Have you found the person of your dreams and are ready to pop the question? Then spend some time thinking about the one key item you need before you can get down on one knee. Buying an engagement ring isn’t just a matter of visiting your nearest jewelry store and choosing a nice piece. There’s a lot of symbolism attached to The Ring. It will be the most important token of your commitment and your love to date. And, of course, they will be showing it off to all their friends and family. No pressure then.
To help you find your way through the maze and come out with a ring that will bling, that your partner will love and that you can afford to invest in, we’ve put together 7 questions to get you there.
What’s your budget?
The first question you may be asking yourself is how much an engagement ring should cost. No doubt you are familiar with the old wives’ tale that you should spend 1-3 months’ salary on a ring. But did you also know that this was based on no more than a clever marketing ploy by high end jewelers and renowned diamond sellers DeBeers to stimulate sales back in the 1940s? Luckily, the idea now seems to have lost its sparkle.
Rather than taking on a major debt for the sake of appearances, establish a realistic budget and buy the best ring you can afford. After all, it’s the thought that has gone into choosing a ring that your soon-to-be fiancée will love to wear as a symbol of your love, not the price tag attached to the rock.
What’s a good diamond?
Most people wishing to propose will want to make the right love statement by choosing a diamond ring. Often described as “Mother Earth’s greatest gift, or fallen stars, they’re a single element of carbon forming into a beautiful diamond that’s as individual as your love.” (Cry For The Moon)
While that may well be the case, we all know diamonds don’t come cheap, so it pays to learn a little bit about how to get the most bang for your buck. The quality and cost of the diamond stone is generally determined by the ‘4 Cs’: cut, color, clarity and carat (weight). Of the four, the cut of the stone determines how the light is reflected and how much the diamond will sparkle, which should be your number one consideration.
Diamonds come in a variety of colors, ranging from colorless to light yellow. While the appearance of the stone ultimately comes down to personal preference, colorless diamonds are the most expensive, while white colored stones are the most popular.
When it comes to clarity, diamonds are assessed in terms of their imperfections and inclusions (tiny fractures or minerals) – the clearer the stone the better it is considered to be and the more it will cost you.
Finally, diamonds are sold by weight measured in carats. Obviously, the heavier the stone, the pricier it will be, but there are many ways than an expert master jeweler can design a ring that makes the diamond appear large than its carat weight would suggest.
Does it have to be a diamond ring?
DeBeers may have been successful in convincing us that a diamond engagement ring is the only acceptable way to express love and devotion – they also coined the phrase ‘diamonds are forever’ – but there are many other alternatives to a traditional diamond ring. Just so long as your partner is OK with the idea, and isn’t secretly longing for that fairytale ice rock on her finger, why not look further afield?
Take a look at colored gemstones such as green emeralds, red rubies or blue sapphires, perhaps choosing their birthstone or go with her favorite color. The ring of your choice may end up being received just as enthusiastically but at a much more affordable price.
And if budget should be a serious issue, why not ask on both sides of the family if there is an heirloom that could be passed on? Your fiancée will love the sense of family history and continuity, while the money saved can be put towards your engagement party or wedding preparations. It could be a win-win situation.
Gold, silver or platinum?
Engagement rings are made from various metals including yellow gold, rose gold, white gold, silver and platinum, or a combination thereof. Each precious metal has its own characteristics.
Platinum, for instance, is extremely tough but it can lose its luster much more quickly than gold, which is easier to buff but softer and less hardwearing. What’s more, platinum is rarer than gold and the metal is more dense, both of which will drive up the cost of the ring.
While a traditional yellow gold band is the classic choice, silver colored engagement rings including white gold and platinum are on trend right now. Take your cue from your partner’s style preferences along with your budget, and go from there.
What’s her style?
This is where it gets tricky. How on earth can you pick the right ring for your other half’s unique style and taste when they won’t be there to choose it themselves? It’s a high risk undertaking, especially for an expensive jewelry item laden with emotional significance.
We recommend one of two approaches to get around this obstacle:
Option 1 is to use your powers of observation to determine the kind of ring that would delight them. Do they wear mostly gold, silver or platinum – or no jewelry at all? Which shape would they prefer – the understated elegance of a sturdy 4 prong solitaire design, the vintage appeal of an Art Deco emerald cut diamond ring, or a classic round brilliant cut? Do they have a favorite gemstone or preferred designer? Think about their personality and find a ring to match.
Option 2 is to take your partner to a jewelry store under false pretenses, e.g. to help you choose a birthday present for your mother or to look at watches. Chances are that they will look at other items too, including rings. Make a mental note of the kind of things that they like and let this inform your thinking when you go back to the store on your own at a later date to purchase that all important ring.
What’s her ring size?
A key piece of information you need to find out is your partner’s ring size, so that when you propose, the engagement ring will slip effortlessly onto their finger. Of course, if you do get the wrong size, you can take the ring back to the jeweler to adjust the sizing, but it’s always better to get it right first time.
If you’re planning a surprise proposal, it would be too obvious to ask her about their ring size outright. Better to employ a little innocent subterfuge and secretly borrow one of their rings, ideally one that you know they don’t wear much and therefore is unlikely to miss. Show the ring to the jeweler who can measure it for size. Job done.
Should you get insurance?
Finally, having invested in expensive jewelry that has great sentimental value, it would be a tragedy if anything happened to the ring. Think about insuring the engagement ring against accident, damage, loss and theft.
First, check your homeowner’s insurance policy for the value to which individual jewelry pieces are already covered, and add the ring as a named high-value extra item if necessary. You can also insure the ring separately, either as on the basis or its actual value minus depreciation, or under a replacement insurance policy. Your jeweler should be able to suggest reputable jewelry insurance companies.
Finally, don’t forget to keep the purchase receipt in a safe place, along with accurate photographs of the item to be insured, just in case you need to make a claim.