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How to Choose Your Engagement Ring-- Part I
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!!
Engagement Rings for Every Budget
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.
More hubs in this series
- Marry Me! A Guide to Getting Engaged
So you're thinking about popping the question. The question is, how, when, and where should you do it? Getting engaged is a big step in any relationship. The actual marriage proposal is a big deal, too, for...
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.
Gemstone Rings Info and Personality Test
- Gemstones | Information on Gemstones and How to Shop for Them
Unbiased information on gemstones and guide to buying. Learn how to get a good deal. Don't buy gemstone jewelry before reading this.
- Engagement Ring Personality Test
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.
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:-).
Research/Buy Rings Online
- Diamond Engagement Rings and Wedding Sets World Jewels
Diamond engagement rings designed with your bride in mind. World Jewel offers pre-made or custom designed platinum, silver and gold diamond engagement rings in any style.