Words: Lydia Smith
It’s the season to be festive, but it’s also the season to propose.
With Valentine’s Day just over a month away, many people might be thinking about popping the question to their partners on the most romantic day of the year. In fact, according to one survey, almost half (41%) of people aged 25 to 34 would like to be proposed to on 14 February.
However, with every proposal comes the tricky task of picking a ring. It can be overwhelming to choose an engagement ring for a partner or for yourself – so we’ve put together a handy guide to help make the decision easier.
First, you need to consider your partner’s style and lifestyle, as you may want to consider getting a more durable ring.
Jeweller Jenny Gilbert, who creates ethically-sourced jewellery using pearls, says: “Choosing something to fit your partner’s style is important, as is the stone you choose – is it hard wearing? A colour your partner likes?”
“A hard stone is most important for those who work with their hands. Think about the metal you will use, as with stones, some are harder wearing than others.
You may also want to consider getting a ring that matches your partner’s other jewellery – a lot of people have preference between yellow and white metals, Gilbert adds.
“There are also less traditional options to consider such as titanium, steel and wood,” she says. “Large rings may become too cumbersome to wear every day – if your partner prefers chunky jewellery consider how far it stands above the finger or if it has components that may snag on jumpers. If in doubt – talk to a jeweller about your chosen ring.”
Jeweller Farah Qureshi, who is based in London, says that if the ring is going to be a surprise, it would be good to do some research and estimate the size if possible.
“If your partner has a selection of rings, you can gauge an approximate ring size, there are a variety of different ways of doing this such as drawing around the inside of a ring,” she says.
“If on the other hand you and your partner are shopping for rings, it would be good to look both online and to visit jewellery shops to discover designs that you both appreciate and then consider whether you would like to commission a ring from a jewellery designer or buy an off the peg ring. There is a lot of choice out there and there is something for everyone.”
It’s not all about huge sparkling diamonds, there is a huge selection of engagement rings out there. Gilbert says she believes any ring can be an engagement ring.
“The sentiment behind the ring is far more important than a choosing from a set style,” she says. “You could choose a traditional high value platinum set diamond ring, you could trawl the vintage shops for a beautiful antique, or you could go to your local handmade jewellery gallery and choose something unusual and unique.
“The only limitations are whether the ring is fit for everyday wear – if in doubt, just ask the jeweller who makes it,” Gilbert adds.
Qureshi says traditional rings or timeless classics never go out of style – and modern or designer engagement rings can be unique.
“Alternative engagement rings are a growing trend and are great for those seeking a ring, which is a bit different and for those who prefer a new and distinctive look,” she says.
“There are a variety of different types of engagement rings, some have a single gemstone, central to the ring; or others which have a larger middle gem such as a diamond with smaller gems on either side.”
You should also consider looking for ethically-sourced jewellery, too.
“Mining is environmentally destructive, and conditions for workers can be exploitative and dangerous,” Gilbert says. “There is a lot that is ethically wrong within the precious metal and stone industry, but things are constantly improving with help from responsible consumers demanding traceability.
“Check where your jeweller is sourcing their metals and stones. Is it recycled? Is it fair-trade or fair mined? If it doesn’t say on their website or promotional material, just ask!
“If they aren’t already using ethically sourced materials, perhaps your asking will encourage them to do so.”
Qureshi says she chooses to work with as much recycled silver and gold as possible. “I am also a Fairtrade gold licensee and can make jewellery from gold, silver and platinum which comes from mines where the miners are paid a fair wage and who work in environments with good health and safety and where the communities, benefit and thrive,” she adds.
Then comes the next big question – how much should you spend? Traditionally, the person who proposes is to spend two months’ worth of wages on an engagement ring.
“I however believe you should spend whatever your feel is a reasonable amount to spend on a ring,” Gilbert says. “This will vary wildly from person to person – if spending £50,000 on a big diamond ring is important to you or your partner – do it!
“But you can equally buy a simple silver band for £50 if that’s what you want to propose with and feel that’s what your partner would like.
“Cheaper jewellery is more likely to need repairing or replacing – particularly softer metals like silver, but you spent a lot less in the first place and repairing or replacing is much more affordable. Even expensive rings sometimes need maintenance.”
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