Part of planning a proposal is planning what you’re going to propose with: a proposal ring, or engagement ring, is the hallmark of most engagements in Western cultures. But how do you pick a proposal ring? How do you know which proposal ring is right? And are diamond proposal rings still the done thing? We’ve put together our guide to choosing the perfect ring to propose with that answers all these questions (and more).
There’s lots to consider when planning an engagement ring proposal, and no small part of that is the ring itself. And within that decision, there’s lots of different kinds of ring design to think of – but don’t panic! Here are the elements to consider:
Picking the right metal for your proposal ring
One of the first things to consider is what kind of metal you’d like your proposal ring to be made from.
The most common metals for proposal rings are platinum and gold. Platinum is a silvery-white colour but – unlike actual silver – is really durable and long-lasting. Alternatively, gold rings come in multiple shades: because gold itself is too soft to be used on its own, it’s mixed with other alloys for strength (this purity is what the ‘karat’ of the gold is – for example, 18K gold is purer than 9K gold); in turn, this results in different colours. Yellow gold is the classic colour you’ll think of when you think of a gold ring; rose gold takes on a beautiful pinky tone; and white gold is pure gold mixed with silver, palladium and copper, which makes it look lighter, more lustrous, and more silvery.
As well as the colour of the metal, each has its own advantages.
Another thing to consider when picking your proposal ring’s metal is where the metal came from. Many jewellers, like Alison Macleod Jewellery, now pledge to use Fairtrade metal in their designs: “Fairtrade Gold comes from certified large-scale mines in Peru as well as small scale artisanal operations across South America. The Fairtrade standard ensures that the miners themselves are working in acceptable conditions and are being paid fairly, with the Fairtrade Foundation also investing back in the community and ensuring the environment isn’t being detrimentally affected.” A beautiful ring that also gives back? It’s a no brainer.
Picking the right gemstone for your proposal ring
Now you’ve picked your perfect metal, it’s time to choose the gemstone of their dreams. Unlike wedding rings, engagement rings are traditionally designed with gemstones set in them, or diamonds like the engagement rings form Baunat.
Again, one of the guiding factors is colour. Gemstones come in a whole array of colours – some you’ll almost definitely have heard of, and some you probably didn’t know existed. For example, did you know that sapphires don’t just come in that stunning blue, but also come in every colour except red?
Their durability is also a factor. Gemstones’ durability – their ‘hardness’ – is rated on a scale 1-10, with 10 being the hardest. Gems like diamonds, sapphires and rubies sit at the top end of this scale, making them durable, hard-wearing choices; but beautiful pearlescent opals, for example, have a rating of 5.5-6.5, meaning they’re more susceptible to scratches and therefore require more looking after. It’s very tempting to just think about the aesthetics of a proposal ring, but believe us when we say you’ll thank yourself for thinking about the practicality too!
Picking a diamond proposal ring
If you’re looking for a diamond proposal ring, it’s useful to know the Four Cs: carat, cut, clarity, and colour. These are the things to look out for when picking out your ring for your beloved; whilst there’s no absolute right or wrong with any of them, striking a balance between the four is the best way to find the right stone for you.
- The ‘carat’ is perhaps the most famous element of a diamond proposal ring, probably because it’s the most obvious one to the ordinary eye: it refers to the weight of the diamond, which usually determines how big it is too.
- The cut of a diamond proposal ring is also something you might be aware of (even if you don’t know the word for it yet!) The cut refers to the stone’s beauty, and in particular the way it has been cut to reflect and refract the light to perfection. The higher quality the cut, the more the diamond will sparkle.
- The clarity of the stone is slightly more in-depth: this is decided by the number of blemishes (known as inclusions) that the stone has, which reduce its value.
- And finally, the colour of the diamond proposal ring (‘…is it not just diamond colour?!’, we hear you cry) is related to the rarity of the stone. For colourless diamonds, the less colour the stone has, the more expensive (though for coloured diamonds, the more colour intensity it has, the more expensive it usually is). However, it’s worth seeing for yourself what colour grade you like the look of best — it not only depends on what you like best, but what your eyes can pick up also!
New, vintage or bespoke engagement rings?
Both new and vintage engagement rings have their own unique charms and qualities. New engagement rings bought from jewellers allow you more choice, whereas antique engagement rings come up with an incomparable story and history to them. An excellent middle ground is bespoke engagement rings, which are technically new, as they’re created for you, but also have a history and story to them already, precisely because they’re designed with or by you.
Amanda Li Hope, who specialises in bespoke engagement rings, explains: “Going bespoke allows you to create something special that wholly represents you, your style and your story. ‘Narrative’ is a bit of a buzzword these days and for good reason. An engagement ring is such an important piece of jewellery that embodies so much – namely the love between you and your partner – but it also should be beautiful in aesthetics and meaning. How does the design reflect your style and personality? How does the final composition symbolise your relationship or story? Does the gemstone(s) hold significance for you? Making these decisions while collaborating with a skilled jeweller will transform your ring from becoming a token of love to an embodiment of a love story.”
And what about a ring box?
Even proposal rings have logistical considerations – you probably don’t want to be carrying it around loose before you propose. Most rings will come in a ring box – for example, Alison Macleod’s come in specially curated vintage ring boxes – but you may want to buy a special one personalised with your date, or their married name. We’re big fans of The Mrs Box, who do a huge range of colours, textures, and even prints.