Groom Engagement ring

Published on December 14th, 2016 | by Staggered


The Ultimate Guide To Choosing An Engagement Ring



Engagement rings are the source of endless deliberation for men planning on popping the question. It isn’t hard to see why: they are one of the most expensive and important purchases you’ll ever make.

With so many factors to consider, from the size and style to the gem that sits proudly on top, you might be feeling at a loss as to where your search should begin.

First and foremost, remember – you’re not alone.

Countless men have successfully navigated these seas before and succeeded in securing a ‘yes.’ But if you’re wondering how to choose an engagement ring that won’t leave you in hot water, we’ve put together a helpful guide that answers your questions and points you in the right direction, and for everything else, well there’s the Groom Guide of course!

Before you hit the high street, read on for the ultimate guide to choosing an engagement ring:

How much should you spend on an engagement ring?

It’s likely that the first consideration to pop into your head will be price. After all, without a budget, narrowing down your search will be near impossible. These rings can cost anything from £200 to £20,000, so how much should you spend on an engagement ring to strike the right balance? Let us explore…

The two-month salary myth

The supposed rule of thumb when purchasing an engagement ring is that you should set aside two months of your salary. But this is merely the hangover from a very successful marketing campaign in the 1980s by jeweller De Beers. In reality, few people have the funds to afford a ring worth two months’ salary – nor should they need to.

Depending on your salary and the type of ring you’re looking for, it’s possible to buy quality engagement rings for a month’s salary or less. A 1ct diamond ring, for example, is likely to cost you in the region of £1000-£2000, which is within the reach of the average professional’s budget.

Buying and Engagement ring

Setting your budget

For men really wanting to wow their partner, the two-month salary rule does at least guarantee that you’ll impress your bride-to-be with an unforgettable ring. But whatever you decide is within your means, it’s crucial to set a budget.

To help you fine-tune your search, set a minimum and maximum price range that will allow you to judge cheap engagement rings versus the most you’re willing to pay for the ‘perfect’ fit. Leaving a few hundred pounds’ worth of wiggle room to play with will ensure you don’t have to compromise when it comes to a final decision.

New, vintage or bespoke?

Your first port of call when buying an engagement ring will probably be the high street or online jewellers. However, shop-bought rings aren’t the only option available; lately, there’s been a surge in popularity for vintage engagement rings and bespoke designs. So it’s worth bearing the alternatives in mind…

What is a vintage ring?

If your partner has an eye for antiques, you may want to consider vintage rings. A vintage engagement ring is typically at least 50 years old, meaning you should look for rings made before the 1960s.

Of course, going down the route of selecting a vintage ring will narrow your search slightly. So where should you buy an antique engagement ring from? While fairs and vintage jewellers are full of hidden treasures, you’ll find a much greater range of options online.

engagement ring

How to design your own engagement ring

Designing your own engagement ring takes patience and creativity, but the reaction of your bride-to-be on learning that you’ve created something unique is an attractive lure. To create a bespoke engagement ring, you need to choose your gemstone and select a suitable setting.

We’ll be exploring the types of engagement ring gemstones and settings available in the next part of this guide, but it’s worth asking several jewellers for quotes before you go ahead. And remember: only choose a jeweller that you have the utmost faith in.

Engagement ring gemstones

Engagement rings come in all shapes, sizes and colours, but diamond rings are undoubtedly the most popular choice. A staggering 75% of men opt for diamond engagement rings, although as we will see later, there are lots of other options available. Let’s begin by taking a look at why diamond rings are so popular, and how to select one:

Diamond engagement rings

To the untrained eye, diamonds may look broadly similar. However, there are subtle variations from gem to gem that can significantly impact the value. Carat is an obvious differentiator, but there is a distinct, universal process of grading a diamond gem. This was established by the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), and it’s known as the four C’s:

  • Colour
  • Cut
  • Clarity
  • Carat

Here’s what to look out for in each:


‘Perfect’ diamond engagement rings have no colour at all. They are considered pure, and are ranked as a ‘D’ on the GIA colour grading scale. However, many diamonds have a very subtle hue, which can be spotted when compared to a masterstone. There are four categories of hue – D, H, N and Z – ranging from high to low in value.


Diamonds are cherished for that distinct glint that makes them seem so precious. As such, the cut of a diamond is important, because it determines the way in which the gem interacts with light. The cut grade encompasses a number of factors, including the weight vs diameter, girdle thickness, symmetry and scintillation.


A diamond with the perfect colour and cut can be undermined by visible blemishes. Clarity, the third C, grades a diamond on the inclusions and blemishes (or lack of) within the gem. Ranging from FL (flawless) to I3 (included), the clarity grading plays an important role in valuing a diamond.


When all of the above are equal, the final differentiator is carat weight. One carat is the equivalent of 200 milligrams. So a 0.50 ct diamond gem would weigh 100 milligrams; a 5 ct gem would weigh one gram.

Using these four factors as a guide will allow you to judge the quality and value of the gemstone. However, diamonds aren’t the only option, as we are about to explore.

Alternative gemstones for engagement rings

Diamond rings may be the most popular and traditional, but they’re not for everyone. In fact, there are some gorgeous alternative gemstones to choose from if your partner is attracted to more colourful jewellery. To broaden your search, here are 10 alternatives to diamond engagement rings:

  • Ruby
  • Pearl
  • Tanzanite
  • Sapphire
  • Emerald
  • Amethyst
  • Topaz
  • Opal
  • Turquoise
  • Aquamarine

When choosing a gemstone for your engagement ring, there are various factors to consider. Does your partner have a favourite colour that might lend one gemstone more naturally over another? If not, you might factor in her skin tone or eye colour, as well as the style and ring material you’re steering towards.

A turquoise ring, for example, might look beautiful in an Aztec-style gold band, while tanzanite is usually paired with silver settings to showcase the deep blue colour of the gemstone.
Of course, price will also be a guiding factor in determining what engagement ring you can afford. Blue topaz gemstones are a budget-friendly choice for men seeking cheap engagement rings, while those featuring aquamarine tend to be more expensive. To help you understand relative costs, here’s a chart of gemstone prices:

Gemstone Prices Chart

Species 1 Carat 1-5 Carat 5+ Carats
Diamond $4.300/ct $13,600/ct $44,500/ct
Ruby $5,050/ct $9,500/ct $100,000/ct
Emerald $5,470/ct $9,030/ct $23,000/ct
Sapphire $10,000/ct $16,000/ct $34,000/ct
Alexandrite $3,600/ct $15,000/ct $1,000,000/ct

Choosing your ring metal

Gemstones are the centrepiece of engagement rings, but the setting and band are just as important, especially if you’re investing in a bespoke ring. From the metal and size to the shape of the setting, let us give you an insight into choosing your ring metal.How to find her ring sizeThis is perhaps the hardest part of all; unless you’ve popped the question before buying an engagement ring, you must be discreet. To ensure you choose an accurate size, you’ll need to know the inside diameter and inside circumference of her ring finger. This allows you to calculate the ring size on a scale of A to Z+6.

UK Size Inside Diameter (mm) Inside Circumference (mm)
I & 1/2 15.2 48
J & 1/2 15.6 49.3
L 16 50.6
M 16.45 51.9
N 16.9 52.1
O 17.3 54.4
P 17.7 55.7
Q 18.2 57
Q & 1/2 18.6 58.3
R & 1/2 19.0 59.5
S & 1/2 19.4 60.8
T & 1/2 19.9 62.1
U & 1/2 20.2 63.4
V & 1/2 20.6 64.6
W & 1/2 21.0 65.9
Y 21.4 67.2
Z 21.8 68.5

So how do you find her ring size without taking your partner to a jeweller? The best solution is to look out for another ring in her possession, so that you can take that to be measured instead.

However, don’t panic if you can’t find a ring lying around her room. Ask a close friend or family member that you can trust to stay quiet. If you need to make an intelligent guess, you can always have the engagement ring adjusted for a precise fit later down the line!

What is the best engagement ring metal?

Yellow gold is a classic choice for engagement rings, signifying warmth and luxury in equal measure. For yellow gold engagement rings, you’ll again need to consider the carat, which in this instance determines the purity of a precious metal.22 ct gold is considered to be ‘pure’, yet this of course comes at a cost. Therefore, when working to a budget, consider opting for 18 ct gold as a compromise, or 9 ct if you’re certain that yellow gold is right for your partner, but you’re buying on a shoestring.

However, yellow gold isn’t the only choice; rose gold and silver designs are increasingly popular for modern engagement rings. The silver finish leaves plenty of options, from attractive yet affordable Sterling silver to hard-wearing, hypo-allergenic platinum.In essence, there’s no silver-or-gold answer to the question ‘what is the best engagement ring metal.’ Just make sure that the gem you choose complements the accompanying metal.

What types of Engagement rings are there?

Most engagement rings present the diamond or gemstone in a claw setting, which elevates the gem above the metal band. Claw settings – also known as the prong setting – come in various shapes, ranging from the traditional four-class setting to V shapes for Princess cut diamonds.

The prong setting offers elegant presentation, but it’s not suited to everyone. Women whose jobs involve a lot of work with their hands could be vulnerable to damaging their ring. As such, contemporary designs have widened the scope for ring settings considerably, including:

Ring type Description
Halo rings The centre gem is encircled by a halo of smaller gems
Bezel rings The centre gem is encircled by a sleek metal band
Pavé rings Tiny diamonds are incorporated into the band itself
Channel set rings The centre gem is surrounded by tiny gems within the band
Invisible settings For a minimalist look, no setting is visible at all

The style of setting will have a significant influence on the look and feel of the ring itself; this will also determine the size and number of diamonds or gemstones you need. This is why it’s vital to put some thought into your engagement ring setting before you start shopping.

Summing up

Choosing an engagement ring is enough to overwhelm even the savviest shoppers. Gemstones, metals, settings, sizes… there truly is no one-size-fits-all solution to finding the perfect ring for your partner.

While there’s a lot resting on this purchase, it doesn’t need to be stressful. Follow this guide to narrow down your decisions and fine-tune your search, so that you select an engagement ring that your (hopefully) fiancée-to-be won’t be able to stop showing off.


About the Author


Staggered is the world’s leading publisher for grooms, best men and fathers of the bride. Across websites, emails and magazines we help over 73,000 men every month.

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