Where to start when choosing an engagement ring

What with Christmas being hard enough work to organise as it is – you decided you were not going to be predictable about getting engaged.

Still, she’s dropped enough hints, and now it is up to you to find the perfect ring to ensure that you are well positioned to pop the question. For most guys choosing an engagement ring, this is a new experience.
planning an engagement ring

There are two main approaches.  Firstly, those fellows who will choose their engagement ring and keep everything as a surprise, and then those who will  make the proposal a surprise, but leave choosing the engagement ring as a ‘team activity’.

The former group may have a specific remit of their partner’s ring requirements but not always.  Men looking to surprise their other half can be a bit more stressed about making everything perfect!   For those who have no remit, they are often  wondering where the hell to start.  It is often a mix of excitement and trepidation; it is pretty hard to understand why an engagement ring can be so expensive when it seems to be just a trifling object.  In addition, it is something that could be expensive if she doesn’t like it..

Now to date I’ve never had a ring rejection from a client commission.  I can talk about stone quality, or workmanship, or design and they all have a place, but I think the key reason for the success of my clients has been that they have put in a lot of thought first.

I’ve pulled together a useful buyers guide to choosing an engagement ring which you can download either to the right or down the bottom of this article, which goes over all the practical considerations.  The biggest point I’ll always make is that in modern society, the engagement ring is a piece of jewellery intended for everyday wear.  If it isn’t to her tastes or style, this ain’t gonna happen and that is where problems start..

Going into the aesthetics pitfalls, common ones are either you didn’t get the stone right, or you didn’t get the metal right or you didn’t get the design right.  Any of these could be involved in the final cardinal sin where the engagement ring just looks bloody awful.   As such, here are a few thoughts for those searching on some factors that can narrow down the decision-making, and help nail the purchase.

The secret is in her hands — different styles suit different fingers

what is her finger shape choosing the ring engagement ring to suit different hand shapes

Have a good look at her hands.  Look at them at breakfast, check them out when you are out for the evening, or when she is using her mobile phone or typing on her laptop.  Get a feel for the shape of her fingers.  It is amazing how little attention we give to our hands, despite them being what we use to express ourselves and communicate every day! Visit the hand blog we wrote for a few pointers on the right ring styles for different finger shapes.

Pick the perfect sapphire (or indeed ruby, spinel, aquamarine or other)

coloured gemstones, sapphire engagement ring, ruby engagement ring

When I talk about stone issues, this doesn’t necessarily relate to stone size (and indeed, I think that it is a gesture more than the caratage which says the most).  Everything comes back to hand shape, and skin tone if you want to be really clever.

Diamonds are in over 75% of UK engagement rings, and while they are very lovely, they command the highest prices and sometimes result in a very dainty engagement ring due to budget constraints.

If you want to create deliver something with a little more presence (especially if she likes bold jewellery) then choose a different centre stone.  You can then work with much smaller diamonds (if you like – you can just leave it simple and focus on the stone you are using) and have much more to play with.

Read our gemstone blogs for more ideas on what works as I don’t recommend all coloured stones as being ideal for engagement rings.  Some are just too soft, and will look pretty old in about a year with sustained wear.

I think sometimes that the problem for coloured stones is that they are seen as being old-fashioned.  Perhaps the most famous sapphire ring at the moment is Kate Middleton’s engagement ring but perceptions are no necessarily positive – it is a classic design yes – but for many looks old-fashioned and not in keeping with their own sense of style. We remodelled a similar look for another client.

However this is not the go to setting for coloured stones any more.  We took the diamonds and aquamarine from an old cluster ring and brought them up to date in the new design, this gives a good idea of something simple that is still classic, but has a more modern feel to it.  The opportunities are fairly endless!

what can i do with an old cluster ring

An engagement ring to suit her lifestyle

sporty engagement ring wearer

If she loves sport, will she want to take her ring off while exercising?

When I’m working with a new client I really push them to think about tastes and lifestyle.

50% of the time he is clear what she wants, the other 50% – direction will change from as they work this out.  Quite often, once they have considered her style preferences, lifestyle and other tastes, what was initially felt to be the perfect ring is passed over in favour of something better suited.  (Note: this is very normal!!)

what is the best square diamond shape?
Here my client decided that a cushion diamond was the right ‘square’ shape, rather than a princess.

This doesn’t mean that clients who are more resolute don’t make adjustments.  Diamond shape preferences have a big effect on the overall look of the ring, and I will sometimes propose alternatives if I think it is going to make a prettier ring.  More often than not, what a client will end up with for the ring is what is often described as a fancy cut diamond.  My translation on this however is “not available on the high street”.  Obviously people enjoy this more, especially if they are looking for something that nobody else has.

Key considerations are best made along the lines of what she is going to be spending most of her time doing while she is wearing the ring.  For example, if keeping fit is a key part of her leisure time, and you think she is still going to want to wear the ring, then a stone setting that elevates to skyscraper proportions may not be practical.  On the other hand, if she wears vertiginous heels, loves dressing up and heading out for dinner or cocktails this kind of style could be perfect for her tastes.

A lot of men get discouraged thinking that they don’t know what their partner likes.  I find that actually they do have a really good idea, sometimes it just takes a little working out.  It is really important that the final ring chosen is a source of pride for him as well as her.  If you are are choosing a ring that you can’t stand to make her happy this doesn’t say much for your relationship..  And if she ever found out she would not be happy either!

Don't feel you have to work it all out yourself

best engagement ring for hand shape
Some clients send me a sneaky shot of their girlfriend’s hand when we are working everything out!

I think that one of the worst parts of finding an engagement ring is often when the guy is trying to sort everything out all on his own.  It is completely understandable why often they don’t want anybody else involved, too many cooks and all that, but if this leads you down the route of just peering through shop windows and glassy eyed goggling of ring sites you’ll find there is too much information to make a decision! Good friends who have been through the process are a mine of information, as are siblings.  The same can be said for jewellery sales consultants, they are not all just looking to make a sale out of you – the good ones have a wealth of expertise and you’ll learn a lot.  You are still allowed to shop around, so if you aren’t sure about a particular piece of knowledge imparted, just go and ask somewhere else.

As soon as you start involving others in your engagement ring you are able to articulate your concerns, and also get feedback and advice to help you with your decision-making.  This delivers a very valuable commodity back to you – time!  When a prospective new client contacts me I will respond with information relating to any queries they have raised and a summary of how I can help, we've got a pretty comprehensive buying guide and loads of article links.  This means that by the time a client and I actually sit down together, they are already feeling much better informed about what it is they are looking for.  

All the examples I have provided here should be free.  If you choose to work with Heirloom, the first call doesn't cost anything and will give enough information to leave you feeling better informed. Obviously unless you are buying an engagement ring online from us, you have to engage our services because we work personally on your behalf to deliver your perfect engagement ring freeing up 90% of the time you would otherwise be spending on this rather important object! But whatever route you follow, there is lots of support out there.

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