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How to Choose Your Engagement Ring-- Part I

Updated on March 2, 2011
Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom is a keen observer of life. She shares her personal experiences and opinions in helpful and often amusing ways.

Making a "Brilliant" Engagement Ring Choice

So you've found your perfect mate and she's said "Yes!" Now comes the challenge of finding the perfect engagement ring. Naturally, you want your fiancée to be overcome with joy and to wear her engagement ring proudly -- as long as you both shall live (oops, I'm getting a little ahead of myself here -- that's the wedding ring).

However, the engagement ring is much more than a piece of jewelry declaring your intention to wed. Oh yes, dear proposer. The engagement ring is fraught with both personal and cultural meaning. Its selection is not to be undertaken lightly.

Before you jump into the 4 c's (cut, color, clarity, carat) of selecting a diamond ring, there are a couple of key determinations to be made. Do NOT skip over these steps, or you may end up Investing your hard-earned cash in a ring your fiancée doesn't like -- or may not even want!!

Put your love on her finger -- forever
Put your love on her finger -- forever

Decision #1: Surprise vs. Shopping Together

In the classic marriage proposal, the proposer comes equipped to pop the question with a pre-purchased engagement ring (often in a jewel box, but sometimes not).

For the proposer, this approach has advantages and disadvantages.


1. You have complete control of the engagement ring purchase process. Your fiancée has no idea where you bought the ring or how much you spent.*

2. No one else knows where you bought the ring or how much you spent, either. They can only judge "your" ring on its own merits.

*How much you reveal about the ring's origin is up to you. If you want her to know it's from Tiffany & Co., by all means present it in the distinctive blue box. If all those TV commercials are to be believed, newly engaged women appear giddy with delight at being able to boast to their (obviously still single) roommates, "He went to Jared !" Note: We will be covering "where" to buy rings in a future installment of this hub series on engagement & weddings.


1. You may not pick the style of ring your fiancée prefers. You may know her taste very well and still not know her taste in a ring she's only dreamed about (possibly) but never worn (assuming this is her first engagement, of course).

And how could you know, without blowing your intentions? If you are planning to surprise her, it's hardly likely you have discussed things like, "Honey, do you like white gold, yellow gold or platinum?" Or, "What is your favorite gem cut? I like brilliant, but I hear princess is very popular." Let's face it. There's simply no subtle way to extract this information.

2. Your fiancée may not want an engagement ring at all. Believe it or not, there are women who eschew the flash and dash of an engagement ring, preferring a simple band of gold (white or yellow) or platinum (with or without diamonds).

Such a preference may be purely practical. Your intended may work in a field where an engagement ring is an occupational liability. If you are marrying an archeologist or surgeon, for example, something sharp protruding from her finger will only get in the way.

Or, her non-interest may be financially motivated. Your loved one may prefer that you invest the money you would have spent on a ring in _____________(fill in blank with whatever is appropriate in your relationship, such as the wedding, the honeymoon, down payment on a house, etc.)

Surprise vs. Ring Shopping Together Conclusion

It's a smart idea to scope out your girlfriend's taste in rings before shopping. However, this may prove challenging if you don't want her to know you're planning to propose.

Alternatively, while it may not seem as romantic, shopping for the ring together will assure that she gets the ring she wants -- at least the cut (style, shape) of ring she desires. Alas, if she's counting on a 2-carat ring and your budget is .45 carat, you may have to do some compromising.

A three-stone engagement ring
A three-stone engagement ring

Decision #2: Diamond(s) vs. Other Gemstone

Another consideration -- and not an insignificant one -- is should you go for a diamond ring or another precious gemstone?

For years the "standard" engagement has been a diamond solitaire; that is, a single stone, sometimes surrounded by baguettes (not loaves of French bread, small rectangular cut diamonds) or smaller stones of the same or a different shape.

Over time, trends and tastes change. Three-stone rings used to be associated primarily with anniversaries. Today, these "past, present and future" rings are among the most popular engagement rings.

Before plunking down a wad of cash, be sure your lady is in the "diamonds are a girl's best friend" camp. If she's not, find out if she'd like an engagement ring, just not a diamond.

Do you know your girlfriend's birthstone?
Do you know your girlfriend's birthstone?

Precious Gemstone Engagement Rings

There are two primary reasons for choosing a gemstone other than a diamond.

Birthstone or Other Personal Meaning. Even if you are not proposing to your fiancée on her birthday, you (and she) may desire an engagement ring featuring her birthstone.

Emeralds (May), Rubies (July) and Sapphires (September), along with Diamonds (April) have traditionally been labeled as the four "precious" gems. However, these days, the distinction between precious and so-called "semi-precious" gemstones is less pronounced. You may well find birthstone gemstones such as Garnet (January), Amethyst (February), and Aquamarine (March) commanding prices in line with rubies and emeralds.

Lower Cost. Generally speaking (without factoring in individual stone quality, based on color and clarity), your engagement ring dollar will go further with non-diamonds. If size is important -- and you are sure your fiancée is in agreement -- a larger colored gemstone (perhaps with two smaller diamonds on the side) may well be preferable to a smaller-sized diamond ring.

Oval solitaire sapphire engagement ring
Oval solitaire sapphire engagement ring
Emerald engagement ring. Stone is also "emerald cut" as are side diamonds.
Emerald engagement ring. Stone is also "emerald cut" as are side diamonds.

Gemstone Ring Advantages

1. They are distinctive and will be sure to elicit comments from admirers (although one could say the same of all engagement rings.

2. Generally, more gem for your money than diamonds. But a really pure ruby, emerald or sapphire will cost more than a medium grade diamond, so price is not an absolute advantage (or disadvantage).

3. I almost hesitate to even mention this one, but I'm going to. In the event that the union ends prematurely, the bride can more easily "repurpose" a gemstone ring than a diamond ring.

Gemstone Ring Disadvantage

The primary drawback to a colored ring is our social conditioning to "expect" a diamond. When we see a colored gemstone we initially might assume it's a 'cocktail' ring and not an engagement ring.This can be awkward for both the assumer (you know what they say -- never assume because it makes an ASS out of U and ME:-) and the bride-to-be, who has to explain that it is, indeed, her engagement ring.

Conclusions: Diamond(s) vs. Gemstone Engagement Ring

The best advice I can offer is to do both intra-relationship and extra-relationship research. Women who dream of engagement rings typically dream very specifically. Your task is to find out the details of that dream, either from your girlfriend directly, or from her mother, sisters, friends -- whoever you think will have a clue (or who can be enlisted to "creatively" get the answers you need).

The second half of the research task is to learn as much as you can about the diamond(s) and/or the gemstone(s) you will be purchasing.

In my next hubs I will be addressing more specifically how to select the setting and the stone(s) for your engagement ring, as well as pros and cons of different jewelers.

New Husband, New Ring

When Hubby and I got engaged in 2003, both my taste and my priorities had matured. A local jeweler was designing our wedding bands. Celtic knot pattern for both; his in silver and mine in gold. I had been very clear in stating I did NOT want an engagement ring.

Well, imagine my surprise when Hubby takes me out for Valentine's dinner. Our wedding is now just two months away. He pulls out this long-stemmed red rose. It's not a real rose. It's one of those fuzzy nappy velvet roses, which I soon discover opens up.

And inside the rose is... you guessed it ... a diamond engagement ring. Not just any diamond engagement ring, either. It's one of those three-diamond engagement rings (see photo above). After roundly chastising him for buying me a ring when we had agreed on no engagement ring, I asked, "Where on earth did you get the idea for this?" He responded, "The three diamonds represent you, me, and your son." Well, I thought that was just about the most beautiful thing I'd ever heard. I had to give him full points on that one.

Then I asked him how he'd decided on princess cut diamonds. He said he thought that was the cut I like. For the record, I like emerald cut -- always have. But I can see where he might get them mixed up, as princess cut is square and so is emerald (they are way different in their facets, though). So while not a ring I would have designed for myself, it has really grown on me, and I've long since forgiven Hubby for breaking our "no ring" agreement.

My Engagement Rings & I

I can honestly say I've experienced pretty much all of the extremes when it comes to engagement rings.

With my ex-husband (Sonny's father) we went shopping together. It was 1985 and I was in the height of my Madonna/Ramones/peacock punk phase. I did not want a diamond. I wanted a black engagement ring. There being no readily available black gemstones, I settled on an onyx.

This decision lasted the entire busride from suburban New Jersey into Manhattan's jewelry district. My fiance's family had a "family jeweler" named Murray.Murray was to "set us up."

It didn't take a lot of arm twisting on Murray's part  to dissuade me from onyx, on the basis that it's soft and can pit/scratch easily. Within minutes I'd moved, unresisting, from black to white,  mesmerized by case upon case of glittery diamonds.

I walked out of Murray's shop with a lovely oval diamond set in yellow gold with a little filigree and small diamonds set in a leaf shape on either side of the solitaire. In a million years I would not have pictured myself with that ring! Not only was it not black or counter-culture, it was feminine and traditional! But it turned out my dark phase only lasted a few more months anyway. The oval diamond was perfect for the late '80s yuppie I was soon to become:-).

Sneaky, romantic ring holder
Sneaky, romantic ring holder

Engagement Ring Preferences

Do you have (or does your spouse have) an engagement ring?

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Did you and your spouse pick the ring out together?

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What stones are in your engagement ring?

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    • profile image


      4 years ago

      If you are interested in Emerald Engagement Rings then you will find this site very useful:

    • PiaC profile image


      7 years ago from Oakland, CA

      I loved the stories of the two rings, MightyMom. Thanks for sharing them with me. I must say, that anecdote of the ring representing you, your son and your husband, made me tear up! What a lovely thought. I liked the Hub a great deal. It takes into account all the different kinds of relationships, the hard fact that not all marriages work out, and how the choice of a ring depends on the personalities of the couple. My fiancé (now husband) and I chose my ring together, and I remember how much we laughed through the process! It was the right decision for us.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thats a great strategy, MV. I hope you get exactly what you want! MM

    • Megavitamin profile image


      8 years ago

      Great hub! I'm not engaged, but I've told my fella that I'd rather go ring shopping with a friend so she can tell him what ring to get. That way, I get what I want and it can still be a surprise. Thanks for the advice :0)

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thanks very much 2bsure. I am working on Part II now.

    • 2besure profile image

      Pamela Lipscomb 

      8 years ago from Charlotte, North Carolina

      Nicely done hub on how to choose an engagement ring! Choosing a diamond ring can be very difficult, if you have no knowledge of diamonds.

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Interesting GmaGoldie! I did not know that about the oval cut. Hmmmm.

      Should have guessed a glam gal (per your avatar) with the name of GOLDIE would be a jewelry buff!

      Thanks for the enlightening comment. MM

    • GmaGoldie profile image

      Kelly Kline Burnett 

      8 years ago from Madison, Wisconsin

      Delightful! The contrarian personality - my best friend in collage was the very same. Great Hub! Oval my best friend advised me is the most expensive of all the cuts of diamonds.

      Love the glitz of jewelry and the engagement is the most special piece ever!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Hey, heart4theword. Great to see you! Thanks for the comment. Yeah, when it comes to romance, he's a good guy. The ring has grown on me, I must say! MM

    • heart4theword profile image


      8 years ago from hub

      Love the jewels:) Liked your story too, about your fiancé, now husband! At least you know he put some thought into it, and wanted you to have some jewels, to represent his love for you! Great hub:)

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Cool! I like your name TheWeddingSecret. Good one!

    • TheWeddingSecret profile image


      8 years ago from Bath, UK

      great hub! i learned a lot!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Yikes! How did you explain losing your engagement ring? I hope your hubby is an understanding guy!

      Yes, here's to polls. I am going to continue this series. More polls about diamonds and wedding plans and stuff that NEITHER of us plan to do again! Cheers,MM

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      8 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Hey MM, good hub ...lots of info...I lost my engagement ring years ago and will probably never have another one, as I certainly don't plan on getting married again. I like polls too. Here's to polls!

    • Mighty Mom profile imageAUTHOR

      Susan Reid 

      8 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

      Thanks kimh039! I like polls!

    • kimh039 profile image

      Kim Harris 

      8 years ago

      Great info and good use of the poll feature Mighty Mom. Thank you.


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