If you’ve decided to propose on Valentine’s Day, the pressure’s on. Not only do you need to plan the most romantic moment of her entire life, on the most romantic day of the whole year. You’ve also got to get the engagement ring 100% right. There’s a lot to take in with diamond shopping. This 7-step guide will make things easier.
Step 1: Research her style
The most important thing about engagement rings? The style. She’ll be wearing the ring for the rest of her life, so it needs to look perfect. To suss out her preferred style, observe the jewellery she already wears. Big and sparkly? Understated and simple? If you’re not sure, ask her sister or friends for advice.
These are the 5 most popular designs right now:
Solitaire: one single diamond
Halo: One larger diamond encircled by smaller stones
Sidestones: extra diamonds on the band
Cluster: lots of small diamonds set together
Gemstones: colourful sapphires, emeralds, rubies
Step 2: Ring size
Next, you’ll need her finger size. This is crucial. A ring that doesn’t fit will ruin the big moment. Whatever you do, don’t try DIY methods, like measuring her finger with string. Home measurements usually end up in disaster. Instead, try one of these:
♦ Measure her existing ring with a ring sizer app
♦ Get a free ring sizer tool in the post
♦ Visit a jeweller and get her finger measured
♦ Ask her friends to find out her ring size in secret
Step 3: Budget
There’s always been debate about this. How much should a man spend on an engagement ring? A month’s salary? Two month’s salary? Luckily, the reality is that there are no rules. Just bear in mind she’ll wear the ring all her life. So it needs to be high quality enough to withstand daily wear. Just get the best possible quality you can afford. Some jewellers also offer 0% financing, if you pay a deposit up front.
Step 4: Decide diamond cut
Now it’s time to shop for the ring. It’s very important to realise that most people expect a diamond to have lots of sparkle. However, a diamond’s radiance depends on its quality and how it’s been “cut”. Cut refers to the diamond’s final shape and finish. Here are the most common shapes in order of “sparkliness”:
♦ Round brilliant – Round, the top sparkliest diamond cut
♦ Princess – Square, almost as sparkly as round brilliant
♦ Pear – Looks like a teardrop, medium sparkle
♦ Marquise – Rounded sides tapering to points, medium sparkle
♦ Emerald Cut – Rectangular, giving off long flashes rather than sparkle
- Round cut
- Princess cut
- Pear shaped
- Marquise cut
- Emerald cut
Step 5: Check diamond quality
Next, you’ll want to check diamond quality. Want to learn more about it? Here’s some straightforward information for you. But as a quick rule of thumb, if you’re buying a solitaire diamond of up to 1 carat, ask your jeweller for quality H/Si or above. If you stick to H/Si quality as your minimum, you can’t go wrong as you won’t be able to see any obvious flaws in the diamond with a naked eye.
Step 6: Pick diamond size
“Carat” refers to a diamond’s size. Once you know the style, minimum quality and budget you want, then the best way to spend your money is on carats. Bear in mind that large diamonds are much rarer than small diamonds. So they’re much more expensive per-carat than small diamonds. If you’re struggling to stretch your budget to one large diamond, look for a ring made with a cluster of smaller diamonds. It will look big, sparkly and beautiful. Yet be affordable.
Step 7: Alternatively pick a gem
Sapphires – Rubies
Maybe your girl desires a colourful gemstone, instead of a diamond? Gems are a beautiful choice that stand out from the crowd. Kate Middleton’s famous blue sapphire ring has made gems really popular in engagement rings in the recent years. Generally speaking, you could go for any gemstone or her birthstone. However, bear in mind that not all gems are the same toughness. This is an important consideration for jewellery worn daily. Gem hardness is measured on a scale from 1-10. Diamonds are the hardest, rated at 10. Sapphires and rubies are 9. Then topaz at 8, emerald and aquamarine at 7.5-8, tanzanite 6.5-7. Find out more about each gem in our comprehensive Gem Guides.
Step 8: Choose a metal
There are four choices of precious metal for engagement rings. Your decision will depend on her style preference and your budget.
Platinum: Platinum is beautiful, and the most tough and durable of all precious metals. It’s also the most expensive choice. Platinum does not stain or scratch, although with age it develops microscopic surface denting, forming a look that’s called “the patina of age”. This is considered desirable in platinum jewellery, as it gives it a much loved and worn heirloom feel.
Yellow Gold: A traditional woman will prefer the classic look of yellow gold. Yellow gold may be sold as 18K gold or 9K gold. This is a measure of how much gold is used in the ring. Gold on its own is far too soft, so it has to be mixed with other, harder metals to keep its form. 18K gold has more gold content than 9K gold, but is also more expensive.
White Gold: White gold is simply yellow gold alloyed and coated with white precious metals to give it it a silvery-white luster. It looks beautiful and most people cannot tell it apart from platinum. Bear in mind though that its white precious metal coating will eventually fade and the yellow gold will shine through. This is normal, but means the ring needs to be re-coated every so often. Like yellow gold, white gold is sold in 18K or 9K purities.
Rose gold: This is a very fashionable and beautiful alternative to yellow gold. It’s made by alloying yellow gold and copper. It won’t scratch or need maintenance, but with age, the copper will tarnish slightly making the metal slightly redder. As with platinum, many people like this well-loved antique look rose gold gets with time. Rose gold also comes in 18K or 9K, just like yellow and white gold.
Now buy the engagement ring she wants
It’s time to buy. Now that you know what you want and have fixed a budget, you can explain your exact requirements to your jeweller. In the UK, it’s a good idea to stick to jewellers who are members of The National Association of Jewellers. You can find verify a jeweller’s membership on their website.
Good luck and let us know how your big day went on our Facebook page! Don’t hesitate to get in touch with our expert Personal Shopper Team if you have any questions.
Visit TheDiamondStore.co.uk to view engagement rings.
All prices quoted in this article were those available on 28th January 2016 and they may vary any time after this date.