Choosing an Engagement Ring

The First Question

You’ve found THE ONE and you’ve decided to pop the question.

But this isn’t the first question that you have to ask…

…you’ll need to ask yourself do you involve your loved one in the choice of the engagement ring or do you go it alone? That’s a big decision!

Going it alone and choosing the ring can be fraught with difficult decisions. What colour metal, what colour stone, what ring size are just for starters.

Choosing an engagement ring, a symbol of your eternal love, with your partner should be a lot easier – but it does loose the element of surprise. So perhaps consider whether to have an alternative gift to give your partner when you pop the question.  

It could be a ring without a stone or with a stone that is associated with the month in which you propose. You could engrave the ring with the date of the proposal and your names or initials. It could be another type of jewellery – a heart pendant.

Whatever you choose, you need to be clear that this piece of jewellery, although very special, is not instead of the engagement ring. You then need to start the process of choosing the ring together.

Going it Alone

Deciding to go it alone and to have a ring to give to your partner when you propose is very romantic.

But what if your partner really doesn’t like the ring or the style that you have chosen doesn’t suit them? It can take some careful groundwork to find out the style of ring that they like.

To help, here’s our checklist to work through:-

What gemstone would your partner like?

Diamonds are the traditional but not the only choice. Coloured gemstones such as  sapphires, rubies, emeralds and tourmalines to name but a few, are very in vogue – the choices are endless.

Diamonds, being colourless or white, will compliment most skin tones and work with most wardrobes. Remember that this is a ring that your partner will wear every day.

However, you may need to think about more than what your partner likes.

If your partner likes the outdoor life or sporting activities or has a job that involves those or manual work, certain gemstones may not be appropriate or may need careful and protective setting.

Most gemstones except diamonds will abrade (rub & scratch) over time and with everyday wear.

This rubbing will cause then to look less brilliant than when they were first worn, but the harder they are, the longer this will take.

The Mohs hardness scale measures a mineral's resistance to scratching. Diamonds are the hardest gemstone measuring 10 on the Mohs hardness scale and will therefore stand up to most types of wear.

Sapphires & rubies are the next hardest, measuring 9 on the Mohs scale. Emeralds are a brittle gemstone and measure 7.5-8 on the Mohs scale so may not be the most practical stone to have in a ring for everyday wear.

What shape of gemstone does your partner like?

Do they favour a round, a square, a pear shape, a marquise?

May be the only way to discover this is to check their existing jewellery. If that doesn’t give you a hint, remember that a round stone doesn’t have to be set in a round setting – it could be put in a square setting.

Similarly, a square stone could be put in a round setting.

Pear shapes and marquises are generally mounted in settings of a similar shape.

The decision about shape does however have an impact on the wedding band – we will consider this a little later on.

What colour metal does your partner like?

Do they like yellow metal or white metal? If white metal, should you choose platinum or white gold?

Have a look at their existing jewellery to see if this will give you a hint. If it doesn’t, have a look at jewellery online or in the shops and see what colour metal enhances the gemstone that you have settled on.

Traditionalists often set rubies and emeralds in yellow metal and diamonds in white metal.

But remember that you can use mixed metals – a white metal setting for the gemstone and yellow metal for the rest of the ring or vice versa.

If you settle on white metal, should it be white gold or platinum?

White gold v platinum

Platinum is harder than white gold and is no longer as expensive as it used to be. With time and wear platinum acquires a sightly grey patina.

White gold is an alloy. It is achieved by adding palladium, nickel or silver to yellow gold. White gold made in the UK cannot by law contain nickel due to allergies and so usually palladium is added to the yellow gold to turn it white.

White gold is generally rhodium plated to give it an icy white look. The plating will gradually wear off – the length of time will depend on the type of wear that it is subjected to and the thickness of the plating.

White gold does not have to be rhodium plated, but if the level of palladium in the yellow gold is low, the white gold will have a warmer hue than if the white gold contains a higher level of palladium or if it has been rhodium plated.

If the white gold has been rhodium plated, your partner may not like the colour of the gold beneath once the plating wears off and may want to have it replated. Every time the ring is replated there will be a charge.  

The replating process may also be harmful to the gemstone that is set in the ring unless that stone is adequately protected – this would be particularly so with pearls, emeralds and opals.

What is your partner’s ring size?

How are you going to discover your partner’s ring size without giving away the game?

Probably the easiest thing to do is to go into your partner’s jewellery box again and ‘borrow’ a ring that you know fits their finger. Take it with you so that the jeweller can measure or ‘size’ it.

Do make sure it fits the finger on which your partner will wear the engagement ring!

In the UK engagement and wedding rings are traditionally worn on the fourth finger of the left hand. It was thought that a vein from this finger, known as the wedding finger, ran directly to the heart!  However, that is not the same for all cultures or countries.

Most rings can be resized but resizing can, depending on the style of the ring, compromise the design and the security of the gemstones.

This is particularly true of settings where gemstones are set down the shoulders and into the shank of the ring. The ability to resize these styles can be limited.

Rings that have gemstones set all around the shank (band) of the ring cannot be resized.

So, do ask the jeweller’s advice about possible resizing before you complete your purchase and remember that fingers, like hair colour and eyesight, can change over the years.

Choosing the Ring Together

Obviously, this is the easier route to take as your partner will be there to say which gemstone they prefer, which colour metal and style they like.

You can visit jewellery shops to try on styles.

However, some of the questions that you need to ask are the same whether you choose the ring together or you go it alone: your partner’s lifestyle may make certain gemstones, metals or styles impractical.

Think Ahead!

Don’t completely focus on the engagement ring.

Think of how the style that you choose either alone or with your partner will fit with the wedding band.

Ideally the engagement ring should sit flush against the band or the band should be able to fit nicely underneath the engagement ring. This is particularly relevant with a cluster, a pear shape or a marquise shaped engagement ring.

If you don’t think of this you may find that all the wedding bands that you try will leave an unsightly space between the band and the engagement ring, leaving you with no option but to have the band custom made.

You could choose your band at the same time as the engagement ring: some outlets offer suites.

Remember that wedding bands that are set all round with diamonds, usually called a full eternity ring, cannot be resized if your partner’s finger size changes in the future.

You could however have a half or three-quarter eternity ring which would allow for resizing.

Forgetting to think ahead to the band could leave you faced with having to have it custom made to fit the engagement ring if you have chosen a style that is an unusual shape.

Why not Design your own Engagement Ring?

Having an engagement ring made to your design will give you and your partner a truly unique piece of jewellery that is special to you both.

Choose a jeweller who is familiar with the bespoke process as they will be able to guide you through it by understanding your needs and your desires. The questions they will ask you will be the same as those you needed to ask yourself.

They should be able to advise you on gemstones, metals and settings appropriate to your partner’s lifestyle and your budget.

You can discuss the band at the same time and how that would fit with the design that you have chosen for the engagement ring.

Having the ring(s) custom made will ensure that the size is correct from the get-go.

You will need to allow more time to have a piece of jewellery made – bespoke pieces cannot be made overnight.

It is a much longer process than walking into a shop and picking something out!

Whether you work with the jeweller on your own or with your partner, commissioning a custom-made bespoke piece of jewellery is a very intimate and special experience, befitting of your future life together.

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