Engagement Rings 101: Learning the Basics

The decision to propose to the woman of your dreams is an exciting time, and not one to be taken lightly. It can be a nerve wrecking time - wondering if she will say yes, how and where to pop the question - and then all of the excitement that follows getting engaged. Once the decision to propose has been made however comes another big decision – one that should also not be taken lightly - buying an engagement ring.

With so many choices in engagement ring styles it can be difficult to know which to choose. You will need to consider a fair amount of information before determining which ring will be perfect for your fiancé and future wife – because it’s something she will look at every day for the rest of your lives. When starting out on such an important journey, it can help to begin with a little engagement ring 101 to help you wade through the variety of types of engagement rings available today.

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The Parts of an Engagement Ring

An engagement ring contains many components so it can be helpful to know some terminology before looking at the many engagement ring styles. Engagement rings have a head, mounting, shoulder, side stones (not always), prongs, a peg, and shank.

  • Head: The head is the part that holds the diamond, and is usually 14k gold (white).
  • Prongs: The prongs are part of the head and these make up most of the head. They hold the diamond and there are usually four or six prongs on a head.
  • Peg: The peg is located in the base of the head and plants a hole in the diamond to keep it securely in place. Not all heads have a peg.
  • Mounting or Setting: This refers to the entire ring minus the diamond.
  • Shoulder: Shoulder refers to the portion of the ring beside the main diamond where additional stones may be set and usually rises higher than the rest of the band.
  • Side Stones: Engagement rings may or may not have side stones. Solitaires do not have side stones.
  • Shank: Shank refers to the band that makes up the bottom of the ring that wraps around the bottom of the finger.

The Parts of an Engagement Ring

Many people believe that buying an engagement ring is as simple as picking out a gold ring and a stone, but the truth is there is a lot of choice, right down to the type of metal. 14k yellow gold was the standard for many years but today couples can choose wedding bands and engagement rings in a variety of metals.

  • Two Tone: Two tone rings can include two different types of metals such as yellow and white gold, gold and platinum, or even gold and titanium.
  • Yellow or White Gold: Rings in this type of metal usually come in 10k, 14k, or 18k. 14 and 18 karat gold are recommended as they are the optimal blend of quality, purity and visual appeal.
  • Platinum: Platinum rings are usually more expensive because it takes more to create a band due to its density. They are a good choice for someone looking for a more durable and strong band as platinum does not scratch as easily. Platinum will develop a patina over time which is a duller shine than white gold.

It is possible to re-polish both gold and platinum rings to return them to their original appearance. With regular care and cleaning, both metals can look beautiful for a lifetime.

Ring Buying Essentials / Tips

When buying an engagement ring it is important to consider the style preferences of the bride-to-be, if known, the budget, and the quality of the diamond (if buying a diamond ring). There are so many types of engagement rings that it can be difficult to know where to begin, but keeping in mind these essentials will help guide you to the right choice.

Bride-to-be: Try to figure out what she likes by being observant or asking friends or family. If she adores solitaires you will want to keep this in mind, but if she loves rings with side stones, or has mentioned that she would love a ring like Kate Middleton’s, these are factors to consider.

Budget: Buy the most beautiful ring you can within your budget. Your bride will appreciate you for making the effort but will not be thrilled if it takes ten years to pay it off.

Diamond Quality: Understand the 4 Cs of a diamond so that you ensure you are getting a quality stone. Choosing a diamond that has been certified by GIA is important so that you can be sure of the value of the diamond and the quality. Other laboratories do not have standards as strict as GIA and may not be as trustworthy.

Diamond Engagement Ring Alternatives: Gemstone Rings

When buying an engagement ring with an alternative stone to a diamond there are several choices. Some women would prefer a gemstone for a variety of reasons, and these rings can be just as beautiful as a diamond. Popular gemstone alternatives include emerald, sapphire and ruby. These gemstones are valuable and rare and many can carry a price tag even higher than that of a diamond. These gemstones are famed and chosen for their color while diamonds are chosen for their sparkle. In terms of durability, gemstones are slightly softer than diamonds. This means that they are not indestructible, but with regular care, they can be worn for a lifetime.

While not all brides follow trends it can be helpful to know what the most common styles are when buying an engagement ring.

  • Twisted and woven band designs are a popular choice for those looking to symbolize the intertwining of their lives.
  • Engagement rings with tiny surprise details, sometimes as simple as tiny diamonds set into the prongs can add a unique and memorable touch to an otherwise simple engagement ring.
  • Three stone styles are always a popular choice, with a main center stone and smaller stones on either side. These represent the past, present and future of the couple.
  • The solitaire is always a popular choice, with one stone set in a prong setting. It draws attention to the stone and allows you to spend the bulk of your budget on getting a beautiful center stone.
  • Geometrical design rings are becoming more popular with those looking for a contemporary style. Asymmetrical diamond accents and geometrical shapes can help to make the engagement ring really stand out.
  • Fancy accents are also a popular choice today, with side stones in a variety of shapes to accent the main diamond. These add flair to the engagement ring but can also increase the cost.

Regardless of the final choice it is important to remember that this ring will remain on her finger for the rest of her life to symbolize the love and commitment two people have for each other. It’s worth taking a little time and effort to make an informed decision and incorporate her style and preference into it if possible.

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