One of my good friends is ring shopping and getting ready to propose to his girlfriend. He asked me for some shopping advice which I was happy to provide and have decided to share here with my readers. In Part 1, I’ll address where to look to get ring ideas, how to get educated about diamonds, what metals to consider, and how to go “custom” if you don’t find the perfect ring. I’ll also debunk some common ring myths. In Part 2, I’ll talk about wedding bands for both of you, and give you some ideas for proposing. Please read on!
Browse the websites of as many jewelers/engagement ring stores as you can. Look at everyone – from high-end to department store – to get ideas of what you (and she) like.
My suggested places to look:
- Harry Winston
- Simon G
- Penny Preville
- Alex Sepkus
- Martin Flyer
- Judith Conway
- JB Star
- Renaissance Platinum
- Christopher Designs
- Michael Bondanza
- Lauren K
- Doris Panos
- Chris Correia
- Whitney Boin
- Roberto Coin
- James Binion Metal Arts (mokume gane rings)
(The list above is by no means comprehensive but will give you lots of ideas.)
Decide what kind of metal(s) you want the ring to be.
Of course, this also depends on your budget. The current trend for engagement rings is white metal with diamonds. I prefer rings that mix metals. My own ring is 18K yellow gold and platinum and I feel it goes with everything (including the two white gold, diamond and citrine eternity rings I bought a few years ago.) Simon G does beautiful rings using pink or rose gold with platinum. Alex Sepkus‘ work in both white and yellow gold is stunning and completely unusual.
Yellow gold is timeless and beautiful. There are many beautiful variations in color (depending on the makeup of the alloys in the gold composition) and popular colors currently are rose gold. 18K yellow gold is an excellent choice for rings because it will never lose its luster and has enough alloyed metals in its composition to keep it from being overly soft. I wouldn’t suggest going lower than 14K if you can help it.
If you want to go white metal, there are several lesser expensive options to platinum (which will be the most expensive.) Platinum is terrific for long-term durability and strength. However, palladium, also a platinum group metal with many of the same pluses of platinum, is a less-expensive alternative. Note: Both platinum and palladium tend to be a bit grayish in color and get more grey with wear. However, the nicks and scratches of wear merely displace the metal rather than erode it (gold and silver will wear thin over time). The Japanese apparently view the marks of wear as a symbol of a rich life and don’t polish them out.
White gold is also popular. However, some people find that their skin’s pH turns white gold yellowish with wear. It is not uncommon to find rhodium-plated white gold. Rhodium (a platinum group metal) plating does give a very lovely white, shiny finish to metal. The drawback to any plated metal is that with repeated wear and polishing, the plating will eventually wear off and then metal will need to be re-plated.
Decide what shape and size diamond you want.
Because diamond ring buying is an emotional and “potentially” stressful event, do yourself a favor and get armed with as much information about diamonds (the 4 Cs) BEFORE you head into a jewelry store to make your purchase. I recommend going to the GIA website to learn more as well as spending a lot of time browsing Blue Nile. On the latter site, you’ll be able to get excellent pricing information based on the shape, carat, cut, color, and clarity of the diamonds. You can also buy stones or create your own ring virtually at this site.
Note: Keep in mind that options exist such as clarity-enhanced diamonds and diamond synthetics if size is more important to you than quality.
Violence, inequality among peoples, and desperate poverty are a sad fact of the world we live in. As enlightened people, we can effect positive change if we make educated choices about the way we spend our money. The Kimberley Process (KP) is a joint governments, industry and civil society initiative to stem the flow of conflict diamonds – rough diamonds used by rebel movements to finance wars against legitimate governments. The trade in these illicit stones has fueled decades of devastating conflicts in countries such as Angola, Cote d’Ivoire, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Sierra Leone. If you are purchasing a diamond, make sure that it is at the very least Kimberley Process certified. Even better, purchase from a company such as Brilliant Earth which sells only certified conflict-free Canadian diamonds!
Decide on the design.
Once you’ve looked at even a few engagement ring websites, you’ll probably have a much clearer idea of the style you and she like. You might have even found the perfect ring and be ready to order it. If you find that you like some of the elements of one designer’s style but want to combine it with elements of another designer’s work along with your own ideas, then going the custom route is the best option. Search out custom jewelers in your area. Ask friends for referrals. Visit the jeweler’s website. If you like what you see, schedule an appointment. Bring along pictures of the rings you like and, if you can, sketch what you’d like your dream ring to look like. If you don’t trust your sketching skills, find someone skilled at rendering and ask them to work with you on creating a sketch. At Joana Miranda Studio I am happy to work with you to render the design of your dreams.
While it might be tempting to take that Tiffany’s ring you love and see if you can get a local jeweler to replicate it for cheaper, please don’t do this. You wouldn’t want someone else taking credit for your work, and neither do they!
5 Common myths debunked…
- You need to spend 3 months’ salary on a ring. Spend what you can afford and feel is appropriate. The diamond industry wants you to spend lots of money so they can, understandably, stay in business. Woman do buy into that myth because they want and need to feel valued. Loving her truly, deeply and with compassion will make any symbolic token of your love a treasure in her eyes.
- The standard for proving your love is 1 carat or larger. See above. It only takes spending 5 minutes in the grocery store aisle reading the cover of celebrity magazines to see that even a 5 carat pink diamond doesn’t a lasting marriage make!
- Engagement rings must have diamonds and be in precious metals. Again, this is an industry convention designed to promote regular sales. Think outside the box. Maybe one or both of you has a more modern design sense and you want a stainless steel, tungsten carbide or titanium ring. (I’ll talk more about sources for these rings in Part 2.) Maybe she loves sapphires more than diamonds…why not? These days we put a priority on expressing ourselves in a unique way. Case in point: Angelina Jolie and Billy Bob Thornton wore vials of each others blood as a symbol of their love.
- Engagement rings have to worn be on the left hand. Take a look at the hands of performing musicians and you’ll find many of them wearing their rings on their right hands. Why? Because they don’t like their rings to clack against the fingerboard, keyboard, bore, etc. Some cultures dictate that the engagement ring is worn on one hand during the engagement period and then switched to the other after the wedding. Read more about engagement customs around the world here. Note: Deciding which finger will be your engagement/wedding band finger IS important to settle in advance. Generally, your left hand ring finger (for right hand dominant people) will be a 1/4 to 1/2 size smaller.
- You can’t propose if you don’t have a ring. I would wager that most women want to feel secure that they are loved first. They won’t mind waiting for a ring or other appropriate token of love if they feel that it comes in the same spirit of love, thought, and respect which makes them feel cherished.