How to choose the perfect engagement ring

[This article was originally published by Equalli on 24th November 2017]

engagement ring
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When you know you’ve met The One, it’s time to pop the question. But picking the right place to ask or even the best way to ask the one you love to marry you isn’t the hard part. No, the hard part is often choosing the engagement ring you’ll use.

Why is choosing an engagement ring such a challenge? For one thing, it’s usually a purchase one person makes without their partner. After all, part of the thrill of popping the question is the element of surprise. While this makes for a memorable and romantic moment, it also puts a lot of pressure on the person doing the asking since it means they are also choosing the engagement ring that will become a part of the wedding set shared by the couple.

Choosing the ring that will become the foundation of your wedding set is no small task, so it comes as no surprise that many people find the process overwhelming. But the wealth of choice shouldn’t prevent you from getting ready to propose. Instead, we’ve broken down the process of choosing engagement rings in order to make it easier for people to choose a ring that will become part of their Happily Ever After.

Dollar and euro banknotes with marriage ring in finance and marriage expenses concept.
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Setting the Basic Parameters

In the course of choosing an engagement ring, you’ll make countless decisions. So it’s a good idea to set some parameters right away. These include the foundation for any big decision – your budget and the basic approach to the decision. By determining these simple and basic issues right out of the gate, you’ll be able to guide and hone your search more effectively. Establishing these ground rules early can also prevent you from becoming overwhelmed later.

Set a Budget Now – Your Wedding Will Thank You

Before you do anything, set a budget for yourself. You can make it as liberal or conservative as you want, but it is important to set some clear boundaries now. Soon you’ll be looking into the details of rings and knowing what you can comfortably spend can be a huge help in guiding your decision and refining your search.

Setting or keeping a budget starting with your engagement ring is the best way to improve your chances of sticking to your budget when it comes time for planning your wedding.  Setting budgets will also give your marriage a great foundation, as the practice can easily improve your lives.  How much you spend should be determined by you – or together as a couple – not what advertisers want you to spend. The idea that people spend three months’ worth of wages on a ring is, quite frankly, not always practical.

Find Inspiration at the Source

Before you start looking at styles, stones or anything else, think about what you know your partner already likes. If the love of your life is all about silver and platinum, then don’t even worry about looking at bright golds or rose-tinted metals. Check out the gemstones they already love, take some time and pay attention not only to the pieces they already own, but also the items that catch their eye.

Don’t limit your research to only rings, either. Look at their necklaces, bracelets, earrings and anything else they wear or have kept. You can find inspiration from all of this so that you can find something special that fits their style and will become a part of them.

Custom Built or Ready to Wear?

Rings, especially engagement rings, quickly become a part of someone’s daily life. It’s a piece of jewelry that must be flexible while still standing out. Designing custom engagement rings has become increasingly popular over the past few years and it’s an option many couples consider for both their engagement rings and the rings they exchange when they get married.

Designing your own ring is made simple by various apps and services offered by many jewelers as well as a variety of websites. In most cases, designing a ring can be as simple or as involved as you want it to be. People with a flair for design can control every aspect of the ring, including custom settings.

On the other hand, there are many artists who offer amazing rings with intricate designs ready to order right away. Some are ready to buy right “off the shelf” so to speak from chain jewelers while others are built to order based on a specific design the client chooses. These are both great options for people who want a truly professional look, without the pressure of designing it themselves.

Finally, there is the Vintage Option. Vintage rings can be family heirlooms or something you find out in the secondhand market. Estate sales, auctions and even pawn shops can all be fertile ground to find rings in styles that simply aren’t made anymore or that were originally a one-off or limited edition design. Jason Sudeikis opted for a vintage ring when he became engaged to actress Olivia Wilde. She was quick to show off the ring and has commented on how much she enjoys the sense of mystery it has.

According to Wilde, the only thing she knows for sure is that the ring was in Paris in the early 1920s. “I love imagining the story of this ring,” she’s said, “Who had it? It’s a bit of an aqua emerald, not a deep dark green. Jason said it reminded him of my eyes, which is very sweet.”

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Time to Find the Right Ring

Choosing a Style

Once you have some parameters set with budget and approach, it’s time to talk about style. Ring styles vary from sleek, simple minimalist designs to over the top bling that would make Kim Kardashian blush. Generally speaking, though, there are about five different overall styles when it comes to engagement rings.

  • Solitaire – A solitaire is perhaps the most common engagement ring. It features one stunning stone – usually a diamond – set along a thin band. It is traditionally what people think of when they imagine an engagement ring.
  • Side-Stone – The side-stone design uses gemstone embellishments to increase how much sparkle a ring has. The design incorporates small accent stones along with two larger gemstones to frame the main stone and bring out its color.
  • Halo – A small circle of colored gemstones surround a brilliant diamond creating a halo effect. This design is especially impressive when it incorporates colors and stones with bold colors such as emeralds and diamonds.
  • Three-Stone – Can’t decide which gemstone you want to display most prominently? Split the difference by incorporating three stones into a design that uses their individual beauty to create something amazing.
  • Eternity – Eternity rings use an unbroken line of dazzling gemstones to create a ring that is stunning from literally every angle. Traditionally used as anniversary bands, this style is enjoying a revival among couples.
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Selecting Your Gemstones

Diamonds may be the most common gemstones used for engagement rings, but they’re definitely not your only choice. In fact, there are a host of gemstones with impressive refractive properties – essentially a fancy way of saying they’re just as dazzling as any diamond.


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Durability – Very Good

Hardness =–7.0 – 7.5
Refractive Index – 1.624 – 1.644
Meaning – Associated with healing and balancing energies. Is associated with cleansing and detoxification.

This colorful gemstone is a type of crystal silicate. While each stone is brightly colored and has dazzling depth, unique concentrations of the silicate crystals makes each one truly unique. Tourmaline is a durable gemstone, making it a great choice for couples who want a ring that can stand up to their active lifestyles. Generally speaking, no special care is required for tourmaline. The only exception to this rule is when the stone has been enhanced to become multi-colored. This is done through a special heating process which can result in a weakness where the colors meet.


Round cut ruby, isolated on white background
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Durability – Excellent
Hardness – 9.0
Refractive Index – 1.762 – 1.770
Meaning – Most often associated with passion, the ruby is also thought to give the wearer guidance. It is thought to give people special insight which helps guide them to the right path in life.

Rubies are very similar to sapphires in that they are both a form of a mineral called Corundum. The only real difference is in color. Rubies are known for their iconic, deep and rich red coloring while sapphires come in other colors.


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Durability – Excellent
Hardness – 9.0
Refractive Index – 1.762 – 1.770
Meaning – Sapphires are associated with truth, blessings, and knowledge – basically the ideal foundation for any relationship. In ancient times, members of the royalty and spiritual leaders would use sapphires in their rings and jeweled pieces to represent their divine wisdom.

Sapphires, like the rubies discussed above, are a form of Corundum. While rubies occur only in red, sapphires can be literally any color of the rainbow. These multi-faceted gemstones are well known for their sparkling properties as well as their overall value. Sapphires deliver an amazing look and dynamic colors at a cost that delivers true value.


Tanzanite gemstones on white background.
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Durability – Good
Hardness – 6.5 -7.0
Refractive Index – 1.69 – 1.70
Meaning – Tanzanite is found only in Tanzania so it is often associated with loyalty and special introspective spiritual knowledge, or a deep understanding of the true self.

Tanzanite is a popular alternative to diamonds since they have a similar look. These gemstones are not as strong, however, and do require some special care. Tanzanite is slightly lighter than a diamond and it boasts a reflective index similar to sapphires, making it a dazzling option.

How to Spot Quality

When it comes to looking for quality, many people are already familiar with the trinity of Cut, Clarity and Color. It has become shorthand for being able to find gemstones that are the highest quality, but does that always mean the best value? In order to know how appearance and substance work together, it’s important to understand each component.


There are more than a dozen different cuts when it comes to gemstones. These cuts can vary from simple and straightforward round cuts to intricate cuts that create statement pieces. But when it comes to an engagement ring, you want something that can complement the wedding bad it will eventually be paired with so sticking to more traditional and popular cuts is best. The most popular cuts for diamonds and other gemstones include

  • Round
  • Princess
  • Oval
  • Marquise
  • Pear
  • Emerald
  • Asscher


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Metal Types

For an engagement ring, metals such as gold, platinum and silver are best. While many people still think of gold as simply being only yellow gold, there are now many options that include white and rose colored gold.

Overall, metal quality today is better than ever so it really comes down to what color and style is best for the ring itself as well as the person who will be wearing it. If the person likes warmer tones, go with the bright and welcoming colors of yellow and rose gold. For a more minimalist look or to play against a brightly colored gemstone arrangement, consider platinum, titanium or white gold.

Choosing a Company

Once you begin looking at different engagement rings, you’ll soon find that, on the surface, many of them look alike. One company’s Princess Cut Diamond and Emerald wedding set might look almost identical to something another company offers. So how can you know you’re getting a truly beautiful and enduring piece of fine jewelry, especially when shipping online?

The answer is simple if you look at researching companies and niche jewelers with the same approach you’ve been using to research rings. Do a quick search on a company before deciding who you’ll want to work with. When evaluating how trustworthy a company is, keep the following criteria in mind:

  • Sustainable Sourcing – No matter what a company offers, they have to find the minerals, materials and gemstones that make their pieces. Find out how they mine and source these materials to ensure you’re working with a company that values protecting the future.
  • Fair Trade Working – When working with gemstones indigenous to a certain part of the world, working with local artists can make the difference between pieces that look like any other piece and those that celebrate the natural beauty and culture embodied by these amazing gems. Look for companies that aim to work with local artisans and the surrounding community to create economic and artistic opportunities.
  • Certifications – Companies who can stand behind their work ill often offer third part certification on their gemstone’s quality or the quality of the workmanship. These kinds of endorsements offer peace of mind when it comes to investing in a piece of jewelry you plan to wear forever.
  • Guarantees – Ultimately, a company’s true worth is in how long they stand behind their workmanship. It’s well worth your time to find a company that offers a true Lifetime Guarantee. Generally speaking, a high-quality engagement ring shouldn’t have any problems over the life of the ring. Settings and stones should remain solid and you should only need to clean it in order to get it back into its best possible shape. A company unwilling to accept returns at any point should be viewed with a healthy amount of skepticism.

By considering these issues when evaluating different jewelers and companies, you’ll be able to separate the fly by night operators from those with a vested interest in fine jewelry. It may sound silly, but working with an ethical company can have an impact on how you feel about the ring you’ll use to declare your love for someone. This ring is, after all, about to be come a part of the story of your romance.

Spend Wisely

When people say fine jewelry is an investment, they’re not joking. The fact of the matter is, money may not buy happiness but in the world of jewelry, it certainly buys beauty. If you aren’t in the habit of buying high end jewelry in general, it’s easy to get a case of sticker shock once you begin shopping around. Before you start comparing prices, it’s a good idea to take some time to understand how prices are determined for diamonds and other gemstones.

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Essentially, all the factors you’ve been looking for contribute directly to the price. Cut, clarity, carats, settings, metal and whether or not it’s certified all play a part in a ring’s final price. The rarity of the gemstones you’ve chosen and customization are also big factors. Finally, in some cases, there’s a so-called “Brand Tax”. This is simply the extra cost of securing a ring from a famous jeweler or company.

In order to get the best possible deal, many couples go beyond shopping around locally when it’s time to buy their engagement rings. Some people are even willing to go straight to the source. In some cases, people fly to places like Dubai’s famous ‘Diamond District’ in order to have the best selection at the best prices.

Flying off to hunt down a true diamond in the rough in order to build an engagement ring from the ground up may sound romantic, but it can be a tricky endeavor, even for professionals. Since the goal is often to save money or get a better deal on gemstones, it’s important to consider the travel costs associated with the journey and not just what you’ll end up spending on the gemstone.

For people who routinely travel to parts of the world known for certain gems, those travel expenses may not be as much of a concern. After all, if you’re already traveling to Dubai for business, swinging by to pick a diamond seems like an easy side-trip. Buying in markets in other countries, however, presents a whole new set of problems and challenges.

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Flying to Dubai for Diamonds

Whether someone travels a lot flying to places like Dubai for diamonds offers a great mix of adventure and romance.  Buying diamonds in the Diamond Markets of Dubai is becoming a popular travel destination with jewelry enthusiasts and couples looking to combine a romantic getaway with their official engagement.

One of the biggest misconceptions when it comes to travelling to buy diamonds is that the cost of the trip itself can make the endeavor more expensive than it needs to be.  A lot of people think that travelling to any well-known jewel district is something that only exceedingly rich people do.

While travelling for the thrill of it is certainly a hobby of the posh, that doesn’t mean it can’t also be something enjoyed by others.  Flights to Dubai can be expensive but if you’re willing to be flexible it’s possible to land a budget friendly flight that will give you extra money to spend on the ring of your dreams.  Some top tips for landing a cheap international flight include:

  • Fly off Season – Forget about heading to Dubai at their height of its tourist season.  Instead, check out prices on flights and hotels when their tourism is at its lowest.
  • Sign Up For Combo Alerts – Many travel websites offer users the ability to sign up for flash sales and special deals when they combine flight and hotel reservations.  Sign up for as many as you’re willing to scroll through in order to find a budget friendly deal.
  • Be Flexible On Dates – While you can target some date ranges as the best time to score a deal, the truth is that mazing offers can happen at any time.  Keep yourself packed and ready to go so that you can take advantage of last minute specials and even standby flight deals.
  • Be Willing to Travel to Travel – Expand your search to any local or even semi-local airports.  If you can get to a remote airport within a few hours and there’s a deal on a four-stop flight to Dubai, jump on it!
  • Trade Your Points – While using any travel points is pretty much Step One for most savvy travelers, not everyone know they can trade their points in to get dealers elsewhere.  Sue a website like to transfer, trade and exchange points in order to make the most out of whatever loyalty program can get you the best offer.

Once you’re in Dubai, there are some tips travelers have shared on how to shop wisely.  Taking advantage of these tips could help you save time, effort – and money.

  • Know Where to Go – There are several different areas you can choose from when visiting Dubai to buy diamond, gold or other jewelry.  The Gold Souk of Dubai is extremely popular and boasts plenty of merchants and a feel of ‘old world Dubai’.  On the other end of the scale, there’s the Gold and Diamond Park which is a modern mall type setting that offers plenty of choice in air-conditioned comfort.  Chain jewelers like Joyallukas and Damas also have flagship stores in the Dubai area.  Working with one of these companies often gives people a greater sense of security.
  • Haggle the Price – One of the biggest draws to the Dubai area for jewelry shopping is the haggling.  Customers routinely offer half of what is listed as the price and some even offer a pittance just to see how low they an go. Haggling is an art, however, and it’s important to balance negotiation with respect.
  • Shop Early and Off Season – Merchants are less likely to give big discounts at the height of tourist season.  After all, they know they’ll have plenty of customers.  Instead shop off season if possible.  Many people have also reported that shopping earlier in the day seems to yield better results as traders still aren’t sure what kind of day they’ll have and they are more open to negotiation.
  • Stick to Established Merchants – As with any international city, Dubai is also home to plenty of scam artists.  While someone may claim they can get you an amazing deal on a diamond, if they aren’t operating out of an established business, consider it a huge red flag.  Dealing with ‘private dealers’ may seem like a good idea, but if anything goes wrong you’re likely to have no recourse.

The gemstone markets in many countries can be difficult to navigate for non-natives. Tourists who come around looking to find a great deal are even targeted and scammed out of hundreds or thousands of dollars. The grading system in some countries differs than what the West is used to and it can be difficult for even educated shoppers to spot a fake certificate.

Finally, there are the import taxes to consider. Anything over $100 or so is usually taxed upon arrival in the United States, the United Kingdom and most other countries. The amount of tax, or import duty, varies and depends on the value of the item. If you plan to spend several thousand dollars on a ring from another country, keep in mind you’ll be adding taxes on top of the cost once you get back home.

With the challenges and issues involved in sourcing your own diamonds or other gemstones, it’s often easier to simply order from international companies online. You can still get the best selection and take advantage of companies that work with local artists. With the proliferation of the Internet there are now dozens of niche jewelers as well as respected national and global companies that make buying engagement rings easier than ever.

Buying an engagement ring is an exciting and slightly overwhelming process. Let’s face it – choosing the ring that will mark the day two lives become one can really turn up the pressure. By breaking the project down into manageable tasks, it becomes easier to find the ring that offers the perfect fit. Setting clear boundaries from the outset keeps your search on track. Learning about gemstones, cuts, styles and settings all help you discover what you and your partner like and what you can rule out. Shopping around and spending your money wisely will ensure the ring you find is not only a perfect fit for your love story, but also an investment you can feel good about.

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