It’s difficult enough finding a person you want to spend the rest of your life with – and then there’s the pressure of choosing an engagement ring. Cue panic, indecision, nausea. It’s hard finding the perfect ring for someone to wear for the rest of their life – whether you’re choosing it together, or going it alone for a surprise proposal.
So where to start? We spent time chewing the fat with a handful of experts, from jewellers to antiques dealers, to help you narrow your choices down and make the perfect purchase, whether your budget is £500 or £5,000.
How Much Should I Spend?
No doubt you’ve heard murmurs that a ring should cost roughly two month’s salary - gulp! We have a rather influential advertising campaign from De Beers diamond company to thank for that, who might of course have an interest in people splashing cash on diamond rings.
So don’t worry about the two-month rule: know that you really can spend what suits your budget. Olly Gerrish, a jeweller from The Antique Jewellery Company, says on average her customers spend £1500 to £2000 when buying an engagement ring.
Buying antique is not always cheaper than buying brand new – a very rare or unique piece can still cost a fair amount. But if you’re on a tight budget, you can pick up some really gorgeous engagement rings on Etsy for as little as a few hundred pounds and who could forget Poundland’s bargain £1 ‘placeholder’ rings?
Social media has impacted the amount of money people are willing to spend on rings, according to Hatton Garden jeweller Shirin Uma. She believes it’s all about portraying a certain lifestyle online. “I previously had a young man in his mid 20s preparing to use several of his credit cards to purchase a ring because it ‘had to look good on Instagram’,” she says. Thankfully, she managed to persuade him to buy something that suited his finances better – the couple also had to buy a house and pay for the wedding and honeymoon! So think about the long term impact of blowing you budget on a ring.
Should I Pick Gold, Platinum, Palladium or Silver?
Choosing the ring that looks the part requires a little homework. Whether you’re buying together or surprising your partner, think about what will suit their taste. The easiest way to start is looking at their existing jewellery collection. Do they prefer a particular metal? Do they wear a lot of jewellery or is their taste more subtle? This should give you a clue as to what ring to choose.
If you’re planning to surprise them, this is the time to go full detective: sneakily ask their friends, as they might have mentioned their dream design, and check their social media for clues as to the kind of jewellery they may have liked in the past.
Whichever metal you pick, make sure it’s hardwearing says Matthew Twigge, a jeweller from Premier Diamonds in Birmingham’s jewellery quarter. “18ct gold, platinum and palladium are great choices whereas 9ct white gold and silver are soft metals and will wear more quickly.”
You might also consider the future life of the ring (and your fingers). “Some full set rings (where stones go all the way around the finger) can be very difficult to re-size in the future,” says Twigge.
Do You Need To Have A Diamond In An Engagement Ring?
It is easy to fall into a black hole of traditional, and pretty huge (not to mention pricey) diamonds, but you could also consider alternative coloured gemstones and antique pieces in one-of-a-kind designs. After all, shouldn’t the ring you buy be as unique as you partner? “People shop antique because they’re getting a one off, you won’t see anyone else wearing the same ring”, says antique jeweller Max Ullmann of Andrew R Ullmann, Ltd.
Antique rings are also often set lower on the finger, making them more practical and less likely to catch, says jeweller Olly Gerrish from The Antique Jewellery Company, with the majority of antique styles coming from the Victorian and Edwardian eras. “Period jewellery is usually timeless and new jewellery, particularly since the millennium, is normally made in reaction to fashion and therefore goes out of style,” explains Michael Rose of Michael Rose Burlington Arcade.
“Sapphire remains the most popular not only for its strength but its beautiful blue colouring that matches with all clothes and skin tones,” Rose adds. Kate Middleton can take credit for its recent surge in popularity after Prince William proposed with his mother’s engagement ring in 2011 on a mountain in Kenya. Low-key then.
If a proposal atop a mountain in Africa isn’t on the cards anytime soon, don’t fret. “However big or small, expensive or not, it is a symbol that you have chosen this person over everyone you have met so far, and anyone you may meet in your future, to spend the rest of your life with you”, says Shirin Uma.
And anyway, once you’ve sorted the ring (and a yes) you can start planning the wedding, which could very well involve mountains. And Kenya.
We all work hard to earn our money – so it shouldn’t feel like hard work to spend it well. At HuffPost Finds we’ll help you find the best stuff that deserves your cash, from the ultimate lipstick to a durable iron to replace the one that broke (RIP). All our choices are completely independent but we may earn a small commission if you click a link and make a purchase.