How To Pick An Engagement Ring

Choosing an engagement ring is not something you want to get wrong. This expert guide tells you what to look out for when buying a ring and how to find the right one to suit her hand

Whether you’re preparing to propose to the love of your life, or newly engaged and looking for the perfect piece to seal your commitment, choosing an engagement ring can be a nerve-wracking decision. But, with a little help from the experts, it may be easier than you think to find that love-forever design.

So where to begin on your quest to choosing the perfect ring? It’s advisable to do a little research beforehand, just so that you’re familiar with general terms used by jewellers, such as colour, clarity, carat and cut, as well as the different styles of rings available and the new and emerging trends to look out for.

The most popular type of engagement ring style is still the solitaire with a round brilliant cut diamond – but trends for more unusual fancy cut diamonds and designs are also growing in popularity. Your partner’s jewellery box should provide some initial inspiration; look for clues to her preference of basic details such as gold or silver metals, and vintage or contemporary designs.

How do I choose an engagement ring for wide fingers?

Wider fingers and larger hands are best complemented by larger stones and thicker bands. This is a great opportunity to go bold with a design such as Mappin & Webb’s spectacular Ena Harkness three stone ring. A classic piece, the ring is inspired by the Ena Harkness English rose: the ultimate symbol of love and beauty. It features a beautifully round brilliant cut diamond at its centre, two scintillating diamonds at each side, finished and set in an elegant platinum setting.

Ena Harkness three-stone engagement ring by Mappin & Webb
The Ena Harkness three-stone engagement ring by Mappin & Webb CREDIT: DAVID PARFITT

How do I choose an engagement ring for petite hands?

Slender fingers are usually better suited to smaller or single stones with a slightly slimmer band. Mappin & Webb’s Boscobel, Belvedere and Hermione rings are perfect examples as they make an elegant statement without overpowering a delicate hand. The Boscobel ring, in particular, has a romantic, timeless design that showcases meticulous attention to detail. It’s handcrafted from platinum and hand-set with scintillating diamonds totalling 0.96 carats.

The Boscobel engagement ring by Mappin & Webb
The Boscobel engagement ring by Mappin & Webb

What cut is the best for diamonds?

As you compare different diamond cuts against each other – from the most popular round brilliant cut diamond to heart shapes, asscher, marquise, princess and pear – you’ll soon get a feel for how they differ in terms of size and the way they reflect and refract the light. The classic round brilliant cut diamond remains the most popular and Mappin & Webb’s Platinum Hermione ring is a beautiful example of why. An understated yet striking choice, it shows the beautiful simplicity of a round brilliant cut diamond in all of its sparkling glory.

The Hermione engagement ring by Mappin & Webb
The Hermione engagement ring by Mappin & Webb

Which cut looks the biggest?

Round brilliant and cushion cut diamonds tend to look the biggest as they have what’s called a “good spread”. In basic terms, these shapes have an ideal depth, so they spread their weight across the surface making the diamond look bigger; so a 1.5 carat round brilliant or cushion cut diamond with a good spread can look identical in size to that of a two-carat diamond. Other cuts, such as the princess, are more bottom heavy as they hold most of their carat weight in the base. So, while still incredibly beautiful, they can appear smaller.

Which cut has the most sparkle?

The facets cut into a diamond are what add to its brightness and sparkle, and determine how much light it reflects and refracts. Ask your jeweller if the diamond comes with a diamond grading report from organisations such as the GIA as these assess the colour, clarity and carat weight of a stone, which ultimately determines how much light it will create. Mappin & Webb’s new MW Collection features its“Brightest” cushion-cut diamond. Designed to create that coveted across-the-room sparkle through 75 carefully placed facets that allow for maximum sparkle and scintillation, each diamond in the collection has also been measured by GemEx – a global leader in measuring brilliance (white light), fire (colour, light) and sparkle (scintillation) – and consistently rate as very high on all three scales, a very rare achievement.

Pave ring from Mappin and Webb

Should I opt for something completely different?

Of course, diamonds are not the only option for an engagement ring and jewellers are seeing a growing rise in the trend for coloured stones such as rubies, emeralds and sapphires. Mappin & Webb’s platinum Amelia emerald cut ring shows the allure of a coloured stone – featuring a round emerald at its centre, and surrounded by a halo of diamonds totalling 0.48 carats – it’s unapologetically romantic and modern.

The Amelia engagement ring by Mappin & Webb
The Amelia engagement ring by Mappin & Webb

How many carats are appropriate for an engagement ring?

The carat is simply a measurement of how much a diamond weighs. The average for an engagement ring is usually around one carat, but ultimately your budget will determine how big you go – the higher the carat, the more it will cost. Mappin & Webb’s yellow gold Belvedere ring for example can be customised with a diamond carat of your choice: sizing starts from 0.25 and goes up to 3.00 carats.

The Belvedere engagement ring by Mappin & Webb
The Belvedere engagement ring by Mappin & Webb CREDIT: PAUL HARTLEY

How much should I spend?

You’re looking at a four-figure sum. Emma Towers, head of jewellery buying at Mappin & Webb, says its best-selling ring – Ena Harkness – costs £2,250. Mappin & Webb commissioned a study of 2,000 women who have yet to be asked the big question and the results showed that they thought the proposal should take place after just 25 months of dating, also three quarters of women asked said they would like to help pick their own engagement ring, which will be a relief to those who aren’t sure of their partner’s tastes. Craig Bolton, executive director at Mappin & Webb, says: “A happy marriage starts with a happy proposal, and the ring is something that absolutely has to be perfect – whether it’s a flawless stone or a bespoke ring with some personal meaning to the couple.”

The Ena Harkness single-stone engagement ring by Mappin & Webb
The Ena Harkness single-stone engagement ring by Mappin & Webb CREDIT: DAVID PARFITT

Who can I talk to if I get completely stuck?

Whether you’re buying a ring together as a couple or making the decision alone, seeking the guidance of a jewellery expert can help you make an informed decision.

Mappin & Webb’s personalised “By Appointment” service brings a sense of occasion to your decision making, while offering expert knowledge on a variety of diamonds and precious gem stones, cuts and designs to create a bespoke ring. “We encourage couples to visit our boutiques together, and make it part of their special journey,” says Mappin & Webb’s head of buying Emma Towers. “You can have a glass of champagne in one of our bridal boutiques, and take the time to try a few rings on while we cater to your needs. It’s all about trying a few of our exquisite pieces on.” The completed ring is then overseen by the crown jeweller.

What else should I know?

Don’t forget that while details such as colour, cut, clarity and carat are all important, an engagement ring is also a very emotional purchase too. Make sure that it’s a design that will really suit your partner, and one that she will fall in love with and cherish forever. If you want extra reassurance, speak to her friends and family to get their steer on what they think she’ll like. They may even be able to point you in the direction of some online inspiration via Pinterest and blogs.

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