User Reviewed

How to Choose an Engagement Ring

Four Methods:Planning to Buy the Best RingChoosing the BandChoosing a Quality Diamond RingBuying the Ring

Shopping for an engagement ring doesn't have to be a dreaded experience. With the right amount of knowledge about what to look for in a ring, coupled with your excitement about asking the girl of your dreams to marry you, this can be an enjoyable exercise matching your newly discovered ring expertise with the money you've got available to spend. In this article, you'll learn the most important things to consider when choosing an engagement ring for your beloved. See Step 1 to be on your way to choosing the perfect engagement ring for your bride to be.

Method 1
Planning to Buy the Best Ring

  1. Image titled Choose an Engagement Ring Step 1
    Peek through her current jewelry to determine her general preferences. Choosing a ring is a tricky proposition -- you want to get something she loves, but also keep it a surprise. The best way to do this is to see what other rings and jewelry she loves to wear. You don't have to be an expert in jewelry. Instead, keep your eye out for the following trends:
    • Style: Does he prefer colorful, vibrant pieces or understated, austere, and traditional styles?
    • Color: What color stones does she seem to gravitate towards? Does she lean towards color, or does she generally keep things simple in whites, silvers, and golds?
    • Bands: The band is the metal holding stones in place. Does she aim for silver, gold, or white? Or is she interested in funkier, more out-there designs and materials?
    • Size: How big are the stones or pieces on most of her jewelry? Does she like smaller, more inconspicuous jewels or big and flashy rings?
  2. Image titled Choose an Engagement Ring Step 2
    Use hints, family, and friends to tease out ideas for potential engagement rings. Even if you take good notes on her current jewelry, many women have particular ideas about their perfect engagement rings. As you get closer to the big question, consider:
    • Making a comment about a friend's engagement ring and to ask her preferences at the same time. You can say something like, "I think Mary's engagement ring was a bit flashy. What do you think?"
    • Asking her family and friends for ideas. Has she talked to them about rings or jewels that she likes?
    • Determining her stance on diamonds. Is she an impassioned supporter of Fair Trade and human rights? Be sure to look for recycled gold and conflict-free diamonds as part of your choosing process.[1]
  3. Image titled Choose an Engagement Ring Step 3
    Talk to her about alternative stones if you don't think she is interested in diamonds. Diamonds account for almost 90% of all engagement rings sold, but they aren't your only option. Many people, put off by illegal "blood diamonds," the low intrinsic value of diamonds, (which companies artificially inflate), and the relative commonness of a diamond ring have decided on alternative stones. You could consider:
    • Sapphire: The bright blue stone is the second most common for engagement rings.
    • Emeralds: Bright green, you want to probably make sure she's into the color before buying.
    • Colored Diamonds: Yes, it is still a diamond, but yellow, black, and rose-tinted diamonds give a unique flair to the ring while still staying somewhat traditional.[2]
  4. Image titled Choose an Engagement Ring Step 4
    Consider shopping for the "real ring" together, getting engaged first. When you're spending so much money on a ring, you want to make sure she'll like it. More and more frequently, men are proposing without a ring, or with a simple engagement band, and then shopping for the actual ring as a couple. This ensures that she gets the ring she wants without all the pressure of picking something so expensive by yourself. Guys don't normally buy jewelry and are generally less equipped to tell a woman's taste. So work together!

Method 2
Choosing the Band

  1. Image titled Choose an Engagement Ring Step 5
    Choose the right metal for the band. The band is the circular part of the ring that sits around the finger. It's usually made from gold, silver, or platinum, although it can be made from some other combination of metals. Note that, since metals rub and wear on one another, you should only wear rings of the same metal next to each other. Look at her existing jewelry collection to get an idea of what she prefers, differentiating from the three most common metals:
    • Gold is yellow-orange in its natural state and is normally alloyed with another metal for durability. Some prefer the lighter yellow color of less pure gold such as 14K or 10K, as the yellow reflection will slightly tint the diamond.
    • White gold is gold alloyed with metals purposely to give the mixture an off-white color, it and must be plated with another metal--rhodium is common--for a bright silvery appearance. This plating wears off -- but some jewelers will replace their rings from time to time for free if you ask in advance.
    • Platinum is hard, strong and naturally silvery, but will dull slightly over time with wear, which is not necessarily a problem. Since a gold setting will make a diamond look very slightly yellowish, it is a waste of money to buy a very high color grade diamond to put in it.
    • Silver is less common, but also less expensive. It is usually alloyed with something else to hold strength and shine.[3]
  2. Image titled Choose an Engagement Ring Step 6
    Choose the right style band for your partner, from fresh and funky to simple and traditional. Once you know the right metal, you still have some options with the band. You often have a bewildering number of choices -- from classic, plain bands to twisted, wrapped, or other unique band designs.
    • Do you want other stones inset into the band or just metal?
    • Do you want a thick band showing off more stones/metal, or a thin band?
  3. Image titled Choose an Engagement Ring Step 7
    Consider the "setting," or how the stone will be set in the band. The setting refers to the piece that holds the gemstone in place on the band. The setting can be "pronged" or "invisible".[4] A setting with a bezel, or at least six prongs for some redundancy, is safer for a ring that is worn during significant activity, though some women may prefer less metal in the way of their stone.
  4. Image titled Choose an Engagement Ring Step 8
    Choose the right size. Choosing the ring size of the band is an important part of choosing the right engagement ring. One way you can figure out her ring size is by sneaking out one of the rings she wears a lot to have a jeweler figure out the size -- as long as she doesn't have time to miss it. If you can't get a ring out, try:
    • Tracing the inside of the ring on a piece of paper, then using that for sizing.
    • Placing the ring on your finger, then marking with pen or sharpie how far up it slides.[5]

Method 3
Choosing a Quality Diamond Ring

  1. Image titled Choose an Engagement Ring Step 9
    Know your diamonds. Diamonds tend to be the traditional engagement ring choice because they are enduring and match everything. Only deviate from a diamond if you know that your girlfriend loves another stone much, much more, or has voiced her intense dislike of diamonds. When choosing a diamond, be aware of the following 4 C's of diamonds.
    • Cut
    • Carats
    • Color
    • Clarity
  2. Image titled Choose an Engagement Ring Step 10
    Choose the right cut, or shape, of the diamond. There are different ways to cut a diamond and the type of cut impacts a diamond's sparkle. The cut that produces the most sparkle is the "round" (or "brilliant") cut, while "radiant" and "princess" cuts are good at hiding flaws. Other cuts include "square," "emerald," "pear," "marquise," "cushion," "Asscher," and heart-shaped.[6] The oval shape looks best with larger stones, and as it looks bigger than the round cut.[7] A high-quality cut is more important than weight or an extremely high clarity or color grade: a diamond, like a road reflector, shines light back out the direction it came in and breaks it up a bit in the process.
    • It is also important to base your selection of diamonds based on objective data such as ASET or Idealscope images that you can acquire from your jeweler.[8] This is particularly important if you are buying a diamond engagement ring online
  3. Image titled Choose an Engagement Ring Step 11
    Use "karats" to determine the weight or general size. Karats refer to the unit measurement of the diamond, and refers to weight, rather than size. Karats are broken down into 100 ‘points’, which are essentially a measurement of the percentage of a karat that a diamond is. For example, if a diamond is 75pt then it is 75%, or 0.75 of a karat. Higher karat ratings generally mean larger diamonds and are more expensive.[9]
  4. Image titled Choose an Engagement Ring Step 12
    Consider if you want a clear or colored diamond. The color of diamonds varies considerably and most people prefer a white colored diamond for an engagement ring. Colors are graded from D (colorless and rare) and most good quality diamonds will be around F and H. However, all grades from D to I are almost identical when mounted.[10]
    • In general, stay away from any diamonds that are below an H grade in color, as they are noticeably yellow.
  5. Image titled Choose an Engagement Ring Step 13
    Keep an eye on the diamond's clarity. Because diamonds are formed naturally, there are imperfections in nearly all diamonds. These are known as ‘inclusions’ and come from tiny impurities being present when the diamond was formed, millions of years ago. The fewer imperfections, the greater the clarity and the more light is reflected from the diamond, causing it to "sparkle". Naturally, more clarity increases its value. Perfectly flawless diamonds with no internal flaws or surface blemishes are very hard to find as they are extremely rare.
    • The scale used to grade clarity goes from F1 for a flawless diamond, to VVS1 and VVS2 for very slight inclusions, to VS1 and VS2 for very slight inclusions, SI1 and SI2 for slight inclusions and I1, I2 and I3 for imperfect diamonds.
    • Diamonds are magnified by 10 times to judge their clarity so very slight imperfections are difficult to see with the naked eye. This means that there is a range of diamonds available even for more modest budgets. If you can see a mark without magnification, however, think carefully before you buy.
  6. Image titled Choose an Engagement Ring Step 14
    Don't forget about the practicality of the ring. If your girlfriend is a real outdoorsy type, consider a ring that is able to cope with the wear and tear of constant activities. The higher the positioning of the gemstone on the ring, the easier it is for it to get caught on clothes, gear, hair, etc. and the greater likelihood that it'll get knocked about. Look for a lower gemstone setting for an active girl, and a higher setting for a fashionista or glamor girl.

Method 4
Buying the Ring

  1. Image titled Choose an Engagement Ring Step 15
    Fix your budget in advance. There is a tradition that holds that a man should spend two months of his salary on the engagement ring, but this is a foolish, baseless rule. You should by the best ring you can afford without going into debt, setting a budget early on and working from there. Some ways to save money without sacrificing quality include:
    • Stay just shy of common karat sizes, like 1 or 2 karats. A 1.9 karat stone is not noticeably different, but can save you as much as 20%.
    • Aim for a wider cut, which can make a smaller stone look bigger.
    • Check out antique stones and rings instead of buying a brand new piece -- it has flavor, uniqueness, and can be much cheaper.[11]
  2. Image titled Choose an Engagement Ring Step 16
    Choose a good jeweler, considering online sources as well. Look for a store that makes you feel comfortable and where the staff is pleasant and helpful. If you can, check that the jeweler is registered with a society, association, or organization that regulates, certifies, etc., jewelers, such as the National Association of Goldsmiths in the UK. Furthermore, don't be afraid of online jewelers -- you can save as much as 100% compared to a chain like Kay's[12]:
    • Ask around your married friends or your family for recommendations on a good, trusted jeweler.
    • An online jeweler such as James Allen, Harry George or Blue Nile can be a good option if you're willing to accept a little less "hand-holding" for a better price. Be sure to check that the jeweler has a strong online reputation before purchasing by searching "(Name of online jeweler) + Reviews" on Google.
  3. Image titled Choose an Engagement Ring Step 17
    Ask for a certificate of authenticity and a warranty to accompany the ring. Certificates are very useful to collect with a diamond to find out exactly where they originated from. They are usually only available with the purchase of diamonds larger or at 1 karat. For smaller diamonds, a certificate adds a considerable amount to the cost of the stone, as you may end up paying an extra several hundred dollars or pounds to obtain one.
    • For more expensive rings, a certificate is a near necessity to ensure your valuable new stone retains it's worth.
  4. Image titled Choose an Engagement Ring Step 18
    Get the ring insured. The ring is likely to be the most expensive piece of jewelry you have ever bought, and the most expensive piece of jewelry your fiancé has ever worn. To prevent her from losing it to appraisal and insurance when she's just getting used to wearing it, get it all done before you pop the question. Be sure to check that your insurance covers its loss, or ask for insurance from the jeweler's store if available.


  • If you buy a ring without your girlfriend having any input into the decision, she may be unhappy with the shape, color, or other elements of it. Give this deep consideration as it's the ring she'll be wearing for the rest of your lives together. On the other hand, some girlfriends would be disappointed if you proposed without the ring already in place. Ask the jeweler if it's possible to make an exchange if she really doesn't like your choice.
  • A Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish engagement ring and can have diamonds added. If her Irish background is important to her, this is a romantic and beautiful choice.
  • If your potential fiancée has a close sister or friend, take the sister/friend along for advice.
  • Ring designs to consider include engraving, filigree, pave, micropave and milligrain.
  • If she's close to her mom, her mom is likely to know what she'll like.
  • If purchasing a ring off the internet, only buy round settings. You won't be able to see flaws in other designs.
  • You may prefer to have a different gemstone at the center of your ring. A three stone ring with diamonds on either side of a colored gemstone can make an impressive engagement ring. Rubies and sapphires are hard wearing but emeralds are more delicate. These stones are also a lot less expensive than the traditional choice of diamond. Again, clarity is important in these stones too and the color should be bright and intense.
  • Avoid Diamonds - most diamonds come from mines where impoverished workers have more in common with slaves than miners - and the price and supply off diamonds is controlled by the De Beers cartel.

Buy the much rarer - and much cheaper star dust gem - Moissanite - it has better optical properties than diamond.

  • The most popular metals used for engagement rings are White Gold, Yellow Gold and Platinum. These metals are all very durable and hence suitable for items of jewelry that will be worn for many years.
  • Ask your girlfriend about the ring, but don't make it too obvious that you're planning on proposing. For example, ask, "What types of rings do you like?" Don't ask something like, "If I were to propose, what kind of ring would you like?" That will make it too obvious.
  • What metal to choose?
  • If purchasing a ring from the internet and looking for a diamond shape other than round, ensure that you can see an image of the specific diamond that you are going to purchase, to allow you to judge its shape.


  • Make sure your ring is covered by insurance, or of a cost that will not cause serious problems if you need to replace it out-of-pocket. Consider the periodic insurance cost when buying a ring costing many thousands of dollars. Consider a separate policy for the ring if loss of the ring would cause a disproportionate increase in the overall cost of a home policy covering it.
  • Don't be lured into thinking that white gold or palladium are anything like platinum.
  • Make sure your ring comes with a warranty.
  • Beware of jewelry marts, pawn shops, or downtown jewelry centers where quality is often poor and scoundrels are many. (Many of these businesses are perfectly legitimate, however.) Do research before you buy.
  • Keep in mind that most 'tradition' having to do with diamond engagement rings has been fabricated by De Beers, a one-time diamond monopoly-holder, in order to boost their sales. This includes, but is not limited to the "two months' salary rule."

Things You'll Need

  • Ring finger size. A plastic band to check this confidently is inexpensive, or sometimes free from a jeweler.

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Engagement and Rings