Photo by: Lindsey Ocker Photography
Wedding Planning

All About Engagement Rings

Shopping for an engagement ring is easy with this complete guide to diamonds, settings, and metals.

No bride-to-be feels like she’s really getting married until that all-important ring adorns her left finger. You know the one: swooned over at the office water cooler, eliciting looks of envy from all who witness its sparkle. The engagement ring may well be the only pre-wed accessory sweeter than an actual adoring fiancé. It’s best to face every big purchase equipped with a little savvy. Here’s what you need to know about engagement rings before you start shopping.

Engagement Rings Cost

The two-months salary convention is a common starting point, but in reality, the ring’s cost should be what the couple can afford without going into major debt. Cost varies for a lot of reasons – especially when diamonds are involved. Carat size is just one factor. In fact, a one-carat center stone can cost anywhere from $1,000 to $20,000. Choice of metal also affects the bottom line; there’s a significant cost difference between a setting of sterling silver and one of platinum – anywhere from a few hundred to more than a thousand.

With that said, the average cost of an engagement ring in the US is between $3,500 and $4,000 (according to About.com). Our engagement ring savings guide offers many useful tips to get costs down.

Now, put together the perfect engagement ring with these three easy steps:

 

1. Choose Pick Your Ring Metal

Platinum

Great because… It’s valuable: King Louis declared platinum the only metal fit for a king. Need we say more? It’s durable: Platinum is resistant to tarnish and great for holding prong settings. It’s hypoallergenic: Platinum is 90 to 95 percent pure and won’t irritate the skin.

The downside… It’s expensive: It’s rare, making it more price sensitive. It’s malleable: Platinum nicks and scratches easily; however, since no metal is lost, it can be buffed to look good as new.

Gold

Great because… It’s traditional: Gold has withstood the test of time to be the most common wedding ring metal. It’s less expensive: Gold is more abundant than platinum, making it more affordable.

The downside… It’s soft: Making it susceptible to denting. It’s not as pure: Gold is always mixed with metal alloys (copper, silver, nickel) to make it stronger. The lower the carat, the higher the percentage of other metals. It can irritate skin: Metal alloys can cause allergic reactions.

Titanium

Great because… It’s hypoallergenic. It’s strong: three times stronger than steel. It’s inexpensive.

The downside...It can’t be resized.

Silver

Great because… It’s the least expensive precious metal.

The downside… It’s extremely soft: Even when combined with other metals, it shows wear over time. It can irritate skin: Usually combined with nickel to make it stronger, silver can cause skin irritations.

2. Choose your Engagement Ring Setting

Settings are the mountings that attach the diamond to the ring’s band. Setting and stone shape selection should go hand in hand, as getting the right combination is key in creating a desired look.

Prong

Prong settings usually have six or four prongs (or claws) that cradle the diamond. Prongs allow the maximum light to enter the diamond from all angles, making it appear larger and more brilliant. The prong setting with a solitaire round brilliant stone is the classic engagement ring look.

Bar

A variation on the prong setting, rather than individual claws, prongs on each side of the setting are fused into elongated bars to hold the stone in place. This option highlights more metal without obscuring the stone as much as bezel or channel settings might.

Bezel

The diamond is set with a metal rim around the perimeter of the diamond to hold it in place. A bezel setting can be a full bezel or a part bezel. In a part bezel setting, the metal only partially surrounds the diamond, leaving the top and bottom of the stone exposed.

Tension

The diamond is held in place by the pressure of the band’s metal, resulting in the startling appearance of the diamond being held in midair. The result is a highly contemporary, fashionable look.

Channel

Diamonds of similar size and shape are lined in a row between the band’s two horizontal sides. A variation of the channel setting is the channel end setting, which features thin vertical bars in between each of the stones.

Pave

This design coats the entire surface of the ring with gems, each set into either a minute depression or secured with thin, unobtrusive prongs. Because of their vintage antique look, pave settings are becoming increasingly popular.

Cluster

This setting surrounds a larger center stone with several smaller stones. It is designed to create a larger ring from many smaller stones.

Baguette setting

Baguettes are rectangular-shaped diamonds that can be added to the sides of a larger stone, adding dimension to a solitaire setting.

Three-stone setting

This setting features a trio of stones, symbolizing yesterday, today, and tomorrow. The stones can either be of equal size or the center stone slightly larger.

3. Choose Your Diamonds

As the stone is the most noticeable – and costly – component of the engagement ring, picking the right diamond can be a formidable task. Here’s everything you need to know to get the look, quality, and cost that suits you.

Shape

Shape is the overall form of the finished stone (opposed to cut, which describes the angles of the stone’s facets) and is the biggest factor in the diamond’s appearance. Even before the 4 Cs (cut, color, clarity, and carat,) you must determine the stone shape you prefer.

Wedding Planning