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Choosing an Engagement Ring

While many wedding traditions have been replaced with fresh perspectives on celebrating a new marriage, the engagement ring persists as a symbol of promise, commitment and intention. Whether its a family heirloom, a brand new purchase or a custom-designed spin on traditional jewelry, the engagement ring you choose builds anticipation for the big day. Other than the actual wedding band, it’s likely to become one of your future spouse’s most treasured valuables. With that said, you’ll likely want to put as much thought into finding the perfect engagement ring as you do into the wedding ceremony itself. The following tips are meant to help you narrow down your options, whether your significant other is a sworn minimalist or the polar opposite. 

Unless you already have an antique ring that has been passed down throughout your family, you’ll need to consider your budget. Even a ballpark estimate will help you figure out where to start, especially considering future wedding expenses like venue rental, flowers and catering. According to this 2019 NY Times study, most people dish out between $500 and $3,000 for their engagement ring (about £400-2,500). This is still quite a vast price range, but gives you an idea of how much to set aside depending on your overall wedding-related spending. 

When shopping for rings, you’ll want to consider color, cut, and fit, along with the most important factor- the stone. If you’re set on presenting your loved one with a classic diamond, there are a few tips to keep in mind to make sure you’re getting the highest quality piece that fits your budget. 

Choosing a Diamond

Every diamond sale should include an official grading report. These reports are compiled by organizations specializing in diamond analysis and contain necessary information on the diamond you have in mind. This includes carat size, clarity, cut and even a brilliance score- or how effectively the diamond reflects white light to ensure the most sparkle. These further tips from can help you dissect a grading report and make sure it adequately reflects the product. 

You may already be aware that the diamond trade remains an extremely controversial industry marred by subpar labor conditions, corruption and even armed conflict. While these days most of the world’s diamonds are certified by a set of requirements known as the Kimberley Process, this is not a perfect system and it’s difficult to ensure that your stone’s origin is conflict- free. The Gem Society’ tips for buying conflict- free diamonds are a great place to start. As stated by the society, Canadian diamonds like these from Riddles Jewelry are an ethical alternative that may fall on the higher end of the price range but ensures your diamond’s true origins. 

Choosing an Alternate Stone

If you’re open to the wealth of other stones out there, take a look at some increasingly popular alternatives that have been taking the ring market by storm. Unless you know your spouse prefers the traditionally symbolic diamond look, consider the following stones to add a bit of color and flair to your final pick. 

When you think of colored gemstones, you might immediately imagine sapphires, rubies and emeralds, all of which have cemented their place in engagement ring design. Sapphires are similar to diamonds in their hardness and durability, but boast deep blue, pink and even minimal white shades. 

Sporting an old-fashioned, 20’s feel, emeralds are another great choice for the vintage lover in your life. Their vibrant green is hard to replicate, making them an ideal statement piece that begs for attention. They are also considered durable thanks to their hardness, meaning your ring is sure to last a lifetime. 

Complementing any gold setting, rubies tend to sit on the higher end of the price scale, putting these rich red stones right up there with fine diamonds. When choosing a ruby, it’s especially important to pay attention to where the stone is sourced from, as its country of origin can affect both the price tag and its unique shade. Sri Lankan rubies, for example, tend to be lighter and lean more towards a rosy pink than a true red, while African rubies are traditionally darker, even appearing violet. 

If you know your partner appreciates the diamond look yet wouldn’t mind sporting an alternative, consider Moissanite a rare, naturally occurring stone that can now be produced both synthetically and ethically. Crystal-clear and sparkling, moissanite stones can be breathtaking in their ability to light up a room. Rivaling diamonds in durability, aesthetic and guaranteed quality, moissanite stones are often mistaken for their traditional counterpart but can cost much less. Pairing a moissanite centerpiece with smaller diamond accents on a single band can accentuate its grandeur without forgoing the genuine diamond aspect altogether. Moissanite can also be an affordable show-stopper on its own, especially when paired with a sleek yellow-gold band. 

If you’re having trouble settling on just one gemstone or color scheme, don’t hesitate to choose a ring featuring multiple gemstones like this piece from Albrecht Jewellery. Offbeat yet elegant, rings that combine colors and stones are often the best of both worlds. This ring style also allows you to incorporate smaller, more subtle diamonds alongside larger gemstones, saving you money and ending up with a unique result. 

Choosing the Cut

After you’ve settled on the color, type, and origin of the perfect stone (or stones!), it’s time to decide on the cut. Though it may seem like a minimal detail, different cuts can accentuate a stone’s properties, including the way it reflects light. Round, princess, marquise and radiant are some of the most popular choices on the market, and it pays to know the difference between each. By far the most popular, round cuts are most likely what you imagine when you think of a standard engagement ring. This cut is also said to produce the most sparkle and shine, making it a timeless choice for diamond or moissanite centerpieces.

Also highly desirable, princess cuts have more of a square shape, emphasizing the edges and pointed corners of the stone in question. Again, both diamond and moissanite work especially well with this cut, though you may also want to consider the princess cut for other airy, light colored gemstones like citrine or pink sapphire. The square shape works well on its own or in a three-stone setting alongside two smaller princess cut counterparts, like in this diamond and sapphire pairing from James Allen. 

Elongated with pointed ends, the marquise cut is a slightly more dramatic spin on the traditional oval shape, giving any ring an instantly royal look. Marquise- cut diamonds have a huge presence on their own when set against a minimal band, but can also work well in a three stone setting for extra pizazz as long as the accompanying stones are subtle enough not to clash with the focal point. If you’re not set on a diamond, a  marquise-cut emerald set in a sleek silver band can appear regal and old-fashioned while retaining a contemporary element. This diamond- encrusted amethyst piece from Zales is another stunning example of a colorful twist on the classic marquise aesthetic.

Hovering in between the popular round cut and the rectangular shape often associated with emeralds, the radiant cut is known for its characteristic beveled edges. The soft bevel accentuates brilliance, and can often be more affordable when it comes to diamonds. Its subtle approach also works beautifully with more unorthodox gemstones as seen in this aquamarine- white diamond piece from Laurie Sarah Designs. 

Choosing the Setting

Along with cuts, you’ll want to pay special attention to the way the stone is set in its band, or the setting. Options include prong, bezel, flush and tension settings, all of which have an original look that should complement your partner’s personality and lifestyle. 

You’ll likely encounter prong settings most often during your ring search- largely self-explanatory, this kind of setting features a number of small prongs that extend over the edge of the stone to keep it fastened in place.  The more prongs available, the more secure the stone will be; more complex cuts may require more or uniquely- shaped prongs to fit the stone in question.

With a bezel setting, the stone sits in a perfectly fitted enclosure, making it less likely to chip on the sides. Encased by the setting, the stone is elegantly contained, fitting well into a minimal design. However, the bottom half of the stone will be completely covered by the bezel, which may lower its overall brilliance. 

If you like the idea of the stone safely secured by metal on all sides, consider a ring with a flush setting. With a flush setting, the stone is tucked into the band and hammered all around to make sure it stays in place. This kind of setting requires smaller stones that can fit into the band and results in a seamless look where the band is just as frontal as the stones. 

A tension setting allows the stone to be held by the band itself, with no additional reinforcement. With no base behind it, a stone in this kind of setting may allow more light to pass through it, giving the ring a one of a kind brightness. However, tension settings may be harder to maintain, especially if re-sizing is needed down the road. 

Though your partner’s engagement ring will likely be replaced with a wedding band, all rings require maintenance over time to keep them a pristine reminder of your courtship. This includes regular cleaning and possible re-sizing, along with setting-specific adjustments like prong tightening. After you’ve chosen your partner’s dream ring, be sure to ask your local jeweler for maintenance tips.