Buying an engagement ring is a huge undertaking – for many people it’s a substantial financial investment, and the pressure to buy something that will bowl over your girlfriend, and that she will be happy to wear for the rest of her life, shouldn’t be understated.
When it comes to diamond engagement ring styles, it may seem like there are endless options. How are you to choose? The good news is that there’s no wrong answer.
Because the truth is that every setting has its strengths, and it simply comes down to a matter of personal taste. Everyone has their own preference, and the more people you ask, the more answers you’ll get.
If you’re shopping for someone special, you can always refer to their Instagram or Pinterest accounts to see if they have their eye on a particular style. Perhaps you’ve been window shopping with them and know what catches their eye. With these hints in mind, you’ll choose the setting that they’ll be thrilled to receive – and you’ll be proud to give.
However, don’t be intimidated. Even if your partner really dislikes the ring you buy, it’s unlikely that she’ll say no to marrying you altogether! Be prepared to do research to establish what kind of ring is right, or get one that has a money-back guarantee, so you can change it for something else if you get it horribly wrong.
An alternative is to purchase the ring together, which takes out a lot of guesswork around size and style. It’s your choice, though, if you want to propose with a ring that is a complete surprise.
Here at Ethica we carried out a small survey (via Instagram) to see if people preferred to choose their own engagement ring, or have it as a surprise. We were shocked by the results which showed that 76% of people would prefer to choose their own ring! So if you really are unsure with what to do, even by the end of this blog, then just know that a lot of people would happily choose their own engagement ring!
Many ‘how to buy an engagement ring’ articles dive straight in to ‘how to choose a design you like’, but honestly, there are things you need to think about first. So, let’s work through the big points that you’ll need to consider. No apologies, this is a long ride!
There is a ‘rule of thumb’ or ‘tradition’ that you should spend three months’ salary on an engagement ring. It used to be one month, and has crept up over the years. Did you know that the advice to spend a month’s salary originated from a marketing campaign by De Beers, the diamond mining conglomerate? They ran an ad campaign in the 1930s suggesting one month’s salary was appropriate. By the 1980s, their ads suggested two months, and now received wisdom states three months.
Can you see why a diamond conglomerate would encourage you to spend more on an engagement ring? And doesn’t that make you want to ignore it?
The sensible way to decide how much to spend on an engagement ring is to use the same reasoning that you would use on any other major purchase: how much can you reasonably afford for what the item will be worth to you? What does your budget have to cover? Are you saving up for a big wedding, or a house? Does your budget have to cover a new baby arriving soon? Don’t spend multiple thousands of pounds on an engagement ring that you can’t afford, or where the purchase could land you in hot water!
We offer a Finance option if that is a way that you can make a more expensive ring an option, but please be sensible.
The next question you need to consider is where your ring comes from. Online, or the High Street is often the first question people consider. More engagement rings are now being purchased online than ever before, but you may decide that you need to see rings in person, before you buy. You could aim for the best of both worlds, by looking at styles in shops before ordering online, where there is a much greater choice available.
If you would like to visit our boutique showroom in Truro, Cornwall, then you are more than welcome to make an appointment Monday to Saturday, 9am-4pm. We have a range of styles available to see, and mock-ups, and can discuss your requirements with you. (For the time being due to Covid-19, and in line with government guidelines, we can do virtual consultations via video call).
For many people, making ethical choices matters, and the diamond industry’s history of human rights abuses and environmental damage has put them off mined diamonds.
We’re right there with you on that one! If you’re not sure, see our blog section ‘In the know’
As far as diamonds are concerned, the only truly ethical choice is a diamond that has not been mined at all, such as the lab-grown gemstone that features in many of the diamond engagement rings that form part of the Ethica Diamonds collection.
For everything you need to know about the Ethica Diamond, see the Compare Diamonds page on our website.
It is also the case that other gemstones are not exactly eco-friendly. See our blog about Lemurs and Sapphires for one particular instance, but you should know that Ethica Diamonds can source lab-grown gems such as sapphire, ruby, emerald and more.
When considering proposing, it’s worth thinking in plenty of time about when you are going to propose. The peak engagement points in the year are Christmas, New Year and Valentine’s Day, with other major holidays, birthdays and anniversaries also featuring high on the list. So, if you’re planning to propose on your holiday in August, you need to consider a ring at least as early as May, to make sure that you can get something you want, with enough time to get it ordered and crafted and delivered.
Almost all of the rings featured on the Ethica Diamonds website are made to measure from our online catalogue. You can specify the metal, the size of the Ethica Diamond(s), the size you need, and then we make it for you. There is an order time of 21 working days for catalogue rings.
We have a few rings held in stock in our showroom – click here for details of these – which you can receive in 5 working days. Alterations to the size, and engraving options are possible, but this will take slightly longer.
Bespoke rings, which are made to your design, will take at least six weeks, as we need to work with you to develop your style ideas and produce a design which meets your requirements. You can find out more about bespoke rings here.
Finding a style of ring that will be something that makes your intended fiancée go giddy with delight when she sees it is not a small challenge – we appreciate this. Here are some pointers to help you get it right.
- Check out her existing jewellery. Is everything silver coloured, or rose gold? Is it simple and elegant, or more elaborate? Is art deco her thing?
- See if she has a Pinterest board, or has been liking engagement ring posts on Instagram. What’s the theme you’re seeing there? Is every single ring emerald cut maybe?
- Has she been dropping hints? “Have you seen X’s engagement ring? It’s lovely / horrible / too big / too small.” “I’ve always wanted a solitaire.”
- Can you take in an accomplice? Sisters, cousins, best friends or even children may be able to shed some light on her preferences, if they can be trusted to keep it secret that you’ve been enquiring.
- Consider her lifestyle. If she’s always cycling, or riding horses, or wears gloves for work, a bezel setting might work better than a big elaborate one. If she always has perfect nails and immaculate grooming, then she might appreciate a larger, more glamorous ring as opposed to a simple solitaire.
- Consider the shape of her hand and fingers. We have a whole blog about this, but make sure the ring is in proportion to her hand-size, and neither too wide nor too slender for her finger. Choosing a ring to suit your hand
- Will she appreciate a diamond, or diamond – AND? Engagement rings featuring a central ruby, or sapphire, or with a diamond flanked by emeralds, are more unusual than rings with diamonds alone, so are an excellent choice for a fiancée who likes to go against the flow.
Solitaire – a single diamond. Solitaires are available in every shape and size, with settings that range from classic elegance to quirky individuality. Higher and lower settings are available, including claws (3, 4, 6 or 8, straight or twisted), baskets, and bezel, which has a smooth profile.
Shoulder set – often a solitaire, with extras. Perhaps a pair of stones to set off the central diamond, or a trail of tiny diamonds to bracket it. Sometimes the shoulder stones will be baguette cut or other interesting shapes.
Trilogy – three stones. Similar to shoulder set, but with three stones of (almost) equal importance. Can represent past, present and future, or whatever else you want!
Halo – a ring of smaller stones surrounding a central stone. If you need big sparkle on a smaller budget, a halo ring might be the way to go.
Multistone – many stones of a similar size. Eternity rings, half-eternity rings, or five-stone and seven-stone rings can be a different look for an engagement, or form part of a wedding-ring set.
Modern – our modern settings were designed to be unique yet enduring. In this collection, you’ll find extraordinary, diamond-studded settings that are perfect for brides who desire a timeless engagement ring.
For many people, diamonds are the way to go for engagement rings. There is something special about that sparkle and fire, and we are delighted to offer a huge choice of ethical diamond engagement rings here at Ethica Diamonds.
Have a careful look at where your diamond comes from. The companies who mine diamonds are struggling to clean up their act, even nearly twenty years after the introduction of the Kimberley Process, which attempted to stamp out blood diamonds in the international diamond trade.
Lab-grown diamonds are man-made alternatives, which are in every way identical to a mined diamond, except for their origins and eco-credentials. If you want to find out more about mined diamonds and they’re effect on the planet then click here.
THE 4 Cs
Choosing a diamond, wherever it comes from, you will read about ‘The 4 Cs’. These are Cut, Clarity, Colour and Carat.
Cut describes the shape and facets of the diamond, and is designed to reflect the most light and sparkle back from the stone. Many of the man-made diamonds in the Ethica Diamonds catalogue are ‘round brilliant cut’, but we also have rings with heart cut, emerald cut, marquise cut and other shapes of stones. We have a blog discussing the different shapes in more depth, and you can search our catalogue by shape of stone, if you have something particular in mind.
Clarity is the internal structure of the diamond, whether it has imperfections (known as inclusions) inside it. Inclusions are measured on a scale, ranging from Internally Flawless (IF), through Very very small inclusions (VVSI), to Very small inclusions (VSI), Slightly Included (SI) and Included (I). Obviously, the fewer flaws internally, the more expensive the diamond. Mined diamonds are available in all grades, but you will find many lab-grown diamonds, and the Ethica Diamond, are only created in the highest grades, as we can control the process of creation where nature likes to do her own thing!
The third C is Colour, which is graded alphabetically, from D to Z, with D-F being colourless (and more expensive) and a faint yellow tint becoming more pronounced as you get nearer the end of the alphabet. Fancy coloured diamonds are rare in nature, and command a high premium in price, but pink, blue and other colours can be sourced by Ethica Diamonds, because the growing process is strictly controlled in the lab.
Carat is the size of the diamond. It refers to the weight, rather than the size, so it’s possible to get diamonds of the same carat size which actually look very different in size, depending on the cut. A 1 carat diamond weighs 0.2 grams, and, if cut as a round brilliant stone, will be x mm across. An emerald cut 1 carat stone will be y x z mm.
When talking about diamonds, many people add in additional ‘C’s, to give people further points by which to consider their purchase. We usually consider Certification, Conflict and Cost, but you will sometimes see Conscience as well. You can read more about all of these on our page about buying diamonds.
The Ethica Diamonds we use are Certified by an independent grading process, so that you know they are what we say they are, and the carat size, etc. All the Ethica Diamonds are laser etched with a unique identifying number that can be read with a jeweller’s loupe.
Any mined diamond is at risk of having origins in Conflict, because even through the Kimberley Process attempts to prevent diamonds of dubious ethical origins from reaching the international diamond markets, there are significant loopholes. Read more about these on our blog.
We have already discussed Cost, as far as it impacts your pocket, but it’s worth stopping to think about environmental cost, and why the monetary cost for a mined diamond is so high. This, again, can be brought down to De Beers, ultimately, which has managed to convince the diamond-buying public that mined diamonds are rare and expensive. There is more extensive information about this on the Buying Diamonds page, as before.
The final design question is what metal you should use for the ring. Ethica Diamonds offers platinum, and gold in three varieties: yellow, rose and white, so we will focus on those. Elsewhere you will be able to purchase titanium or other metals, but we have chosen to focus use platinum for our diamond set engagement rings, as it is possible to create more delicate designs because platinum is more malleable.
Gold is a fascinating metal, with pure 24 karat gold being too soft to use in jewellery. Our gold is all 18 karat, with additional metals added to improve durability and also add colour. Rose gold has copper added, to give a red hue, and white gold has additional white metals, to ensure that it remains a silvery colour. Incidentally, we never produce jewellery in silver, as it is not robust enough.
If you purchase a gold ring from Ethica Diamonds, you will be able to choose between recycled and Fairtrade gold. Recycled gold is sourced from recycled jewellery, and gold retrieved from other uses. Fairtrade gold commands a slight premium, and comes from artisan gold miners who are paid fairly and work in better conditions than is normal for artisan gold production. You can find out more about Fairtrade gold here.
Platinum is heavier than gold, so is more expensive as they’re both sold by weight. Some people like the extra weight on their hand, while others do not – it’s personal preference, so see if you can find out which your future fiancée likes. It is a harder metal than gold, so will gradually rub away at a gold ring, if they are worn side by side, so be aware of this when considering engagement and wedding rings.
You can read more about the different metals here on our website.
Getting the size of the ring right is important. At Ethica, we make all our rings to order, although we can re-size later if necessary.
There are a number of factors to consider when specifying the size of the ring you want –
- The ring should be able to turn comfortably.
- The hand swells when it’s warm, and changes shape during the day as well.
- Left and right hands won’t match.
If you’re buying a ring as a surprise, you need to do some detective work – is there a ring you can measure that’s already the right size, have they already measured it that you can find out?
We have some more hints and tips on our page about getting the right size ring, as well as links to a ring sizer that you can print out, to measure both existing rings and fingers. Don’t use string; it stretches!
If you truly can’t find the ring you want anywhere, or have seen a picture but can’t find a physical one like it, or want one you’ve seen with mined diamonds to be reproduced with an ethical alternative, a ring designed just for you might be what you need. Here at Ethica, we have a bespoke service where we work with you from the initial ideas to the finished ring, aiming to create something that exceeds your expectations. You can find more on our bespoke web page, along with a host of examples of rings that we have created for happy customers in the past.
LOOKING AFTER IT
A final consideration, for anyone making a major purchase like an engagement ring, is looking after it. This is often overlooked in those cheerful ‘how to buy an engagement ring’ articles that often crop up around Valentine’s Day, but making sure that your diamond engagement ring has a guarantee and is packaged properly to send to you, shouldn’t be afterthoughts.
Nor should insuring it, and looking after it properly to ensure that it remains totally gorgeous for many years, but we’ll come to that.
Taking the engagement ring off will help keep it away from grease and oils that won’t damage the stone itself, but may collect in the mount. We recommend that you remove your rings when you are inside the house doing chores etc and get into the habit of keeping it in a safe place so when you go out, you put on your jewellery after moisturising your hands etc. Also remove all your rings when you are doing sport or gardening.
You want the ring you chose to be perfect, but if your fiancée doesn’t like it, then you need to know that you can return it, or exchange it for something else.
At Ethica, we have a 30-day approval period for all our jewellery, and will offer a complete refund on all items returned to us in new, complete, un-worn condition, within that period. We also offer an exchange policy, with refunds or additional payments as necessary. There are certain exclusions, including for bespoke or customised items, and you can find out all about the details of the two policies on our website. Your peace of mind is important to us, and we don’t want your fiancée to be stuck with a ring she dislikes because you can’t afford to buy a second one for her.
We offer a Lifetime Guarantee on every Ethica Diamond. This covers any colour change or defects due to manufacturer defects, that can be seen by the naked eye, but this does not include normal wear and tear. Having your jewellery resized or repaired by a jeweller other than Ethica Diamonds will void this guarantee, as does cleaning it other than by our recommended method. We would like to point out that we have under 1% returned to us in 10 years of trading.
Half the fun of proposing is presenting your beloved with a ring in a beautiful box, and watching her face light up as she opens it.
But we are aware that sending diamonds through the post could carry a risk of theft, plus there is a chance of spoiling the surprise if a parcel turns up marked ‘with ‘diamonds’ in big letters. You should ensure that there are safeguards in place to protect any online purchase of diamonds.
Any jewellery ordered from Ethica is packaged in our beautiful, eco-friendly signature packaging, then in a second outer layer, which contains the certification information, and has no external branding at all. It is sent by insured delivery, with UK deliveries using the Royal Mail Special Delivery service, which is signed for, and overseas parcels travelling by an insured courier.
The full details of the packaging and delivery are on our website here.
Insuring your precious purchase, should the worst happen, is essential. Again, it’s not something that features in the shiny articles in magazines, but it’s a part of real life. Make sure that your insurer will give you a like-for-like replacement, and covers items away from home. Check also whether there is a ‘specific items’ clause, and what the value limits are here, so you can list your jewellery, if necessary.
Most insurers will not have come across the Ethica Diamond before, and yours will probably want to see the certification and the receipt of purchase, which we provide for you. We will work with any insurer in the event of loss or damage, although we hope you never need to ask us!
We have a blog about Aftercare and insurance.
So, that’s everything we think someone needs to know before buying an engagement ring. Truth be told, you’ve done the difficult part already, finding the person you want to spend the rest of your life with – this is the easy bit!
We wish you all the best, and hope that you get a ‘yes’ once you pop the question. Good Luck!