Picking The Perfect Ring – a guide to engagement rings

Choosing an engagement ring can be one of the toughest parts of a man’s life.

You’ll need a close understanding of your girlfriend’s style, sensibilities and what she likes. The choices are wide and varied – what band do you go for? What shape of diamond? How much should you even spend?

Luckily, we’ve created a handy guide with the help of Lycetts, experts in insuring engagement rings. From the price you should pay to the material you’ll need on the band, here’s a rundown of how to avoid disappointment and make her say yes in style.


In an age of economic uncertainty, you shouldn’t bankrupt yourself on a ring. The price of an engagement ring can vary wildly depending on the style and stone you use, but you should always try to spend the upper end of what you can afford.

Basically, you need to avoid putting yourself into huge debt, but make the kind of financial commitment that illustrates just how much she means to you.

Three months’ salary no longer works as a guideline, as there may be far more pressing financial concerns on you and your partner’s mind and spending that much could place you into difficulty. However, as a rule, the more you spend the better quality you’ll receive.

Band materials explained

The material of the band makes a huge impact on the overall look of the ring. It has to reflect her personality and also work with the choice of stone.

  • Gold: Gold is a classic look for a ring and is measured in carats, which refer to the purity of the material. Generally you’ll get gold in the following increments: 9,14,18,22 and 24 carats. 22, however, is the purest available in most jewellery.
  • Silver: Another classic-looking material that helps a diamond look sparkling, silver is unfortunately prone to tarnishing, so only buy silver that is protectively coated.
  • Platinum: Platinum is a high-density material that is extremely durable and also gives off the same kind of simple beauty of silver. However, it is priced to reflect its high-quality properties and as such carries the most prestige.
  • Palladium: Palladium is a softer, more affordable alternative to platinum but carries similar hypoallergenic properties. Palladium can develop a characteristic patina over time and is a great substitute for platinum or white gold.
  • White Gold: If you’re after a classic look but want a stunning material that won’t tarnish over time, white gold is the best choice. With all the same properties as standard gold, white gold is then coated with precious metals such as silver or palladium to give it an eye-catching polish and shine. It is more expensive than standard yellow gold but the finish helps a diamond really sparkle.

Picking a setting

The setting of a ring refers to how the diamond is held in place. Far from just functional, each setting can heavily alter the look of the ring.

The most common settings vary depending on popularity and trends, but are usually:

  • Prong: Prong settings have metal claws that reach up to grasp the ring in place. These prongs are typically four ‘claws’ and can be rounded, pointed, flat or V-shaped, which will heavily alter the look of the ring. However, they’re prone to snapping if you live an active life, since they can snag on material. Care should be taken when wearing a prong ring. However, due to this elevation the gem gets plenty of light, which makes it sparkle and shine.

  • The Cathedral: The Cathedral is a variant of the prong setting that elevates the gemstone even higher. As such, the risk of snagging is higher but the sparkle can be greater.
  • Channel: This is when you set diamonds into the ‘channel’ of the band, often tightly together.

  • Bezel: A bezel setting sets the diamond with a full or partial ‘bezel’ that clasps it in place. This is a good choice for a more active lifestyle as it’s generally a very secure fit.
  • Halo: This is when diamonds are set in a repeating circular pattern to create a ‘halo’.

  • Tension: This setting sees a diamond set between two parts of the ring, held in place by tension. However, most styles use a small prong or something similar to hold the stone in place.
  • Pavé: This setting is named after the French word ‘to pave’, which means a ring is ‘paved’ with diamonds that have tiny beads or prongs holding them in place.

Obviously there are many more settings to choose from, but you’ll need to pick something she loves so you’ll need to understand her style preferences. Does she want simple and tasteful? Go for prong or tension. If she’s more into ‘bling’ you might opt for Pavé or Halo.

Choosing your stone

When you come to pick a stone, you’re faced with a huge array of choices even when it comes to size, clarity and even colour. Here, price will limit your options but by carefully selecting what you need you’ll be able to net a bargain.

The carat of the diamond can vary quite heavily. For most jewellery, you’ll choose between 0.1 up to full 1 carat stones. Of course when it comes to luxurious purchases, diamonds can vary wildly up to 100 carats, worth millions. Unlike gold, where carat denotes the purity of the material, the carat of a diamond is the weight. Discounts can be had if you get a stone that is just under popular sizes such as 1/2ct, ¾ ct and 1ct. Be on the lookout for a stone that has a high diameter but a lower weight as it makes the gem look larger.

When you’re ordering from a bespoke ring company, you’ll also have to pick different clarities. As a rule of thumb, opt for the best clarity you can afford to ensure the diamond shines bright. The colour is not as important as only a trained eye will spot the difference. On top of that, the colour will change when set against the material.

Diamond shape

Diamond shape can vary greatly and most are cut into the following popular styles, which all transform the look of a ring.

  • Round: Round diamonds are popular, accounting for 75% of all diamonds sold. The shape promotes brightness due to its reflective properties.
  • Princess cut: A fancy shape that speaks of elegance and refinement.
  • Oval: An elongated cut that aims to make the gem look like it’s a greater size.
  • Marquise: A football-shaped, brilliant-cut diamond which has a large surface area.
  • Pear: Pear-shaped diamonds combine marquise and round shapes to promote symmetry.
  • Cushion: A cushion diamond is a square cut that has founded corners, which looks elegant and has proven to be one of the most popular shapes.
  • Emerald cut: A large, flat-faced diamond that creates a hall of mirrors effect.
  • Radiant cut: Similar to an emerald cut, but modified to have a vibrant, lively face with brilliant-cut design.
  • Heart-shaped: The iconic heart symbol is a perfect way to express love.

Now you’ve done all the hard work, you’ll have to sneakily get her measurements or have the ring resized. We’ll leave that – and the proposal – up to you!

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