Whatever the reason, this year is no different – loves conquers all, including global pandemics! With that in mind, we thought we’d help guide would-be newlyweds who are thinking about getting down on one knee and asking the big question. 

So we found one of their own – a writer who's considering a festive proposal – to interview our very own Adam Jacobs (AJ) on buying an engagement ring.

Our amorous writer, Anthony Pinnick (AP), came to see our managing director via Zoom for a consultation. He asked all the questions you’d expect and was given the full Jacobs’ service on choosing the perfect ring for his partner. 

It makes for essential reading for anyone thinking of buying an engagement ring, and gives you an idea of the depth of knowledge and care that the Jacobs team takes in every consultation. 

Before my call with Adam I really had very scant knowledge of engagement rings. Apart from a childhood visit to a jeweller’s in Amsterdam on a family holiday and a Year 9 presentation I had to give the class on diamonds (with help from Microsoft Encarta), I was (as I imagine most suitors are) completely new to this. 

Naturally, I’d done a little research prior to our chat. I had a very rough idea of the kind of ring I thought my partner would want. I scoured the internet for educational resources – many contradictory. I looked up ring bands, metal types, diamond pricing and online jewellers to get a rough idea of what was on the market and how far my pandemic-stricken freelancer’s budget could stretch to. 

I’d even spent a day going into London’s Hatton Garden to see some ring samples in person. Aside from being overwhelmed by the array of shops and diamond prices, I got the feeling several times that I was being pressured into spending more than I had hoped. Suffice to say I didn’t come away feeling much more confident about my proposal purchase. 

So I was hoping Adam would be able to disentangle the engagement ring web for me and calm my increasingly fraying nerves. He did not disappoint.

AJ: Hi, my name’s Adam, I’m going to look after you. First of all, congratulations on deciding to propose! 

AP: Thanks, I am a little nervous about it!

AJ: Thanks so much for coming in, I really appreciate you being here (virtually). Tell me, what are you looking for? What do you know so far? What are your thoughts? 

[At this point Adam took out a notepad and pen and started making notes.] 

AP: Well, I’m looking for an engagement ring! I think I know more or less my budget and roughly the kind of ring I want. 

AJ: Okay. If I may, let me ask a couple of questions just to scene-set for me, and so I can tailor what we talk about for you today. Firstly, what is your timescale for getting a ring?

AP: It’s flexible, but ideally within the next 2-3 months. 

AJ: Perfect, most of our clients are in that sort of area – when they’re doing their homework. If you’d said you had a really short timeframe, say you needed it tonight, then we’d be looking at something from the shop window. With most clients, a 4-8 week window allows us to choose a ring in the window that you like but perhaps want to change the material for example. 

Tell me about your partner. What do they look like, what’s their style, profession?

AP: She works in an office-based job, mostly working from home now, but spends most of the time at a computer. She doesn’t wear a lot of jewellery, other than the odd necklace. Style-wise, I think I’m looking for simple and elegant. 

AJ: All right. If I were to give you a scale of 1-10, with 10 being uber-modern, trendy and avant-garde and 1 being conservative and traditional, what number would you give her? 

AP: Good question. I’d say probably about a 4, somewhere in the middle. 

AJ: I’ll tell you a secret, Anthony: no-one’s ever said anything other than 4, 5 or 6! But, okay you lean a little towards the traditional. 

Do you have any kids, and does she do any hobbies that are heavy on the hands? 

AP: No kids, and she doesn’t do any major hands-on activities. 

AJ: Privately, between you and me, would you describe her as a particularly clumsy person? 

AP: Not really – I’m the clumsy one!

AJ: What these questions allow me to figure out is a rough feel for the style of the rings to show you, and any settings to rule out or rule in that will suit your partner best. 

Next, can you picture or imagine her wearing yellow gold, or a white metal? Have any hints of preference been dropped? 

AP: I imagine her more going towards the more silver rather than a yellow metal. 

AJ: Wonderful. And have you had any thoughts as to the type of gemstone or gemstones you might fancy in an engagement ring? 

AP: Yes, I reckon a single diamond is probably the classic way to go. 

AJ: Perfect. You’re absolutely right, you’ve described the classic engagement ring which is extremely popular. We help around 75-80% of our clients with just that arrangement.

[Then Adam asked me about my budget, and only then did he start showing me an assortment of rings, based on the notes on his pad. 

I felt he was spending a significant amount of time asking questions and understanding my partner and what I was after for her. 

He began to explain the technical details involved in my choice of a white metal.]

Engagement Ring Metals: White Gold vs Platinum  

With white metals you’ve typically got a choice of silver, white gold or platinum. We discount silver straight away because (beautiful a metal as it is for many kinds of jewellery) it’s too soft to hold diamonds of a size. You’re then left with white gold and platinum. 

Most of our clients go for platinum because it’s the premium metal, it’s more durable, longer lasting, and there’s a rarity about it. Price-wise, platinum and white gold are very similar these days. 

All gold comes out of the ground as gold: it’s yellow in colour and that same element is mixed in different percentages for all gold alloys in the same proportions.

18ct gold has a purity, or “fineness” of 75%, with 25% made up of other metals. 14ct is 58.3% pure, and 9ct is 37.5%. 

White gold is alloyed with silver and palladium to turn it into a white coloured metal. Due to these alloys, white gold doesn’t buff up especially well when polishing it, so over the top of it nearly all white gold rings are usually plated with rhodium. 

Rhodium is another white metal which does stand up to being polished and comes up really shiny. However, white gold is not yellow gold with a white top on it! Poorly made white gold has too much yellow in it and not enough silver and palladium, creating a ring with a dirty-yellow colour. 

Western Europe is the best place to buy quality jewellery. In some other parts of the world with less rigorous jewellery-making they’ll just coat rhodium over the top of poorly made white gold. In the UK, and certainly at Jacobs, we use a proper, strong white gold alloy to start with. 

Platinum for jewellery comes in 95 percent fineness. It’s the premium metal because t’s tougher, stronger and therefore the least risky to hold gems in place. 

If you sliced a platinum ring down the middle it would look like plasticine – the same all the way through. If you sliced a white gold ring it’s like a Smartie – white in the middle with a thin rhodium layer round the outside. 

That layer wears over a period of time, depending on all sorts of activities, but you can always re-finish it, like revarnishing a wooden door. With a platinum engagement ring all you do is re-polish it to make it shiny again. 

How often do you need to replate a white gold ring?

On average we recommend re-plating every 3-7 years for a good quality ring. However, some people never do it. It depends on the wearer’s lifestyle and personal preference. 

Which white ring band metal do you recommend? 

We would always recommend platinum over white gold, certainly now as the price is pretty similar. Years ago white gold white gold was priced around 30% less than platinum. Lately, gold prices have gone high due to Covid-19 and other factors. Since platinum is the premium metal, it makes good sense to choose that right now. 

[Adam explained the selection of rings he’d picked out, 80 percent of which were platinum, 20 percent were white gold.]

Engagement Ring Diamonds – The “4 Cs” 

AJ: What shape of diamond do you like? 

AP: I’m naturally drawn to a round shape, but what others are there? 

AJ: There are many: round, square, rectangular, heart shaped. Some diamond shapes have specific names like emerald, asscher, princess, trillion, marquise. 

Tell me, what do you know about diamonds from your research so far? 

AP: I’ve done a bit of internet browsing and briefly spoken to a few jewellers. I don’t think I really understand the different cuts and what all the options mean. 

AJ: You’ve touched on a simple but important point that most jewellers unfortunately don’t explain in full detail. Let me describe the difference between what ‘shapes’ of diamond there are, versus the ‘cut’ of diamonds. 

Shape vs. Cut of a diamond 

The Shape of diamonds is its style: whether it’s a princess diamond, a round brilliant cut, emerald, oval, etc. 

The Cut is actually how well the lapidary or stonecutter has faceted that style. It’s like asking for either a double- or single-breasted suit. The cut refers to whether the tailor fashions that suit better or worse in that style. Therefore an Excellent Cut will be higher quality and more valuable than a Good graded Cut. 

Cut is the most complicated element but also the feature that makes a diamond ‘scintillate’. 

AP: What does diamond scintillation mean? 

Scintillation is the sparkle you get off a diamond when you twist it round. It’s a reflection of how perfectly the stonecutter has faceted that gemstone: is it symmetrical and proportional? There’s a precise, mathematical ratio of the girdle (the centre), culet (bottom) and the table (top surface). 

The optimal proportions allow light to go in the top of the diamond, through the crystal structure, bounce around the edges, refract out in the 7 colours of the rainbow (plus white), and come back out of the top. 

You may see diagrams or lists of percentages of each of these which are calculated for maximise scintillation. 

The Cut is often glossed over and mis-explained, but it makes a huge difference to how much liveliness a diamond has. 

It can affect the price of a diamond by 20-25%. The other three Cs (carat, colour and clarity) are easy to understand and are graded according to scale:  

Carat Weight 

For diamonds, carat refers not to purity but to the gross measure of mass. 1 carat is equal to 0.2 grams, so the bigger the weight, the bigger the diamond.  


Diamond colour can be anywhere from completely colourless (also known as “white”) to yellow or brown tinted. The traditional white spectrum ranges in descending value from D (no colour) to Z (yellow tinted). 


Under a x10 magnification eyeglass, how many natural marks can you see in a diamond? The more marks, the lower the Clarity scale. The scale has 11 grades, from F (Flawless) down to I3 (the lowest quality of the Included grade). 

AP: Are the different demarcations of the Clarity scale to do with the number of imperfections in the stone? Or is it the visibility of imperfections under a certain magnification? 

AJ: It’s the visibility at x10 magnification, but it’s still subjective. It’s determined by a human being’s eye, not by a machine so it’s as much art as science. 

You can have same Clarity specification of two diamonds with imperfections in different places. For example, one mark on the edge which can be hidden with a claw, the other with a mark right in the middle and highly visible.

AP: And the mark on the edge would affect the passage of light through the stone less than one right in the middle?

AJ: That’s right. But they can still have the same Clarity grade. So being able to discern the details that make up those subjective grades can make a big difference. 

AP: What’s the most important element of the 4 Cs in your opinion?

AJ: You need to pay most attention to Cut. At Jacobs we by and large only deal with Very Good and Excellent Cut diamonds. We also pay really close attention to the minor characteristics, which others often tend to under-appreciate. 

AP: What do the minor characteristics of a diamond cut actually mean? 

AJ: Translated into real life (and we believe we do this better than most people) we’ve already filtered out over 75% diamonds. Typically, we only work with diamonds of F/G Colour or greater, and VS (Very Slightly Included) for Clarity.  

Experience has shown us that these are better than nearly all the other high street shops in terms of those characteristics. To the naked eye it’s very difficult to see how you can go better than that. 

Practically speaking, you can’t tell one colour or clarity band side by side to the naked eye. F to an E colour, or a VS1 to a VS2 are virtually indistinguishable – not a chance. Two bands you might be able to tell apart, but only absolutely perfect conditions, which are almost impossible to achieve in everyday life.

AP: To summarise then, how would you characterise the quality of diamonds you sell at Jacobs? 

AJ: When you’re buying with us you’re buying a quality of diamond in the D/E, VVS, internally flawless range. They’re not ludicrously high value, but very, very good quality.

If you had a 1 carat diamond in what I call the ‘Jacobs Sweet Spot’: F/G colour, VS clarity, Very Good or Excellent cut, the gemstone on its own would be around £7,000-£9000. Obviously a smaller diamond with the same characteristics is more affordable. 

However, if you kept size the same and improved all other Cs to the very best: Flawless, perfect colour, triple Excellent, perfect ratios of everything, you’re looking at around the £22-25,000 mark. 

The price goes up steeply because they get rarer to find with all those qualities. But practically, you cannot tell the difference between those and the Jacobs Sweet Spot. 

I’ve only ever sold one D, Flawless, 1ct diamond to somebody – because that’s just what his partner wanted. 

AP: Where do you source your diamonds? 

AJ: We work with specialist diamond wholesalers throughout the UK and also have a network abroad.

We do source some ethical diamonds which have a deeper provenance, and on occasions we have done synthetic man-made diamonds for people who want them as well.  

AP: Are requests for ethical diamonds quite rare? 

AJ: Remarkably rare.  

There are specialist jewellers who will do 100% ethically sourced jewellery, and that is their business. We offer it as an option. 

Ethically sourced diamonds are 20-25% more expensive, pro rata. It can therefore be £2,000-2,500 more, so it’s a significant and bold commitment. 

Importantly, it’s not necessarily that other diamonds aren’t ethical. It’s just that you just get more evidence of the stone’s conflict-free provenance to prove that it is.

My fundamental view is: it’s your choice. As long as you know why you’re paying extra for it, you’re happy to do it, and you make an informed and educated decision, that’s all we’re here to do. It’s not my choice, it’s your choice. 

Our job is to give you real, practical information to make, and the choice that is right for you. And that is very rarely the most expensive ring you can afford. It’s usually the ring that suits you and how your partner wears it, what style she’s got. 

My job is to help you figure it out for yourself, what works for you personally. 

AP: What range of engagement ring styles are there?

Engagement Ring Designs 

AJ: When it comes to engagement ring designs there are a range from the more traditional to the more modern. 

[Adam arranged a series of rings from the most modern to the more traditional. We talked through them in terms of my personal preferences and practical characteristics based on my partner’s lifestyle.

To summarise, he explained that designs with more elaborate settings or those that stick out with large gems should be avoided for people who do more manual activities. Otherwise, it’s largely a case of personal preference.] 

Engagement Ring Settings 

AJ: The ring’s setting is how the gemstone or stones are attached to the band. There are a variety of styles jewellery makers use to set a precious stone.  

AP: What types of settings are there for engagement rings? 

AJ: The best settings show off the gem to its full glory, while providing  security so you don’t have to worry about the stone falling out. The most common types of setting are:  

Claw or prong 

This is the most common and particularly used for solitaire rings. Usually four or six prongs come up and clasp the stone, holding it in place. A claw raises the diamond, allowing more of it to be seen in the light, though they can loosen over time. 

Bezel or Rub Over 

A bezel is a thin metal rim that surrounds the stone, offering more protection, though letting in less light. This is a more secure alternative to claw settings, popular with people with active lifestyles who don’t want to risk their ring getting caught or snagged. 


A collection of small stones set in a paving pattern onto the metal band, which makes for an intricate and dazzling ring. Each small stone is secured with mini prongs, spectacularly complementing the main gem. 


Small stones held in a line between two sides of a metal channel around the ring band. This forms a line of stones one against the other. 

AP: Are all your rings Jacobs’ own designs, or are they outsourced to other designers? 

AJ: Nearly all of them in our windows are from established, trusted specialist partners. 

We don’t have time to make a stock range for ourselves. Bespoke things we do design are one-offs and we don’t repeat them – because they’re bespoke. We won’t do it again for somebody else.  

AP: How many bespoke rings do you sell?

AJ: About one-fifth of the rings we sell are bespoke. This is a dedicated process which goes from initial consultation and design through to mock-ups and the final finished ring. It takes about 3 months to do. You can read more about our bespoke design process on our website 

[I then selected a couple rings I liked and then Adam brought out an eyeglass.]

AP: Is that eyeglass for inspecting the engagement ring close-up?

AJ: We always show people the diamond under a 10x magnification glass and we show people the backs of rings. This is to emphasise that they are made and finished really tidily. 

You’d be amazed that most shops won’t do that. If you haven’t had a look at a ring from behind you won’t know whether corners have been cut, the back not polished properly, metal scooped out to make the ring cheaper.  

AP: I’ve seen some styles of engagement rings that you don’t seem to have here. Why is that?

AJ: We don’t sell certain styles of engagement rings that people ask for because, regrettably, we’re not happy to. We know with some designs that they’ll be back with us in 1, 2, or 4 years needing work. We’ll say, “We’re really sorry. We are looking after you and your jewellery for your entire lifespan.” 

We politely advise customers to consider the practicalities and quality of the designs they’re considering, and if it doesn’t meet our strict standards we won’t be able to make it for them.

We don’t supply something that we know will be troublesome for the customer in the long-run, and also because we offer a lifetime service, we don’t want to be ‘wedded to’ a poor quality ring. 

AP: Tell me more about that – as a purchaser I’m spending a significant amount of money and I’m worried about people trying to swindle me. Would I be more likely to come across something of poor quality on the internet than if I came to an independent jeweller like Jacobs? 

AJ: Absolutely, one hundred percent. For a purchase like this which is important, I genuinely feel you should go somewhere you like and trust. Somewhere with good independent reviews, somewhere that you’ve been recommended.  

When you’re not an expert in something it’s important to trust somebody who is an expert, who isn’t making it up or just presenting the façade. 

Of course I would say that – we’ve been going for 70 years as an independent jeweller! 

But, in my long experience, all too often I see people bringing me items they’ve bought for a ‘great deal’ from Hatton Garden or the internet, when in fact you only get what you pay for. 

AP: So how do I know if I’m being ripped off or not? 

AJ: You do your homework, you look at pricing. If something is half the price of something else, there’s a reason for it. 

You need to understand the market, and get a decent sample to the best of your ability. The cheapest one is probably not right; the most expensive one is probably not right either. 

I always feel with engagement rings that you should have a chat with somebody about it. Buying blind off the internet might feel great and convenient to start with. But actually it’s probably not going to go well in the long-term. 

We work with people and their jewellery for their lifetime. Independents like us care far more than most shops in Hatton Garden and the Jewellery Quarter. Though there are some good jewellers in both. But you’ve got to be recommended and they have to know what they’re recommending places for. A ‘Good Deal’ is an arbitrary recommendation unless the person recommending actually knows what’s right!

AP: You mentioned certificates earlier. Do I need a diamond certificate? 

Diamond Certificates 

AJ: Not all certificates are created equal. 

There are only really 2 or 3 reputable international diamond certificating bodies: GIA [Gemological Institute of America], IGI [International Gemological Institute], HRD [the Diamond High Council in Antwerp], in the UK, Anchorcert, which is the Birmingham asset office who do a certification process. 

There’s no regulation for setting up as a diamond cert body. So you can set up ‘Ant’s Diamond Certification Services’ with a nice laminated card. No-one is going to tell you whether you can or not – then you can do what you like. But it’s all about the rigour and consistency of certificating. 

Someone in Hatton Garden might present you with a certificate and say that makes it a good diamond. But it might be cheap because it’s not got a proper certificate – that’s fine, as long as you know that the certificate you’re buying is not a very rigid or acceptable one.

AP: Would you advise buying a diamond without a certificate then? 

AJ: It is fine to buy diamonds without a certificate because they’re less money as long as you’re happy to do that, and you know what you’re buying and why. Me, personally, I would buy non-certificated diamonds for me and my family because it’s less money, I know what I'm buying and I trust the people I’m buying from. 

But I understand that a lot of people appreciate the reassurance of a certificate, and most new diamonds these days come with certificates. 

It comes down to education – what does the certificate actually mean? 

There are different grades and qualities of diamond certificates. If you want a good quality, reputable one you have to pay the right price for it. 

AP: So you’ve set the scene for me, got to know about me and my partner and her style and tastes. We’ve also talked through the technical aspects on the product and how to go about getting a diamond ring from a trustworthy source.  

Tell me about Jacobs and why I should buy my engagement ring from you. 

Independent Jewellers  

The advantages of going to an independent jeweller like Jacobs are many. Independent jewellers depend more on word of mouth than big chain stores, and in a competitive market only the most trustworthy independents last the course.  

This survival of the fittest environment, and an absence of head office targets or corporate uniformity mean you’re much more likely to get what you see at an independent jewellers. 

We’ve been going for over 70 years and that’s because we have built a reputation for doing an excellent job, knowing what we’re talking about and serving our customers for their entire lifetimes. Being part of the key moments in their lives is what makes our job worth doing. 

Quality and customer satisfaction really are our top priorities. We wouldn’t exist otherwise. 

In the high street shops, Hatton Garden or online, you’re simply not going to get the same level of service.

We talk you through all the information on diamonds, metals, settings, shapes, designs, certifications and quality finishes just as I have with you now. Our commitment to you is to ensure that you really understand what the options are, what you’re buying and why, so you get the ring that’s right for you. 

AP: What is Jacob’s policy on ring adjustments and resizing? 

Engagement Ring Resizing 

If you buy a ring from us, whatever it takes to get it to the right size for your partner, it’s all in the price. If we can adjust the ring that we have here, we’ll do that for you. Most rings can handle a degree of adjustment. 

Some styles, for example if you have diamonds down the shoulders, will only take a bit of adjustment because it weakens the sides. If that’s the case we’ll make you a new one with original diamond. We’ll take it out of the ring, make you the new metalwork ring to the correct finger size from scratch. 

AP: What do I do about my partner’s finger size? 

AJ: This is a question we’re being asked very often. We try very hard not to change the size of rings before the proposal. If we do that and it’s wrong you’ll start paying for it. 

The honest answer is, with finger size you do nothing until you need to – until she’s said yes! If she says no you want to give it back and get a refund, which we would do. 

We want her to say yes first, then make sure she likes the ring, the style, and then we’ll do the resizing. 

AP: What if she doesn’t like the engagement ring I choose? 

AJ: It is very, very rare to have to go back to the drawing board – I know I’ve never had someone say “I hate it”.  

The only thing I’ve had is someone saying, “I like the shape of the cut but I don’t like the style of the ring, can we change that?” So we did, and made matching earrings to go with it. It just took a while longer but we got there. 

AP: How do you work out finger size for the initial purchase/proposal? 

AJ: We can usually guess finger size within 2-3 sizes by asking basic questions:

  1. Shoe size
  2. Dress size
  3. Build
  4. Describe her fingers 

With those 4 questions I can get within 2 sizes 4 out of 5 times. If we do have to end up making a custom one, we’ll make in the likely range. Last week I did it blind and I got it spot-on for the first time. 

AP: Is it an ordeal to resize a ring? 

AJ: No, not really. But it depends on the complexity of the ring. For a single diamond, platinum band as you’ve described, it’s very straightforward.  

AP: Fantastic. To finish off, I have a couple of bonus questions:

What’s your most popular ring you sell at Jacobs? 

AJ: Round brilliant cut diamonds in a classic platinum setting. They make up 70% of engagement ring sales. Why? For two reasons: technically, round brilliant diamonds sparkle the most; and secondly, they look like engagement rings!

AP: What’s your favourite engagement ring story?

AJ: A customer we sold an engagement ring to took it with him on a weekend away with his partner. His plan was to put the ring in a Kinder Surprise egg and have her find it when he offered her the egg. 

So he undid the wrapper really carefully, melted the chocolate with a scalpel, took the toy out, put the ring in the yellow inner egg, gently sealed the chocolate up again by heating it, and rolled the foil wrapper up ready to propose with it. 

When they went away he was very excited. They got to their hotel room and he said, 

“Oh, I got you something to eat, let’s have a snack before we go down to the bar!” 

He gave her the Kinder egg to start the weekend off. But she refused it –  

“I’m not hungry, I don’t fancy it.” 

He encouraged her to have it but she wouldn’t. He started to get worried. 

“Eat the egg!”


It escalated, he got more and more insistent until he ended up shouting at her in their hotel room, 


She finally agreed, opened it, found the ring, and he proposed.  

AP: Lesson learned – avoid foodstuffs in the proposal! 

Lastly, do you have any advice to someone who’s nervous about asking the question?  

AJ: Be nervous. You should be nervous. 

But also, we’ve never had anyone say no to a proposal.

AP: Phew! That’s a nice positive way to end. Thanks very much!

AJ: Thank you, and good luck!

I left my consultation with Adam feeling uplifted, reassured and excited.

I really got the sense that he took the time to give me a really specific, personal experience. He embodies the personality of the business, with a sensitiveness and appreciation for the importance of this purchase. 

I felt the essence of Jacobs’ approach was to educate and inform in order to empower me to make the right choices. 

Adam told me they go out mystery shopping for engagement rings locally twice a year to make sure they’re doing the process better than anybody else.

I truly felt the pride he takes in the effort and service he and his team take to deliver the highest possible standards. 

I’ve also done my research, and like-for-like Jacobs are absolutely not the most expensive, and their prices are very fair for the service and the care that they take. 

I could always find something cheaper but for the aftercare and attention you have when you walk out the door, and Adam’s assurances of quality in their engagement rings, I feel they offer very, very good value.

I’d really recommend getting in touch with Adam and the team at Jacobs to book a consultation for your engagement ring purchase. You’re guaranteed to leave more knowledgeable than when you started. You’ll also see some beautiful ring designs and be able to rest assured that they’re worth the price tag. 

All that remains for me is to make that final choice of ring, wait for the holly and mistletoe to go up, get the mulled wine flowing, and ask a certain someone a little question. Wish me luck!