The Ultimate Guide to Engagement Rings

By Luke Ellery

A beautiful engagement ring accompanied by a thoughtful proposal is an essential step in the process of the committed relationship. You may be thinking, so what does a beautiful engagement ring look like and how do I get one? There is no simple answer to that question. Every ring is unique, and the ring you choose will be unique to you and your partner. This article will help you discover your own beautiful engagement ring by teaching you what you (or your partner) needs to know about diamonds, alternative gemstones, researching, budgeting, ring settings, and the aftersale care of your ring.  Considering engagement rings are such a precious and iconic object to so many in the human experience, it is not surprising that there is a lot to cover. This extensive article will ultimately cover everything you need to know about your engagement ring from its conception in your mind to its lifetime wrapped around the finger of your other half.

1/ Set A Budget

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Image by Todd Good Photography

a/ The Two Month Salary Rule

First things first, let's shatter the myth that engagement rings need to be worth 2 months of your salary. This idea was entirely made up by the jewellery giant De Beers in a campaign they launched in the 1980s. Their campaign showed a picture of a model with a diamond ring on her finger with text underneath that read,
"Two months salary showed the future Mrs. Smith what the future will be like" and 
"You can't look at Jane and tell me she is not worth 2 months salary, I mean just look at her."
Now, we aren't going to get into how sexist that ad was (shock horror, women, like men, aren't worth a numerical value) It is very clear to see that the figure was simply made up. There is no evidence of the "2 months salary rule" existing prior to the launch of this marketing campaign. And yet, for some reason, for years after the campaign launched the idea stuck. Here we are, an authority, telling you not to worry about it any longer!

b/ Don't Get a Loan

Look, there is nothing romantic about debt. It's nothing more than unnecessary stress. Once you know what style you want, you can look at ways to maximise your budget, and there are plenty of cost-effective options for rings that look absolutely stunning which you will learn all about shortly.  The idea that diamonds are incredibly rare and valuable is no truer than the 2-month salary rule. Aside from the fact that they are the hardest natural substance that exists on earth, there is nothing that makes them superior to other gemstones. Moreover, they are exceptionally common. Who doesn't own a diamond, or at least know someone who owns a diamond (or many diamonds)?

The important thing is what the ring represents, not its value. Having said that, you still want it to look nice as it will likely be worn almost every day after it is gifted. This is where design options come in to play. Now you know that you don't need to sell your car and get a second mortgage on the house for a ring, it is time to settle on your style.

2/ Settle on a Style

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Image sourced from bbbgem

a/ The Four C's

The four c's make up the fundamentals of picking a diamond. Understanding the four C's will help you navigate conversations with retailers and designers, online or in person.

i/ Cut

To the confusion of many, the cut refers not to the shape, but to the "sparkle factor" of the diamond. An expert diamond cutter will reveal the diamond's brilliance by cutting at the right angles and the right depth (not too shallow and not too deep), forcing the light to reflect off the internal mirror-like facets and out the top of the diamond while simultaneously preventing light from leaking out the sides of the diamond. Well-cut diamonds are higher up on the quality scale and therefore become more valuable.

ii/ Carat

Carat refers to the weight of the diamond. One carat translates to approximately 200 milligrams. One carat can also be divided into 100 'points' which results in a very accurate scale down to the hundredth decimal point. Take this information and apply it out to your engagement ring hunt. When talking to a jeweller you will find that a diamond weighing 0.5 carats may be described as a "50 point diamond." Larger diamonds are significantly rarer to find in nature so, a one-carat diamond can be worth more than twice the amount of a 1/2 carat diamond. Although the weight of a diamond seems like the primary factor in determining the value of a diamond, two diamonds of the same carat weight might have very different values depending on the other three c's.

iii/ Clarity

Clarity refers to the imperfections of a diamond, also known as inclusions. Given that diamonds are traditionally created by nature, they are all unique. Inclusions may look like a feather, a cloud, or even a tiny gem within. The location of an inclusion can create various effects that, in some cases, have an impact on the value of the diamond by preventing the perfect dispersion of light. Inclusions on a diamond are officially measured at 10x zoom and are matched to a scale created by the Gemological Insititute of America, the GIA. The scale measures from F (flawless) to I (included).

The scale:

FL  VVS1  VVS2 VS1 VS2 SI1 SI2 SI3   I1

iii/  Colour

Diamonds are found in almost any colour. However, colourless diamonds remain the most popular and thus the most valuable. Colour is determined under controlled lighting and conditions and matching the stone to master examples. A diamond that is truly colourless is graded D (on the colour scale D - Z). Most diamonds from D to F are considered "colourless", G to J is "near colourless", K to M is "barely yellow", N to R "light yellow", and S to Z "yellow".

b/ The Shape 

Diamonds come in an infinite number of natural shapes. They are traditionally cut into any of the shapes pictured below. No one shape is better than another and the shape doesn't necessarily directly affect the value of a diamond. However, as will later be explained in a paragraph on maximising your budget, some shapes can have the effect of making a diamond look bigger. Aside from that, the shape is all about your stylistic preference and doesn't come into play when considering the grading or quality of the diamond.

i/ Round

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Image sourced from Layla Kaisi Collection

ii/ Oval

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Image sourced from Layla Kaisi Collection

iii/ Emerald

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Image sourced from Wexford Jewellers

iv/ Asscher

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Image sourced from Campbell Jewellers

v/ Cushion

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Image sourced from Ritani

vi/ Princess

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Image sourced from bbbgem

vii/ Marquise

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Image sourced from Wedbook

viii/ Pear

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Image sourced from Layla Kaisi Collection

c/ Colour gemstones alternative

We reached out to Kim from Wicken Jewellery to tell us all about alternatives to diamonds. “Citrine and Pink topaz are our two most popular gemstones for engagement and wedding rings! These natural gemstones have such beautiful meanings and properties to them which make them a warm alternative to diamonds.

For example, the Wicken ‘Love Nest' ring is set with Pink topaz which is known to bring good fortune in love and it enhances the heart chakra. Our ‘Songbird’ ring is set with a stunning Citrine, which attracts happiness, success, and great energy. I have set these in our signature ‘Nest’ ring design to represent building a life together that will always keep your love protected and strong”

Gemstones are not only a cheaper alternative to diamonds, they also can have more meaning than a traditional diamond. Even if you aren’t a believer in the power of gemstones, an engagement ring is a symbol of your love so why not pick a  stone that has deeper symbolic associations than a classic diamond. 

d/ The Setting

i/ Prong Settings

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Image from Jelena Behrend Studio

Also known as the claw setting, metal claws wrap around the crown of a diamond to secure it in place. This particular setting uses less metal which results in more light being able to pass through the angles of the diamond - it can also result in a cheaper ring due to the reduced amount of material. A ‘shared prong setting’ can be used on rings with multiple diamonds. 

iii/ Channel Settings

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Image from Onadi

The channel setting secures diamonds in place between metal walls on each side - creating the illusion of a sleek channel. In this style of setting, multiple diamonds are not separated by metal. 

iv/ Bar Channel Settings

The bar channel is a more secure version of the traditional channel setting. In this alternative style, metal bars encase each diamond on all sides. 

v/ Pave Settings

The pave setting is the image of luxury and elegance. In this style, many small diamonds are set against each other with small metal beads. The result is an illusion of an encrusted band. 

vi/ Bezel Settings

In this setting, a diamond is secured around its girdle by a rim of metal. This is a very sleep setting, and it often creates the illusion of a larger diamond. 

3/ Maximise Your Budget

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Image sourced from Layla Kaisi Collection

There are quite a few ways that you can get the most out of your budget. to name a few:

i/ Choose gold over platinum

Gold is mined to significantly higher quantity than platinum, and it is much more common, which makes it a cheaper option. The downside is that platinum is a more durable metal. Gold is not durable enough to mount jewellery on its own so in its purest form (24 carats), it needs to be supplemented with other metals to make it strong enough. However, supplementing gold with other metals does not always have an obvious visual impact on the ring. So you can cut the cost and still have a jaw-dropping engagement ring.

ii/ Be strategic with the setting

There are a few settings that can create the illusion of a larger diamond, there are also settings that don’t require as much material than others. If you want the illusion of a larger diamond, then check out a ‘bezel setting’. On the other hand, if you want to look at using less metal in the setting, then check out the ‘prong setting’. 

4/ How to Look

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Image by Natalie Marie Jewellery

A/ Start With a Bit of Research

You’re off to a good start with this article, but you need to research so you have a clear idea of the style you are after. Take it from us, it can be a bit daunting going straight into a store or going to a designer with absolutely no idea what you actually want. So at least have an idea of the setting, and maybe even where your priorities lie when it comes to the four C’s. For example, are you willing to settle for a diamond that is lower on the clarity scale, but higher on the colour scale?

Another good tip is to follow your favoured designers on social media. In doing this, you will know when they have trunk shows or any product releases. You might get to take advantage of specials, giveaways, or incentives too!

b/ Know how much money you want to invest in the ring

We’ve talked about setting a budget, and how there is no right or wrong amount to spend on a ring. You’ll notice there is a great variety in cost when it comes to engagement rings, so it is a good idea to check out major retailers and compare their prices with a few smaller retailers or private designers so you can have an idea of how much you want to spend (or maybe how much you need to save, like we said before, there is nothing romantic about debt).

c/ Shopping In-store 

When trying on rings in a store, make sure you get a chance to look at it in natural light. After all, you will mostly be seeing the ring in the natural light of day. Store lighting is often optimised to bring out the best of the ring (and there is nothing wrong with that), by seeing the ring in natural light, you will get a realistic view of the ring. Of course, you won’t be able to take the ring outside - ask your vendor if it is possible to view the ring by a window. 

d/ Private Designers

If you know exactly what you want, then you can get your ring handmade. Doing this can occasionally save on the price tag. However, it is essential that you are well organised. The process of getting a ring handmade can take up to a few months. Occasionally it takes less time than that, but it's better safe than sorry. You don’t want to be exchanging fake rings on the day when it can be easily avoided with a bit of organisation. 

If you do intend on getting your ring handmade, you will need to source a diamond (this can almost always be done through the designer). In order to source the right diamond, you will need to have a good grasp on what you want in terms of the 4 C’s. 

E/ Looking Online 

Online shopping offers a great variety and some very cost-effective options. However, without the ability to view it in person and in natural light - you may not be getting what you are seeing. Read the official grading report (ideally from the GIA, AGL, or EGL) and watch a 360-degree video of the stone to check for any imperfections that could be hidden in photos. At the very least get plenty of images sent to your from the retailer so you can see the diamond from each angle. 

5/ Insure the Ring

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Image by Jean Dousset

This is often something people overlook, but chances are you’ve invested a lot of money and time into getting the perfect ring and that doesn’t even begin to represent the sentimental value of an engagement ring. In short, they are extremely valuable. As with all things valuable, they need insuring. There are a few policies that should be on offer from your insurer that you can consider for your ring. Keep in mind that some insurance policies also require you to take your ring to get serviced every 6 months - so make sure you read the fine print for a full understanding of your policy.

A/ Homeowners insurance 

This kind of policy often only cover your ring if it is stolen or lost in a natural disaster - so simply losing it might not entitle you to the payout. 

B/ Actual Value Policy 

The cheapest option; you will receive a payout for most scenarios. However, the payout will take into account the depreciation value. A 5-year-old ring that originally cost $2000 might only be worth $1500 by the time of the payout. 

C/ Replacement Insurance

With this policy, you will get the market value of the ring. In other words, you don’t need to worry about depreciation. This kind of policy is often more expensive to get than the aforementioned policies. It shouldn't come as a surprise that to guarantee the highest payout, you’ll need to pay more for the policy. 

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