How to choose and buy an engagement ring
Popping the question can be a daunting task—for more reasons than one. So, as you prepare to get down on one knee, it helps to know you have the perfect ring in your pocket. In order to do so, it’s important to invest in a rock that you’re sure your partner will want to say ‘I do’ to.
From finger sizes and settings to stones and metals, there’s a whole heap of research involved in selecting the right engagement ring—which, considering its often hefty price tag, you’re going to want to get right. Thankfully, jewellery designer Wade Taranto, who has spent years crafting designs for leading Australian jewellers, is here to help you do just that.
“I think it’s important to have a clear understanding of your partner’s style and aesthetic interests,” shares the designer, who has spent the last decade and a half honing his craft. “A basic understanding of the types of gemstones available is a great start, [and] idea of stone shapes and colours can [also] be helpful in deciding on the type of ring you’re looking for.”
Here, Taranto unpacks all you need to know before you invest your hard-earned coin in an engagement ring, including the consensus on whether or not you should actually be involving your partner in the process.
What steps are involved in buying an engagement ring?
“The process generally begins with choosing a gemstone or variety of gemstones. There is an endless array of unique possibilities, so take some time to research your favourite colours and shapes. If you’re taking the custom or bespoke route, many jewellers will have a collection of loose gemstones available for their bespoke process, with the ring then designed and crafted around your chosen stones.”
“The design and make of the ring are just as important as the gemstones themselves. A poorly designed or crafted ring won’t do any stone justice, so it’s important that you allow enough time to find and work with the right jeweller for you. Ask for recommendations and most importantly look at physical examples of the jeweller’s work before you decide to start the custom process with them.”
How much research should you do before buying an engagement ring?
“A basic understanding of the types of gemstones available is a great start. An idea of stone shapes and colours can be helpful in deciding on the type of ring you’re looking for.”
“If you’re looking at diamonds, I would recommend some research into the four Cs: carat, colour, clarity and cut. Once deciding on these characteristics, you’ll have a better understanding of the diamonds available and what is achievable for your budget. However, don’t go thinking that what may seem best on paper is what’s best for you and your partner. There are so many beautiful diamonds and gemstones available where flaws, inclusions and variation in colour all add to their unique appearance and beauty.”
“Be aware of the different methods of crafting jewellery. A well-crafted piece will last a lifetime and then some, and the way it’s constructed plays a large role in its longevity.”
“Pre-booking an appointment for a bespoke or custom process is recommended, so you can be sure you’re meeting with your desired jeweller and/or designer, and an appropriate amount of time can be allocated to discuss your specific ideas.”
If opting for a custom ring, should you include your partner in the design process?
“It’s definitely a personal choice and I find with my clients there seems to be a fairly even split when it comes to including your partner or not. I think often designing the ring together can be a lot of fun. Injecting both personalities into the piece often leads to unique concepts and designs. [In] saying that, there is a magic and romance in the surprise, and in my experience, once you work out a clear vision with your jeweller, the receiver usually falls instantly in love with the ring.”
If you want to surprise your partner with a custom ring, what details should you have ready for the designer?
“Finger size is important (as close as possible that is). If your partner wears a ring that would seem a close fit, you can take it to any jeweller for sizing (this can be done on the spot). I usually lend my clients a ring sizing mandrel to take home and do this. If this isn’t possible, measuring the inside diameter of a ring usually works best. Just be mindful of the finger the ring is worn [on] and the overall size of the ring you’re measuring. A piece most suited as an engagement ring works best as a comparison.”
“I think it’s important to have a clear understanding of your partner’s style and aesthetic interests if you are making the occasion a surprise. Knowing where your tastes may align in these areas can also be helpful through the bespoke process.”
“Photos of other pieces of jewellery your partner wears can be helpful in portraying your partner’s taste in jewellery. Favourite outfits, artworks, music, furniture, etc can all help the designer understand their taste and aesthetic. Don’t stress too much if these things aren’t of too much importance though, great designs can come from simple conversations too.”
“The addition of hidden design elements can be added to almost any piece of jewellery, helping shape sentimental layers for future heirloom pieces. These details can be inspired by the simple everyday moments, [so] don’t be afraid to talk to your jeweller about how they can possibly be incorporated.”
How can you purchase the perfect engagement ring while on a budget?
“With the vast array of gemstones available, working with any budget is often possible when shopping for your engagement ring. The four Cs can all be adjusted in order to suit many budgets and opting for less traditional gems can provide unique designs with a more desirable price tag. More recently, salt and pepper diamonds, Australian sapphires and champagne diamonds have proved popular choices, due to their unique shapes and colours, and their price point is often more affordable than your traditional white diamond.”
“Recycling old family jewellery, whether it’s the metal or gemstones, can be a great way to secure your perfect ring while on a budget, and mixing old and new stones can help add a unique twist to your design while also providing a sentimental touch.”
What features of an engagement ring should you be aware of when selecting an existing style or designing a custom one?
“The type of setting, how many claws, the direction the stones are placed, whether the stones sit high or low on the finger, all play a part in the comfort, aesthetic and wearability of the ring. Some settings do provide more support for stones, so if you think your partner may be a little heavy handed or works with their hands, a more secure setting can sometimes be a helpful option.”
“The colour of metal is [also] important. What colour does your partner generally wear is a good question to ask yourself, especially if the ring design is a surprise. Some stones are suited to a particular coloured metal, however there are no rules, so don’t get caught up thinking you can’t put a white diamond in a yellow setting — or other traditional rules.”
“Trust that your jeweller has an understanding for the best balance between the size of the stones and the settings used. No one wants a ring with overbearing claws, however too thin and flimsy can quickly lead to damaged settings and lost stones. Some metals can [also] be harder wearing than others. Generally speaking, the higher the gold content, the longer lasting your ring will be.”
“Although it’s not absolutely necessary, it can be helpful to think ahead and allow for the style of the wedding band that will sit with the engagement ring. If you’re wanting a wedding band to sit flush, the style of the engagement ring must allow this. However, there are endless possibilities for bespoke wedding bands, crafted around the design of your engagement ring, so my advice is don’t get too caught up on this aspect of your purchase.”
How can you protect your investment?
“Most jewellers will generally offer yearly complimentary cleaning/servicing of your ring. This is important as they will check for loose stones, clean and polish your ring and advise if further work is necessary in order to keep your ring in mint condition.”
“When working with your hands, it’s generally best to remove your rings. Activities such as the gym and washing dishes can quickly lead to chips and scratches. Whenever removing your jewellery, be sure to store your ring in a safe place. A soft fabric-lined box/hard case is ideal to avoid scratching and knocks from other objects or jewellery.”