by Shelby Ferguson
The love of your life spent hours agonizing, months planning and pulling together a complete surprise with the most romantic candlelit evening as he finally asks you those coveted three little words. He slowly kneels down and opens that little box holding the most beautiful ring you have ever seen. It’s perfect and of course you say “Yes!” It’s the ultimate fantasy.
However, the reality of the situation is, you and your soon-to-be finance might have completely different tastes, budgets, and ideals when it comes to “the ring”. How can you make sure that when he opens that little box the perfect ring really is hiding inside?
Analyze her style
There’s always the option of doing a little shopping together. Men, look carefully at any jewelry she wears, owns and doesn’t wear, and rings that spark her interest. Watch her face as she tries them on. Is that the same expression you’d like to see when you propose? Take note of any similarities between the jewels. Are the center stones the same shape? Do they come with a matching wedding band? Do they have a vintage flair or are they classic and clean looking?
The 3 C’s
Cut, color, clarity. These are the main factors that affect the value of a stone. The obvious one is size and its pretty self-explanatory yet a very important factor. The bigger the rock, the bigger the sparkle factor but the bigger the price tag. Not all diamonds are crystal clear or brilliant white. Some have minor imperfections and can have a slightly cloudy or grey cast. Which of these factors is most important to you? Most women I know would pick size since it’s the most easily recognized, however, not all women are the same. However, size does matter.
There are lots of big box jewelry stores whose marketing efforts seem to outshine those of the smaller, independent jewelers. You can also shop directly with some ring designers and the internet has opened up a whole new ring shopping portal. I’m one of those people who values the hunt for the perfect ring. I wish my (now husband) and I had thought to look at antique stores or estate sales to find a jewel with history. I know women who will buy an “ugly” thrift store outfit instead of a more stylish department store find just for the satisfaction of not bumping into someone wearing the same thing. If you know someone like this, chances are they’ll find the value in custom made, vintage, one-of-a-kind piece rather than safely purchasing from a galleria with an easily recognizable name and reputation.
Even though buying through the internet is an excellent option, I highly recommend physically stepping into at least one jewelry store and taking a peek. Look at the luminosity of the various stones. Compare the brightness of a round brilliant cut and a shallower trilliant. Make sure you truly understand how a .25 carat measures up to a 2 carat rock. See the sparkle of the different setting styles as they let in various amounts of light. Have a salesperson show you the different color and clarity scales. A word of caution though, many of those big box stores will try to suck you in and pressure you to buy right then and there often with “special discounts” and financing that they can only offer that day. Don’t fall for it, if you determine you truly did see the perfect one, that discount will still be offered tomorrow, I speak from much experience.
A Diamond Lasts Forever
Is this to be your forever ring? Perhaps you foresee an upgrade in the future when you’re both a bit more established? If you plan on upgrading, will you want to keep the same setting with a larger stone or recreate the entire piece? Not all settings will allow for expansion. Are you the sentimental type who hopes to pass this ring along to future generations? Keeping it classic rather than overly trendy will make it more of a timeless family treasure. Thinking about these things now might be helpful in the future.
Diamonds aren’t for Everyone
Not every girl dreams of a diamond. Lots of other stones make stunning focal pieces. While some alternative stones might be more budget friendly, others are heirloom pieces that are even more valuable than a crystal clear diamond. It could, however, allow you to have a larger center stone with beautiful diamond accents versus settling for a small diamond. If I personally had to choose between a small diamond or a more sizeable aquamarine or morganite, I would definitely welcome a hint of color and a larger jewel.
The Right Metals
When I was ring shopping, the options where pretty clear cut – everyone bought either white gold or platinum, and platinum was (and still is) expensive! Today, a bride’s options also include yellow gold and rose gold, which are all equally stylish. It really comes down to personal preferences and what pairs best with your ring. Diamonds go with any band color, but keep in mind, if you choose a non-diamond center stone, make sure its color(s) pairs well with the hue or finish of your desired ring setting.
Maintenance wise, white gold is actually coated with rhodium, which will probably need to be recoated at some point. The purer the gold (the higher number the karat), the more pliable and less durable it will be – regardless of whether it’s white, rose or yellow. There’s always the option of mixing metals either on the engagement ring itself or with engagement ring and wedding band. I personally love the look of stacked rings which can also be mixed and matched.
As the woman, when I was in the process of ring shopping (because let’s face it, most of us know when a proposal is on the way so we start doing our research) I remember just pointing ones out, making suggestions, and focusing purely on the aesthetics of the ring. I wanted to do just a little shopping together to give him a few ideas. I put very little focus on price, since I wasn’t the one paying for the ring. I was merely making suggestions and hoping that he’d pick up on exactly which one I wanted, but I still ultimately wanted it to be a surprise. It’s an emotional decision and a piece of jewelry with a ton of sentiment that you should adore the rest of your life. Make sure it’s also the one you want to wear every day.
Shelby is lead wedding planner, artistic director and floral heart behind The Day's Design. She delights in celebrating romantic, natural and fancy free occasions throughout Northern & West Michigan. When she's away from her design work, you'll find her at home with her hubby and two beautiful baby girls, daydreaming along the shores of Lake Michigan, strolling through local antique stores, picking wildflowers or blogging more about wedding and life adventures at The Day's Dream blog.