Words by Tom Bates
So, you’ve done the hard part and found someone you want to spend the rest of your life with and convinced them to spend their life with you. Now comes the actual hard part – finding the engagement ring of their dreams. But don’t worry, it isn’t as daunting as it seems… That is if you ask a few of the right questions along the way and follow a couple of simple steps to find something perfect. Here’s Tom Bate’s Grooms Guide to Buying an Engagement Ring.
The best place to start is to take stock of her jewellery, fashion and general tastes. Unless she is very lucky and you’ve been showering her in lovely jewellery throughout your relationship (in which case skip straight to step 2), the chances are you’ve probably not really ever noticed any consistent design and taste cues in what she already wears. Now is the time to start noticing and making mental notes of the types of things she likes: is she a fan of coloured stones? Does she tend to prefer gold metals over silvers and platinums? Does she lean towards an art-deco style over a contemporary look?
This might seem bewildering at first – knowing your pink sapphire from your topaz isn’t exactly on the national curriculum – but noting these simple observations as soon as possible will help in the long run. Any self-respecting professional jeweller will be able to use this information to guide you on your quest.
It is also worth at this stage using the time trying to gauge your partner’s finger size, so you are able to get something at least reasonably close to their actual size to begin with. There are lots of little tips and tricks for this, but the simplest and most effective is to get hold of some Plasticine, or Blu Tack, and take a mould of one of the rings she currently wears. Try and choose a ring that she currently wears on her right ring finger, and failing that, make a note of which finger, and which hand, the measurement is taken from – a jeweller will be able to estimate based on the finger and dominant/non-dominant hand.
Ask anyone how much you should spend on a ring and you will hear all the old cliches like “one month’s salary” or “your annual bonus”, but the truth is this should be entirely personal to you. There really is not a right answer with this one, no matter how many times you Google it.
You need to ask yourself real questions – what can I actually afford? Am I actually spending beyond my means by getting another 0.1 of a carat? Ultimately, your budget comes down to what amount you are comfortable parting with, and should not be affected by any external pressures like bravado, one-up-manship or peer pressure. The significance of the gesture and everything it means between two people really is the most important thing to remember.
Once you have decided what you are willing – and able – to spend on the ring, stick to this figure and be transparent with the jeweller you speak to. Although you might feel they will judge you for whatever your budget is, this couldn’t be further from the truth, and transparency on budget will help them find the most suitable suggestions for you. The last thing you both want is wasting time looking at stones that are either significantly over, or under, your budget.
What is Important to You
Now comes the slightly more technical stuff, and as I am certainly no jeweller, I will stay clear of the real intricacies. It is really important here to find a jeweller who you can trust – it can be a family-run local jeweller, a big brand or a trip to Hatton Garden – the key is that you find someone that you feel values your business enough to give honest and sound advice.
It is more than likely you’re going down the diamond route as the main stone (85% of people do), and any quick Google of diamond engagement ring guides will churn out pieces covering the fabled Four C’s (Carat, Cut, Clarity, Colour) – often pages of overly complex terminology. Of course, if it is great to know all you can with such a big purchase, so I would advise doing some further reading on the specifics. A great resource for this is the guide by the people who created the Four C’s, the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), here.
However, as an overview – as you start looking at the stones, there are some really simple things to remember when going through the process. A key thing to remember is to think of the Four C’s as a four-dimensional sliding scale operating within your budget limitation you have carefully chosen. If you want to ‘better’ one of the Four C’s – like clarity for example – you are likely going to have to compromise with another one of them – for example lose a bit of colour quality.
Often grooms-to-be overlook this and think that bigger the better when it comes to the stone. If this is the most important factor to you (and your fiancé to be) then so be it but remember as you go bigger you will be compromising on another element.
As the jeweller shows you the different quality diamonds, you will start to see for yourself the difference in colouration between a D and H colour diamond, or the increased inclusions or blemishes you will see in a SI2 compared to a VVS2. Once you start to get a feel for these differences, you will be able to make an informed call on what is important to you within your budget – are you happy sacrificing on colour moving from E to H in order to have a fractionally bigger carat? Are you okay with a few inclusions only really visible with a jewellers loupe in order to have a better coloured stone? These are all questions you will need to ask yourself, as unless you’ve got a Jeff Bezos budget, it is very unlikely you will be able to have a giant, flawless, rock!
Whilst you are going through this process with your trusted jeweller, you will have gone through the style and design cues from your observations (see Step 1 if you’ve skipped straight to Step 4) and most probably identified a cut that fits the brief. A common mistake that a surprising amount of grooms-to-be make here is to decide to design something totally unconventional with the (best-placed) intention of it being extra personal and/or romantic. A classic example often seen is deciding to design something completely bespoke to incorporate birthstones. This can be spectacular, but always runs the risk of backfiring – remember, there is a reason why people spend their whole careers learning to design jewellery! If this route is one you decide to go down, weigh up the risk/reward factors carefully as the finished piece won’t be returnable!
Bespoke or more traditional, make sure you are also considering that the engagement ring will eventually sit next to a wedding ring. The design should be able to incorporate a wedding ring sat next to it. The wedding ring design is of course usually unknown at this stage, so the most sensible design consideration is to make sure your jeweller is giving you a design that is “wed-fit” – allowing the wedding ring to sit flush against it
Stones Set, All Set
You’ve done all your due diligence and will be walking away with something you are delighted with, or waiting for a workshop to create something special. Once you receive the finished ring, ensure you are happy with it without exception. Yes, it will no longer belong to you once you’ve presented it, but remember you have to be beyond happy with how it looks, too. Find your best hiding place and stow it away until you are ready to pop the question. If you get the chance, periodically check on the ring to make sure you’re still happy with it – the chances are (and if you’ve followed this advice) you will grow to love it increasingly more every time you look at it!
Now all that remains is to find the right time and place for you to pop the question! Good luck!
Related Articles: How to Design the Perfect Engagement Ring