In Style + Design

How To Pick The Perfect Engagement Ring

Though shopping for an engagement ring – likely one of the most expensive style purchases you’ll make in a lifetime – can be daunting, the truth is, you’ve already done the hardest part: choosing the person you’re going to marry. The rest is easy in comparison. Read on for our guide on how to choose the perfect engagement ring so you can stop worrying about cut, clarity and cost, and start planning that wedding.

Set a budget

A classic choice Photo: Bulgari/Facebook

Conventional wisdom dictates that spending two months’ salary on a ring is the way to go. But considering that figure was set by diamond conglomerate De Beers in a marketing campaign in the 1980s, it’s best to take it with a grain of salt.

To arrive at a budget for an engagement ring, it’s much more important to take your own finances into account. Think about how much you’re willing to invest in a ring and make sure you don’t overstretch (after all, once you’ve settled on a ring, other expenses like the wedding and honeymoon will start looming over your bank balance). Once you’ve arrived at a figure you’re comfortable with, stick to it – your budget will determine everything about your ring choice and starting with firm parameters will make the search easier.

Think about what your partner will like

A Tiffany-cut diamond Photo: Tiffany & Co/Facebook

Now to the trickiest part – figuring out what kind of ring your partner would be happy to wear every day for the rest of their lives.

Take cues from your partner’s everyday style. If they favour classic fashion and high-end brands, chances are a traditional design from a renowned jeweller like Tiffany & Co or Cartier will be right up their alley. If they tend towards directional or edgy fashion, look to independent artisan designers such as those stocked by New York boutique Catbird for a more unusual ring.

Lifestyle is another important factor to consider. If your partner is active or works with their hands, a ring with a low profile (with gems that sit close to the hand) is a better choice than one with a higher profile likely to catch on things. If you want a ring that can be worn 24/7 through workouts and in the shower, tough metals like gold and platinum are key. Gemstones like diamonds, rubies and sapphires are more hardwearing than other stones such as emeralds and rubies.

If you’re feeling stuck, don’t hesitate to call in the experts – your partner’s best friends or closest family members for advice, and don’t forget to check your partner’s Pinterest or Instagram for some covert wedding ring inspiration. And although engagement rings are traditionally chosen without a bride’s input, unless you think your partner would prefer the romance of a surprise, you shouldn’t feel any hesitation in involving them in the ring choice.

Figure out the ring size

Rings from New York designer Catbird Photo: Facebook

Ring sizing isn’t an exact science – more than just the circumference of a finger, it also relies on the shape of a finger and how loose or tight a person likes to wear their jewellery.

If you aren’t familiar with your partner’s ring size, try slipping on one of their rings and marking where it hits your finger, which will give your jeweller a starting point. Otherwise, err on the side of caution: buying a bigger ring is better than buying one that’s too small, and some designs are easier to resize than others, so seek your jeweller’s expert advice.

Get to know the four Cs

Bold and bright Photo: Harry Winston/Facebook

If you opt for a diamond engagement ring, it’s best to get familiar with the ‘four Cs’ – the characteristics of cut, clarity, colour and carat that determine the worth of a diamond.

Cut refers to how a diamond has been shaped and sliced to increase its brilliance (basically, how it reflects light).

Clarity is all about the imperfections a stone contains, and are rated on a scale from FL (flawless, which is incredibly rare) to I3 (visible and large imperfections).

The colour of a diamond is graded from the most coveted, D (colourless), to Z (light yellow). And carat, of course, refers to the weight of a stone. The larger the carat, the bigger the stone (and the higher the cost).

Shop around

Rings from New York designer Catbird Photo: Facebook

Once you’ve got some styles in mind and you’ve wrapped your head around the four Cs, it’s time to hit the shops.

While ordering online is a great option and direct-to-consumer jewellery start-ups are growing in popularity, it’s worth browsing brick and mortar boutiques to get a feel for what an engagement ring looks and feels like in real life.

Don’t be afraid to buck convention

At the end of the day, picking the perfect engagement ring isn’t about following rules, it’s about choosing a symbol that best reflects your relationship.

If that means you feel like ignoring the four Cs altogether in favour of a non-diamond ring that you know your partner will love, go for it. If you decide that you’d like to create a ring design from scratch because you just can’t find anything you like, or are attracted to the idea of purchasing a one-of-a-kind vintage ring, godspeed. While weddings are full of tradition and ritual, your engagement ring doesn’t have to be.

Published 21 August, 2018