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A Guy’s (Unbiased) Engagement Ring Buying Guide

A Guy's Guide to Engagement Rings So you are in the market for an engagement ring, or think you might be—congratulations!  Although we don’t know your girlfriend, we’re pretty certain she’ll be overjoyed when you ask her to marry you. Ideally she’ll also be giddy with excitement over the ring you’ve chosen, and that’s where we can help.

Yes, Brilliant Earth sells engagement rings but we are setting aside our interests to give you an unbiased “just the facts” guide to choosing an engagement ring that your future fiancé will love, and that will get you the most value for your money.  Here are the decisions ahead of you, and our tips on how to make them:

Choose a Gemstone: You know that the most classic engagement ring style features a center diamond, but you may not know whether your girlfriend craves that style or wants something more unique. We can tell you this: close to 90% of engagement rings feature a diamond, and sapphires are the second most common engagement ring gemstone. If your girlfriend’s taste runs to the unconventional, then she may prefer something other than a diamond or sapphire engagement ring—but based on the numbers, a diamond or sapphire is a very safe bet.

Diamonds and sapphires are also the hardest gemstones (Diamonds rank 10 and sapphires rank 9 on a 1-10 mineral grading scale called the Mohs scale of hardness) meaning that they’ll hold up well to the everyday wear required of engagement rings. Sapphires cost less than diamonds, so choosing a center sapphire allows you to get a bigger gem for your budget. Although you probably think of sapphires as being a deep blue, they also come in yellow, pink, and a variety of other colors.

Select a Gemstone Shape:  Diamonds are cut into ten standard shapes, and round is by far the most common choice, making up 75% of all diamond purchases. In part because they’re so popular, round diamonds cost more than other shapes. In fact, you can save up to 40% by choosing a non-round diamond. Some non-round shapes that are also very popular, but less pricey, are the princess cut (which is square) and the cushion cut (somewhere in between a round and a square, featuring softly tapered edges).

Choose a Precious Metal: The main choices for engagement ring metals are platinum, white gold, yellow gold, and rose gold. Platinum and white gold are the most popular choices. These two metals look very similar, but platinum is more durable and costs about 50% more. To get a sense of what type of precious metal your girlfriend would prefer, pay attention to the jewelry she currently wears.

Choose a Ring Style: Would she prefer something sleek and modern, or detailed and vintage in feel?  Dazzling with diamonds or more understated?  Selecting a setting and ring style may be the hardest part of buying an engagement ring. For guidance, think about the clothes she wears and the art and furniture she appreciates—that should give you some clues as to whether she’d prefer a ring that’s classic, modern, nature-inspired, glamorous, or some combination of those. To make the decision less stressful, we offer 30 day free returns, so if the style you choose doesn’t fit her vision you can always return or exchange it for one she’ll adore.

Consider Buying an Antique: If your girlfriend loves vintage jewelry, clothing, and décor, or if she’s a history buff or a lover of movies and books set in decades or centuries past, then she’d likely adore a vintage or antique engagement ring. Rings from earlier eras are often one-of-a-kind, and come with a sense of romantic history that many women love. As an added bonus, they generally cost less than a new ring of similar quality.

Consider Whether to Go Custom:  If you’re an artistic type or if it’s important to you to propose with a ring that’s completely unique, consider collaborating with a jewelry designer to create a custom engagement ring. To learn more about the process, read about The Pros and Cons of Designing a Custom Engagement Ring.

Decide on a Budget:  There is no hard and fast rule about how much you “should” spend on an engagement ring, other than that you should spend what feels comfortable for you. We can assist you in finding a diamond or other gemstone that balances size with quality at a price that works within your budget, and can tell you about lab-created diamonds, which can be a budget-friendly option. You can also consider a variety of payment options, including bank wire, layaway, and financing through GE Capital.

A Man's Guide to Engagement RingsFigure Out Her Ring Size:  Determining her ring size without asking is tricky, but not impossible. The most common women’s ring size is 6-6.5, and you want to err on the large side. You could sneak a ring from her jewelry box and take it to a jeweler to have it sized, or trace one of her rings on a piece of paper. For more strategies, check out How to Find Out Her Ring Size Without Her Knowing. Most rings can be resized, so check your jeweler’s resize policy.
Consider a Semi-Surprise: If you know you want to surprise your girlfriend with a ring when you propose, but are daunted by having to determine the right ring style and size, consider purchasing a diamond or other gemstone and having it set in a temporary ring setting. You can then have the gemstone re-set into a setting of her choice once you’re engaged. We let people have a gemstone set into our classic 18k Gold 2mm Comfort Fit ring, then return it within 60 days to have the gem re-set into a ring that’s the perfect style and size.

For more extensive education about how to buy an engagement ring, including what “the 4 Cs” of diamonds are all about, and how to find a ring that has been ethically sourced, consult our comprehensive Engagement Ring Guide.

Contact Us

Do you still have questions about purchasing an engagement ring?  Just contact us via phone or email, and we’d be happy to answer them.



Bill Says:
August 15th, 2014 at 7:46 pm

“more unique”

Impossible. “Unique” means “one of a kind”; it does not contain levels. Something is either unique or it isn’t. Difference can have levels, uniqueness cannot.

Don’t buy a diamond. Too many people dying for them.

Michelle Says:
August 16th, 2014 at 7:48 am

This is actually a really good article! Surprisingly unbiased, in my opinion. I’m a single lady, and don’t know what I was expecting, but I was pleasantly surprised.

For what it’s worth, my dream engagement ring someday would be an emerald cut diamond, either with a smaller emerald cut diamond on each side OR an emerald cut diamond in the middle with my birthstone on one side and his birthstone on the other. I would also love a vintage ring! Just putting that out there… :)

May Says:
August 29th, 2014 at 10:49 pm

I agree that this site is exceptionally thorough. It pretty much gets a guy through the whole process. The only problem a man with good taste would have would be not having access to a ring size. The article recommends go bigger. So if his girl isn’t petite, he could upsize from the average 6.5. Perhaps take it up to a 9 and do a resize if needed. The collections are really beautiful.

Bridget Says:
September 7th, 2014 at 11:31 am

Also, considering this article ( I’d say check her pinterest page. She’ll have lots of things she likes/ loves/ is interested in. It’s how I choose birthday/ christmas presents for my gal pals or even girl from work I don’t know so well.

Jessica Says:
October 8th, 2014 at 7:39 am

Please don’t go for something overly trendy. A few years ago, a guy friend bought his now-wife a heart-shaped diamond, with the rationale that “people replace their center diamonds after a few years anyway…” Bad choice, dude. It just seems weird to *plan* on replacing the main part of the symbol of your undying love. Right??

The ring is a symbol, nothing more, nothing less. The proposal is not the pinnacle of your relationship (hopefully…). You’re starting a life together, and that life is more important than the size/shape/setting/etc. that represents it. Put some thought into making a good choice, but remember that it’s (again, hopefully…) not going to change her answer if you pick something she doesn’t like. Also, as a woman with a gorgeous but modest-sized stone, go for quality over size. You can upgrade settings/add anniversary bands in the future, but you can’t change that cloudy 2-karat stone into one that’s brilliant.

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