While no one can deny that pulling off a good old-fashioned surprise proposal is romantic, doing so with an engagement ring that your partner might end up hating could ruin the entire experience. After all, if they have to wear that sparkler for the rest of their life, you want them to really love it, right? Letting your significant other design his or her engagement ring will ensure A) their happiness and B) your money is well-spent. So it's basically a win-win.
We reached out to the pros at Circa, the leading international buyer of pre-owned jewelry, gemstones and watches, to shed some light on what the design process usually looks like and how to make the best of it.
1. Come up with a realistic budget
"It is important to understand what you want to spend before you start. This budget will help narrow down the size and quality of the diamond you choose," says Jennifer Pearson, VP of marketing at Circa.
So before you make an appointment with a jeweler, sit down and talk numbers with your partner.
"The price of a setting can range from $1,000 to $10,000 and more depending on the design, the metal, and if there are diamonds or precious gemstones accenting the center stone," adds Pearson.
2. Try on finished rings
Just like looking for a wedding dress can be overwhelming because of the many options on the market, it's the same with engagement rings. There are a lot of beautiful rings out there, but you need to find one that looks good on you. So before you start designing yours, Pearson suggests you try on different types of rings to see what looks most flattering on your hand.
"It is very difficult to interpret what a ring will look like from a loose stone that is balancing in the crease between your fingers," she says. "A loose stone will also look much smaller than a finished ring."
3. Choose the setting
A couple of important things to consider when picking a setting are the price and the design. The former will determine how much you have left to spend on a stone, and the latter is crucial because, later on, you'll be looking at wedding bands to wear with your engagement ring.
"A classic solitaire prong setting can be the most cost effective and will allow the customer to buy a bigger stone," says Pearson.
"If you choose a long marquise or emerald cut, it can be hard to find a wedding band that will nest perfectly with the engagement ring."
4. Select a loose stone
"Keep in mind that every stone is different. A reputable grading report from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) is a fantastic reference tool when picking a stone," suggests Pearson. It grades each stone after a careful examination under a microscope, because some inclusions are not visible to the naked eye. But don't let an inclusion be a deal-breaker for you. Some of them, adds Pearson, can be hidden by the setting or the prongs.
Other important factors when selecting a stone are the cut, color and clarity.
"If the diamond is not cut proportionately, you will notice the difference in brilliance and how much light refracts from the stone. A GIA grading report will rate the polish and symmetry. 'Very good' to 'excellent' is best," she says.
GIA's color-grading scale is what experts in the industry use. It begins with the letter D, which means "colorless," and increases with the presence of color to the letter Z, meaning light yellow or brown, according to GIA's website.
"Color and clarity are important, but you do not have to spend top dollar for a D color [...] diamond to be happy. I never want to deter anyone from buying the best, but most buyers are looking for size and quality, in that order," adds Pearson.