Are you excited about tying the knot, but anxious about picking the ring?
Choosing the right engagement ring can feel like an immense task, but there’s no reason to get bogged down. No matter the size and cost, what your beloved future fiancé really wants from her hubby is a ring that matches her style & that she’ll never want to take off.
Get the best tips from our practical step-by-step engagement ring buying guide. Find out which engagement ring you should get & learn all the tricks of the trade, from budgeting to picking a style that matches your soulmate’s lifestyle!
Choosing an Engagement Ring Step by Step
For most people, buying an engagement ring means entering an (online) jewelry store for the first time. This is why you need to know exactly what you’re getting and why, before you even take out your wallet.
Give yourself enough time to prepare the ground before picking an engagement ring, to make sure you don’t forget anything essential. To ease yourself into the process, use this list of steps to get an idea of the things you need to plan out:
- 1) Set your engagement ring budget
- 2) Decide if the ring will be a surprise or if you’ll be shopping together
- 3) Figure out the ring size
- 4) Choose the metal
- 5) Pick a gemstone or a diamond
- 6) Select a shape, a style, and a setting
- 7) Buy the ring
- 8) Make the proposal!
Tips on Engagement Ring Shopping Etiquette
Who buys the engagement ring?
Traditionally, the person who proposes will offer the ring as a gift, whether this is the groom or the bride. However, shopping together for an engagement ring has become more common in recent years.
Since this commitment involves both of you, it’s only fair that you should want to make this investment together. Make sure that you’re both involved in the budgeting and selection process, but let her have the final say in terms of style since she’ll be the one wearing it every day.
Should I make it a surprise?
If you and your girlfriend are more the romantic types, you should definitely consider making the proposal a surprise. While the ring isn’t necessary for this, it certainly adds to the intensity of the moment.
Don’t let the chance of a spontaneous proposal go by, simply because you don’t have the ring. Plenty of couples shop for the ring afterward - this way, the bride can choose her own ring.
Choose an Engagement Ring That Matches Her Personality & Lifestyle
If you’re buying a ring to surprise your girlfriend or boyfriend, you should spend some time researching his or her style first. Look at the jewelry she already owns, as well as her clothing style.
Then, answer some questions about her personality, where she normally shops & her favorite activities. This will help you get an idea of her preferences & expectations.
- Is she more likely to rummage for treasures at a vintage shop or does she prefer the clean designs of high street brands?
- Where does she meet her friends - at high-class restaurants or underground music venues?
- Would she be happy with a big, showy rock or is she more likely to fall in love with a delicate piece with a lot of detailing?
If you’re feeling stuck, try out an engagement rings quiz here from the American Gem Society to get a basic idea of what to look for. And, don't forget to check her Pinterest boards! Chances are, she might've pinned her perfect engagement ring already.
TIP: Another strategy is to ask a close friend to be your accomplice & give you some ideas. They can also bring up the subject casually during a private conversation with your SO, to help you find out which style or stone & metal combination s/he would like most.
Engagement Rings for Active Lifestyles
Another important thing you should consider is whether she’ll be able to wear the ring every day at work. For some people, like nurses or fabric workers, a big rock on an upraised setting can be inconvenient, as it can get tangled or chipped during routine tasks. It's also possible that their job doesn't permit them to expose valuable goods, like expensive jewelry.
In this case, it's also perfectly acceptable to have a ring without a stone - some brides would even prefer minimalist rings they can wear all day, rather than a big ring they would always need to look after.
You don’t want to put your SO’s safety at risk, so make sure you consider any activities that would make it hard for them to wear the ring daily.
If your partner enjoys activities, such as gardening and baking, go for a ring with smaller stones and safe setting types, such as bezel or channel-set rings. This way, she won’t have to worry about losing the solitaire diamond or take it off every time she’s doing one of her favorite things.
What Types of Engagement Rings Can You Buy?
Although diamonds seem to be the most popular stones for engagement rings, they’re not the sole option. Rubies, sapphires and other stones are popular with fashion-forward brides-to-be, while diamond simulants are a favorite among environmentally conscious wearers.
To learn more about the different options available to you, see our complete guide to the latest engagement ring trends by clicking here..
Here are some of our favorite ring types that will look amazing without blowing all your savings!
Moissanite Engagement Rings
Moissanite is a rare gemstone from outer space, which was first discovered in 1893 by Henri Moissan. Thanks to its durability and sparkle, in 1998 it was patented for lab production in order to be used for jewelry. Since it requires no mining, moissanite has a low impact on the environment and is a less expensive alternative to confict-free diamonds.
While diamonds score a perfect 10 on Mohs Scale of Hardness, moissanite comes pretty close at 9.25, making it one of the most durable materials on earth. Moissanite is ideal for everyday wear as an engagement ring and less expensive than many other gemstones.
Moissanite engagement rings also have a different type of brilliance as compared to diamonds, which is characterized by strong rainbow flashes that create a disco ball effect in bright sunlight.
Choose Your Engagement Ring Setting
Another important feature that will determine the look of your ring is the type of setting. Instead of picking a very large stone for your ring, you can pick certain setting types will make your ring appear bigger and more brilliant without costing a fortune.
Pavé Engagement Rings
In French, the term ‘pavé’ literally means ‘paved’. In this case - you guessed it - we’re talking about an engagement ring with a large top surface that is paved with small stones. This gives you the same sparkle as a single stone of similar size, for a fraction of the cost.
Halo Engagement Rings
This type of ring will give you extra shine for your money, especially if you’re opting for a smaller center stone. Thanks to the small stones arranged in a halo around the main rock, the ring will appear larger & carry more brilliance.
This style works really well when combined with pavé bands that around the ring, giving a lavish overall look. If your future fiancée loves colorful accessories, go a step further and combine stones of different colors, which create a vibrant contrast between the center and outline.
Solitaire Engagement Rings
This classic shape of the traditional engagement ring comes with a single stone on an upraised setting, usually held in place by four or six prongs.
Although round-cut diamonds are a typical choice for this type of ring, there’s no reason why shouldn’t consider alternative stones, such as rubies or emeralds. Colored stones give the ring a more personal feel if they’re chosen in accordance with the wearer’s sign, personality or style.
Pick Your Favorite Stone Cut
When determining which cut is best for your engagement diamond ring, it’s important to consider how the appearance of the stone resonates with the wearer’s personality.
Let’s find out which stone cut is best for you or your soulmate!
A cushion cut is a type of square cut with rounded corners. Depending on the type of faceting, this stone can carry a high amount of glitz (crushed-ice cushions) or have a more clearly defined facet pattern (chunky cushions).
Cushion cuts are appropriate for brides with eclectic tastes who want to shine when they enter the room. No matter the situation, this stone will not go unnoticed.
This is the second most popular type of stone cut, after the round brilliant cut found on most solitaire engagement rings. Therefore, it’s most suitable for brides who like clean designs with a contemporary twist.
It is, however, slightly cheaper than the round cut and preferred by jewelers for its ability to retain as much as 80% of the rough diamond’s original size, compared to 50% in the case of a round cut.
Emerald-cut stones are rarer and much more elegant compared to other cuts. They carry less sparkle and feature a well-defined pattern which creates a ‘hall-of-mirrors’ effect. A sophisticated bride is the most likely to appreciate this type of cut.
Because it can reveal inclusions, this type of cut is only advisable for high-clarity diamonds or colored gemstones such as emeralds and sapphires. This shape is most often found on 1920s style engagement rings.
Also known as the boat cut or navette, this type of stone cut has an oval shape with pointed ends and carries a vintage appeal. The name comes from the people wit a hereditary rank above a count and below a duke, who would wear these rings as an indicator of status.
Thanks to their heritage and old-time feeling, many people prefer marquise stones with a touch of color - from yellow-tinted diamonds to amber sapphires or green emeralds. As such, this cut is most suitable for romantic brides with a soft spot for antique designs.
The radiant cut is a cross between the princess and cushion cuts and it looks like a rectangle or square with slanted corners. It carries a high amount of shine, thanks to its brilliant faceting on both sides of the stone.
Any bride that wants to stand out will be impressed with a radiant cut engagement ring. Choose this stone cut if your soul mate loves to live center stage and will be eager to show her ring to all your friends and family.
Pick a Precious Metal
The color of your ring will have a massive influence on the overall style of the ring, so you should think carefully about which metal color or combination is best for your engagement ring.
Yellow Gold Engagement Rings
Gold is the precious metal most commonly used in jewelry manufacturing. The purity of gold is measured in karats, divided into 24 parts. Usually, gold is combined with other metals, such as zinc, nickel and copper, because pure gold (24k) is not durable enough to be used for jewelry.
Most often, you will find gold in 22k (92%), 18k (75% gold), 14k (58% gold) and 10k (42% gold). This number also indicates the intensity of the yellow tone, as lower purity gold tends to have a paler appearance.
This type of gold is more resistant to wear and also more difficult to fabricate. It includes more expensive metals in its alloy and it is plated in rhodium, a hard metal four times more expensive than platinum.
The color of rose gold jewelry comes from the redness of the copper which is added to form the gold alloy. This delicate color has become increasingly popular in recent years, thanks to its romantic look and luxurious appeal.
Considered the most precious of all jewelry metal, platinum is a very hard, high-shine material that is ideal for diamond engagement rings because it has a bright white color. Thanks to its resistance to wear, platinum is also a great choice for people with an active lifestyle.
As a hypoallergenic metal, platinum is also ideal for brides and grooms with sensitive skin.
One of the rarest metals used in jewelry-making, Palladium is a naturally strong and hypoallergenic material, just like platinum. However, this is a less expensive option compared to white gold and platinum, which makes it ideal if you don’t want to compromise on quality and appearance.
While not as common as gold or platinum for an engagement ring metal choice, silver is one of the most economically priced metals. However, other factors, like the craftsmanship of the design and types of stones, used can increase the price significantly.
Just like platinum and white gold, silver engagement rings have a brilliant white metal color, but they are less resistant to wear and more likely to scratch. This isn’t a problem, though, as scratches are easy and inexpensive to fix by a jeweler.
Choosing the Size and Fit of Your Engagement Ring
How Is the Engagement Ring Supposed to Fit?
Your ring should always fit comfortably: not too tight or too loose. This means gliding on easily, no spinning around the finger and it should be a little bit difficult to take over the knuckle to prevent it from sliding off.
The average engagement ring size is between 6 - 6.5 for women and around 10 for men. Ring sizes are unisex, which means the same standard is used for men and women.
TIP: Never buy a ring that you have to force on. It’s okay if it resists being taken off, however forcing it on will make it almost impossible to take off.
The ring should be loose enough to allow space for morning swelling. You can check this by pushing the ring from underneath to see if there’s a little space left between the ring and the finger.
How to Secretly Find Out His or Her Engagement Ring Size
Don't go buying the engagement ring without knowing the size - you'd be surprised how many people end up with a ring that doesn't fit.
Ideally, you want to have the finger measured, but there are also many tricks you can use if you want to keep it a surprise. You can always count on an accomplice friend who can help you, but if this isn’t possible, try one of these methods.
Ask Her Size in a Subtle Way
Say that you want to buy a ring for your mother’s birthday (or anyone close that would have a similarly sized hand) and ask your girlfriend to give you her size for reference.
To make sure she doesn’t sniff you out on this one, make the following scenario seem as real as possible by planning it around a real birthdate and even actually buying your mom a ring.
Borrow a Ring For a Day
Does she normally wear jewelry? Then it couldn’t possibly be easier! Just take one of her rings to the jeweler to have it measured. For accurate results, pick a ring that she normally wears on her ring finger.
Alternatively, bring any ring, so long as you know which finger she wears it on - the jeweler will be able to approximate the size of her finger ring from this. Remember that our dominant hands are usually half a size larger, so make sure you spot which hand she normally wears it on.
For instance, if she is right handed and you bring in a size 7 ring, which she normally wears on her right ring finger, then a size 6.5 will likely be a good fit for her engagement ring (typically worn on the left ring finger).
Draw the Ring
If you’re afraid that she’ll notice the missing ring, or that you’ll lose it, then just make a note of its size by contouring its inside and outside margins on a piece of paper. Do this several times to make sure you get it right consistently.
As is the case when bringing in the ring, make a note of which hand and finger she normally wears this ring on.
TIP: When using a ring for reference, make sure it has the same approximate width as the one that you intend to buy. Narrow rings take less space on the finger, therefore they will typically require a smaller size than wider rings.
What if the engagement ring doesn’t fit?
If despite all your efforts, the ring doesn’t fit, you can have it fixed by a jeweler. However, this may turn out pretty expensive or downright impossible, especially if the ring is engraved around the finger or has channel-set stones.
In any case, you should err on the large side, so that it will be guaranteed to slip on when you propose. It’s always easier to make a ring smaller rather than bigger. Generally speaking, a ring can be sized down about two sizes, but only half a size up, due to the stretch in the material.
If the engagement ring is too big and comes off easily from wet hands, take it to a jeweler and have it resized. Alternatively, you can put in sizing beads - two little metal beads placed on the inside of the ring, at the bottom.
Sizing beads are particularly useful for people with very large knuckles and they aren’t uncomfortable at all - most women say they can hardly feel them.
How to choose an engagement ring to suit your hand
Which is best for you? Read on to learn the advantages and disadvantages of each type of engagement ring setting.
Engagement Rings for Small Hands
For petite hands, choose a design that will complement hand size. If your fingers are short, go for a ring setting that will elongate your fingers.
The best engagement rings for short fingers feature marquise, oval or pear-shaped stones. Emerald cut stones can also look good if the length of the stone is appropriately sized in relation to its width - the ratio should be between 1.5 - 1.8 for maximum effect.
Halo settings and other cluster styles are most flattering engagement ring styles for small hands with wide or chubby fingers. However, stay away from chunky designs that can make your fingers look bulky.
Engagement Rings for Long Fingers
Ladies with long fingers are in luck because they can wear virtually any design, including bold styles and wider bands. However, if your fingers are too skinny, you may want to consider smaller stones in order to make them look wider.
The best engagement rings for big fingers feature round and princess-cut stones. Wider bands look good on long and/or slender fingers, as they work well to complement length and widen the look of the finger.
Engagement Rings for Big Hands
With larger hands, you need to consider your fingers’ proportion in relation to the overall size of your hand. Generally speaking, you can get away with bulky designs if that’s your style, and you can get as creative as possible.
The best engagement rings for big hands are square-cut stones, in a princess cut, Asscher cut or radiant cut. If you’re worried about hand size, you can pick more intricate designs, or even a channel-set band, that can help draw attention to the ring instead of your hand.
Costs: Budgeting for an Engagement Ring
How much you choose to pay for an engagement ring is, of course, a personal matter. While you can consider trends to help you make an informed choice, be wary of so-called “common knowledge” and plan according to your own finances.
Engagement Ring Pricing Rules
You’ve probably heard of the rule that dictates that you should spend as much as 3 months’ salary on an engagement ring. Not only is this concept outdated, the number was invented through a clever marketing campaign from the '50s, which essentially invented the diamond ring.
This isn’t the '50s anymore and most of us will go into marriage with a significant amount of student loan to pay off. Needless to say, burying yourself in even more debt just before you start a shared account with your betrothed doesn’t make a lot of financial sense.
The best rules to follow when it comes to budgeting for a ring are your own. Think about what kind of engagement ring you can afford. It’s better to spend a few months saving towards the ring, rather than to buy it on credit.
TIP: Don’t put off the engagement simply because you don’t have the cash for the ring you think she would want. Plenty of couples choose to upgrade later!
How Much do Engagement Rings Cost on Average?
According to the 2017 Newlywed Report (click HERE to view report) Americans spend on average about $5,000 on a ring, which is $1,000 more than they spend on the honeymoon. In contrast, people in the United Kingdom spend over six times less, at an average of just $738 (click HERE to see article).
With this in mind, remember that after you get married, everything that’s yours becomes your partner’s too - including debt. Therefore, it makes more sense to buy a ring that you can afford, rather than one which will put you in financial difficulty for years to come.
What’s more, according to a survey published in 2016 (click HERE to see survey), over half of the 5,000 Americans interviewed said the budget on engagement rings should be under $3,000, while 36% said the ring should cost less than $1,000.
Cost of Engagement Ring vs. Wedding Ring
The cost of an engagement ring will normally exceed that of a wedding ring since most wedding rings will not feature a precious center stone, which gives the engagement ring its high price tag.
Similarly, a plain wedding band will usually be less expensive than a wedding ring that’s paved with diamonds or otherwise intricately crafted.
When is the Best Time to Buy an Engagement Ring?
There are certain times in the year when business is slower for jewelers and there might be a chance that engagement rings are on sale. While we can’t say for sure when engagement rings are cheapest, we have some tips that can help you when buying an engagement ring.
Traditionally, the last two months of summer, July and August, are the slowest months for jewelers. This is because customers are typically doing their school year shopping, rather than spending money on lavish gifts. You can find deals up to 40% off this time of year!
Conversely, avoid gift-giving seasons such as Valentine’s Day, Christmas and Mother’s Day. These are busy shopping periods that come with increased demand and prices.
Are Engagement Ring Prices Negotiable?
Yes and no - this is really a question of where you're buying the ring. While some antique shops may offer significant discounts, most retailers won't be interested in negotiating prices.
However, if you purchase more than just one piece of jewelry - for example, if you also buy wedding bands at the same time - you are more than likely to get a discount, especially when buying from independent jewelers.
No matter how much you spend on the engagement ring, remember to choose a piece that is meaningful to you and your significant other.
Whether the color of the stone matches your lover’s eyes or its shape resembles her grandmother’s long-lost ring, make this decision count, now and forever.
Explore our collection of contemporary engagement rings and get inspired to celebrate your bond with a heartfelt piece of jewelry by clicking HERE!