How to Choose an Engagement Ring Perfect for Everyday Wear

Indispensable shopping tips from the experts.
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Jenn Barthole
jenn barthole headshot
Jenn Barthole
The Knot Fashion & Beauty Contributor
  • Based in New York City, Jenn Barthole is a Freelance Editor for The Knot, where she contributes fashion and beauty content.
  • Jenn also contributes wellness, interiors, celebrity, fashion, beauty, and travel content to notable publications including ELLE, Refinery 29, Domino, TripAdvisor, EBONY, Cosmopolitan and PopSugar.
  • She graduated with a major in Communications and a minor in Spanish, from Loyola University in Balt...
Updated Jan 02, 2024

Picking out an engagement ring for you or your significant other is no easy task. It symbolizes serious commitment, is a hefty investment, and is a piece you (or they) will wear for a lifetime. Thankfully, we've put a list together of savvy tips and tricks on how to choose an engagement ring that you'll both love and can wear comfortably every day.

With so many styles to choose from, finding the perfect engagement ring for you or your partner, that fits into your budget and style preferences, can be overwhelming. You'll need to choose the right gem, carat size, ring metal, diamond shape, and setting. All of this prep work can suck the joy out of such a monumental purchase, but once you know what you're looking for you can focus on the fun and creative aspects of choosing an engagement ring.

We've consulted jewelry experts Patrick Dobbs, designer and co-founder of Jamie Turner Jewelry, and Stephanie Gottlieb, designer and founder of Stephanie Gottlieb Fine Jewelry for some pointers on choosing the right sparkler. Keep reading for our guide to engagement ring shopping.

How to Pick the Right Engagement Ring

Take Your Budget Into Account

Whatever your financial situation may be, there are a variety of tips and tricks to make the most of your ring budget—to save you stress and a lot of cash. To start, narrow down the exact price range that you are most comfortable in. Also, feel free to disregard the obsolete 3-month salary rule. According to The Knot's 2023 Jewelry and Engagement Study, the average cost of an engagement ring is currently $5,500. Next, do your research and compare the costs of different ring styles. If the price of larger carat sizes is too high, consider a smaller stone with a well-placed setting that will make it look larger than it is. Remember, it's possible to find a gorgeous, high-quality ring at every price point.

Establish Your Must-Haves

Before shopping, list your wants or your partner's expectations. This could entail the quality of the diamond, carat size, mined vs. lab-grown diamond, or even wanting a simpler band with lots of smaller diamonds. Also, do you prefer a custom ring, pre-designed, or either? Buying matching rings is another option. In that case, you'll need to find a style that complements both of your ring styles. If ethical sourcing is a priority, only explore jewelers and brands that offer conflict-free or sustainable stones. Lastly, make sure that you or your partner are properly sized before buying the ring to ensure it fits securely.

Work with a Jeweler

Schedule an appointment with an experienced jeweler or gemologist for a brief consultation. They can educate you about the 4C's (cut, color, clarity, and carat) and the different elements that can be switched up for your taste. This includes metal options, setting style, center stone choices, and even what rings flatter different hand shapes. Select the jeweler based on the kind of ring you want and your price point. It makes sense to visit a store that you are likely to buy from. "Commercial jewelry companies are very unlikely to do custom. You are typically buying out of the case, which is a simpler process. However, you must be willing to compromise on style based on their selection" Dobbs explains. On the other hand, "At a full custom shop, you're getting exactly what you want instead of choosing what you find in a case".

How to Pick an Engagement Ring Style

Accentuate Personal Style

To ensure satisfaction, it's important to choose a ring that reflects your or your partner's personality and style. Minimalists may prefer timeless designs like "a solitaire, where the ring is really just a supporting role in accentuating the center stone" states Gottlieb. While "someone who is more showy or glam may opt for a more design-intensive or trendy piece that amps up the sparkle factor" she says. It's also important to specify the type of stone you are shopping for. Those with quirkier aesthetics may prefer alternative or colored stones over a classic diamond. Finally, Gottlieb instructs "consider how the ring will be worn" by analyzing the amount and color of the jewelry that is worn daily.

Match the Lifestyle

Once you've narrowed down the ring style, consider if the ring will "make sense" for the person wearing it based on their lifestyle. When choosing engagement rings for an active lifestyle, Dobbs suggests a bezel setting, which is a metal rim with edges fully or partially surrounding the perimeter of the stone. "The edge of a diamond is the most fragile part and the more the edge is exposed, the more likely the stone is to be damaged by an active lifestyle" he explains. "A bezel setting protects the edge of the stones and the more surface area you cover, the safer it will be." When choosing an engagement ring for working hands or for someone who types frequently, a high-set diamond (which sits higher on your hand) or larger stone "may be more vulnerable to chipping or catching on to fabrics" warns Gottlieb. In general, round or oval stones are less likely to snag onto clothing or scratch the skin.

Be Selective in Your Stone and Metal Choice

If you're on the hunt for a durable engagement ring, be picky when it comes to picking the setting style, metal, and stone to avoid potential damage. Opt for harder metals like platinum, palladium, or 18k gold. Steer clear of softer metals like pure gold or silver since they scratch and bend more easily. It's also important to check if you or your partner have allergic reactions to nickel and cobalt, which are commonly found in these metals. Also, thicker bands, 2-3mm, are stronger (but may feel bulky). When it comes to gemstones, diamonds are the hardest and most resistant to scratching and chipping. Both sapphires and moissanite are durable as well. In contrast, softer stones like emeralds, opals, or pearls damage the easiest. Finally, choose a low-profile setting, like the bezel, channel, or four-prong, that offers excellent protection for the stone.

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