An engagement ring is a significant piece of jewellery. It is worn as a symbol of betrothal, although some brides will choose to wear only a wedding ring. Convention dictates that an engagement should be marked by a diamond ring, a practice that dates back to at least the eighteenth century. Other stones, such as sapphires and rubies, are still sometimes chosen for engagement rings, or may be used as side-settings.
It is still customary for the groom to pay for the ring, but the rule that two months’ salary should be spent on this has been relaxed. It is not necessary to present a ring when proposing; a safer option might be to give a piece of jewellery – such as a bracelet – that the groom knows his fiancée will like. However, the ring should be chosen within a reasonable time.
The most important considerations are the bride’s taste, her hand shape and her realistic expectations. If the groom is keen to have a say in the choice of ring, he may wish to select a few for his fiancée to choose from, or the couple may decide to look at rings together. A family heirloom – either a ring or a set of stones – may be donated by parents. This can be cleaned, adapted and re-set. If the bride is given a ring that is too valuable or precious to wear every day, she may wish to have a second one that can be worn all the time.
If the couple choose the ring together, the budget should be established well in advance. Several styles should be tried, perhaps in various shops. It is advisable to experiment with a range of cuts, sizes and settings.
Trusted or recommended jewellers should be used. It is very easy to be talked into buying stones without knowing what they are really worth: a big diamond is not necessarily more valuable than a smaller, well cut, flawless stone, and a discreet ring may be more suited to everyday wear.