By modern convention, an engagement ring represents a formal agreement of commitment to a future wedding. In traditional custom, the engagement ring was typically presented as a betrothal gift by a man to his prospective bride during or following the acceptance of a marriage proposal. Although this custom is still widely practiced, every couple has their own views regarding this established ritual and some choose to skip the engagement ring altogether and simply exchange wedding bands during the actual ceremony. However, if you are planning on embracing this custom, the single most important thing about the engagement ring is its symbolism. It does not have to be costly and it does not have to be a diamond, but it does have to symbolize the extraordinary love that will be shared between two people for the rest of their lives. That love is precious, rare, beautiful and enduring, which means that the ring must reflect those qualities as well.
If you do want to go the traditional route with a diamond for the center stone, you can start by creating a budget. It is a common belief that the engagement ring should cost about two months salary, although this is just an approximation and couples must decide for themselves what is reasonable.
Shape Here are a few guidelines that should help direct you in your search for the perfect ring. Pick out the center stone first since it will consume the majority of the cost.
The ten basic shapes of the center stone include:
The round brilliant is by far the most popular choice. Emerald: This diamond shape is cut with rectangular facets to create a unique optical appearance. Asscher-cut: Nearly identical to the emerald-cut, except that it is square. Princess: This is the most popular non-round diamond shape. It has pointed corners and is traditionally square in shape. Radiant: Trimmed corners are the signature of this diamond, which has a varying degree of rectangularity. Heart-shaped: This diamond shape can be skinny, fat, and/or elongated. Pear-shaped: Also called a teardrop for its single point and rounded end. Marquise: Shaped like a football, this diamond maximizes carat weight. Oval: A variation of the round shape. Cushion: Looks like a square or rectangle with rounded corners and is also referred to as a pillow-cut diamond.
It is important not to confuse shape with cut. While the shape is the overall form of the diamond, the cut refers to its proportions, finish, symmetry and polish. In addition to the cut of the stone, the clarity, which refers to any inclusions that will detract from the diamond’s beauty, and the color, which ranges from colorless to yellow, will determine the quality of the stone. The carat, or weight, of the diamond along with the above factors will ultimately determine its monetary value.
Once you have an idea of what you want your center stone to look like, it’s time to pick out a setting. Decide what kind of metal you want your ring to be made of, keeping in mind what type you wear most frequently. Although yellow gold is the most traditional, platinum and white gold are more popular. Platinum is the most expensive choice because it is more rare and dense than the others; it does not fade and it is longer-lasting.
When choosing the setting, be sure to consider a style that will endure over time, regardless of the latest fads in jewelry design. Whether you can see yourself wearing the ring in twenty-five years from now is an important factor to consider.
The ring should reflect who you are, so make sure to follow your instincts! If you feel that one ring does not reflect your personality, then try on something else. If one is too flashy, opt for a design that is more demure and elegant, like a classic solitaire setting. Make the jeweler aware of the style you are interested in, whether it is modern, antique, vintage-inspired etc.
Practical considerations are a must. Your occupation and hobbies may influence your ring choice. For instance, people who wear gloves, such as doctors or nurses, should consider a low base or tension setting. Those who work outdoors should think about buying a platinum setting for its resilience.
If you opt to break away from conventional tradition either for financial reasons or because you want something more unique to capture the distinctive personality of the bride, colored gemstones are a great alternative to the diamond. Red stones, such as the ruby, red garnet, red tourmaline or red spinel, have enjoyed a time-honored, historical association with love, conjuring up images of the heart and of passion. Green stones, such as the emerald, have long symbolized faithfulness and continuity whereas a blue sapphire connotes purity and spirituality. Other options you may want to consider include an elegant pearl in an heirloom or antique setting or enlisting the bride’s birthstone for a more personal touch.
Whatever you decide, remember that the engagement ring should be infused with personal, symbolic meaning to represent the unique relationship you share with your partner.