Wedding Accessories

Everything you need to know about choosing an engagement ring

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For most women, their engagement ring is something that they have dreamt about since they were quite young, but for most men they only become a consideration when they are thinking about proposing to their intended.

It is perhaps understandable that, for many people, the thought of choosing an engagement ring is almost as daunting as the proposal itself. That’s why we created this guide to choosing an engagement ring; it will be an indispensable must-read guide if you are thinking of making a proposal of marriage.

What is the symbolism behind an engagement ring?

There is a lot of symbolism involved with an engagement ring both in its shape and in the precious stones.

Obviously rings are circular in shape to fit comfortably on the finger, but did you know the symbolism of the circle in relation to engagement rings? Circles as a shape have no beginning and no end which is a symbol of eternal love, perfection and completeness.

Perhaps the most popular style of engagement ring is the Solitaire ring, which contains one precious stone, usually a diamond. The symbolism of one stone has the meaning one true love, whilst the diamond stone itself signifies purity, commitment and eternity.

Traditional and Contemporary Styles of Engagement Rings

The Solitaire engagement ring, a ring set with one main gemstone, usually a diamond, is the most popular style of engagement ring. Whilst you might think this traditional style would leave all engagement rings appearing much the same, there’s still plenty of choice in traditional and more contemporary styles of engagement ring.

Your choice of a traditionally styled ring or a modern style will most likely be guided by the personality of your intended. Pictured below are a traditional style ring in platinum and a modern style ring in yellow gold

A traditionally styled, round cut, diamond solitaire ring set in platinum.

A contemporary styled, round cut, diamond solitaire ring set in yellow gold.

If you would like something completely unique, many jewellers offer a bespoke jewellery design service. We spoke with Paul Henderson of Wave Jewellery (www.wavejewellery.com) about bespoke jewellery design. He told us “We offer a wide choice of classic and modern styled engagement rings here at Wave, but bespoke jewellery is becoming increasingly popular and something that we really enjoy providing for our customers.” “It’s really rewarding working through the stages of a bespoke design with a customer. Seeing their reaction when we show them their finished piece of unique jewellery is a very special experience indeed.”

How much is traditionally spent on an engagement ring?

Whilst some suggest that it is traditional for the groom to set aside 1 to 3 months’ salary for the engagement ring, the amount you spend on your engagement ring will depend on a number of things including the type, number and size of the stones, the precious metal that the band of the engagement ring is made from and ultimately, your personal budget.

Research by insurance company Liverpool Victoria (www.lv.com) in 2011 found that the average value of engagement rings listed separately by policy holders was £1131. The average UK wage in 2011 was £26,000 which is approx £1,700 per month take home pay. So this suggests that most grooms-to-be don’t spend quite as much as one full months pay on their engagement ring.

Diamond Cuts

If you’ve already started looking at engagement rings, you might be wondering about some of the terminology used to describe the precious stones. Here’s your handy guide to what terms like ‘brilliant cut’ and ‘Princess cut’ mean.

  • Round cut – a round cut diamond, usually brilliant cut (see the last description below)
  • Princess cut – the Princess cut is a square cut diamond – the flat edges are usually slightly beveled to prevent them feeling sharp.
  • Emerald cut solitaire – the emerald cut is a rectangular cut – as with Princess cut stones, the flat edges are usually slightly beveled.
  • Oval solitaire – similar to the round cut but elongated, usually brilliant cut
  • Marquise solitaire – boat shaped with pointed ends
  • Heart solitaire – perhaps the most romantic heart shaped diamond cut
  • Brilliant cut – the surfaces of these diamonds are cut with many facets in order to catch light and give extra sparkle.

Which precious metal should I choose?

The most common precious metals for wedding rings are, as you might expect, gold and platinum. Both of these precious metals are hardwearing and importantly, it is extremely rare for people to have allergies to gold or platinum which can be the case with other metals like silver.

With gold there are 3 colours available, yellow gold, rose gold (slightly pink in appearance) and white gold which appears the same as silver or platinum.

The quality of the gold used in the ring is indicated a hall mark which indicates the ‘carat’ rating. There are 4 common carat ratings

  • 9 Carat gold contains 37.5% gold
  • 14 Carat gold contains 58.5% gold
  • 18 Carat gold contains 75% gold
  • 22 Carat gold contains 91.6% gold
  • 24 Carat gold contains 99% gold (almost pure gold)

(figures quoted are UK minimum gold percentages per Carat rating)

As you might expect, the higher the gold content and purity of the ring, the more expensive it will be. The majority of the gold engagement rings you will see will be up to 22 Carat gold. 24 Carat gold is extremely difficult to come by now – unless you opt for an antique engagement ring.

Platinum rings are usually of 92.5% or 95.5% platinum content – your jeweller will usually advise you of its quality, but if not, just ask.

Engagement rings for men

Engagement rings for men were, at one time, quite difficult to find in high street jewellers. Men often had to choose a Signet ring to use as an engagement ring, which was a poor alternative as they were usually too big to wear alongside their wedding ring after they married. This meant moving them to the ring finger on the right hand after marriage.

Thankfully, engagement rings for men are now far easier to find in mainstream jewellers – probably owing to the legalisation of Gay marriage and Civil partnerships. We expect the popularity and the choice in designs of engagement rings for men to continue to grow. Unlike signet rings, these dedicated men’s engagements are designed to be worn with a wedding band whilst maintaining a masculine style.

We hope that you have found our guide to choosing and engagement ring helpful. Thank you for reading our guide and if you are getting engaged soon we’d love to hear about your experience of choosing a ring and the proposal itself – why not leave us a comment here on the blog with your experience.

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