An engagement ring is more than just the piece de resistance of a proposal; it’s an investment. It is, after all, a ring that you’ll be wearing throughout your engagement and beyond. The right amount of research should go into getting a ring that you’ll be happy to see on your finger every day.

Whether you decide to point out a ring you love to your boyfriend, or bookmark this article on his laptop as a not-so-subtle hint that he needs some guidance in finding the right ring for you, here’s what you need to know.

Know your stone.
The diamond is the most expensive part of the ring, so you should make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. Consider first the shape, since this is the most easily visible feature of your ring. Some shapes are literal in meaning, such as the Round, Heart, and Pear cuts. Other shapes include:

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Princess: square-shaped and one of the most popular cuts for an engagement ring

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Marquise: oval-shaped with pointed ends

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Cushion or Antique Cut: looks like a pillow, its shape is in between a rectangle and an oval

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Emerald: rectangular with stair-step-like facets

Consider also if you want your ring to have other smaller stones surrounding the main diamond. For all of these stones, you should check for any surface imperfections like nicks or cracks on the stone.

Jewelers will talk to you about the diamond’s clarity with acronyms like VVSI and VSI—don’t be overwhelmed by such terms, as they are basically technical terms for how perfect or imperfect the stone is. Both VVSI and VSI diamonds should not have imperfections that are visible to the naked eye, but VSI diamonds will have more internal imperfections when viewed under a lens. This is why it is less expensive than VVSI diamonds.

When it comes to color, remember that no diamond is perfectly colorless. Jewelers use the letters of the alphabet to give “color grades”, with Z as the lowest and D as the highest possible grade. Diamonds with K to Z have color that is noticeable to the naked eye, so choose a diamond that is at least graded J, so that any discrepancies in color will only be noticeable under the lens.

While diamonds are the traditional stone of choice for engagement rings, there’s no law that says it’s the only stone allowed. Kate Middleton –aka the Duchess of Cambridge—received a blue sapphire engagement ring, similar to that of her mother-in-law Princess Diana of Wales. Others prefer to have their birthstone in their engagement ring. Whichever stone you choose, it’s best to consult a professional jeweler on its quality and value for money.

Match your metals.
The next important part of the engagement ring is the band itself. Rings are usually made of gold. 24-karat gold is its purest form and is usually too soft to use in jewelry. So the higher the karat amount, the purer the gold and the less durable the metal. Most engagement rings are set in 18K or 14K gold.

Aside from the karats, you can also choose the color of the gold. Yellow gold is more traditional-looking and complements a warm skin tone. This is a good choice if most of your other jewelry are yellow gold too. White gold is preferable if most of your jewelry is white gold or silver, and it also has a more modern and contemporary feel. Rose gold is also an unusual choice, but may be more difficult to pair with your other jewelry. You can also choose to mix two colors to have a two-toned ring.

Another thing to consider when it comes to the band itself are the ring’s finish. A polished finish is very shiny and you should clearly see your reflection on the ring, while a satin finish is smooth to the touch and not shiny. Descriptions of other finish types can be seen here .

Remember that once you’re married, you’ll be wearing two rings on your finger—your engagement ring and your wedding band. Brides usually choose their wedding bands based on the color and finish of their engagement ring, and if you want to have matching wedding bands with your groom, consider his taste as well when choosing your metals. A rose gold ring with a polished finish may look great on you, but will he really be willing to wear the same kind of ring for the rest of his life? Your engagement ring can set the stage for both your wedding rings, so choose wisely.

Choose the right size for your hand.
As much as women have been conditioned to think that the bigger the diamond, the better, a huge rock may not look great on a very small and slender hand. In contrast, a ring with a small diamond will hardly look impressive if your hand is large and wide. Take a look at your hand and examine—is it small or large? Are your fingers long and slender, or short and wide? Do you have big knuckles? By knowing the size and shape of your hand, you should be able to find a ring that is proportional.

You can easily give your guy visual cues for this by trying on rings in department stores when you hit the mall together. Even costume jewelry will work, since you are simply after the size of the ring. Just check if the size of the stones and the width of the band are proportional to your hand’s size. You can also get more tips for choosing the right ring for your finger here :

Here’s to finding the perfect ring that looks great in the box and even better on your hand. Happy ring hunting!

ILLUSTRATIONS: Sabrina Lajara

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