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engagement ring guide

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How to choose an engagement ring: Settings, cuts and carats

engagement ring guide

You’re finally ready to pop the question to your partner but, before you can, you need to find the perfect engagement ring. Your proposal is guaranteed to be memorable for both of you, so it’s important that you get all the little details of it right. When choosing an engagement ring, there are plenty of factors to consider: How much should you spend? How many carats should it be? What cut, clarity, and ring setting should you pick? We know that this can all seem a little overwhelming, and that’s why we’ve created the ultimate guide to help you find an engagement ring that will impress. We will cover:

What to consider when choose an engagement ring

If you’re planning on getting down on one knee in the near future, you’ll need to find the perfect ring for your partner to say “yes” to! But, in order to do this, there are plenty of factors you’ll need to consider from their lifestyle to your budget.

Your partner's lifestyle

Your partner will wear their engagement ring every day for the rest of their life, so it’s important that you take their lifestyle into account when choosing one. If your fiancé-to-be is very active and loves sports, picking a huge diamond engagement ring is likely to interfere with their hobby, especially if they play competitively. Instead, simpler and subtler designs will be more suitable.

Similarly, thinking about how often their hands are around cleaning products and chemicals will be important in determining what type of metal their ring should be made up of. Certain solutions can react with the metal and give it a tarnished appearance, so planning ahead to avoid this will be necessary. We will discuss this further in our ‘what metal?’ section.

Your partner's sense of style

Most important to your engagement ring search, you will need to know what style of engagement ring your partner will love. You can usually determine this by looking at their existing jewellery collection and assessing whether this is made up of classic, understated pieces or quirky, statement ones. If it’s the former, you may want to begin looking at simple engagement ring styles such as solitaire diamond designs, or if you think your partner will want something bolder you could opt for a more unique setting and diamond cut. We will be discussing diamond cut and shape in more detail, later on in this guide.

How much to spend on an engagement ring

Buying an engagement ring is a once in a lifetime experience, so it’s not uncommon for people to struggle with setting a budget for this purchase. But, as this is supposed to be an exciting time rather than a stressful one, it’s important to ensure you set a realistic budget for your future fiancé’s ring. Despite certain expectations and myths, including spending the equivalent of 3 months’ wages on the ring, it’s much more important that you focus on buying a ring you can afford.

However, there are certain considerations you can make to figure out how much you should spend on an engagement ring for your loved one, and we’re going to look at those here.

  • Weigh up monthly expenses vs savings: To work out how much you can afford to spend on an engagement ring, it’s a good idea to sit down and calculate your typical monthly expenses and how much of your wages you manage to save at the end of each month and to include any money you’ve already put away. If you already have a ballpark figure of what you’d like to spend in mind, you will need to calculate the minimum monthly amount you can realistically save, and this will give you an idea of how long you’ll have to wait until you can propose with a ring of value that you’re happy with. Alternatively, if you already have a date in mind for the proposal, working out how much you’ll be able to put away before then will give you an idea of what kind of budget you will have. To help you save towards this big purchase, we recommend setting up a special engagement ring savings account, so you can arrange a monthly transfer, and also put any windfalls, such as tax returns or work bonuses, towards the ring.
  • Look at the cost of similar ring styles: Doing your research will ensure you get the best deal on the perfect ring. We suggest going to a selection of jewellery shops to get an idea of how much rings typically cost and how much you can expect to pay for certain gemstones, carats and metals that you may be contemplating for your partner’s engagement ring. There are so many jewellery retailers around, so make sure you are comparing multiple ones to get the estimate as accurate as possible. Looking at rings which have similar carat values, as well as the same cut and clarity will give you a good indication of how much you will need to save up. We recommend doing this well in advance of when you intend to propose so you won’t feel unprepared if you discover your need to save a larger sum than what you expected.
  • Consult an experienced jewellery: If you’re struggling to decide how much you’re happy to spend on an engagement ring, we would recommend having a consultation with a jewellery expert who will be able to present you with options that fit a range of budgets. You can then decide whether you’ll need to save more for your partner’s ideal ring, or whether there are some things you’ll be able to compromise on to keep the price down.

How to choose an engagement ring

Once you’ve worked out how much you’ll be able to spend on an engagement ring, it’s time to choose one that will fit your partner’s preferences. To ensure you find the perfect one, there are a couple of factors you should be considering.

What size?

A big challenge in finding the perfect engagement ring, is knowing what size ring to get so that your partner can wear their ring from the moment they agree to marry you. There are a couple of tried and tested methods for getting your partner’s ring size perfect the first-time round. These include:

  • Taking an existing ring of theirs to the jewellers: If possible, stealthily taking a ring that fits them well to the jewellers will mean you can get an accurate measurement of what ring size will fit them. A jeweller will be able to measure up engagement ring styles you like against your partner’s existing ring to find the perfect fit. You will need to pay attention to which finger they wear this ring on and try to prioritise finding one they wear on their right hand ring finger.
  • Trace the outline of an existing ring: If you can’t quite get away with taking your partner’s ring without them noticing, tracing round the inner dimensions of it on some paper can help. A jeweller will be able to lay rings of different sizes over this to see which is the closest fit. As a general tip, we would advise doing tracing round the ring this a couple of times in case there any discrepancies between these.
  • Use a soap bar: If your partner rarely goes a day without wearing their favourite ring, take the opportunity when they do to take it to the bathroom and press it into a soft bar of soap. This will mean you have an accurate imprint of their ring size to take with you to the jewellers — just make sure you keep the bar in a cold place where it will solidify rather than melt and lose the outline.

What metal?

engagement ring guide

There are plenty of different metal types to pick from, so whether your partner prefers silver, or you think they’d like a unique engagement ring in a polished rose gold, there will be something out there for them. Gold, silver, and platinum don’t just differ in how they look, but also in their characteristics, so considering your partner’s lifestyle may help you to pick which one will be the most wearable. You should beware of any metal allergies your partner may have, too.

Platinum engagement rings

Platinum is a great option if your partner has a very active lifestyle, as this metal is harder and more resistant to scratches, fading, corrosion and other cosmetic damage than gold and silver.

Platinum is considered to be the most precious jewellery metal and is five times rarer and purer than gold alternatives. It is also much denser than other metals, so platinum engagement rings will provide a safe and stable setting for gems and diamonds.

Silver engagement rings

Pure silver is incredibly soft, so the metal is often combined with a small percentage of an alloy (usually copper) to increase its strength, which creates sterling silver. Sterling silver is incredibly durable and can be polished or coated in rhodium to lend it hardness and this also gives it a luxurious, glossy finish.

Although it may look like platinum, sterling silver can be discoloured by bleach, ammonia, and chlorine, which means it isn’t particularly heavy duty. So, if your partner spends a lot of time cleaning around the house, or swims as a hobby, a silver engagement ring might not be the most convenient choice.

Gold engagement rings

Gold is an extremely common choice and was historically associated with luxury and royalty. Similar to silver, pure gold is too soft to be used for jewellery, so it’s typically mixed with other metal alloys to make it stronger and more durable. Gold is measured in karats, which is split into 24 parts where 24 karats means the item is pure gold.

Typically, you’ll see gold engagement rings that are 18K, 14K, or 10K, where they’re made up of 75%, 58%, and 42% gold respectively. The rest of the ring’s composition is made up of other metals including silver, nickel, and copper, and these can directly influence the shade and colour of the metal. Gold engagement rings are typically available in the following colours:

  • Yellow gold: Yellow gold is achieved by mixing pure gold with the red of copper and green tones from silver. It is great if your fiancé is after a traditional, luxurious look and will certainly make a statement when complemented by an impressive diamond or gemstone.
  • White gold: White gold has a more contemporary edge than yellow gold does, making it an increasingly popular choice for engagement rings. The silver-esque appearance of white gold is achieved by mixing yellow gold with copper, zinc, and nickel.
  • Rose gold: The most obvious choice for a unique engagement ring, rose gold has a romantic pink tone thanks to the combination of yellow gold and a copper alloy. Apart from the aesthetic advantages, rose gold is also dense, doesn’t rust or corrode, so rose gold engagement rings are a great choice if you want to make an impact.

What diamond cut?

If you’re in search of a dazzling diamond engagement ring, I recommend paying attention to the cut of the stone. The cut will affect the brilliance of the diamond and, if poor, can make it look dull.

Cut grades range from:

  • Fair: A good quality cut diamond that reflects some light but is not as brilliant as a good cut.
  • Good: A premium quality cut diamond that doesn’t compromise on quality or beauty. It will reflect most of the light that enters the diamond.
  • Very good: A superior quality cut diamond that can reflect as much of the light as ideal cuts, but this comes at a cheaper cost.
  • Ideal: An exquisitely cut diamond that has the optimal combination of brilliance and fire. Similar to very good, ideal cuts can reflect most of the light that enters the diamond.
  • Super ideal: A cut of the highest possible standard. They are proportioned perfectly to return the maximum possible light.

When selecting the right diamond cut, it’s important to understand that this is different to shape, which describes the physical form of the diamond, rather than the amount of light it returns. A fair cut will cost you the least but may not sparkle as much as your fiancé wishes, while a super ideal cut may be out of your price range, so perhaps opting for a middle ground will ensure you can get a beautiful ring that adheres to the budget you initially set.

What diamond shape?

engagement ring guide

Picking the shape of the diamond can be confusing, especially if your fiancé doesn’t have any diamond, crystal, or diamante jewellery that you can base your decision on. The perfect diamond shape for your partner can be determined not just by their preference, but also their hand shape and size:

  • Round: A round diamond tends to be the most popular choice due to the traditional associations that comes from its simplicity. As most of the rough diamond is lost during cutting, a round cut has the most facets, making it the most dazzling of all the shapes. Plus, there are so many sizes available, which means round cut diamonds can be perfect for any hand size or shape.
  • Princess: A princess cut diamond is square in shape and has many facets, meaning it will have a great sparkle to it. Its shape will easily disguise any inclusions, so it will look luxurious no matter what carat size. Again, this shape will be a flattering choice for any hand size or shape and is bound to impress anyone who loves contemporary jewellery.
  • Emerald: An emerald cut diamond is a step cut, meaning the stone’s outline is rectangular and that its facets are much larger than that of a princess diamond. This style is perfect for those who prefer a traditional, vintage cut. The length of the emerald shape means it will elongate the wearer’s fingers, so it’s great if your fiancé has shorter hands.
  • Baguette: A slim, rectangular diamond, a baguette cut will make an elegant addition to any engagement ring. Again, the elongated shape means it will complement shorter hands, as well as give the engagement ring a unique twist.
  • Radiant: This diamond cut has a square shape with flat corners, meaning it is a perfect option if you’re looking for a unique engagement ring. The cropped corners give it a softer edge compared to an emerald cut, so a diamond cut can make a beautiful, feminine ring that will go down a storm if your partner loves quirky jewellery.
  • Asscher: The asscher diamond is crafted to achieve maximum brilliance and fire thanks to its many step-cuts. The large number of edges this diamond has means the light has more surfaces to bounce off, making it a super sparkly and luxurious diamond choice for your partner’s engagement ring.
  • Marquise: Named after the title used to describe someone who was higher than a Count in the 18th century, the marquise diamond is a luxurious choice for an engagement ring. The shape itself looks like two triangles that have been joined together to create an elongated shape. This is a good option if you think your fiancé would like a substantially sized diamond, but you don’t want to spend a fortune. The longer appearance of a marquise diamond makes it look bigger than it is and maximises the carat weight, too.
  • Oval: Oval cut diamonds are a great choice if you’re after a unique engagement ring for your partner. These are a more modern alternative to a round cut diamond, as they offer the same sparkle, elegance, and sophistication but have a slightly different look. Ovals can also create the illusion of a bigger diamond due to the elongated shape, which makes it a perfect match for hands of any shape and size.
  • Pear: The pear-shaped diamond is a popular choice for those seeking a luxurious and glamorous engagement ring that offers a happy medium between the marquise and oval cut shapes. This shape encourages maximum brilliance and fire and can elongate fingers on shorter hands due to the pointed top of the stone.
  • Cushion: The cushion cut was once the most sought-after diamond shape before the round cut became popular. It is best described as a square cut with rounded corners that combines modernity with vintage influences. This means it can help to make a stunning engagement ring that strikes the right balance between the two periods. The style itself is particularly flattering on wider fingers.
  • Trillion: This shape, also known as the trilliant cut, creates a dazzling triangular diamond that can be used as an accent stone or as an eye-catching solo diamond.

No matter what diamond shape you pick, you’re sure to impress your partner with any of these great diamonds. For partners with classic tastes, think round, pear or emeralds, or get adventurous with a unique trillion diamond ring for a real statement.

What clarity?

The clarity of a diamond is an assessment of any imperfections on the surface of a gemstone, as well as the internal condition. These so-called blemishes usually don’t take away from the diamond’s beauty in any way and are often so minor that they have to be analysed under microscopes to be discovered.

To ensure you know both the internal and external condition of your diamond, they’re graded according to a diamond grading system and clarity scale, as established by the Gemmological Institute of America (GIA). These gradings range from ‘Flawless’, where there are no blemishes or inclusions visible even under magnification, to ‘Included’, where these inclusions can affect the transparency and brilliance of the diamond.

When deciding on what clarity your engagement ring’s diamond should have, there are a number of considerations to take into account.

Consider how visible the inclusions are in lower graded diamonds

We would all love to be able to get our partners a flawless diamond to show our appreciation, but sometimes it’s simply not possible. Instead of opting for the very best initially, try looking at the lower grades such as VS and SI gradings which are still beautiful but do have some inclusions and benefit from a lower price tag. If the inclusions in the diamond are minimal and don’t particularly affect the fire and brilliance, it may be worth choosing these over pricier flawless diamonds. Chances are, nobody will notice the difference!

It’s also worth examining each stone separately regardless of how they’re graded, as they’re all different, and some may have more visible inclusions than others of the same grade.

Take the setting of the engagement ring into account

The setting of an engagement ring can make all the difference to how it impresses your partner. When considering the type of setting will be most loved by your fiancé-to-be it might be helpful to approach an experienced jeweller who will be able to advise you on whether any inclusions will be visible with your preferred setting. A bezel or prong that holds the stone in place can hide flaws, making the diamond still looking clean to the naked eye. By factoring the setting into your decisions for diamond clarity, you can easily save yourself some money and still have a dazzling ring.

What diamond carat?

engagement ring guide

There are no set rules for how many carats an engagement ring should be, with different budgets and preferences determining the choice. The carat itself is a measurement of the weight of the diamond, with one carat equal to 200 milligrams. The larger and heavier the diamond, the more expensive it’s going to be.

The price of diamonds will increase significantly when you look at options that are around the 1.0 or 1.5 carat mark so, if you’re aiming to stick to a set budget, it might be best to go for one that falls around the 0.9–1.4 carat mark to ensure you get the most for your money.

Generally, people believe that the bigger the carat you choose for engagement rings, the more love and affection it shows. However, do be aware that many of the differences between carats aren’t noticeable to the naked eye, so you can get ones lower than 1.0 that still appear quite big.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that a whole host of factors can affect how big a diamond looks. For example, a cut with many edges can reflect lots of light, making the ring sparkle more, which gives the illusion of a larger surface area. If you want any more information about choosing the perfect stone, you can also check out our guide to buying a diamond, which covers carats, cut, colour and clarity.

Engagement ring styles

engagement ring guide

Deciding on an engagement ring style is possibly the biggest decision of them all, but considering your partner’s preferences will help you. For example, think about their existing jewellery collection: Is it made up of traditional, classic pieces, or quirky and unique treasures? No matter what their preference, there are plenty of engagement ring settings and styles out there. Some of these include:

  • Solitaire: This style of engagement ring has one diamond in it. It’s perfect for making a simple statement and, due to its minimalist setting, is commonly gifted as a timeless keepsake.
  • Cluster: The cluster setting style features one larger diamond with a few smaller ones surrounding it. This can give the illusion of one larger diamond and exudes a luxurious aesthetic, so will be a fantastic choice if your partner’s ideal ring is a statement one.
  • Trilogy: As the name would suggest, the trilogy setting style includes three diamonds. They can be in any arrangement but, for classic engagement rings, they are usually presented in a line. These can be raised with prongs to make them more eye-catching or set into the band in a pavé style for a subtler ring choice.
  • Fancy: The fancy engagement ring style is an umbrella term for anything other than the above three styles. There is more experimentation within this style, so it’s worth asking to see your jeweller’s collection of fancy rings, especially if you’re looking for something that’s unique.

Whether you’re after a classic design or you think a statement style will impress your fiancé-to-be, we have plenty of engagement rings to choose from here at Ramsdens Jewellery. Check out our ranges of solitaire, cluster, trilogy, and fancy engagement rings to be spoilt for choice.

Where to buy an engagement ring

There are sites and shops offering engagement ring styles for all budgets and preferences, so you’re guaranteed to find just what you’re after. In order to narrow down your options and make sure you choose a trusted jeweller, here’s what you’ll need to think about.

Do you trust them?

Before you commit to a jeweller, you’ll want to be sure they’re worth your time and money. Looking at customer reviews online is an easy way of gaining an insight into how previous customers have been treated and if they were happy with their purchases. Many of these will also include images of the products they’ve bought, so you know what to expect. Additionally, you should take a look at a company’s policies to see what extras they include with your purchase. This can be anything from a lifetime warranty to an easy return service, so make sure you do your research.

What is the collection like?

Whether you’re going into your engagement ring search blind or you have a vague idea of what you’re after, going to a jeweller that has plenty of options for you to pick from will be important in ensuring you find the perfect one. For example, having a good mix of contemporary and traditional ring styles will mean you can explore both avenues. You can guarantee that any good jewellers with a large selection of engagement rings will have something to fit your budget.

What are the price ranges like?

The way a jeweller is pricing their engagement ring ranges will be important for your search. Prices that are much higher than their competitors will need to be avoided, while you also need to be wary that prices that look too good to be true, probably are. Low prices can indicate low quality and cheap metals and stones. Alternatively, if the prices are too high, don’t get fooled into thinking that this always means these are the best quality.

What are your first impressions of the jeweller?

Trusting your gut will be an important skill to master during your engagement ring search. There will be many jewellers wanting to make a sale, but only the genuine ones will offer you their full attention and listen to exactly what you’re after. Pay attention to the way they answer your questions and whether they ask you any questions in return to find out what you really want.

Do they provide the necessary documentation?

Before committing to any purchase, you need to ensure your jeweller is able to provide certification for your engagement ring which will prove that the diamonds have undergone a professionally and unbiased examination. This is testament to the quality and authenticity of the diamonds in your partner’s engagement ring, and can be helpful when ensuring the engagement ring, so it’s important that you have these to take away with you.

Being in the early stages of choosing an engagement ring for your partner can be daunting, but you’ll hopefully have a better idea of where to start now you’ve read our guide. From selecting the jeweller you’ll go with, to settling on the perfect ring style, you will need to give the whole process some careful thought to ensure you choose the ideal piece of jewellery for your partner. Here at Ramsdens Jewellery, we stock engagement rings for all tastes and preferences. This includes styles and designs such as cluster, fancy, solitaire, and trilogy rings, as well as those with coloured stones. And, with a variety of metals available, including white gold, yellow gold and platinum, we’re sure you will find just what you’re looking for.

We offer a price match promise on all of our products, meaning we will be more than happy to match the price if you find a site selling the same product for a lower price. We also have free UK delivery on most orders — see our delivery and returns page for exceptions. And, if you’d prefer to browse the engagement rings we stock in our stores, don’t hesitate to come and visit us at your nearest local branch.

Glossary

B

  • Brilliance
    The brilliance is the brightness you see when white light is reflected from the stone.

C

  • Carat
    The weight of a diamond or other precious gemstone.
  • Clarity
    The purity or quality of a diamond. The clarity is an analysis of any blemishes or internal flaws by a gemologist.
  • Colour
    The colour of a diamond is graded on a scale from D (considered colourless) to Z (light yellow/brown).
  • Cut
    The cut determines how much light can pass through the stone, which affects other important factors. It examines the proportions and finish of the diamond.

F

  • Facet
    The flat polished surface of any precious gemstone. When correctly placed, facets give diamonds and gems their fire and brilliance.
  • Fancy cut
    This refers to any cut of diamond that differs from the usual round, oval, pear, or marquise shapes. Find more about these in our ‘what cut?’ section.
  • Fire
    The fire of a diamond is the coloured sparkle you see when light is cast upon it.
  • Flawless
    A diamond that has no visible blemishes or inclusions when analysed under a 10x magnification by a gemologist is considered flawless.

G

  • Gold
    A precious metal that is yellow in colour and soft when in its natural, pure state. It is usually alloyed with other metals to increase its strength or to change its colour, which is how we get other variations like white and rose gold.

H

  • Hardness
    How resistant a diamond or gemstone is towards scratches.

I

  • Inclusion
    An internal clarity characteristic, sometimes referred to as a flaw. This could be anything from crystals, feathers, clouds or pinpoints.

M

  • Matched set
    A set of diamonds that have virtually identical characteristics and proportions. Most commonly seen between sets of wedding bands and engagement rings to create a perfect style match.

P

  • Pavé
    A setting that includes a band paved with diamonds. These use small beads to make sure the diamonds are held in place.
  • Platinum
    An exceptionally strong and durable metal that has a bright, shiny finish without having to be mixed with any other alloys. It is also hypoallergenic and is great for supporting very delicate settings. Find out more in our ‘what metal?’ section.
  • Polish
    The smoothness of each diamond is referred to as the polish.

S

  • Shape
    The general outline of the gem. This is usually confused with cut, but the shape describes a diamond’s form and symmetry. See our ‘what diamond shape?’ section for further details.
  • Scintillation
    The pattern of light and dark areas which move and provide sparkle to a diamonds appearance.

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