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Guide to Engagement Rings

Guide to Engagement Rings
Kseniya Burns

The time has come. You are ready to propose marriage to the love of your life and you need a ring. Where do you start? How do you pick the right one? What if she hates it? Should you let her design her own, pick one yourself, or ask her friends about her dream ring? What if they tip her off and it will no longer be a surprise? Should you even bother surprising her? This guide will help you answer these questions and help you find the right ring, for the right price without breaking the bank.


The first thing you should consider is the person you are giving the ring to. The ring is representation of your love for each other, but only one of you will be wearing it for the rest of her life. Make sure that the ring suites her style and taste. The best way to do that is to take a look at the jewelry she already has. Does she prefer white or yellow gold? Does she like diamonds or sapphires? Has she said anything about certain settings? How do her other rings look like?

You should also consider talking to her girlfriends. Believe it or not, most women discuss their dream engagement ring at some point, some do it more than once. Chances are, her girlfriends know more about her jewelry preferences than you might deduce from her jewelry box. A word of caution: make sure that her friends know not to say anything to her if you are planning to keep it a surprise.

Once you have deduced what she likes, it is time to do some leg work.


This is actually just as important as picking the ring. You want to make sure that the vendor you select is trustworthy, reputable, knows what they are talking about and carry a large variety of styles, settings, and cuts. Your jeweler should be your partner in this endeavor, someone who can guide you through this process step by step, not a guy who is going to take all of your money and run.

A reputable dealer will have a return policy, a warranty, and will never pressure you into buying anything until you are absolutely sure that you are comfortable with the purchase.

It also helps to find out if the jeweler you have chosen carries pre-owned engagement rings. Usually, pre-owned rings are cheaper and look just as good as a brand new one.

Ermitage Jewelers has a large selection of pre-owned, new, and vintage rings for you to choose from in almost any price range. Our highly professional staff is trained specifically to guide first time buyers through the difficult process of picking an engagement ring in a comfortable, friendly atmosphere.

We will make sure that the ring you choose is the one she will absolutely love.


As you may have already noticed, there are hundreds of styles, settings, and stones. How do you choose the right one? What does this all mean? How much should I spend? What about the “three months of salary” rule? Don’t worry, we have the answers to all of these questions below. Read on!


At this point you should be ready to begin the process of picking the right ring. If you can, borrow one of your girlfriend’s rings and take it to your jeweler for sizing. Make sure that you take the one she wears the most, it’ll give you a more accurate sizing. If you can’t get one of her rings without her knowing, use a piece of paper and a pencil and trace the inside of her favorite ring on a piece of paper, take the paper to the jeweler to help size the ring.  

Always keep in mind that sizing down is much easier and cheaper than sizing up. So, if you are unsure of the size or if she turns out to be a half size, go larger rather than smaller. Don’t worry, getting a bigger size in engagement rings isn’t going to land you in a dog house like it would with a dress purchase. When it comes to jewelry, bigger is better!

The Diamond

Your jeweler should be able to present you with a wide variety of diamonds in almost any color, cut, clarity, and carat size.  Having a wide range of stones to choose from will help you make a better, more informed decision and could potentially save you hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Here are a few things that you should look at:


Although there are exceptions to the rule, colorless diamonds with the least amount of fluorescence (bluish glow under a jewelers light) are considered to be the most valuable. The more color the diamond has, the less expensive it will be. The color, however, is not always visible to the naked eye especially when the stone is set in the right setting. Usually, diamonds with slight color are set in yellow or rose gold settings to make the diamond appear brighter and more brilliant. Colorless diamonds are usually set in platinum or white gold setting so the color of the metal will not detract from the purity of the stone.


The cut of the diamond is dependent on the amount and the location of inclusions (flaws) in the raw stone as well as the current fashion trends. If you have done your research and talk to your girlfriend’s friends, chances are you already know what she likes, but in case there are doubts the following guide will help you make an informed decision.

  • Round Cut: Round cut diamonds are timeless and classic. Round cut maximizes the brilliance of the stone though proper refraction of light. This cut makes the diamond look brighter than any other cut.

  • Princess Cut: This is the most common cut found in engagement rings because of the shapes flexibility in various ring settings and styles. If you are unsure of the shape that you want to choose, you can’t go wrong with the Princess cut diamond.

  • Oval Cut: When you are talking diamonds, size matters. Oval cut will create an illusion of larger diamond for a price of a smaller stone. Additionally, oval cut diamonds have greater a greater degree of brilliance than other cuts.

  • Marquise Cut: These diamonds are “football” shaped and can appear significantly larger than an oval or a round cut diamonds while delivering the optimal degree of fiery brilliance.

  • Pear Cut: This is a hybrid cut diamond that combines the marquise cut and the oval cut. A properly cut pear shaped diamond is symmetrical with the apex of the rounded edge making the “wings” symmetrical.

  • Cushion Cut: This diamond resembles a pillow, hints its name. The cut resembles a square cut with rounded corners. Cushion cut diamonds have been in style for over 200 years, making this cut a timeless classic.

  • Emerald Cut: Emerald cut diamonds are highly prized for the interplay of light within the diamond. The only downside of this cut is that it shows flaws better than any other cut. If you are going to go with an emerald cut diamond, make sure that it is possible to cover the inclusions with the setting or that the stone is near perfect.

  • Asscher Cut: This cut has originated in Holland. The cut is very similar to the emerald cut but with a smaller table (the face of the diamond) and larger step cuts (sides).

  • Radiant Cut: Rectangular in shape this cut shares some attributes of round and oval cuts making it just as bright and yet modern, unusual, and unexpected.

  • Heart Shape: This cut screams love and affection. One of the most popular cuts in pendants and engagement rings this cut is as brilliant as round or oval cut. However, diamonds of this shape need to be over .50 carats in size, otherwise the shape can get lost in the setting.


Clarity refers to imperfections in the stone. Because of every diamonds formation process is unique, every stone will have a unique set of “fingerprints”. These imperfections are called “inclusions” when they are located inside the stone and “blemishes” when they are located on the surface. The term “clarity” refers to the apparent degree of these imperfections. In some cases, inclusions and blemishes determine the shape of the diamond. Jewelers take great care to minimize the visibility of the imperfections by hiding them under the settings or by utilizing a special cut.  Most diamonds are cut in such a way that obstructs inclusions making them invisible to the naked eye.

Carat Size:

The word “carat” refers to the weight of the diamond (0.2 grams equals 1 carat). The word itself comes from an ancient word “carob” or seed. Merchants and jewel traders use to measure the size of their stones by comparing them to certain sized seeds particular to their region.

Often times, diamonds with exactly the same carat weight will be differently priced. The difference is dependent on the diamonds shape, color, and the amount of flaws.

The average carat weight for an engagement ring is just over one carat. The carat weight you will choose will likely depend on your budget and the preference of your significant other. Keep in mind that you don’t have to buy a bigger stone for the ring to make a huge impact. Choosing an oval, radiant, marquise cut can make the diamond appear larger than it really is.

The Setting

There are a few settings that you can choose from and that choice is largely dependent on the personal preference of your soon to be wife. Some jewelers will offer a temporary setting, meaning that the diamond is set in a simple setting for a specific period of time so you can propose to your girlfriend. After the proposal, she can return to the jeweler and pick her own, permanent setting.

If, however, you want to surprise her with a romantic proposal and a finished ring below is the list of the most popular settings that you can choose from.

  • Solitary Setting: The traditional engagement ring setting. Usually composed of a band and a prong setting for the stone. This setting highlights the diamond.

  • Pave Setting: Multiple, smaller diamonds are set in a “halo” effect around the center diamond and around the band. There are various types of pave settings ranging from petite pave to double halo petite pave. Pave setting maximizes the brilliance of the center stone.

  • Petite Pave Setting: This setting features a half circle of smaller diamonds around the centerpiece diamond and a semicircle around the band making it appear brighter and larger.

  • Single Halo Petite Pave: Modern and streamline, this setting features a single circle of smaller diamonds set around the center diamond.

  • Single Halo Vintage Petite Pave Setting: Vintage settings are among some of the most beautiful and complex settings. These rings usually feature multiple diamonds, intricate, inlaid designs and sometimes combinations of metals such as white and yellow or rose gold. Vintage engagement ring settings are becoming increasingly more popular. Art Nouveau and Art Deco influences are usually most popular in this style.

  • Romantic Setting (Unique Setting): This setting usually features unique, whimsical designs. Choosing this setting allows the creator of the ring impart their creativity and style into the piece. There are no rules with the romantic setting. Basically, anything that doesn’t outright scream a specific category can be categorized as a romantic setting.  

  • Twists: Although this setting falls under the Romantic Setting category, it deserves a place of its own. This setting features a wave-like band that envelops the stone.

How Much Should You Spend?

Here’s where I would like to begin breaking the stereotypical approach to purchasing an engagement ring. First of all, forget that old rule that you should spend three months’ salary on a ring. What good could it do if you overspend? The reason why this ridiculous rule even exists is to insure that men who are less dedicated to the process than you are present their women with a good enough ring. Since you are still reading this, we can safely assume that you are not lazy and you do care. So, let’s save some money.

Forget the whole ring for a minute and let the stone guide your decisions. Pick the cut, then pick the carat weight and color, than clarity. The color and the clarity of the diamond will dictate the type of precious metal that you will choose for the ring and subsequently the setting. If you know that your significant other prefers white gold or platinum to yellow or rose gold, you can minimize your expenditure by choosing a cut that will make the diamond seem larger. Additionally, remember that the price gets lower when the carat weight is below a whole number. For example, you will pay hundreds less for a ring that is 0.9 carats verses 1 carat and the difference will be unperceivable to the naked eye.

If you are shopping for a ring, you probably have a budget. Utilize the information that is provided in this article to make an informed decision. Playing with cuts, clarity, carat weight, and color can get you a better ring for a lower price.


There are certain breathtaking works of art that you can only get pre-owned. Buying a pre-owned ring will likely save you hundreds of dollars, you will get a better ring, and the ring that was once loved and cherished will get a second chance at being a symbol of love and devotion.

However that is not the case with most rings. Some vintage rings can fetch a high dollar price due to their rarity factor as well as being set with a conflict free diamond. Again, the ring you will choose to buy will largely depend on your budget and availability. Don’t shy away from buying pre-owned especially if the ring is in a great condition.


It is a known fact that almost 25% of all diamonds on the market today were mined in war zones and sold to finance war crimes and terrorism. If your girlfriend is one of the people who pays attention to these kind of things, she may not be happy with a “blood diamond”.

Ask your jeweler where the diamond is from. If your stone is mined in a country that is not currently involved in a conflict then you can safely avoid the stigma of a “blood diamond”. However, if your diamond is mined in Africa or other, less stable regions chances are the profits from the sale of the stone went to support a warlord.


Another way to purchase a conflict free diamond is to turn to the vintage market. Diamonds mined fifty or sixty years ago were not used to finance current conflicts. Vintage diamonds and rings are also more sentimental, carry more value, and are often unique.

You will have to do more research though and change your expectations if you are going to go the vintage route. First thing you should know that the standards for diamonds have changed dramatically over the last few centuries / decades. In the old days, diamonds were considered more valuable if they had a slight tint of color, many really old engagement rings were set with pearls (which are soft and tend to disintegrate quickly). Also, take into consideration the fact that diamond cutting technology has evolved over the years and a vintage diamond may not be as brilliant or as well cut as you would like it to be. Finally, you will need to know the difference between the most popular vintage engagement ring eras:


Victorian rings are great for those that are drawn to the era and are seeking an unconventional, conflict free ring. Victorian era jewelry is categorized by implementation of whimsical and romantic motifs such as bows, hearts, flowers, and serpents (considered to be a symbol of unity). Victorian rings often feature filigree designs, other colored gem stones, and rose or yellow gold. The later part of the Victorian Era is distinguished by darker stones and black diamonds.  


After Queen Victoria’s passing the Victorian Era was over. Her son, Edward took the throne of England in 1901 beginning a new era in art, fashion, and jewelry. Edwardian Era rings are similar in style to Art Nouveau period rings due to the fact the styles overlapped. Edwardian Era lasted until the beginning of World War I in 1914.

New advances in science and metallurgy allowed jeweler to create more detailed and intricate works using platinum and gold. Edwardian Era rings are characterized by airy, white, lacy-like structure which highlights the diamond.

Art Deco:

Art Deco design style first emerged in France during World War I and lasted for nearly thirty years until the beginning of World War II. Art Deco is the style of jewelry that made the 1920’s as dazzling as they appeared. The style is characterized by the bold combination of simple, craft motifs with the Machine Age imagery. Art Deco style emerged during the time period of rapid industrialization which shifted the design aesthetic from romantic, botanical designs to bold, geometric shapes, bright colors, and lavish ornamentation. Most Art Deco rings are as exuberant and glamorous as the era that they came from.

In recent years Art Deco and Art Nouveau inspired rings have been growing in popularity.  If you are considering a vintage ring purely because of the design aesthetic, you may want to consider a modern interpretation (Victorian Inspired, Edwardian Inspired, or Art Deco Inspired) which will be cheaper and easier to find. Choosing an Era inspired engagement ring will also allow you to put in a diamond that was cut using modern technology resulting in more brilliance and less flaws.


Regardless of the price you pay for your ring or the style of the ring that you choose, consider insuring the ring. It may take you a few days to propose to the woman of your dreams and you do not want to stand a chance of accidentally misplacing the ring.

You can insure your ring through your homeowners or rental insurance or get a specialty insurance policy from a jewelry insurer. It is generally a good practice to insure your more valuable jewelry piece so you can be covered in an event of loss or damage.  

We hope that this article provided you with enough information to make an informed and educated decision. Ermitage Jewelers congratulates you on your decision to get engaged and would like to invite you to browse our collection of new, vintage and pre-owned engagement rings.

We have hundreds of style for you to choose from at the prices that will fit almost any budget.