Cosmo's ultimate guide to choosing the perfect engagement ring

how to buy an engagement ring
The ultimate guide to buying an engagement ringCosmoplitan

If you are planning a proposal or looking to buy an engagement ring with your SO, we've got the 411 on all things sparkly. People often think of the wedding outfit as the purchase for your big day, but an engagement ring gets far more wear throughout your lifetime and in my jewellery-obsessed opinion, is equally – if not *more* – important than a wedding dress.

But, it can be a bit of a minefield knowing where to start. That's where we come in, with our ultimate guide on how to buy an engagement ring.

Everything to know about diamonds

For the hardest, sparkliest material on earth, it comes down to the four Cs: cut, clarity, carat and colour. Simply put, cut is how the raw stone is sliced and faceted, determining its shape and shine (the most important C, FYI). For more info on this, head over to read our full break down on all the different engagement ring shapes and cuts.

Clarity refers to any imperfections. These aren’t generally visible to the naked eye, but the clearer the diamond, the higher the price tag. Don't be mistaken, carat is the unit of measurement for the weight of the stone – not the size. And finally colour; diamonds are rated on a scale with colourless white diamonds being the most valuable.

Heard the hype around lab-grown diamonds?

Lab-grown diamonds have the same chemical composition as mined diamonds, but are made in a lab. Laura Kay, director at jewellery boutique Tomfoolery London, explains why more people are prioritising this ethical option.

"Lab-grown diamonds offer complete reassurance when it comes to your carbon footprint and it’s impossible to tell the difference without advanced technology. Compared with mined diamonds, you can get a much larger lab-grown centre diamond with better clarity, colour and cut for your budget."

How much should you spend on an engagement ring?

According to tradition, the price tag ‘should’ be equivalent to three months’ wages, but, frankly, some traditions are best left in the past. There are stunning engagement rings out there to suit every budget and it’s what the ring represents that’s important – not the price tag.

How do I work out my ring size?

If you’re keeping a proposal under wraps, then try sneaking a ring out of your loved one’s jewellery box to confirm sizes with a jeweller or, if that’s too risky, use a pencil to draw inside the circumference of the ring. If it’s not a secret, tie a string around the base of the ring finger, mark the spot where the string meets and measure the length laid flat. And professional jewellers can resize rings if you need to fine-tune the fit or if it’s a family heirloom.

Thought about vintage bling?

A sustainable and popular trend in this era of circular fashion is to opt for vintage, as Cosmo staffer Dusty Baxter-Wright did. She wanted something with lots of character and history, so an antique ring was the obvious choice. Follow Insta accounts @vintagepink and @farringdonsjewellery for pretty pre-loved jewels that are often more affordable, too.

Embrace your individual style

Lots of folks are now opting for gemstones, coloured diamonds or designing their own
ring. According to jewellery designer Michelle Oh, sapphires are popular owing to their durability and choice of colours. Oh says even her clients who prefer classic solitaires "now include a hidden birthstone or secret gem beneath the setting or inside the band for a subtle pop of colour reserved for the wearer."

And for fans of bolder styles, designer Rachel Boston advises, "A bombe ring flush-set with a sapphire can be an engagement ring if you want it to be.

If you’re considering going bespoke, the team at Alex Monroe Jewellery say people often come to them for engagement rings based on their classic collection inspired by nature, so the first step is to research designers you love and see if – and how – they can recreate your ideas. They suggest thinking about the jewellery you already wear and your preference when it comes to white, yellow or rose gold, as well as any symbolic ideas you want to include in the design.

The moral of the story? It’s your day, your rules and your love story to celebrate in the way that feels most special to you.

We love looking at our favourite celebs' engagement rings for drool-worthy inspo, but for IRL options, look no further...

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