You love her, she loves you, and now you’re ready to ask the question of a lifetime. In my opinion, the bride should always be involved in the selection of the engagement ring because she will likely wear it the rest of her life. However, many women consider the surprise factor integral to the proposal experience, so you may need to determine the perfect ring for your beloved without having her involved in the process.
1. Consider the Clues
First, contemplate any hints she may have provided during your courtship; magazines left open on counters, long glances at jewelry store windows, or even a ring style of her grandmother’s that she’s mentioned she loves may have been deliberate clues. If you pay attention to her cues, you will likely discover some design direction provided by your bride-to-be.
2. Consider Her Style
Next, reflect on her personal style, keeping in mind that good taste is subjective; each woman's taste is personal to herself and no one else. First and foremost, she has to love the style or look of the ring. Does she like a lot of sparkling jewelry? Does she wear a lot of pieces at once? Or does she tend to keep her jewelry style simple and understated? There are many settings from which to choose, so be sure to consider these factors and share them with your jeweler. It is also important to choose a piece that is not overly modern or trendy – you don't want to select a ring that is trendy today and out of fashion a few years from now.
3. Consider Her Current Jewelry
Look to the color and type of metal she favors in the jewelry she already owns. If her tastes lean towards white metal, platinum is a wonderful choice as it is a beautiful and pliable material. (Though 18K white gold is a viable alternative, keep in mind that over time it will need to be rhodium plated to maintain its color.)
4. Consider Her Lifestyle
Since engagement rings are worn every day, it's important to choose a quality setting that can survive the bride’s lifestyle – you do not want to upgrade or repair the ring every few years, so talk with your jeweler about your beloved’s everyday activities and interests so he can steer you in the right direction.
5. Consider the Quality
For most people, center stones are a question of how much they plan to spend, and many focus too strongly on size, choosing the largest stone they can afford. Have your jeweler carefully explain the importance of The Four Cs (Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat weight), and try to balance all of these factors within your spending limit. Yes, brides are sentimental about their rings – however, that’s not to say that the center stone cannot be easily upgraded later while still keeping the original setting. I recommend couples begin with a starter center stone, if they must, rather than choosing a starter engagement ring. Conversely, there are also options that involve upgrading the setting from something understated to a dazzling version complemented by side stones. Again, this is a topic that should be discussed with your jeweler before settling on any setting or stone.
When buying any diamond, make sure that you have enlisted the help of a trustworthy and experienced jeweler. Also, make sure a credible company certifies your stone. GIA (Gemological Institute of America) is the one that I recommend; although there are other organizations which certify diamonds, GIA certificates are the most highly regarded and trusted.
I also recommend that couples insure their valuable jewelry. Take some time to speak with your insurance agents or contact a company such as Jewelers Mutual to see what your options are. Congratulations, and good luck on your journey.
Photo of engagement ring courtesy of Jack Kelége