Perhaps you need a silver band with a symbol of Mars or Venus on it, like the ones sold for gay and straight people at MySingleRing.com. The site says those who wear its rings project to the outside world: "I am an intelligent, empowered individual and available to meet the same."

They aren't the only ones thinking outside the jewellery box.

Harold Thompson, who has been divorced twice, is a founder of D Jewelry Co., which sells divorce rings online. Its tag line: "Building self-esteem one person at a time."

His rings, which resemble traditional wedding bands except for a gap in the centre, sell for $200 to $500 US.

Never married? The Ah Ring, which stands for "available and happy," is a $350 band with diamonds that is meant to be worn on the pinky. Others can wear it because the "Ah" can also stand for "attached and happy."

Women are not the only buyers in this category. Tim Gould, president of My Single Ring, said of the nearly 1,000 rings he has sold since starting the online business last year -- at $40 each -- about 30 per cent have been to men.

Then there is a more serious emerging category: specialty rings for gay men and lesbians. When Jeffrey Hames and Kenneth Daniel, who live in Memphis and will be married in September, decided to wed, "I did not want to go the traditional route," said Daniel.

The couple shopped at LoveAndPride.com, and selected matching white gold rings, each costing $1,895 and consisting of two interlocking bands bearing the classic male gender symbol (a circle with an arrow pointing up and to the right). Hames and Daniel are both wearing one of the bands during their engagement and will exchange the second during their ceremony.