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What You Should Know About Buying an Engagement Ring – Comprehensive Guide

by Liane Vaz – Toronto Goldsmith

Purchasing an engagement ring can be one of the most important decisions that you will make in your wedding process. It is also the decision that will last the longest – engagement rings often become heirlooms, passed down through generations. The process of researching your options can easily become overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be! 

Some people may purchase a ring they are drawn to upon walking into a store – we love you for that! Others are meticulous researchers who are curious about every aspect of the process.

Whether you opt for a brand name or an independent goldsmith, there are a multitude of factors – big and small – that you’ll need to consider when shopping for an engagement ring. As with most important tasks, my advice is always to divide and conquer. 

Store Options

There are four main ways to buy an engagement ring: brand-name store, independent goldsmith, vintage/antique sellers, or online. When deciding where to go, consider your timeline, budget, and style – as each will have their own pros and cons. 

Timeline

At a brand name store or vintage seller, you are more likely to walk out with a ring in hand, if you are prepared for it. On the other hand, if you are looking for something custom, independent goldsmiths and online retailers are more likely to take 4 to 8 weeks to create your dream ring for you. Buying online can be a great option as you can compare a multitude of designs at various price points to help you determine the right design for you. If possible, request the seller to send additional photos and videos of the ring you are interested in so that you can be sure the design meets your expectations. Scale is an important consideration when shopping for jewellery online, so if they have photos of the ring you like on a hand for comparison, that’s a bonus. 

Budget

It is best to be upfront with your goldsmith or salesperson, so that they can show you options and discuss what changes are possible within your budget and timeframe. Contrary to popular belief – having a custom ring made does not have to be more expensive that buying something right from a store. Custom rings can be altered to fit within a specified budget. 

The myth of an engagement ring costing three months’ salary is exactly that – a myth! You can get a beautiful engagement ring that fits your style without breaking the bank. 

Design

Looking to purchase a ring for your partner and they haven’t told you what they want? Check with their friends and dig through their jewellery collection to get a sense of their unique style. The internet is a powerful tool- your partner might have a secret (or not-so-secret) Pinterest board that they have been using to gather inspiration. 

Nowadays, couples often shop together or have the engagement ring discussion beforehand. This definitely takes a lot of stress off the person who is buying the ring!

Style

What overall style are they interested in? Something vintage and timeless, or something that is contemporary and one of a kind? Would a solitaire ring fit their style, or are they the kind of person to appreciate something more sculptural and unique? Do not be discouraged by being spoiled for choice – the dream ring is out there! You’ve got this!

diamond rings
diamond ring

There can be many intricate details to consider, including but not limited to: band profile, stone setting style, finish, and pairing the ring with a future wedding band. These aspects are typically discussed only when opting for the custom route. On the other hand, you can go with your gut and grab what you like! If you are confused about these terms – that’s okay! These can be discussed in length with your salesperson or goldsmith 🙂

Metal

There are a few things to think about when we are deciding on metal type and color. Does your partner wear more yellow or rose gold, or are they partial to a white metal? 

Consider lifestyle and aesthetic first when choosing between gold options. A higher karat boasts a richer colour, but a softer metal. If you select a lower karat, the color is more subtle, with a more durable material. For example, if you are someone who works with their hands a lot, I would recommend 10k or 14k gold. If you prefer the buttery color of yellow gold or the peachiness of a rose gold, I would choose a 14k or 18k.  Additionally, one might opt for a specific karat in consideration of price point, skin tone, or even allergies. These details can be discussed with your goldsmith or sales person. 

metal karat options

If you are a fan of white metals, platinum is a great option. The density of the metal will give your ring a nice weight, while being resistant to scratches and dents. If you are allergic to white gold (due to the zinc content), platinum is a great alternative. 

If you are on a budget and/or not planning to wear your engagement ring often, then sterling silver is a viable option. However not every style of engagement ring is well-suited to sterling silver due to how soft the metal is.

Center stones

Stone – Type

Next, we need to consider the type of stones we want to use, if any. When researching your options, you want to look at the level of hardness of the stone. Engagement rings are meant to last a lifetime, if not longer – and this means being able to resist daily wear and tear. Diamonds are an oft-used stone because they have a hardness of 10 out of 10. I typically recommend anything with a hardness of between 8 and 10 on the Mohs’ Hardness Scale. Stones with a rating of 7.5 or lower can still be used, with the understanding that proper maintenance is key. Be prepared to replace any damaged stones over time. 

While diamonds are the prevailing and most advertised options, there are other amazing stones to use. If you are interested in a classic white stone – I recommend moissanite or white sapphire. White sapphire and diamonds also come in less expensive lab-grown options. I won’t go into too many details about lab-grown versus natural here … that’s a whole other topic!

White sapphire and diamonds
Stone – Color

For colored stones, my top recommendations (based on hardness and availability) are fancy diamonds (yellow, pink, blue, champagne, black), moissanite (grey, blue, green), sapphires (almost every color), rubies (red, pink), and spinels (grey, blue, black, red). 

Emeralds, topaz, morganite and other colored gemstones are common requests but they do require more care and maintenance. This is an important topic to discuss with your salesperson or goldsmith when looking for a “non-traditional” stone.

Emeralds, topaz, morganite and other colored gemstones
Stone – Cut & Shape

Lastly, it is important to consider shapes and cuts of stones. A full-cut stone is the more traditional option (think classic diamond shape with the point at the bottom and facets all over). Rosecut stones have made a powerful comeback in the last handful of years – featuring a faceted top and flat bottom. Sitting lower on the hand than a full-cut stone, making rosecut engagement rings better suited to a fitted or contoured wedding band as opposed to a traditional straight band.

Stone - Cut & Shape

Traditional stone shapes are round, oval, pear, “emerald” (rectangle and variants), square, cushion, and marquise. There is also a vast array of “non-traditional” stone shapes including but not limited to: heart, hexagon, kite, shield and so many more. 

Traditional stone shapes are round, oval, pear, “emerald” (rectangle and variants), square, cushion, and marquise

By now, you have been empowered with a ton of information and it can be overwhelming, but remember that your salesperson or goldsmith is there to help you every step of the way!

Ring Size

This may be the trickiest thing to figure out, especially if you are planning a surprise proposal. Some stores will often sell their stock rings in standard sizes, with more accurate ring sizing services available after the ring has been presented.

For custom rings, it is important to ensure that the ring is sized as accurately as possible during the fabrication process. Do not worry if it’s not 100% accurate – resizing is still available after the proposal.

If your partner already wears rings, put your detective hat on! Try on their appropriately sized ring on one of your own hands –  second finger from the pinky! If the ring fits one of your fingers – great! We can size you and that will be considered an expert guess! Alternatively, you can measure the interior diameter of the ring in millimeters and relay this information to your salesperson or goldsmith. 

If all else fails, try sneaking some covert photos of your partner’s hands! Your salesperson or goldsmith might be able to guess from the picture. As weird as this sounds, it beats the “string” or “strip of paper” trick that is floating around the internet. 

Ring Size

Engraving

A final detail to add for a more personal touch is an engraving in the interior of the ring. This can be done via traditional hand engraving or laser engraving. Hand engraving is timely and costly yet stunning, giving the ring a vintage and elevated aesthetic. With laser engraving you have more options with fonts and symbols, typically accomplished within a few days. Unless you are 99% sure of the ring size, I would leave the engraving until after the proposal or even closer to the wedding day – in case re-sizing is required. 

engraving in the interior of the ring

Appraisal

Lastly, you can request an appraisal at any time if the ring does not come with a certificate. An appraisal is essentially a certificate that comes with a ring, detailing the replacement cost at current market price. A certified third party appraiser will assess the ring and note the weight and karat of gold, the carat and quality of all the stones, as well as any other significant details. It is best to have the appraisal reflect the accurate size of the ring as the quantity of metal may change, thereby potentially affecting the price. The appraisal can be attached to your home/tenant insurance policy in case of loss or theft. 

Congratulations!

Your wedding may last a day or two, but your engagement ring and wedding bands will stand the test of time – so naturally they require a little more attention! If you keep these tips in mind you will be empowered with the knowledge and confidence to make the right decisions! Once you’ve got the ring(s) on lock, you can rest easier. Next , look for your dream wedding gown. Congratulations, and good luck on your new adventure! 

Liane Vaz is a Toronto-based goldsmith with over a decade of experience. Liane’s aesthetics embrace symmetry and linear composition – employing details through the use of texture and engraving. She loves to explore naturally occurring patterns and precise geometry to create every day and special-occasion pieces. She currently works out of a vibrant shared studio on West Queen West. You can also check out her IG account.

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