The Modern Gladiator | A Man's Guide to Living

Buying an Engagement Ring: A Field Guide for the Modern Man

on October 3 | in Fashion, Issue 21 | by | with No Comments

She’s drop dead gorgeous, the most beautiful woman you’ve ever seen. Smart, funny, sweet . . . and she’s all yours. Well, almost. All that’s left to seal the deal is the proposal. You’ve picked the location, written your speech, now you’re off to buy the ring—but how exactly? You’re not sure, but you are sure that you do NOT want to mess this up. After all, this is the piece of jewelry she’ll wear for the rest of her life, that glimmering symbol that will remind her every day just how much you love her and show the rest of the world that she’s taken.

Now, for picking her ring, how do you know what to get her? Which style? What cut of stone? What if she doesn’t even want a diamond—then what? Honestly, you probably need some help, and that’s where her friends come in. Find one of her friends that you know you can confide in and enlist her to help. It will be much easier for one of your lady’s friends to solicit this kind of information without suspicion.

In learning what your lady wants, there are a few factors to consider: metal type, stone type and cut, ring style, and of course price. While there are many metal options available, without a doubt the most popular metals for engagement rings remain gold and platinum, as their classic beauty and timeless nature set them apart. If you’re looking for something with a silver hue, you’ll want to go with either white gold which looks like silver but is considered to be a finer metal than sterling silver – OR – platinum, the most luxurious and dense of the ring metals. Platinum is silver in color, but unlike silver or gold, platinum is extremely dense, making it nearly indestructible, the perfect option for an active bride on-the-go.


As for gold, knowing she wants a gold ring won’t be enough, so be sure to get some clarification on this one. There are several types of gold: white gold, rose gold, and the traditional yellow gold. Even if she’s specified yellow gold, you’ll still need to know what type, and in yellow gold your options will range from 14k gold to 22k gold. Yes, 24k exists, but it’s not an advisable option for engagement rings or jewelry in general due to its fragile nature. On the scale of yellow gold from 14k to 22k, 14k is the hardest, most affordable and least golden in color. While 22k is a rich golden color, very yellow in hue, it’s also the most expensive and softest of the yellow golds. If your lady is interested in 22k, just be aware that it is a VERY soft metal and should be treated as such. Most other metals will scratch it, meaning the ring should be worn with care.

The best option for yellow gold is 14k or 18k, 14k being optimal from a durability standpoint since she’s going to wear this stunner every day, for the rest of her life.

picture3Once you’ve chosen your metal, you’re on to the next big option—what type of stone? Traditionally, engagement rings are diamond; however, in today’s postmodern world, many women are opting for alternative stones such as sapphires, morganite, emeralds, and lab-grown diamonds, particularly with the blood diamond debate raging on. If you do decide to opt for a diamond, you’ll want to consider size, quality and source of the diamond. Diamond size is measured in carats, and the more carats the diamond, the larger and more expensive it will be. Keep in mind that a 1-carat diamond is a fairly standard size for the average bride, so unless you’re George Clooney, you typically don’t need to worry about breaking the bank on 2+ carats . If you can afford a larger diamond, by all means, have at it—the more sparkle, the better—but in general, your lady probably won’t expect a diamond much larger than 1-carat.

picture2In addition to size, you’ll want to consider diamond quality and color. Unless otherwise specified, if your lady wants a diamond, she’s probably not looking for a colored diamond; however, that option does exist, so just be sure you’re aware. In general, you’ll want a diamond that’s between VVS1 and S1 in clarity and D and H in color. This is something you can leave to the professionals. While you’ll want to educate yourself, you’re probably better off working with a custom jeweler who can lead you through the diamond selection process.


“Diamonds are a girl’s best friend, not to mention one of the luxuries of the modern world; however, many of them are also mined inhumanely in less than ideal conditions.”

Many women don’t have a problem with this and if that’s the case, don’t worry about it. However, if your lady is concerned, there are some alternative options to consider. One, use a previously mined diamond from a piece of vintage or heirloom jewelry. This may also be a more affordable option if you have an old ring from Grandma lying around. Two, you can purchase a diamond from Canada; these diamonds are sustainably and humanely sourced; however, as such, they will run a bit more expensive than an inhumanely sourced diamond. Finally, you may want to consider moissanite. Moissanites are lab-grown diamonds, the most sustainable, humane and cost effective of the diamond options. Moissanite is chemically equivalent to a diamond, but grown in a lab rather than naturally occurring. Moissanite can be a great option for the forward thinking, modern couple. As a bonus too, moissanite is a little more friendly on your wallet.

If your lady is a little less conventional and color is her thing, you’ll probably want to go with a precious or semi-precious stone. The options here can be endless, so the characteristics you’ll want to nail down are cut, color, and price point. Gemstones are cut in many variations. The most common cuts for engagement rings are: round, brilliant, emerald, princess, cushion, and asscher. Although, if your lady is the type that’s interested in a gemstone rather than a diamond, chances are she might also be interested in an alternative cut.

When it comes to color, price point may dictate the type of gemstone. For example, if you’re looking for a blue stone, you might choose a sapphire, topaz, spinel, or tourmaline. It all depends on the hue of blue you’re looking for and the money you’re willing to spend. Sapphire, being a precious gemstone, will be a more pricey option than a semi-precious gemstone option, like topaz. One very important consideration too is level of hardness of the gemstone.  Some gemstones are more durable than others, so you’ll want to make sure that you choose a tough stone for her forever ring. Again, when it comes to choosing a gemstone or a diamond, you’ll probably be best off working with a custom jeweler.

picture4Okay, you’ve picked a metal, you’ve chosen the stone, the question now is: what type of style does she want? Does she want a solitaire (a single set stone)? Perhaps she’s interested in a halo (a halo of diamonds surrounding the center stone)? Is she expecting diamonds on the band? Furthermore, what kind of a setting should you choose to hold the diamonds or gemstone—prong setting or bezel setting? Prongs are like the prongs of a fork, tiny metal prongs placed strategically around the perimeter of the stone and bent over the stone’s edge to hold the stone in place. Generally, prongs are thought to let more light into the diamond, amplifying its sparkle. A bezel setting, on the other hand, is a thin sheet of metal wrapped around the entire edge of the metal, great for a more metal enthusiastic bride. Ultimately, when choosing the style, you’re going to want some photos for inspiration. Have your confidant or even your lady provide you with some options of engagement rings she’s interested in. Enter Pinterest! Be sure that you’re clear about what she likes about each ring: is it the metal, the stone, the style, the setting? The more you know, the easier it will be to select something your future fiancé will fall in love with. This is also where working with a custom jeweler can come in handy.  They can easily help you navigate the many design options and factors in order to put your lady in her dream ring.

Once you’ve determined what you’re looking for, the question remains—where do you get it? Your options are to go with a pre-fabricated or mass-manufactured ring from a jewelry store or to design a custom piece. If you’re looking for something standard, i.e. a diamond solitaire, a jewelry store will do you just fine. However, if you’re looking for anything specific or an unusual combination of metal and stone, you’ll probably be best off going with a custom jeweler. Working with a custom jeweler has many advantages, the main one being that you’re working with someone one-on-one to create EXACTLY what your lady wants. When working with a custom jeweler, you’ll have a guide to lead you through the entire design and production process as well as the diamond and/or gemstone selection process, You’ll have your own personal someone with connections in the industry and a history of creating custom designs, not to mention experience leading men through the engagement process. Now you’re ready to begin the ring design and purchasing process.


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