Presenting the woman you love with a beautiful engagement ring is among the most romantic of images, but the actual process of purchasing that symbol of eternal love can be rather stressful. Men are not necessarily well-versed in the art of selecting fine jewelry for women, and you may not know much about your girlfriend’s preferences in this regard; you don’t even know her ring size. This is going to be a very expensive purchase, and you want it to be something she would enjoy wearing every day. So how do you go about it?
The simplest answer may seem to be to ask her to go to a jewelry store with you and let her pick what she likes; after all, let’s face it, most proposals are not a complete surprise. But no…this a very bad idea. It might work in relationships where the couple have been together for a very long time, have combined finances, and are essentially already living a married life. In such a case, it could be a fun project / activity. For most engagements, however, I would urge men to not put a woman in this awkward situation. She wants a ring she would love and can be happy wearing for (hopefully) the rest of her life, but she feels the pressure to not over-stretch your budget.
If you have openly discussed your budget with her, it can kill the romance of the event. If she has no idea how much you can comfortably spend, she’s missing key information for making her decision. We are talking about diamonds, so I’m assuming you are not giving her a carte blanche. You might be looking at two sub-optimal possibilities here: (a) she makes an economical choice and your bride-to-be gets stuck with a ring about which she feels lukewarm, or (b) she ends up picking something you cannot afford, which results in either the embarrassment of you saying no or you spending more than you should.
So how might you go at it alone? First, try to gather some information about your partner’s preferences. Pay attention to what sorts of jewelry she likes (plain designs, antique-looking, colorful, etc), and ask her more direct questions such as “what cuts of diamonds do you like?” or “did you like so-and-so’s ring?” (remember, in most cases, women know a proposal may be coming at some point). Second, use exogenous resources to help make your decision. Visit jewelry stores and ask them questions, talk to friends and family, look up online informational resources. A friend of mine told me that he had casually walked into a Tiffany’s store with his girlfriend and judged from her reactions that she liked large solitaires in the traditional Tiffany setting, but those rings were too expensive for him. I helped him pick a similar-looking ring from an online store for a fraction of the price.
Be realistic about your budget and don’t let this be a financially foolish decision. That cliche about spending three months’ salary on an engagement ring is rather impractical. How would you then pay for the next three months’ living expenses? What about the wedding and the honeymoon? You are about to embark on an expensive phase of your life. Remember, while your fiancee wants a ring she would adore, she does not want to enter matrimony with excessive debt.
I am going to wrap up with my extremely cynical view of the concept of fancy engagement rings. These expensive baubles, for a period of time before marriage, mark a woman as being betrothed and “off the market,” while the man goes about with no such markings. Is this period meant to signify the last vestiges of his freedom while hers is already over? Fortunately, that optic ends once the weddings bands are on; however, the quality of the engagement ring remains an indication of how much the woman is valued by her husband and the affluence of the family (distasteful but true). My spouse, when he proposed, was aware of my views and gave me what was to later become my wedding band; we waited until the wedding to put on our matching bands. But don’t let my views keep you from buying a gorgeous ring for your future wife. Get her what you think she would love, and if you don’t make the perfect choice, rings can be exchanged or resized later.