With all this to consider, the last thing you want to be worrying about when the time comes is whether you’ve bought the right engagement ring.

Luckily, we’ve put all the elements of choosing a ring together in one convenient place. Read our ultimate guide, then come in and speak to one of our friendly jewellers with confidence before you ask the big question.

Summer 2020 hasn’t been the familiar season of outdoor parties and regular weekend nuptials that we may have become used to in recent years. But even though wedding day plans have largely been postponed, love is still in the air for many.

Hopefully, the search for a ring is something you’ll only do once in your life, so it’s understandable if it’s unfamiliar territory! In this article we’ll discuss the different types of ring and gemstone, where to look for them and what questions to ask when you’re considering this all-important purchase. 

Diamonds are forever – but not for everybody

Tradition can play a big part in marriage proposals. Regardless what you think of them, one tradition that has become almost inescapable is the giving of a diamond engagement ring. 

Dating back as far as the 15th century, the diamond has become synonymous with engagements – and for good reason. They’re the hardest mineral on earth, representing the durability of a strong marriage, and their unique beauty and sparkle make them a precious choice for that really special woman.

Diamonds are forever – but not for everybody

But before we go into detail on choosing a diamond, it’s worth saying that diamonds aren’t for everyone. Whether it’s for reasons of affordability, individual statement or simply personal preference, many brides-to-be would rather opt for a number of other popular stones, such as:

  • Emerald
  • Sapphire
  • Ruby
  • Morganite
  • Tsavorite
  • Amethyst
  • Red Spinel

We discuss these options in depth in our recent article on coloured gemstones. It’s a personal choice for every couple to make on their own terms. For many, however, only a diamond will do.  

How much should I spend on an engagement ring?

The short answer is: it’s up to you. Any jeweller who says you must spend a month’s or three months’ salary is peddling a well-worn marketing myth. Nobody should feel obliged to go into debt to buy a single piece of (albeit important) jewellery, nor made to feel guilty for staying within his means. 

The average price of an engagement ring in the UK in recent years has ranged from £784 (2017) up to £1,483 (2018). But it’s possible to spend less or a lot more if you are so inclined (and able). 

The most important thing is to recognise that you are buying something of worth to you and your wife-to-be. Ideally, the purchase should reflect the significance of the proposal, which is unique to each relationship. 

Crucially, if you buy from a trusted jeweller, you can be sure the ring will be worth what they say it is, and hold its value over time – if not financially, certainly emotionally!

That said, knowing a bit about what contributes to the price of an engagement ring can help you at least start to narrow down your selection. 

Engagement Ring Bands – A Test of Metal

A beautiful diamond (or other precious gemstone) can only truly shine in the right setting. Paired with a second-rate band or the wrong metal will not only reduce the value, but impairs the overall composition of the piece of jewellery. 

A well-chosen engagement band, however, will further exult the qualities of the stone and make for a tasteful, dazzling ring. 

As with the choice of diamond, there are certain precious metals that traditionally go with engagement rings, but newer options and alloys are also becoming popular. 


The ultimate symbol of value, gold is an obvious choice for many. However, there are some misconceptions to dispel about this popular metal.

Firstly, you would be forgiven for assuming that pure gold of 24 carats, at about 99.9% purity (a different kind of carat to those used to measure diamonds) would be the best to use for a ring.

24 carat gold is a beautiful deep yellow and is the most precious, however, it is rarely used for jewellery due to its softness. It is too malleable and easily deforms or scratches, so is not suitable without alloying with other metals. 

Secondly, gold does not have to be “gold” in colour. Popular lower purity alloys can have all different hues and other properties, which are all worth looking at individually. 

Varying Gold Hues of Engagement Rings

Yellow Gold

To keep a natural yellow appearance, the gold is mixed with other metals such as copper, silver or zinc to produce a bright yellow hue with a high shine. Yellow gold can come in 9, 14 or 18 carats and is generally the most hypo-allergenic type of gold. 

White Gold

With mixtures of platinum, palladium, nickel and zinc, white gold has a silvery tone, with a higher durability and greater value than silver itself. A truly elegant and very common choice for an engagement ring, these bands are coated in rhodium to maintain their white tone, and may need re-coating over time. A good jeweller will provide repairs and aftercare for you with ease.

Rose Gold

Using more copper as well as silver, rose or pink gold is the least expensive of the gold family. The most durable of the three, its ethereal metallic tint is also extremely beautiful and growing in popularity. 


Famously the rarest and most valuable of the world’s precious metals, platinum has a duller silvery-white tone compared to white gold. Unlike white gold however, it doesn’t need a rhodium coating. Though it can scratch, it is actually one of the hardest metals used in jewellery, so you can be assured it will last to the metal’s very best ability.

Platinum Diamond Engagement Ring


From the same family of metals as platinum, palladium is a more affordable alternative for those looking for a white band to set off a gemstone beautifully. Palladium is sought after for engagement rings due to its strength and the fact that it doesn’t tarnish.

The 4 Cs (+)

For many proposers, this may be the only time they ever buy diamond jewellery, and traditionalists or not, knowing what you’re looking at when faced with several dozen sparkly stones can make the selection much less daunting. 

Any basic knowledge of diamonds will probably involve the “4 Cs”. These are the main criteria on which diamonds are universally valued. 


Rather than the shape of the stone, cut refers to the skilfully applied facets and accurate angles that a gemcutter makes on a rough diamond to optimise the reflection and refraction of light off and through the crystal. Too sheer a cut and the effect of the brilliance is lost. This therefore, is the most important of the Cs. 


A purely unblemished diamond is almost impossible to find – and when they are they are worth a fortune. Clarity measures the level of inclusions in a gemstone – the fewer there are, the more expensive the jewel. 


Diamond colour can be anywhere from completely colourless (also known as “white”) to yellow or brown tinted. Diamonds can come in all sorts of other colours but they are then classed differently. The traditional white spectrum ranges in descending value from D (no colour) to Z (yellow tinted).


The weight of a diamond is measured in carats. This has a direct correlation to its size, but a carat is actually equivalent to a fifth of a gram – and of course, the bigger it is, the more valuable, all other things being equal. 


Many jewellers consider a fifth C beyond the traditional four outlined by the GIA. More informally, this can be “Certificate”, relating to the official paperwork used to verify a gem’s origins. Some similarly suggest “Confidence”. If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Seemingly identical diamonds by colour and quality can vary by as much as 25% due to other overlooked characteristics.

We might add to these Cs “Composition”, to refer to the overall effect the diamond has when set perfectly in its ideal band by a master jeweller. This compositional collection of all the correct components can create a piece of jewellery worth more than the sum of its parts. 

It is also worth noting many jewellers focus on these “major” characteristics, glossing over of a number of “minor” characteristics such as fluorescence or symmetry. A good, trained jeweller will take these into account as the minors can make an enormous difference to the sparkle in a diamond – accounting for up to 20% difference in relative pricing. The major 4 Cs form part of the picture, but don’t forget the crucial minors!


There are various geometric forms engagement diamonds can be cut into to make beautiful rings. Of course some are rarer than others and each has different properties in the way that light interacts with the angles and surfaces (or “facets”). Ultimately shape is a matter of personal choice to best suit the proposed wearer. 

Various Diamond Engagement Rings Geometric Forms

As a quick side note, one term you may come across when diamond shopping is “solitaire”. This simply refers to a ring with a single stone, as opposed to a trilogy (three diamonds) or other design with multiple gems. “Halos” have a frame around feature diamonds with smaller gemstones; “clusters” are a group of gems arranged in a non-linear grouping.

Different Diamond Cuts for Engagement Rings

Image from PNG Kit


A timeless classic and the number one choice for diamond shape. Usually made into a “brilliant” cut, referring to the 58-faceted shape that maximises the reflections and brilliance (a diamond’s white dazzle). It’s hard to go wrong with a round. 


Also with 58-facets, the asscher is a symmetrical, squarer cut with exquisite brilliance. 


Another squarish shape with wide cuts that let in a flood of light, resulting in bright white reflections.


The squarest of all shapes, modern princess diamonds use about 80% of the rough stone, making them more cost-effective and bigger looking than a round.


Originally the shape of choice for their green cousins, this oblong form of diamond has rounded corners and features a big flat surface on the top. 


Similarly rectangles with square edges, baguettes have 14 facets as opposed to the emerald’s 58. 


This shape can make a diamond appear larger than it really is. Oval diamonds look especially good with a halo of smaller stones surrounding them. 


Like a pointed oval or boat shape, the marquise suits slender fingers but care must be taken that the points are set in such a way that they won’t chip. 


Halfway between a round and a marquise, a perfectly symmetrical pear or teardrop shape is a thing of beauty. A strong choice for a unique and bold ring.


Especially difficult to achieve, heart diamonds are some of the most valuable. Produced well, they can combine the brilliance of a round diamond with a three-dimensional wow factor. 

These are some of the most common shapes you’re likely to come across. Beyond the basic outline it’s important to look out for a diamond’s symmetry and the brilliance of white and rainbow colours that come off a well cut shape. 


Here are the most common style types before choosing an engagement ring:


When a main stone is surrounded by other smaller gems this is called a halo setting. This arrangement adds additional sparkle to a ring and can make a smaller diamond look more elaborate. Halos can be made around a square or rounded primary stone. 


Instead of a large main stone, smaller diamonds can be arranged together to form a unified shape and make them look like a larger gem. An effective setting at a more affordable price range. 


What’s better than one diamond? Said to represent a couple’s past, present and future, the combinations of size, colour, gem type and shape can give limitless possibilities when three stones are set side by side. 


Lastly, it’s worth considering how the gemstone or stones are attached to the band – the ring’s setting. There are a variety of styles jewellery makers use to set a precious stone, depending on its shape, or on personal preference. 

The best settings show off the gem to its full glory, ensure security so you don’t have to worry about the rock falling out, and can even add a beauty of their own to the ring’s design. There are many types of setting but here are some of the most common:


Also known as prong setting, this is the most often used and particularly seen on 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 more secure alternative, popular with people with active lifestyles who don’t want to risk their ring getting caught or snagged. A bezel is a thin metal rim that completely or partially surrounds the stone, offering more protection, though letting in less light. 


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


Small stones are 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. 


It’s increasingly important to be mindful of the planet and its environment in our purchasing choices. This goes for engagement rings as well as any piece of jewellery, especially if a woman is going to be wearing it on her finger for many years to come. 

There are a few things you can ask a jeweller for assurance of a ring’s sustainability. 

Antique, Second Hand or Recycled Engagement Rings

Some families have heirloom engagement rings that are passed down through generations. Reusing these rings prevents new minerals being dug up and the consumption of energy and resources that requires. 

Jewellers can make adjustments to existing pieces to refresh old-fashioned designs, while maintaining the gemstones and band, even cleaning them up and improving their appearance. Recycled or second hand ranges can also be refashioned from existing jewellery materials to create something new from something old. 

Lab Grown Diamonds

Rather than relying on ongoing diamond mining, many jewellery shops now also sell synthetic diamonds grown in laboratory settings. These are still made up of latticed carbon atoms and look and feel like the real thing – because they are! They can be more affordable and give the wearer peace of mind. 

Conflict-Free Diamonds

One of the certifications a diamond can hold is ethical or conflict-free status. Designated by the Kimberley Process, this assures the buyer that no terror or rebel groups were involved in mining or distributing the product. 

While there have been unethical and unsustainable practices for many decades in the diamond industry, standards have come a long way and it is absolutely viable to find a ring that adheres to humanitarian and environmental conditions. 

Frequent and Important Engagement Ring Questions

Now that we’ve been through the most pertinent aspects of choosing engagement rings, hopefully you will feel much more informed when starting your search. There are still many points to consider that you may not think about until it’s too late. 

So here is a non-exhaustive list of common queries that tend to come up in the engagement ring purchasing process. 

Ring sizing

Hopefully by now you have an idea of the type and look of engagement ring that your partner would love. The last thing you want when you’re down on one knee is to find that your new fiancée can’t fit the ring on her finger. 

Tips for finding out her ring size include looking at her current jewellery collection, asking her friends, measuring a ring of hers on your own finger. However, most rings can be resized easily and inexpensively. 

Apart from measurable ring size, a good general rule when choosing a design is the more slender a woman’s hand, the more she’ll suit a thinner band and a smaller stone.

Guarantees and Insurance

Check the warranty before you buy, especially if you may need to resize the ring, as this may not be covered. It’s important to see a third party certificate from an independent, internationally recognised diamond house if you choose a diamond ring – or at least understand why your selection may not have one. 

As with any valuable purchase, insurance for your engagement ring is worth considering. They can be delicate items of jewellery, and with everyday wear, losses and breakages do happen. With all their sentimental and monetary value it’s better to be covered. 

Ring Care

One DIY method for cleaning your own ring is gently applying a little toothpaste with a new, soft brush. There are also jewellery cleaning solutions you can buy to dip a ring in occasionally. 

However, it’s important to note that all engagement rings are different and some metals or stones may have different care requirements. Always ask about care conditions and take a ring in to a trusted jeweller for cleaning periodically if you can.

Bespoke Engagement Rings 

As a trusted independent jeweller, Jacobs prides itself on knowledge and service. We also have a jewellery design service to create handmade, bespoke engagement rings. This tailored service naturally takes longer to produce than picking a ring out of a cabinet, but it can save hours of research and comparison. 

Our design process allows you to describe exactly what you’re after and have it created by a master metalworker, with any changes you like along the way. 

Many of our customers appreciate the unique service we offer at Jacobs, as they know they’ll be consulted at every stage, from choosing the stone, creating the band and setting, and being reliably informed at all stages of the process. 

In addition, if you design a ring with Jacobs we can ensure it will be a complement to your future wife’s wedding ring. Assuming she says “yes”, this is going to become a factor sooner or later. Matching engagement and wedding bands in an appealing way just requires a bit of foresight and a jeweller’s recommendation. 

Where to Find an Engagement Ring?

The internet is a fantastic, convenient resource for finding out what kinds of rings and designs are on the market, and to get a sense of one’s budget. 

Researching and purchasing such a unique, special item requires judgement and patience, as well as trust in the seller. We recommend speaking to a reliable expert and seeing a selection of rings in person, not just on a screen. 

The advantages of going to an independent jeweller like Jacobs are many. Apart from our highly regarded bespoke ring service, you will never be pressured into making such an important purchase on a whim. We encourage you to take you time, go away, ask questions and come back when you’re ready to make a decision. 

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. 

But simply holding a National Association of Jewellers membership isn’t a guarantee of service or knowledge. We pride ourselves on long relationships with customers, often over generations, and being part of the key moments in their lives like an engagement is what makes our job worth doing. 

Consider the track record of an establishment and always meet someone face to face to ensure confidence in their advice on your engagement ring purchase. Go to the Jacobs website to arrange an appointment in person, on the phone, or by video call, and to see our fabulous range of engagement rings.