An all-men-need-to-know guide to engagement rings


So you’ve decided who you want to spend the rest of your life with? Congratulations – that’s the easy bit.

Now, you have to buy a ring.

Bear in mind that she’s probably been dreaming about her perfect ring since the age of six. She’ll have doodled sketches, ripped out pages from glossy magazines, salivated over websites. Yet you don’t have a clue.

Don’t panic. Choosing a ring may be a (diamond) minefield, but it’s OK, we’ve done the work for you.

You can’t afford not to read our comprehensive guide to the pitfalls and pleasures of buying an engagement ring…

Whether that be an antique engagement ring or a brand spanking new one, there is equal research involved to make sure you make the right decision. 

Check out Love Antiques selection of vintage engagement rings here.

"Essential reading for anyone looking at engagement rings. Read this guide before you buy #engagement"

Q. Will a diamond engagement ring go down well?

A. Highly likely.

Their brightness and brilliance has bedazzled for centuries. In 1477, Archduke Maximilian placed a diamond ring on the third finger of fiancée Mary of Burgundy’s left hand, believing it had a vein that led straight to the heart. Diamonds have been associated with romantic love ever since, inspiring iconic songs such as Shirley Bassey’s Diamonds Are Forever, Marilyn Monroe’s Diamonds Are A Girl’s Friend and Rihanna’s Diamonds.

Diamonds are crystallised carbon, formed in volcano feed pipes beneath the Earth’s surface. They’re mined, then shipped to cutting centres to be shaped and polished, then set as jewellery.

When choosing a diamond, you need to concentrate on the Four Cs: cut, colour, clarity, carat.


Of all the 4Cs, cut is of supreme importance, as it’s about the facets and angles of a diamond, which determine its overall brilliance.

The principle of cut is to get as much light as possible into the diamond, so it will bounce back and bedazzle.

One hundred years ago, mathematician Marcel Tolkowsky came up with ideas on how diamonds should be cut, but they weren’t widely accepted.

It took the GIA to step in with a grading system that met industry standard. It runs like this:



Very good




Guys, when buying a round gem, you need to dig deep and go for the highest possible cut grade you can. Even to the untrained eye, there’s a huge difference between, for example, Excellent and Good.

Don’t fret too much, though. The great news is that there are very few diamonds on the market graded below Very Good.



The most valuable diamond colour is white (colourless), graded from D (top) to Z, not to be confused with fancy diamonds as their value is more complex and mainly comes down to the tone and saturation of the colour.



If you look at a diamond through a magnifying eyeglass, you’ll see inclusions, or ‘nature’s fingerprints’, which look like clouds or feathers. The most expensive gems will be graded IF (internally flawless) but SL (slightly included) 1 to I (Imperfect) 3 should do fine.



The diamond’s weight is measured by carat (one carat=200mgm). A carat is divided into 100 units, so 3/4 of a carat is 75 points. Most engagement rings are between one and half a carat.



Although it’s said that diamonds are a girl’s best friend, every girl has her own personal taste and her diamond should therefore reflect that. The shape may be round, emerald, pear, marquise, princess, oval, heart or trillion (not featured but triangular in shape).


Q. What about coloured stones?

A. Also gorgeous. Ever since Prince William gave Kate Middleton his late mother’s world-famous sapphire engagement ring, coloured gems have roared back into fashion. If you want a truly original ring, a coloured stone, whether contemporary or vintage, could be the way forward. (It may be considerably cheaper than a diamond too.)

Here’s an alphabetical line-up.


Amethyst: Transparent purple quartz, ranging from lilac to deep purple. According to legend, a strong antidote against drunkenness.




Aquamarine: Belongs to Beryl family of gemstones. Free of inclusions, these shiny gems are on a spectrum between pale blue and light green. The more intense the colour, the higher the value. 



Emerald: A valuable Beryl that owes its bright-green colour to chromium or vanadium. Clear stones with vibrant colour are most expensive. Be cautious if your girlfriend is superstitious, as emeralds were once said to be unlucky.

Lapis lazuli: Precious, opaque to translucent, blue to bluish green.

 Pearl: Natural pearls come from oysters and are nearly 100% nacre, a coating secreted to protect the organism from foreign bodies entering the shell. Cultured (simulated) pearls are produced by artificially introducing a foreign body into the oyster shell. Test if a pearl is natural by rubbing on your teeth. Natural pearls feel rough, simulated are smooth.