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.
[tweet_box]Essential reading for anyone looking at engagement rings. Read this guide before you buy #engagement[/tweet_box]
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:
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.
Ruby: The red variety of mineral Corundum. It’s normal for rubies to have imperfections and most are treated (usually by heat). Natural rubies are very rare and command a huge price.
Sapphire: Any colour of the mineral Corundum except red. As with rubies, they may have a three or six-point star (asterism). The best sapphires are intense blue with lots of sparkle.
Topaz: A fluorosilicate with elements that can cause different colours within the stone. Often heat-treated, a topaz may be yellow, blue, pink, gold, green, red or brown.
Q. How do I choose an engagement ring she’ll like?
A. It’s far safer to pick a ring out together so you don’t make a costly mistake, but if you’re determined to buy in advance, look carefully at the style of jewellery she owns. Does she like vintage or contemporary? Chunky or delicate? Are her existing rings silver, gold or platinum? Keep an ear out for comments she might make about the rings of friends, or celebrities.
A classic diamond solitaire is a fairly safe bet (accounting for 75% of ring sales) but if she’s more into one-off, individual style, an antique ring may be more likely to get her heart racing. Do be careful about size, though. You may be able to sneak one of her rings off to the jewellers, but the fingers on her left hand may be a different size to her right. You could try to measure her engagement-ring finger with cotton when she’s asleep, but it would be a dead giveaway if she wakes up.
Q. Here’s the big one. What should I spend on an engagement ring?
A. You may hear that spending a month or two’s salary is the norm, but De Beers’ publicity machine may well be behind that nugget. The company has a near monopoly on the diamond industry. Our best advice is to work out what you can realistically afford, then add a bit (optional!). Online or in store, remember you’re the boss and don’t be pushed too far upwards.
Starting at £500, you’ll be looking at a 0.50 carat diamond. From there on in, you’re looking at increased quality according to the Four Cs above. The average spend in the UK is around £1500, which will give you plenty of options, including antique rings. If you want a brand-new Tiffany box to go with your ring, you’ll probably need £8000 plus. And so it goes on, upwards, skywards, into the millions and beyond.
But if she really, really loves you, you could argue she’ll settle for a Haribo ring and an I.O.U.
If our guide has got you in the romantic mood, why not check out Love Antiques vintage engagement rings to make a start with your proposal plan.
Take a look at a few of our Non- Haribo selection now: