How to: Choose Your Own Engagement Ring

In the traditional wedding fairy tale, the boyfriend chooses the engagement ring and in an elaborate proposal, surprises his girlfriend with (gasp!) the perfect ring. But let’s be honest with ourselves for a second here- how often does this really happen? Is this really the ring that you would have picked out for yourself?


Fans of Bob Dylan can now start humming the tune of The Times They Are a-Changin’, because the modern bride is taking control of the ring situation to ensure that she isn’t disappointed when she opens up that little square box. If you think this type of behaviour is restricted to Bridezillas, you’d be wrong, it’s becoming more common for the bride of today to influence what her ring will look like – if not pick it out herself.

The romantics are rolling their eyes and bemoaning that love has become practical, but starry-eyed love aside, let’s look at this rationally. It makes sense for the bride to have a say in the ring that SHE will be wearing for the rest of her married life. It’s usually a costly investment, particularly as many couples are waiting to get married later in life, which means they have more money to spend and tend to choose a bigger rock. The ring is also going to be flashed to anyone who so much as glances at the intended’s finger, so if there’s one item of jewellery that you want to get right, it’s going to be this one.

Admittedly, there are many men out there who get it spot on, and if you implicitly trust the judgement of your future Mr (or you’re a hopeless romantic) then by all means, let him pick your engagement ring (especially if he has this excellent guide). On the other side of the fence, more couples are shopping together because women can be quite picky and men can get overwhelmed just buying a pair of jeans!

A Question of Etiquette *and* Pragmatism

So you may be liking this idea of having your own say in the engagement ring- but how to execute? Essentially, there are two options available:
– The first is that the bride drops countless hints and tips about her ideal ring or the couple browse jewellery shops together for ideas, so that the hopeless husband-to-be can still surprise his bride when he slips the ring onto her finger on their wedding day.
– The second option is that the two of you go together and choose the exact ring that you want. Romantic? Perhaps not. Ring of your dreams? Definitely.

Rules of Engagement (Rings)

– Before you find your ring, you need to find your jeweller or, more simply a brand jewellery shop, so ask friends and family for recommendations. Make sure you know the return policy at the store in case you have a slight case of buyer’s remorse. This is a big financial and sentimental decision, so you should take your time because you’ll be wearing this ring every day. You should also try different styles to see what suits you.

– Price range is a fundamental deciding factor so you (and your partner) need to discuss a budget and then stick to it! You can safely ignore the suggestion that you need to spend the equivalent of three months of your salary; buy the best you can afford with the amount you’ve set aside.

– Your personality should dictate the type of ring you want – it should reflect who you are. If you’re an ardent fan of quirky Zooey Deschanel and love your grandmother’s antique jewellery, then look at vintage rings but if you’re a magpie and you’re attracted to shiny, sparkly things, perhaps you need something big and flamboyant to match your extrovert personality.

– Lifestyle is another aspect to consider, particularly if you love the outdoors or if you’re quite sporty because you don’t want your ring to chip. There’s a measure of hardness that jewellers use called the Mohs scale, where a diamond is rated the maximum 10, compared to an emerald which is 8, amethyst is at 7 and Tanzanite is 6.5.

B-Ring it Down to Basics

The Metal

You have multiple options but again, you need to bear in mind the lifestyle that you lead. Silver is a popular choice, while platinum is a modern, durable alternative that is great for people with sensitive skin. Yellow gold is traditional but you also have white, rose and even green gold. Whatever metal you choose, it should flatter your skin tone and complement the colour of your gem.

The Rock

Diamonds are still the most popular pick but modern women are branching out and choosing stones of colour like sapphire, ruby or topaz. You can make you ring more sentimental by opting for your birthstone or a rare jewel like Tanzanite. This is your rock and you can do anything you like!

The Diamond

It’s hard to dispute the dominance of the diamond. It has bling appeal and thanks to a hugely successful marketing campaign by the De Beers mining company, they are considered to be THE stone of choice for an engagement ring. If you feel the pull of tradition and you have your heart set on a diamond, then you have to brush up your knowledge of the four Cs – cut, colour, clarity and carat.
– The cut determines the brilliance and it’s perhaps the most important factor in a diamond’s beauty.
– The colour can range from colourless through to yellow.
– The ring’s clarity is about cracks, spots and imperfections- the clearer the stone, the more expensive it is.
– The carat refers to the diamond’s weight, and is essentially how the diamond’s size is measured. Be aware that because it refers only to the diamond’s weight, some less-than-totally-honest diamond cutters have been known to cut the diamond in a way that maximises it’s top surface area (i.e. the bit you see when you look straight down at the ring), which actually compromises the diamond’s cut. Make sure you buy your ring from a reputable dealer!

The Shape

This is the geometry of the stone and it includes the round, which is the most popular option because it maximises sparkle. Other shapes include princess, emerald, radiant, pear, marquise and oval.

The Cut

It’s all in angles, as this is what makes your stone sparkle, rather than the size of the gem.

The Setting

In the same way that a frame is important for a picture, the setting is the metal framework in which your stone is mounted. There are classic settings like Tiffany, bezel and pave and more contemporary options like the tension setting. You can pick anything, provided that it enhances your stone.

If you’re looking for a more in-depth article on the diamond itself, check out this fabulous article.

Happily Ever After

Your engagement ring is an enduring symbol of commitment and love, no matter the size or shape. It’s about finding the right combinations and buying a ring that’s as individual as you are. Yes, you’ll catch yourself staring at your ring while sporting a Cheshire Cat grin, but just remember: it’s your marriage that should last forever, your (stunning) ring is simply a bonus.