Engagement Rings 101

If you're popping the big question this Valentine's Day, read this comprehensive guide before getting down on
one knee. With everything from sizing to styles, we're sure these rings will render her speechless.

  • 1

    How do you figure out your future wife's ring size?

    The ring should fit her finger comfortably; snug enough so that it will not fall off, but loose enough to slide over her knuckle. The simplest and most discreet approach is to get a free ring sizer from a site like BlueNile.com, and then borrow a ring—that she wears on the correct finger—from her jewelry box to match the size.

  • 2

    How do you figure out the appropriate style/setting?

    Pay attention to the clues. Does she prefer white or yellow metal? Does she prefer classic or fashion-forward jewelry? She'll probably drop hints through a friend/sister/mother. Other clues we hear about: Leaving a magazine open to a particular ring, or saying, "I LOVE so-and-so's princess-cut solitaire set in white gold." If you're still unsure, think classic. You can never go wrong with elegant and simple.

  • 3

    How can you tell a diamond/dealer is legit?

    With any retailer—brick or click—check the Better Business Bureau and ensure credit card transaction security. Insist a diamond have an independent grading report from one of the two most respected institutions in the industry, I.e., either the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or the American Gem Society (AGS). Finally, check return policies. Even today, some jewelers allow returns for only 24 hours; some don't allow returns at all; and some charge a restocking fee. Sites like Blue Nile offer 30-day returns, no questions asked.

  • 4

    How much should I spend?

    The two-month's salary proverb has fallen to the wayside. The best rule of thumb is to spend what you can afford. If you're purchasing a loose diamond, be sure to account for the cost of a setting. And take your time: This is an emotional event and purchase that will last a lifetime. Do not hesitate to shop competitively and compare products and prices.

  • 5

    Which cuts make diamonds appear larger?

    Of the Four C's (Cut, Color, Clarity, Carat), Cut is the most important because it determines a diamond's brilliance, or what we think of as a diamond's sparkle. Get the highest cut grade within your budget, Very Good or above if possible. A well-cut diamond will sparkle more, making the stone appear bigger. Of all the shapes, Round cut stones sparkle the most. Additionally, consider choosing a "Halo" setting style, where pave diamonds encircle the center diamond. This makes the center stone appear larger.

  • 6

    What's the ideal setting height?

    In terms of its setting, the diamond should sit high enough to avoid contact with your finger (otherwise the sharp cutlet can chafe skin). Wearers who are more active should consider a lower set diamond as it's better protected within the metal of the setting.

  • 7

    Is ring insurance essential?

    As with any valuable item, it's prudent to get a policy: It protects against damage, theft, or loss, and offers the wearer peace of mind for a generally
    low premium.

  • Ring on a finger
  • A loose diamond
  • Round Diamond Ring
  • The Proposal

Our Favorite Engagement Ring Sites
(For Every Style Sensibility)

[ classic ]

Blue Nile Classic Four Prong Engagement Ring
Michael Fina Gorgeous & Engaged Ellen Pave Setting

A generous return policy—plus a virtual encyclopedia of diamonds and settings—makes this an excellent resource for buying with confidence. (Plus, they offer undeniably elegant and gorgeous settings.)

Classic Four Prong Engagement Ring, $596

If you'd like a ring with a designer name attached, chances are that you can shop their wares here: Truly exquisite pieces abound, crafted by the likes of Erica Courtney and Tacori.

Gorgeous & Engaged Ellen Pave Setting, $8,250

[ estate ]

Erstwhile Jewelry Co. Victorian Turquoise and Diamond Ring
Erie Basin 1930s Art Deco Diamond Ring
Doyle & Doyle Vintage Engagement Ring
The Three Graces Art Deco Envy: Emerald Diamond Ring
Nadine Krakov Diamond & Ruby Ring

We can't get over the fantastical backgrounds the antique gems are shot against here: How about a Victoria Turquoise and Diamond Ring from 1885?

Victorian Turquoise and Diamond Ring, $4,000  

Owner Russell Whitmore travels the country to shop auctions and estate sales, to pretty spectacular results: Everything he offers is exquisite and normally very decently priced.

1930s Art Deco Diamond Ring, $2,350

Based in New York City's Lower East Side, this much-loved boutique—owned by two super-chic sisters—offers art deco versions straight from the '20s as well as more unexpected picks, like Sapphire Diamond cabochons.

Vintage Engagement Ring, $14,500  

Estate pieces are usually loaded with character, fully evidenced by the ornate, centuries-old options here. Decadent settings often make truly affordable picks look loads fancier than the price tag would suggest.

Art Deco Envy: Emerald Diamond Ring, $1,950

Situated smack in the middle of one of Beverly Hills busiest shopping drags, Nadine Krakov routinely lends jewelry to celebs for awards shows. Understandably, she sells pretty dramatic, show-stopping pieces.

Diamond and Ruby Ring, Price by Request

[ artsy & unusual ]

Bittersweets Toi Et Moi Ring
Karen Karch Double Vine Solitaire Ring
McTeigue & McClelland Blue Sapphire Flora Bouquet Ring

Tangled vines and nubby twigs are common themes in the work of Bittersweets NY—all the prettier when set with diamonds and rubies.

Toi Et Moi Ring, $1,600  

Everything at this Nolita-based jeweler is subtly rock-n-roll, from the cognac-hued diamonds to the rose gold settings.

Double Vine Solitaire Ring, $11,200

Oh, what we wouldn't give for every.single.thing this Berkshires-based duo offers. Inarguably, Tim McClelland and Walter McTeigue are some of the most talented jewelry designers out there.

Blue Sapphire Flora
Bouquet Ring, $14,500  

[ loose stones ]

Langerman Diamonds Natural Pink Diamond Triangle
BC2 Marquise-Shaped Diamond
Whiteflash Super Ideal Princess Cut Diamond

We can spend hours browsing around the
site of this family-owned enterprise. They specialize in colored diamonds, and offer everything from black to pink.

Natural Pink Diamond Triangle, $45,000

If you're on the hunt for a basic, great-quality stone (or an unusual cut), this is a good resource. (They offer a 30-day return policy and free shipping.)

.17ct Marquise Shaped Diamond, $168.37

There are a few cool features here: They have a 100% Lifetime Trade Up policy (should you want something bigger),
and offer conflict-free diamonds.

.70ct Super Ideal Princess Cut Diamond, $2,978

[ earthy & organic ]

Melissa Joy Manning Raw Diamond Nugget Ring
Yasuko Azuma Three-Diamond Ring
Diamond in the Rough Unity Ring
Sarah Perlis Triangular Rough Diamond Ring

Most of Melissa Joy Manning's pieces are intended to be stackable, which means that they're never overwhelming or traditionally bling-y. Honestly, they all look and feel like they came straight from the earth, in the best possible way.

Raw Diamond Nugget Ring, $2,115

We're huge fans of Yasuko Azuma's natural-hued diamonds, whether they're slightly red, or dark and goth.

Three-Diamond Ring, $770

As the name suggests, this New York-based enterprise leaves diamonds in their natural state—and then encases them in pave talons and loops to pretty cool effect.

Unity Ring, $7,800

Romantic and understated, Sarah Perlis focuses on paper-thin, hand-hammered bands and rosecut diamonds, which is ideal for the sort of woman who likes to play it delicate and low-key.

Triangular Rough Diamond Ring, $3,500
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