5 Rules of Engagement Rings You Need to Know Before Popping the Question

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So you’ve decided to pop the question this holiday season, but you don’t really know where to start. Unless your special someone has been sending you subtle messages about cut, carat and size, you’re probably going to need some help choosing the right rock.

December is the most popular month for marriage proposals, according to top wedding site TheKnot.com. Of the 13,000 people married in 2013 that it surveyed, 16% got engaged at that time, the site found. Follow these five tips to purchase the ring of your intended’s dreams.

1. Get the right size

First, know what ring size you’re looking for. Sure, the easiest way may be to just ask your sweetie, but what’s the fun in that?

Start by asking their friends to nonchalantly scope out finger size and report back. Or, if you can, snag one of their rings and bring it with you to the jeweler. Tracing the inside and outside of one of their rings would work too. If they don’t wear many rings, make the best estimation possible. If they’re between sizes, remember it’s easier to get a ring sized down than to make it larger.

2. Get to know the 4 Cs

Diamond stronghold DeBeers used an aggressive marketing campaign during the 1930s and the ubiquitous “A Diamond is Forever” slogan to position diamonds as the standard in engagement rings, according to the American Gem Society.

Whether you choose a diamond or another stone, you should consider the four Cs:

  • Clarity – the stone’s “inclusions” or inherent imperfections
  • Cut grade – the light return, or how well the stone reflects light. This is also the shape of the center stone, such as round, marquise, princess, pear, asscher, oval, heart, emerald, etc.
  • Color – the color of the stone is graded on a scale (beginning with D) from colorless to obvious color.
  • Carat – the weight of the rock, usually averaging just over 1 carat

3. Get set to choose a setting

It’s not just the four Cs that count – you’ll also want to familiarize yourself with different settings that hold the stone in place. Some popular settings include prong, channel, bezel, pave, tension setting, scallop, trellis and more. In addition, you’ll need to know which metals to choose from, including yellow gold, white gold, rose gold, platinum, or palladium.

Remember, your honey will be wearing this ring for the rest of their life, so it should fit their taste and style, whether classic or eclectic or anywhere in between.

4. Don’t overspend

DeBeers also promoted the concept that you should spend two months’ salary on a ring, but that outdated concept is no longer the rule. If spending thousands on a ring is going to set you back in a big way, then don’t feel pressure to do it. Let your jeweler know your budget and stick to it.

If you’re considering a custom ring, you may want to shop wholesale for loose stones to reduce costs and shop separately for the setting.

The average cost of an engagement ring nationally is around $5,598, according to TheKnot.com study. Financing options may seem enticing, especially for zero- or low-interest promotional periods, but if you can’t make the payments, you could be charged high interest on the total price – nearly 25% at major retailers.

If you don’t have the cash, just consider this recent finding: More expensive engagement rings have been linked to higher divorce rates, according to an October 2014 study by Andrew Francis and Hugo Mialon, professors in the Department of Economics at Emory University in Atlanta.

5. Get the ring insured

It’s not romantic, but if you’re buying a ring, you need to insure it. You can usually purchase ring insurance as an add-on to your homeowners or renters policy.

Before choosing a policy, look for coverage that includes accidental loss as well as theft. Save your purchase receipts and an appraisal from a certified gemologist. Find out what you’ll need to make a claim.

In addition to insurance, visit a jeweler every six months to have the prongs and stones checked.

Don’t let purchasing the ring outshine the big question. No matter how low key or hyped up you’re planning your proposal to be, remember your future spouse agrees to marry you, not a rock. Make your proposal memorable and give them a ring they’ll be glad to show off for years to come.


Engagement ring photo via Shutterstock.