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Engagement ring guide

Choosing an engagement ring used to be as simple as answering a few questions: Which is better, a princess or an emerald cut? Which is better, white gold or yellow gold? There’s a lot more to think about these days when deciding when, where, and how to buy an engagement ring. Here are the best hints for making this life-changing purchase.

1. Don’t get sucked into a fad.

An engagement ring should be a timeless, classic symbol of your love that lasts forever, so the goal should be to find the stone that is a perfect match for your future fiancé. Examine their existing jewellery to determine what would best suit his or her style. Is he or she a gold or platinum person? Do they prefer statement jewellery or more understated pieces? Take their current style into consideration when selecting the piece they’ll want to wear every day for the rest of their lives.


2. A stone does not need to be flawless on paper.

The “Four Cs” (colour, cut, clarity, and carat) are frequently cited by diamond experts, but certificate grading should be just one of many factors in your decision-making. You don’t need a D Flawless stone to make a lovely ring. It is preferable to judge a stone based on how it makes you feel rather than the GIA grading (diamonds are graded from D to Z by the Gemological Institute of America). The grade can be a starting point, but it should not be the only deciding factor.


3. Size only matters if you (or your future fiancée) believe it does.

Unless you believe it is the most important thing to your future spouse, the mantra “go big or go home” should not be followed. In that case, you should weigh your options. Perhaps putting more emphasis on size and less on colour and clarity is something to think about.


This trend has been noticed by those in the jewellery industry as well. “I think there’s less pressure now to have a showy ring,” says Jess Hannah, founder of the Los Angeles–based jewellery line J.Hannah. “Now, the ring is more of an extension of someone’s personal style, which sometimes means purposefully avoiding bling.” I love how women are feeling more empowered to break free from the traditional jewellery store [mould] and find something that speaks to them on a personal level. It appears to be a feminist choice.”

4. Determine the origin of the stone.

Clients value jewellery with backstories, according to Page Neal, jewellery designer and co-founder of Bario Neal, especially when those backstories involve ethically sourced gems. Neal looks for mines and suppliers who can demonstrate that their diamonds, metals, and gemstones have been sourced sustainably and are completely traceable from mine to market. “I think people are very interested in knowing where their jewellery comes from,” Neal says. “People appreciate that we go out and look for stones for their custom pieces.” We look for stones that are unique and interesting, and then we return to discuss their options.” If you’re working with a jeweller like Neal, take notes on every detail to share with your future bride-to-be after you present her with the ring.

5. The setting should not be a last-minute consideration.

After you’ve decided on a stone, the next step is to decide what to put around it. “My fiancé worked with one of my best friends, Montana Coady, to design my ring,” Cynthia Smith of Cynthia Cook Brides explains. “Her advice was to consider the centre stone to be a work of art, and the setting to be the frame.” You can be daring and create something one-of-a-kind, but it is critical that the ring reflect the style of the person who will wear it.” Find an expert you can trust, tell them what you want, and let them lead you in the right direction.


6. Don’t be afraid to think outside the box and select a one-of-a-kind ring.

Millennials want everything they buy to feel special, and they want the vibe of a ring to match their own. Women are increasingly foregoing diamonds and traditional settings in favour of something personal, one-of-a-kind, and unexpected. “People are looking for something new. They want something that feels ‘fashionable’ and current, but also timeless—something that isn’t basic, boring, or predictable. “They come to us looking for a ring that is unique but also clean and sleek so that it will never go out of style,” says Azlee designer Baylee Zwart.

Zwart’s designs are minimal, but in a different way: they’re sleek, geometric, and lightweight. Grooms (or brides, or couples) come to her for something sleek and contemporary, such as her Eclipse ring or shield-cut ring. “I specialise in rare and unconventional cuts and shapes, so our customers know there will be no restrictions,” Zwart says.


7. Think about working with a jeweller directly.

“Custom feels more special than simply walking into a store and picking something,” Hannah says. “In general, a lot of people now want something that straddles the line between vintage and modern.” It’s not so much about a large diamond anymore as it is about quality over size or a unique shape, such as a rose cut. And many people are abandoning diamonds entirely. I created a stunning ring out of alexandrite, a color-changing stone that appears greenish blue in daylight and purple in incandescent light. [Engagement rings] are no longer one size fits all.”


8. Don’t try to do it alone.

Shopping for an engagement ring can be a daunting task; enlist the assistance of your friends. Ask those who have recently gotten engaged for jeweller recommendations, and consult with someone who knows you and your future spouse and whose taste you admire and respect for their aesthetic advice. Nine times out of ten, the person you’re shopping for already has an idea of what they want in their head, which they may have expressed to a friend (or added to a Pinterest board).


9. Do not make a commitment.

Unlike the matrimonial commitment you seek, try to avoid entering into a binding agreement with the jeweller. In the worst-case scenario, if your intended does not like what you’ve created, you should be able to exchange it for something else. You want your future spouse to adore both you and the jewellery you purchase for the rest of their lives.


10. It’s not about the cost.

During the Great Depression, De Beers’ advertising geniuses launched a campaign that would have made Don Draper proud, urging men to spend one month’s salary on a ring if they wanted to be “responsible.” By the 1980s, it had risen to two months. Nowadays, the rule of thumb that is frequently cited is that when purchasing this piece of forever jewellery, one should spend at least three months’ salary. All of this is just clever marketing. When it comes to how much to spend on an engagement ring, there is no exact science, and some women prefer smaller, less expensive diamonds (or want to forego diamonds altogether). Some prefer vintage or secondhand rings (eBay’s ring market is up 58 percent), while others prefer a plain band à la Amanda Seyfried. Choose the ring that is ideal for the woman, not the ring whose price corresponds to an arbitrary algorithm.