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Picking a Winner:...

Picking a Winner: Finding the Perfect Engagement Ring

When Britain’s Prince William proposed to his girlfriend, Kate Middleton, an international media frenzy erupted. The headlines couldn’t be any bolder or brighter, with the spotlight shining brightest on the diamond-encompassed sapphire on Kate’s finger.

But it’s not just the royals who care about the ring; when it comes to levels of importance on the marriage-proposal scale, the engagement ring is usually at the top. Whether the groom-to-be ventures out alone or with his intended, there are some significant things to keep in mind.

Her Personal Style
Just because she hasn’t been dropping blatant clues (read: tearing images of rings from bridal magazines and haphazardly leaving them around for you to find), that doesn’t mean she hasn’t been giving you hints. Look at her personal style in clothing and decor. Does she gravitate toward antiques and classic clothing, or does she tend to favor contemporary furniture and a more modern style? It’s likely that her taste in jewelry is similar to her taste in fashion and decor. When you start your search, you’ll benefit from closely observing her style choices. The more you understand her style, the more she’ll appreciate that you’ve been noticing. Another important factor worth considering is her lifestyle. A woman who’s active in serious outdoor activities, such as climbing or hiking, might prefer a ring that doesn’t get in the way of these things.

A Little Help Is Good
If anyone can give you insight into her personal style, her friends and family can. Because each person will have his or her own perspective on her personality and taste, the most useful approach may be to spend some personal one-on-one time with each important person in her life and then compare notes.

The Trends
There are many trends today, including the decision to opt for no diamond at all. Engagement rings can come in a variety of metals, including gold, yellow gold, white gold, sterling silver, titanium, platinum, and palladium, and there is a plethora of jewelers and goldsmiths who can design custom bands. If she does want a diamond but is politically minded, she may appreciate a conflict-free stone. Online retailers like BlueNile.com and BrilliantEarth.com offer a wide selection of certified conflict-free diamonds and other earth-friendly options. Art Deco and Edwardian styles have also gained prominence as trends over the past several years. But unless you’re lucky enough to have a family heirloom in hand, you’ll need to plan on spending additional time scouring estate sales or consulting jewelers to design an antique replica for those styles.

It’s Okay to Skip Tradition
According to a recent Washington Post article, “[n]ew U.S. Census Bureau estimates show that the number of unmarried couples living together spiked nationally during the recent recession.” With more couples forgoing traditional relationship timelines for various reasons, it’s no surprise that many brides- and grooms-to-be go to the jewelry store together. Eric Trabert, owner of Eric Trabert Goldsmiths, in San Francisco, says he sees all different types of engagement-ring shoppers pass through his shop’s doors, including guys coming in alone or with friends and family members. He also sees couples coming in together. Trabert thinks that if the man is doing the shopping himself, “it’s important [that he] really knows their partner.”

It’s Not Just for Her
It’s easy to get caught up in the belief that buying the engagement ring is all about her, but it’s not. This is a process that’s equally (if not more) significant for the man. Trabert points out that there are many different types of experiences a man can have and that it’s important that the man thinks about what he’s looking for before leaving the house.

“He should have an idea and sense of what he wants in a ring and experience,” he says. Trabert adds that men often focus just on the ticket, saying, “Guys aren’t as attuned to looking at details. Sometimes, they’re scared off just by the price.” Trabert emphasizes that it’s necessary to do research and educate yourself before heading out; this way, you can better spot the craftsmanship in the details and will know when you’re getting a quality piece. It’s imperative to understand that if you go to a big-box store, you’re more likely to get a lesser-quality ring and have a more impersonal experience. If you go to a specialized service store, you’ll get a better-quality ring and have a much more personal experience. 

The Four Cs
Any literature on ring shopping wouldn’t be complete without a mention of the four Cs:

Cut: The cut is what determines a diamond’s brilliance. The better the stone is cut, the more glimmer it will have.

Clarity: This refers to a diamond’s imperfection. The more perfect the diamond, the better its clarity and quality.

Color: This actually refers to the diamond’s lack of color. Stones with the least amount of color (whiter stones) are graded as being higher quality.

Carat: According to Bluenile.com’s diamond-buying guide, “This is the term which [most] people [know].” Simply put, carat is the diamond’s weight.

Prince William had it easy. He only had to get his mother’s ring from his father, get it sized and sparkled, and then determine the right place to pop the question. But those outside Buckingham Palace really have their work cut out for them. More often than not, the act of buying an engagement ring involves hours of Internet surfing, followed by days (if not weeks) of pounding the pavement. With some thought and a little education though, you, too, can have a royal experience shopping for the perfect engagement ring.


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