An Expert Guide to Selecting the Perfect Engagement Ring

Congratulations, you’ve found the perfect girl for you–the ONE!  Now it’s time to select the symbol that expresses your commitment to everlasting love–the perfect engagement ring. Many couples are shopping together for rings, but if you are one of those more traditional or “romantic” guys heading out there on your own, know that selecting an engagement ring for your future bride is a special time in your life and making the decision does not have to be a stressful one.

The best place to start is by learning more about your future bride’s preferences in jewelry. Talk to her friends and family, and do some “snooping” of your own. Does she wear more silver, white or yellow gold, or platinum? Does her jewelry tend to be delicate or chunky, ornate or simple, classic or modern?  Has she admired a style someone else wears, or commented on one she’s seen in a magazine?

This is also the time to consider how much you want to spend on you dream girl’s ring. Engagement rings can be a significant investment, but forget the dated, two-month salary guideline. You should buy the best ring you can afford without going into major debt. Have a price range in mind, and do your best to stick to it. Going in with fairly specific parameters will help your jeweler find the right engagement ring to fit your budget.

Once you have a good idea of the style of engagement ring she will love, and one that won’t break the bank, you’ll want to consult with a respected jeweler, ideally one who has been recommended by friends or family.  Look for a jeweler who strives to understand your preferences, provides you with a variety of purchase options, and does so in an honest and straightforward way. For additional assurance that you have chosen a knowledgeable jeweler, verify that the store has been accredited by the Jewelers of America.

Your jeweler should begin by showing you a selection of diamonds and educating you about diamond quality. The first and most important decision is the shape of the center diamond, which makes the biggest impact on the look of the engagement ring. While there are many variations available, finding the right shape is most importantly about her personal preference and style.

The round, brilliant cut diamond offers the most sparkle, and is a classic cut. More engagement rings are created with round diamonds than any other shape. Oval, pear, and marquise are also popular, classic shapes. The princess cut diamond is square in shape, has brilliant sparkle, and offers a contemporary look.

Cushion cut diamonds have become very popular in recent years, and are especially well suited for romantic, vintage-inspired settings. Emerald and Asscher cuts are stunning, but require a high clarity grading because they have fewer facets, making imperfections in the diamond more visible. Radiant cut diamonds have the elegant symmetry of an emerald and the brilliance of a round.

After the shape has been chosen, you’ll need to consider the diamond’s quality. The four C’s of diamond grading; cut, color, clarity, and carat weight, are your guide to finding a diamond with the most sparkle.  Cut refers to the quality of a diamond’s symmetry and proportions.  It is the factor that fuels a diamond’s fire, sparkle, and brilliance. Poor cuts lack sparkle because they do not have the angles needed for the diamond to capture light and reflect it.

Color refers to how “white” the diamond is, or its lack of color.  Diamond color is graded on an alphabetical scale beginning with “D,” which is colorless.  It’s typically recommended to stay within the D to I grades to avoid diamonds that are light yellow or brown in color.  Many color distinctions are subtle, but even slight differences can make a difference in diamond quality and price.

Clarity assesses the natural, internal characteristics of the diamond.  Because diamonds are naturally formed under extreme heat and pressure, virtually all diamonds have small imperfections, called “inclusions.” Flawless diamonds have no visible inclusions under 10X magnification and are extremely valuable. If you are concerned with price and size it may be worth opting for a diamond with a few, less noticeable inclusions.

Carat weight is a measure of the diamond’s weight.  A carat refers to the diamond’s weight, not its size, so two diamonds that look different in size may have the same carat weight.  Some diamonds are cut to maximize weight resulting in less sparkle.  For the best value, consider a diamond that weighs just under the carat weight you initially desired.  For example, savings can be significant if you choose a .98 carat diamond instead of a 1-carat diamond.

Diamonds are the most popular, but certainly not the only, gems that can be used for the center of the engagement ring. Precious stones such as sapphires, rubies and emeralds, as well as many semi-precious stones, can be used to create special, classic, and timeless settings. Some precious and semi-precious stones can be as expensive as a diamond, but others may be much less expensive and still offer a beautiful look.

Selecting the setting for the center stone can be overwhelming as there are thousands of designs, details, and metals to choose from. Begin by considering both her personal taste and lifestyle. For example, if she is active or wears gloves in her occupation, you might consider a less delicate setting, with a lower set diamond.

“Halo” settings, where the center diamond is surrounded by smaller that add sparkle and the illusion of greater size, are very popular now. The classic, solitaire, single stone setting, has retained popularity and is a good choice for the proposal. You and your future bride can then come in later to choose a more elaborate mounting, or request a custom designed ring.

Most settings are available in a variety of metals. White gold does not interfere with the color of the diamonds and has soared in popularity in recent years. Yellow gold is the classic metal for engagement rings, and is regaining popularity, as is rose gold.  Platinum, the most valuable of precious metals, is a good choice for allergy sufferers because it is pure.

When you have selected and purchased the perfect engagement ring, a final word of advice; get your ring insured as soon as possible. You may be carrying it in your pocket for a while, waiting for the perfect moment to propose. Things happen.

Hopefully the only thing that will happen is that she will answer your proposal affirmatively and you will slide that perfect ring on her finger while both sets of your hands are trembling with excitement and joy!