The essential guide to engagement rings – Part 1

Congratulations on your engagement! This is a thrilling time which you will remember forever. Or maybe you have feel that he is about to pop the question and you want to be ready when the time comes.

Looking for an engagement ring might first seem like a daunting task but take comfort in the fact that nowadays ‘anything goes’. There is no ‘dos or don’ts’ anymore. As a matter of fact, individuality is positively encouraged!

So enjoy trying as many rings as possible before making your choice. Listen to your instincts in terms of look and feel but think practical too! And lastly don’t be afraid to make an ‘unusual’ choice.

Here is our ‘foolproof’ guide to engagement rings including everything you need to know about the styles, metals and a price guide .

Types and styles of engagement rings

Engagement rings have existed since man first decided to commit to another being. And although they have evolved over time and now look different depending on where you are around the world (we once made a traditional engagement necklace for a young Chinese couple), rings are still the most given token of love.

  • Types of engagement rings
    • Solitaires (‘Loner’ in French) generally diamond-set – Solitaires normally refer to the one stone being set in a plain band but solitaire rings have come to include also the one stone with smaller stones set in the band. We are also asked for solitaires with colour gemstones: sapphire (either blue, pink, green or yellow) and stones like morganite and aquamarine are particularly popular.
    • 3 or 5-stone Rings – can involve stones of the same shape and same size as well as different shapes and sizes, i.e. a round brilliant in the centre with two smaller pear-shaped stones on either side. We have a few gorgeous designs with 3 stones which are then surrounded by a row of small diamonds, creating a bit of a hybrid between a 3-stone ring and a halo ring!
    • Cluster or Halo Rings – a centre stone of any given shape is surrounded by smaller stones in a ‘cluster or halo’ shape. Stones can be set also on the band
    • Band-like’ Rings – sitting low on the finger. Can be diamonds or coloured stones. Can be different widths and different types of stones. Stones can be all the same size or graduated in size.
    • Coloured gemstone rings – usually paired with diamonds to offer contrast with the colour of the main stone.
  • Styles of engagement rings
    • Modern, contemporary e.g. solitaires with a 2-claw setting or solitaires in a bezel setting with a wider band
    • Classical and traditional e.g. solitaires or 3 stone rings
    • Vintage e.g. Art Deco, Victorian, Georgian

What you need to know about setting styles and metals

You might already know what type or style of engagement ring is meant for you but a ring can be made with different settings or in different metals. Here follows a simple explanation of the most popular types of settings and of the different metals used in fine jewellery.

  • Types of settings
    • Claw-set i.e. the stone is held by small claws. For a solitaire you would be looking at the shape and position of claws which will then affect the look and height of the ring. Shared claw setting is a very popular option for band-like rings. Stones are sharing claws which will create a more seamless look for the ring where the stones are enhanced and set closer together.
    • Bezel-set. A fine bezel setting represents a fine line of metal surrounding a stone. Used for the centre stone in a cluster ring or for a solitaire. Channel-set square diamond bands are also popular engagement rings.
    • Grain-set. The grain setting was very popular in Art-Deco jewellery. It consists of the stones being set with fine beads in a band where the outer edges of the band are visible. This setting gives a ‘textured’ vintage look to a piece of jewellery. We also use a milgrain setting where the outer edges of the band are gently tapped to create texture.
    • Pavé-set. The setting process is similar to the grain-setting but the pavé setting displays more than one row of stones. A very ‘sparkly’ choice! Numerous small diamonds are closely packed together to give as much ‘bling’ as possible. Normally worn as a one-band, i.e. engagement and wedding ring combination
    • Bar-set. Small bars are set between stones either East/West or North/South to give an open look to a ‘band-like’ ring. A more open option to channel setting
    • Channel-set. A channel is dug within a band. Stones are then dropped in this channel and are butting against one other to offer a seamless look. The edges of the channel can be fine or heavy depending on the look required.
  • Fine metals

    • Gold. Pure Gold (24 carat gold is yellow) is soft and not practical for daily wear, hence why 9, 10, 14, 15 or 18 carat gold alloys are produced. Other metals are mixed with the gold to make it more durable – and to lower its cost (9ct has 37.5% of pure gold, 14ct has 57.5% whilst 18ct has 75% of pure gold). Adding other metals to the mix also allows metallurgists to change the colour of gold. Palladium or platinum can be added to create white gold whilst adding copper will produce a rose or pink tint.
    • Yellow or Rose Gold – the facts
      • Available in different carat weights. In Australia we mainly use 9 and 18 carat yellow or rose gold but 14 carat is also used, albeit more rarely.
      • Can be polished and buffed by a jewell
    • White Gold – the facts
      • White gold was invented to imitate the look and properties of platinum but at a cheaper price.
      • Available in different carat weights. 9, 14 and 18 carat white golds are the most popular in Australia.
      • The mix of metals added to the pure gold will affect the colour and strength of the resulting white gold. Ask what metals have been added to the gold when discussing the quality of the white gold you might be using for your engagement ring.
      • All white gold is rhodium plated. Rhodium is a naturally white metal belonging to the platinum family which is used as a ‘coating’ to give white gold its bright and polished look. The rhodium plating must be regularly renewed to give white gold a polished look. On average a white gold ring must be replated every 12 to 18 months.
    • Platinum
      • Platinum is a rare precious metal used in fine jewellery. Its heavy weight and durability make platinum a metal that will not wear away with constant use. Platinum’s natural white luster means that it does not need to be plated.
      • For a piece of jewellery to be hallmarked as ‘platinum’, it must contain at least 95% pure platinum. If there are less than 950 parts (95%), a number is used in front of the ‘Platinum’ terms to disclose the amount of pure platinum in the mix.
      • Platinum does make certain demands on the jeweller’s skills. It requires high temperature melting and casting equipment and a scrupulously clean working environment. Careful attention to polishing technique is needed to achieve the highly reflective finish which shows a stone at its best. Not all jewellers are thus capable of working with platinum so don’t be fooled by a jeweller who then starts talking down the qualities of platinum. The truth might be that he or she simply doesn’t know how to work with it!
      • Platinum is heavier than gold and more platinum will be needed to make a ring than white gold. It is also more expensive than white gold per gram, although the difference is now negligible. Platinum will give you a lifetime of enjoyment (most Art Deco jewellery was made in Platinum and is today still looking fantastic!).

So what should you pay for an engagement ring?

Most people I deal with find it very difficult to think of a suitable budget for an engagement ring. They simply don’t know what they cost and what the difference is between a $3,000, $7,000 or $10,000. So how do you know whether you are being quoted a reasonable price for an engagement ring?

First of all, like any other products you have to look at the quality of the components. I will be talking in the Part 2 of the Essential Guide to Engagement Rings about how to choose a jeweller, diamonds or coloured gemstones. But as a rule, the price of an engagement ring will vary depending on the size and quality of the stones, the metal and the manufacturing process. Stones are assessed depending on their rarity, clarity, colour and size. Gemstones and metals are traded in US dollars and a fluctuation in currencies can reduce or increase the price of an engagement ring.

  • Stones, namely diamonds and metals are priced in US Dollars. The strength of the Australian Dollar will have a huge impact on the cost of your diamond engagement ring. Metal and diamond prices vary on a daily basis but most jewellers will hold their prices for a certain length of time, in particular when quoting to custom-make a ring.
  • Manufacturing process. Engagement rings can be made in various ways. Hand Making means that the jeweller is making the piece from scratch, rolling the metal and working with it by hand to create your ring. Casting involves the previous manufacture of a wax model which is used then to produce casts or the cast was produced from a CAD (computer aided design). The cast will then be hand finished. Casting is a method used to mass-produce the one piece of jewellery at a lower cost. Prices will be different for a handmade piece as the labour costs will be higher. Some rings benefit from a mix of hand and cast manufacturing if the design requires a very fine and detailed pattern where the computer will produce a better result than the human handmaking.

A few practical considerations before making a choice

Although choosing an engagement ring can be quite an emotional and instinctive process, it also helps to look at the practical side … after all, you will probably wear this ring every day for the foreseeable future!

  • Will I wear this ring in my job? Am I clumsy? Am I sporty and how hard do I treat my jewellery? Answering these questions will mean that your jeweller can then recommend specific settings, metals and stones depending on how the ring will be worn.
  • The size and shape of your hand will affect the width and shape of the band , height of stone setting and the size of the stones (if a solitaire – a 0.55 to 0.75ct stone will look big on a small hand and finger size whereas a larger hand will require a larger diamond to look ‘balanced’.
  • Don’t let others’ likes and dislikes sway you as you are going to be the one wearing this ring. Shopping with girlfriends, sisters or mothers can be fraught with risk if these ladies are not able to put their own tastes aside (this applies to your fiancé(e)’s own tastes which sometimes should be set aside to allow to make your own choice!).
  • Will my engagement ring allow a wedding band to sit right next to it? Many jewellers offer engagement rings with settings starting right at the base of the band, i.e. the setting protrudes from the band and will not allows for a wedding band to sit flush against the engagement ring. This would mean a ‘fitted’ wedding band made to sit around the contours of the engagement ring. This is not always a practical choice if you want to wear the wedding ring on its own.

I am hoping that the above information has been useful and that once read you will feel that navigating the world of engagement rings is not so bad! Please look for the Part 2 of the Essential Guide to Engagement Rings which will give you advice on how to choose a jeweller and gemstones, recommendations on the best engagement and wedding ring combinations and how to look after your engagement ring to make it shine for years to come!



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