As Valentine’s Day approaches and window displays fill with heart shaped balloons, teddy bears and chocolate boxes, those in committed relationships may feel the time is right to pop the question.
However jewellery shopping is not a pastime the average man is particularly familiar with. All the jargon, varieties of settings, changing trends and the ethics of buying diamonds can make choosing a ring quite daunting.
So how do you go about finding the right ring?
Before you even begin to look at styles, settings, and the 4 Cs of diamonds, establish a budget.
Because the ring, or rather the gemstone(s) on it, are a symbol of a man’s love for a woman, the unspoken suggestion is that how much he spends is a reflection of how much he loves her.
Ask any jeweller how much you should spend on an engagement ring and they will almost invariably tell you that the benchmark is the equivalent of two to three months’ salary.
However, this is really an entirely arbitrary figure, promoted by De Beers, the world’s largest distributor of diamonds, in an effort to encourage people to spend more.
Rather than taking this literally and putting yourself in debt (which will only put pressure on the relationship further down the line) consider that an engagement ring should not be something you purchase without a second thought, but something you plan for, save for and work towards.
Next decide if you are going to embark on a solo ring-buying mission or if, in the spirit of modernity and equality you want to make a joint decision with your partner.
On the one hand, if you choose and purchase the ring alone, you have the surprise factor in your favour – for which you will earn points.
Your partner will probably find this incredibly romantic and be suitably touched by the fact you picked out and purchased a ring without her knowledge.
On the other hand, as this is something she will wear for the rest of her life, she may want to be involved in the decision.
Assuming you choose to go it alone, you will need to educate yourself on the basics of engagement rings: the styles, the choice of metals for the band, the settings and of course the 4 Cs (carat, cut, clarity and colour) of diamonds.
A good jeweller will be able to explain the technicalities of diamonds and help you choose a quality diamond within your budget.
What the jeweller cannot do is determine what style will suit your wife to be.
If a man is planning to spend the rest of his life with a woman one can reasonably assume that he knows her very well and should know what she would like.
“I know that is a lot to ask in some situations, but typically if the girlfriend knows an engagement is imminent she’ll either leave a lot of clues, give instructions to a friend that will “help” the boyfriend choose a ring, or outright tell him what she wants,” says Olivia Kidder of Kirk Freeport.
As long as you are observant, the clues should all be there. A man need not become overwhelmed by the choice. “Making certain that she receives a ring which she is going to adore for the rest of her life is just as much her responsibility as it is his,” adds Kidder.
Think about her overall style and personality.
A flamboyant extrovert might prefer something attention grabbing and colourful, while a quiet, more reserved person would probably prefer something discreet and subtle.
If most or all of her jewellery is silver, white gold or platinum, the chances are she will not be too keen on a bright yellow gold band.
If she has lots of chunky, heavy pieces, then a slender ring with colourless diamonds will not stand out.
There are some very contemporary style engagement rings on the market today: titanium bands, tension settings and more.
However, if you opt for a very modern style, consider how this will look in twenty, thirty or forty years’ time. Will it still look good or will it look dated?
Ultimately most women choose more timeless, classic styles.
A growing trend nowadays is to have rings custom made.
If you have a stone that has personal significance, such as a birthstone, or a precious stone that has been handed down through the generations, this is the ideal way to incorporate it into a ring you will wear for life, while at the same time ensuring you get exactly the design you want.