Shopping For Your Dream Engagement Ring
When it comes to weddings, I believe there are two types of people in the world: those who are laid-back and go with the flow, and then there’s me. I’m the second type, the opposite of easy-going, a self-confessed control freak. Before most weddings comes the engagement, and of course, the engagement ring. If you know me or have read my previous blog posts, you know I love shopping. I’m calculated, particular and efficient when it comes to shopping. I know what I like, what I hate and I rarely settle. Needless to say, I was not the type of person who could be “surprised” with my engagement ring and my husband 100% knew that about me. In both our families, we regularly let each other know what we want for Christmas or birthday gifts and the element of surprise (or disappointment) is rare. I was one of the very first of my friends to get engaged, so I was able to pioneer this process and figure it out on my own. Ever since, I’ve become somewhat of the go-to consultant for engagement rings in my circle and I couldn’t love it more. I absolutely love helping people find the perfect engagement ring, making sure they consider things they may have never thought of and walk away feeling completely content without uncertainty or buyer’s remorse.
Step 1. Before You Shop
If you’re interested in choosing or designing your own ring, you should first have an open line of communication with your partner. It’s a much better idea to have this conversation up front rather than having to bring it up after the fact if you don’t like the ring they propose with! There are so many things to consider, including budget, location of the jeweler, timeline for the proposal, and of course, the ring itself. Be sure to discuss all these things with your partner to make sure you are on the same page before you get your heart set on a certain ring.
Although I am based in SoCal, I fell in love with a jeweler in New York City. Luckily, it was so easy to design a custom ring over email in 2017 and even more so now following COVID. Many jewelers offer virtual consultations and interact regularly with customers on social media. I never tried on an engagement ring while I was narrowing down my options, but location is something to consider if you are a visual person who needs to see a ring on your hand to know whether it is the right one. You can even find apps to virtually try on rings to get a feel for how different shaped stones will look.
You’ll want to do your homework before you start looking around. Familiarize yourself with engagement ring terms - pavé, high polish, cushion, clarity, halo, eternity, etc. Just like shopping for a wedding dress, it’s much less overwhelming the first time you shop for engagement rings if you know what exactly the website or jeweler is talking about.
Step 2. Center Stone
The easiest place to start is with your center stone shape. I’ve included a picture of 10 of the most popular shapes from the Brilliant Earth website.
The most classic and traditional choice is a round diamond, but the other nine called “fancy shapes” are also well known. You can read a brief description of each shape here. In recent years, oval, cushion, pear, and radiant cuts seem to be showing up most on my feed. When I started ring shopping in 2017, I thought choosing my oval-shaped ring was unique, only now to see it as the overwhelmingly most common choice for fancy-shaped stones in the last couple years. I always like to be a little bit different while still classic and consider myself to be quite good at predicting trends. If I were to pick a new ring today, I would probably choose a three-stone emerald ring like the one in the photo below.
Step 3. Ring Style
That brings me to my next topic: the style or setting of your ring. This means choosing the type of band, attachment style, and metal color. Simply put, it is everything other than the center stone. The classic solitaire design features the center stone alone, with no other accents. This is mostly in contrast to the halo and three-stone styles. The halo design features a ring or “halo” of smaller stones surrounding the center gemstone. This makes the center stone appear larger because it provides more finger coverage. You can also choose a double-halo, with two halos of smaller stones.
Halo rings skyrocketed in popularity in the 2010s. Now in 2021, I personally see solitaires being the most popular choice among those getting engaged. Three-stone rings feature a trio of gemstones, with the center stone usually being a bit larger or set higher than the two side stones. There are many variations of three-stone rings with different combinations of stone shapes, such as a radiant center stone with two trapezoid side stones, or three stones of all the same shape. Brought back into the spotlight by Meghan Markle, three-stone rings have become much more popular in recent years, and I love the look glamourous of them.
This next one is what I consider a bit of a Sarah-trade secret. What I view as the single most important aspect in your engagement ring is the attachment. That’s right, not the size and shape of your center stone or type of band, but the way the stone connects with the prongs and band. To me, this is the make or break it moment between a stunningly beautiful ring or just an average ring. This is why I was obsessed with getting my ring designed by Lauren B Jewelry in New York. Their attention to detail and style is something that I simply could not find anywhere else. Additionally, the way they showcase every single detail and angle of their rings on social media is incredibly helpful when finding your ring style. Here are some of the points that were non-negotiables for me related to the attachment when choosing a ring:
Slim, modern prongs
Dainty connection between prongs and band
Stone sits perfectly in prongs with no gaps
Wedding band able to sit flush against engagement ring
Of course, this will come down to personal choice. These are just the things that were most important to me. Here you can see a close up profile view of the design of my ring, a variation of the Lauren B RS-318. I chose to go with a 4-prong setting with pavé diamonds running up the prongs. You can see how minimal the setting is and how the stone sits flush to each prong. More setting styles include cathedral, a “hidden” halo, pavé wrap “scarf” around the prongs, or a basket setting. You’ll also want to consider the height of your setting, especially if you work in a very hands-on industry like the medical or childcare industries. Finding a low-profile ring can allow for more practical day to day wear, as it is definitely an adjustment to get used to having a higher sitting stone on your hand. Some of the lowest profile settings will be the “invisible gallery” setting.
There seem to be endless options when it comes to the band. The most common are a simple high-polish
band or a pavé band. I love a very thin band for the most modern look, but bands come in all shapes and sizes. You can choose a three-row pavé band for more of a 3-D, diamond encrusted look or a thicker, more durable band if you are hard on your hands. There are also fancy-shape diamond bands or twisted bands for a more unique look.
Lastly, we come to metal color. There are four basic metals used in engagement rings: platinum, white gold, yellow gold, and rose gold. Keep in mind, all gold used in jewelry is not pure gold, but mixed with other metals in order for it to withstand wear. White gold and platinum have a similar look, but platinum is more precious, thus more expensive than white gold. Because it is a pure metal, it does not require redipping like white gold to keep its bright white appearance. Although durable, platinum is still prone to damage, meaning regular polishing and upkeep is necessary. Platinum is also a great choice for those with skin sensitivities as it is hypoallergenic. Platinum and white gold still hold their title as the most popular choices for engagement ring metals.
While rose gold has been around for centuries, it rose back to peak popularity in the mid-2010’s. You couldn’t turn around without seeing rose gold nail polish, rose gold home décor, and of course, rose gold jewelry. Though the rose gold lifestyle obsession has calmed down, it is still a popular choice for jewelry. In the 1920s, rose gold became popular due to its feminine and romantic look, and can be considered more of a “neutral” metal than white or yellow gold. As a lover of all things pink and sparkly, I went with a rose gold pavé band, but the prongs of my ring are white gold. With a colored band, consider mixing metals and going for white gold or platinum prongs to really make your center stone stand out and appear more clear from the top view. Yellow gold is tried and true as the most traditional metal for engagement rings. It has had a reputation in recent decades as being outdated, but due to its long standing history in jewelry dating back thousands of years, it will always stand firm as one of the most common choices for engagement rings.
If you’re having a hard time deciding between metals, you may want to consider your skin tone when choosing between yellow, rose, or white gold/platinum for your engagement ring. Yellow gold is said to compliment warm undertones best, while white gold and platinum are most complimentary to cool, pinker skin tones. As mentioned above, rose gold can appear to be more neutral and compliments many skin tones. Ultimately, the choice is yours!
Step 4. Ring Size
Before you hand over your ideas to your partner, be sure to know your ring finger size. Consider visiting a jewelry store with a friend to get sized by a professional. It will only take a few minutes and most stores are happy to do it. Although jewelers will resize your ring within a couple sizes, a substantial change in size may not be possible or could damage the ring. It’s also important it is a good fit since most engagement rings are top heavy, and may twist and turn on the finger if too loose. Plus, if you choose to wear a wedding band in the “traditional” fashion, this will mean your wedding band goes on first, then your engagement ring, causing your engagement ring to sit ever so slightly higher on your finger where it may taper in a bit.
Step 5. Budget
While I recommend discussing budget with your partner before you begin shopping for a ring, once you get an idea for what you like, you’ll be able to better estimate how far your budget will go. At this point, you’ll want to choose your specific center stone, whether that be a diamond or another gemstone. The process for selecting a diamond is best left to the professionals to help walk you through choosing the perfect stone for your needs.
There are quite a few factors you can consider to save quite a bit of cash:
Diamond alternatives. Diamonds may be forever, but many other precious gemstones come pretty darn close. Lab diamonds and moissanites are two popular options for getting the look of a diamond, while costing a fraction of the price as well as being a more ethical option. Lab diamonds are identical in composition to a natural diamond and are just as durable. Moissanites score the tiniest bit less hard than diamonds, but are still suitable for everyday wear. Diamond alternatives can cost several thousand dollars less than a high-quality diamond of equivalent weight. Colored gemstones like morganite, or any other gemstone that might be meaningful to you or match your personality can be substituted as well for a more affordable price.
Elongated stones. Fancy shapes that are elongated such as pear, oval, and marquise give more finger coverage for a lower carat weight, giving the appearance of a larger stone. Alternatively, round diamonds will be the most expensive per carat.
Add a halo. As I mentioned before, adding a halo will also increase finger coverage, making the center stone appear larger because the ring takes up more space on your hand.
Choose white gold over platinum. Both white gold and platinum will require upkeep costs over time, but white gold costs far less upfront than platinum. Both metals have pros and cons and a variety of factors should be considered before making your choice.
Although I love to be as frugal as possible, I recommend spending a bit more to go through a jewelry store where you are able to speak to a consultant and create a custom ring rather than buying online or from a chain establishment. The level of detail and service you will receive while creating a personal relationship with a jeweler makes all the difference in the quality of your engagement ring.
My Favorite Jewelers
There are tons of jewelers out there I have yet to discover, but these are the three I recommend to anyone asking.
1. Lauren B Jewelry, New York, NY.
This is where my engagement ring is from. I believe the world of engagement jewelry on Instagram has come a very long way in the past couple years, but Lauren B was the best at it before anyone else. Not only do they have gorgeous, custom rings that fit all the criteria I’ve described above, they share every single angle of a ring on video and have amazing links and resources on their website. It was so easy to create a custom ring over email as well since they are located in New York. Since we got engaged in New York, we were able to visit the store to get my ring sized and meet our jeweler in person!
2. Happy Jewelers, Fullerton, CA.
Located in a brand new beautiful store location, Happy Jewelers has an incredible inventory at wholesale prices. They also specialize in custom jewelry so you can get exactly the engagement ring you want, no matter how unique. I got my wedding band here and recommend it to everyone local to Southern California, especially if you are between multiple styles.
3. Princess Bride Diamonds, Huntington Beach, CA.
Princess Bride Diamonds is a family-owned jewelry store in Huntington Beach. Having gone to school with the daughter of the owners (and now jewelry consultant), so many of my friends have gotten their engagement rings and wedding bands from Princess Bride. The in-store experience is extremely personalized which makes you feel like a valued client without a high-pressure environment to rush or buy on the spot. If you don’t have a lot of knowledge or experience with engagement rings, I recommend this be your first stop to receive amazing service.
Unlike your wedding day, your engagement ring is forever (unless you get an upgrade later down the line!). Think about current trends and what you imagine yourself wearing in 10, 20, or 50 years in the future. That being said, be sure to always take good care of your ring after you are engaged! Regular at-home and professional cleanings, inspections by a jeweler, not wearing while in water or during activities that are hard on your hands are all extremely important in preserving your investment. And my last piece of motherly advice is to get that baby insured ASAP!
Sarah Soldau is a Southern California based wedding coordinator, specializing in wedding management (also known as day-of coordination). Her goal is to educate and empower couples to be confident and in control of planning their own dream wedding day, and then actually enjoy it! As a “bridal cheerleader,” she is her couples’ biggest advocate on their wedding day and leaves no detail unnoticed. By sharing her own experiences in wedding planning, as well as her love of makeup and fashion on The Blushing Blog, she hopes to leave the world with a little more love and beauty. Head to the Contact page to learn more about services and pricing.