Shopping

How to Choose an Engagement Ring

Shopping for an engagement ring can be a difficult, stressful experience – especially if you decide to go in on a surprise and not on a trip to Tiffany & Co. with your significant other.

Here are a few useful tips to narrow down the options, followed by examples of both classic and unconventional types of engagement rings that might bring you some inspiration.


First of all, ask yourself the following questions:

Does your girlfriend wear statement jewelry on a regular basis?

If you girlfriend is the type who wears minimalistic jewelry – or no jewelry at all – it makes no sense to look for huge gems and elaborate designs, because she will probably feel uncomfortable wearing them: you can cross those off the list.

Is she more of a white gold or yellow gold type?

Notice if she chooses silver or white gold or yellow gold. The color of the metal is incredibly important, because this is a ring that she’ll be wearing for the rest of her life, and it has to match with her style and meet her tastes.

Are her fingers small, regular, or large?

The size of the ring depends a lot on the size of the hands: a tiny gem will look even smaller on a wider finger, while a huge rock will look vulgar on tiny fingers.

Does she like colorful gems?

Diamonds are not the only options when it comes to engagement rings. In fact, millennials seem to be less inclined to buy diamonds – possibly because they’re too concerned with saving to buy property or because the diamond industry doesn’t approach personalized consumption in the same way in which millennials have been exposed. Many women have a favorite gem, which could be their birthstone or a particular gem of which they like the color. Notice what your girlfriend likes wearing and ask questions about her favorite pieces of jewelry to get a clue of what she might like.


TYPES OF ENGAGEMENT RINGS:

 

DIAMOND RINGS

Suited for: a woman of classic taste

We owe folkloristic introduction of the diamond ring as a promise of eternal love to Maximillian of Asburg, who gave one to Mary of Bourgogne in 1447 as a promise for their wedding. However, diamonds didn’t really become the common choice to seal an engagement until the first decades of the past centuries, when a gigantic marketing plan based on the false scarcity of the gem convinced the American people that “diamonds are forever,” as well as “a girl’s best friend.” You can read more about the history of the diamond industry in this article.

You are probably familiar with the 4 C’s that matter when shopping for a diamond: Cut, Clarity, Color, and Carat are the characteristics that you should examine in order to determine whether a rock is worth the splurge. Of these four, the cut is probably the most important one, because it impacts light refraction: a good cut can make a lower carat diamond look brighter, or vice versa, it can turn a perfect gem into a poor jewel. When you visit your jeweler, make sure to ask them to illustrate these characteristics and point them out using an ideal-scope. This tool is able to show the light, highlighting the cut of the diamond. Nowadays, most diamonds are cut to emphasize carat weight rather than brilliance, and this impacts the overall quality of the gem you’re buying. A trusted jeweler will use an ideal-scope to let you inspect the cut pattern and make sure it’s a gem worthy of your money and for your love.

DO NOT fixate on the size of the diamond: if you are looking for a big rock but you can’t afford the carats required for it, you’ll end up buying a poorly cut diamond that will have little to no brilliance. Instead, look for the best cut you can afford, and you’ll be sure to deliver a gem that’s as blinding as your love for the lucky recipient.

Naturally, for the reasons I just illustrated, I strongly recommend shopping for a diamond ring locally and avoiding the Internet.


ANTIQUE RINGS

Suited for: educated and classy women with an appreciation for art.

These are my personal favorites, and something I always suggest to anyone who’s looking for something truly unique with which to promise eternal love. On the internet there is a wide variety of antique jewelry, and I find amazing that we can now own and promise love in the United States with a ring that belonged to some French dame two centuries ago.

As I pointed out earlier, diamonds didn’t become common gems in engagement rings until they started to appear at the fingers of Hollywood stars in the 20th century; before then, any gem was suitable – even semi-precious stones like garnets and peridots- and more attention was paid to the metalwork of the jewelry. For this reason, you can find quite old diamond rings dating all the way back to 1930s, but you’ll have a hard time finding antique solitaires.

If you’re willing, you can find outstanding pieces of excellent craftsmanship and rich in history and tradition; a cameo is a type of ring that has been in fashion since the Renaissance, and it makes a perfect gift for a refined woman who appreciates art and history; they consist of a shell on which lies a carved relief – usually the head of a woman. The technique dates back to Ancient Greece, but this type of ring became popular during the Renaissance, when the Medici women commissioned them to their favorite jewelers and sent them as gifts throughout Europe.

Art-deco rings can be incredibly beautiful and intricate: their style takes inspiration from nature, so it’s not uncommon to spot art-deco rings with intricate foliage engraved on the band, or with corals and other natural gems and materials mounted on them.

You can also find an abundance of Victorian rings online; these complemented the Victorians’ love for symbolism, and they often hide secret messages or mysterious meanings. Due to their popularity, you can find them in a variety of metals and gems, from the more precious (solid gold, rubies, etc) to more modest like rose gold, freshwater pearls, and semi-precious gems.


ACROSTIC RINGS

 

Suited for: free-spirited and artistic souls

I find this type of ring to be perfect for the artistic type of girl who doesn’t care for a shiny diamond to weigh down her hand. This type of ring was popular during the Victorian era, when feelings were hardly ever expressed in words and people sought symbols to speak their minds and hearts. Acrostic rings featured gems of which the initials formed words such as “love”(lapis lazuli-opal-vermarine-emerald) or “dearest” (diamond-emerald-amethyst-ruby-emerald-sapphire-topaz). If you’re lucky and your girl has a short name, you can even create your own, personalized acrostic ring. For instance: LISA (lapis lazuli-iolite-sapphire-amethyst).


GIMMAL RINGS

Suited for: a woman with classic taste who wants something other than a diamond

It’s impossible to talk about gimmal rings without mentioning the most famous of them: Jean Cocteau created the Cartier Trinity for Cartier, a ring that has been worn by celebrities from the present and the past, in the Twenties. However, the gimmal ring was not Cocteau’s invention. Gimmal rings – in which two or more bands are intertwined – were common engagements rings during the Roman era (the word “gimmal” comes from the latin gemellus, which means “twin”). Each partner wore one band, and the two were reunited on the day of the wedding, where occasionally a third band was added to symbolize a third person protecting the couple (a god? a friend? who knows…)

The sinuous shape of the ring makes for a classy engagement ring with a beautiful symbolism for the union of souls.


CLADDAGH RINGS

Suited for: Irish descendants

This incredible ring, which is made of two hands holding a crowned heart, features three symbols: the hands symbolize friendship, the crown signifies loyalty, and the heart means love. For this reason, friends and brothers also use this highly symbolic ring to exchange vows of loyalty. The meaning is different according to how someone wears it: fiancés must wear it on the left hand, with the heart pointing to the wrist – otherwise it means friendship. Wife and Husband have to wear it on the right hand, with the heart pointed to the wrist – otherwise it means widowhood.


COCKTAIL RINGS

Suited for: a woman with a strong personality

Cocktail rings -characterized by huge and colorful gems- were popular during the Prohibition. Rich ladies would often gesticulate while drinking alcoholic beverages at a party to make their transgression more apparent and draw the attention to their glasses. Kate Middleton’s engagement ring – previously worn by Lady Diana Spencer – is a sort of mini-cocktail ring.

It’s the perfect ring for a powerful, strong, and confident woman


Whatever your choice will be, remember that buying an engagement ring is an act of love towards the woman of your life – and that she and only she should be the center of your thoughts when shopping for the perfect ring. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what magazines and websites tell you to buy – it should all come down to the tastes of the person you love.

Perhaps this article has given you an idea of less mainstream options you have to choose a symbol of your love and devotion. Even if not all of them can be classified as a “conventional” choice, you don’t necessarily have to buy into the 21st century conventions if these don’t meet your tastes and/or means.

Most of you will end up choosing a solitaire, because that’s the most obvious choice and many women “expect” it. However, this doesn’t mean that it cannot be a personal and intimate choice; remember that she will be wearing the ring for the rest of her life; she will be growing old wearing it.

Make it personal, and make it authentic. Make it a symbol of the experiences you shared, and a promise of many more that you’ll be living together.

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Arianna Reggio

Arianna Reggio

Arianna is an Italian trapped in Southern California, and she's still trying to cope with the fact she's living in a country where they put pineapples on pizza. She is into both Style AND Fashion, but she hardly ever writes about it because all her free time is spent between yoga, rock concerts, and Victorian poetry.

2 replies »

  1. Thanks for the interesting and informative article, Arianna. I loved the inclusion of examples of each ring style, particularly the less-famous types. Now, to find a person to give one of these things to!

    • Thank you for your kind words Robert. I hope you’ll soon find someone deserving of your love and attention! Have a great Memorial Day,
      Arianna