Buying an engagement ring can seem rather daunting, but it doesn’t have to be if you know what you’re looking for. We’ve compiled a few pointers to help you through the process of making an informed decision.

Step 1: Decide on a budget
There are many different opinions about just how much you’re supposed to spend on an engagement ring, but really it’s up to you and how much you feel comfortable in spending (there is no point in starting your married life in debt!). Of course you have to keep in mind that your significant other will hopefully wear this symbol of your love for the rest of their life, so you don’t want to compromise on quality. The best way to go about is to decide on your budget up front and try to stay as close to that as possible. Be open about it with your jeweller (no need to feel awkward); it helps a lot if the person making your ring has an idea of what to work with. The best engagement rings don’t necessarily cost a fortune. There are ways to cut costs, such as choosing a smaller centre stone, fewer side stones, etc. - as long as you don’t sacrifice the quality.

Step 2: Educate yourself on the “four C’s”
The “four C’s” refers to the criteria used to grade diamonds. If you are going the traditional diamond engagement ring route, this is definitely worth knowing. The “four C’s” stand for Carat, Clarity, Colour and Cut. Carat is a unit of weight for precious stones and pearls, equivalent to 200 milligrams. Clarity refers to the number of imperfections (ranging from Internally Flawless to Included). Colour is graded in alphabetical order from D – Z, D being completely colourless and considered the best, and getting more yellow the further down you go. Cut refers to the shape, the most common being round brilliant cut for a diamond engagement ring (brilliant refers to the number of facets - 58 - rather than how well the stone has been cut. It is a cut designed to maximise the sparkle). If you are looking for a good quality diamond, try to buy one that is in the D-G colour range, and in the flawless to VS2 clarity range. The cut and size (carat) of the diamond will depend on the style and budget for the ring. Don’t, however, get too caught up on the “four C’s”. You will most likely need to compromise on one or more of these areas for the sake of keeping to your budget - the important thing is to find a stone with lots of life that looks good.

Consider an alternative to diamonds
Something to keep in mind is that an engagement ring doesn’t have to be a traditional diamond solitaire. There are many alternatives to a white diamond, such as sapphires, emeralds, rubies, morganites, aquamarines, coloured or black diamonds. Tanzanite and opals are also beautiful stones for engagement rings, but they are quite soft so not the best option for a ring that’ll be worn every day. You probably have some sense as to whether she’s a traditional diamond girl, or would prefer something more quirky.

Step 3: Determine the style
Before you start to look at design ideas it is important to bear in mind the type of woman who will be wearing the ring. What type of jewellery does she wear? Is it chunky and bold, or small and dainty? Also consider the type of metal she wears, is it platinum/white gold, yellow gold or rose gold? What type of lifestyle does she have (think about hobbies, etc.)? Does she work with her hands? If so, you’d most likely opt for something that doesn’t sit up too high off her finger and is practical to wear.

Keeping in mind what your future fiancée’s style is, try to find a balance between timelessness and taste. It makes it all the more special if the ring reflects something of her personality. This is one of the reasons why having a custom ring made is so special - it’s a unique, one-of-a-kind piece that’s made specifically for one person. Also, remember that the ring is a gift, so it’s important that it reflects something of your taste too. This brings us to the next point.

Step 4: Customise your ring
Having a ring custom made might sound expensive and complicated, but it’s not. Walking into a jewellery shop with ready-made rings makes it easy to just choose one, but it’s not necessarily the most thoughtful way to go about it. When you have a ring custom made it gives you the ability to tailor it to all your specifications. She will surely appreciate the uniqueness that a handmade, once-off ring offers (rather than a mass-produced, anonymous one).

Another tip you can consider when having a ring made is to incorporate a family heirloom and add a sentimental touch. It doesn’t matter if the piece is not your girlfriend’s style, you can incorporate some of the elements. If your grandmother left you her engagement ring, why not use the stones or even get credit for the metal? It’s a great way to breathe new life into old jewellery, rather than having it gather dust in a safe somewhere.

A few more helpful hints:
If you’re unsure about what she likes, talk to her best friend or her mom – chances are they’ve discussed this very topic before or at least they would have a good idea of her taste. Another great way to find out what she’s thinking is to stalk her Pinterest account - she more than likely has a board called “Style” or, if you’re lucky, “Engagement Rings I Love”.

Make sure to visit an experienced jeweller. You want to make sure you’re getting value for your money and the best possible quality. It’s a good idea to choose a jeweller with several years of experience and a good reputation.

Lastly, if your fiancée-to-be has very particular taste and you’re worried you’re going to make an expensive mistake, rather don’t. Some women dream of designing their own ring or have a very specific idea in mind. A clever compromise is to propose with just a plain band or even a stone and work together to come up with a design that you know she’ll love.

See below for a few of Studio Loubser’s custom made rings to inspire you.

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