Everything You Have Ever Wanted To Know About Engagement Rings, And Then Some

How do you design one? How much do they cost? And what happens if they hate it? Expert jewellers impart their advice...

best engagement rings

by Hannah Banks-Walker |

As the piece of jewellery you'll wear every day for a (hopefully) long period of time, it's fairly important that you're a fan of your own engagement ring. Some people now choose their own, others drop heavy hints about the sort of thing they might like, while there's still some who prefer to be surprised.

And while many proposal plans might have been scuppered by self-isolation - no reenacting your first date in a university town pub, no tracing ‘Will You Marry Me?’ in the first sandy beach you visited as a couple - it hasn’t put a stop to the question being asked altogether.

From what to do if, whisper it, you don’t like the ring to how much you should spend, here’s everything you need to know (but don’t want to ask) about engagement rings.

What To Do If You Don't Like Your Engagement Ring?

In June of 2019, Meghan Markle made headlines (obviously) for appearing to have changed her original engagement ring. Originally a three-stone ring set on a gold band, Markle seemed to have had it re-set on a diamond-encrusted platinum band. And she's not the only one to do so.

Meghan Markle wearing her original engagement ring
Meghan Markle wearing her original engagement ring

Alex Monroe, the British jeweller who has been crafting his unique jewels for over 30 years, actually recommends Markle's approach to anyone dissatisfied with their engagement ring. 'An engagement ring will of course always have a special significance and therefore needs to be something you love and treasure. If you have an engagement ring that you don’t feel is really ‘you', I would suggest a re-design to ensure it’s a piece to last a lifetime. We're often able to repurpose the stones from an existing ring to create something new, while keeping the sentiment. Due to our casting process, we aren’t able to directly reuse metals, but we can help you get the right exchange price when recycling gold.'

Laura Lambert, founder of Fenton & Co, the ethical luxury jeweller, agrees. 'So as to be tactful to your other half I would suggest waiting for a special moment to reset such as an anniversary or the birth of a child - with the latter your finger will be likely to change size during the pregnancy anyway so resizing is a great excuse to open the door to a full resetting.'

Jeweller Alex Monroe in his studio
Jeweller Alex Monroe in his studio

Meanwhile, Emily Mortimer, another British jewellery designer who has created pieces for Meghan Markle and Ellie Goulding (among others) suggests that in order to avoid disappointment, it's important to do some research before buying. 'When you’re dealing with bespoke, there’s not really the option to return it. Maybe some companies might let you exchange it but when you’ve been in a process with somebody, then it’s tricky. I haven’t got it wrong yet so I’m generally quite confident! Nobody has ever actually come to me but if they did I would probably recommend taking it back to the place they got it and making a few tweaks.'

Given the amount of factors to consider, I asked these three masters of gemstones to share their advice and experience to answer all the questions you might have ever had about engagement rings. And, if you're not thinking of getting married any time soon, bear in mind that each of these jewellers creates beautiful designs to add sparkle to everyday life, too. Just saying.

How Do You Choose An Engagement Ring?

According to Monroe, the most important thing is to consider the receiver's personality. 'What style of jewellery do they own and wear already, and is there anything symbolic to you both to include in the design? It’s also great to have a think about their lifestyle, and what shapes and sizes would be practical. Next would be metal colour and stones. Do they prefer yellow, white, or even rose gold? Would they want to be traditional with a diamond, or more adventurous with a coloured stone? If you are choosing for yourself, even better - there are endless possibilities! The best place is to try some rings on - and see if what you are drawn to actually suits you in the flesh.'

emily mortimer bespoke ring
Emily Mortimer offers bespoke designs as well as ready-made rings

Mortimer also suggests an alternative to bespoke designs. 'There’s nothing wrong with going to a shop and buying something but think about who you’re buying from- support independent businesses, for example, or go to a family-run company. Bespoke isn’t for everyone and you’ve got to do what you feel comfortable with. It can be a process that’s purely over email or phone, it doesn’t have to be in person. I work in whichever way is best for my customer.'

How Much Should You Spend On An Engagement Ring?

'It’s important to have a fixed idea of a budget,' says Monroe. 'Think about what is affordable for you - and don’t be swayed by what you think you should spend, if it's simply not realistic.' Similarly, Lambert urges people to choose something they really love, not just something they think they should like.

'It’s very easy to get sucked into a view of what an engagement ring or wedding ‘should’ look like - I’m getting married this year and when choosing the dress had to ask, is this me or is this what I think a bride should look like? I think the most important thing is to make each aspect of the proposal and wedding feel personal to you as a couple and to celebrate the things that make you both unique - there is no perfect route, it should be about celebrating how happy you are and feel authentic to that.'

What Are The Most Popular Engagement Rings?

'When it comes to engagement rings people do still love the classics,' says Lambert. 'Blue sapphires and aquamarines are the go-to for a lot of grooms and our biggest sellers are the Vintage and Trilogy styles- we get a lot of people torn between the two as you really can’t go wrong with either of these. We are seeing that emeralds are gaining hugely in popularity so these are also worth thinking about if you’re planning to propose this year.'

One of Alex Monroe's bespoke creations
One of Alex Monroe's bespoke creations

For Monroe, his designs are so idiosyncratic that he finds customers gravitating towards his general aesthetic rather than specific styles. 'People often come to us because the designs they have in mind take inspiration from the natural world, which is what we do best! Clusters of stones, rather than a large single stone are especially popular for us - and look incredibly beautiful and impactful.'

Which Celebrity Engagement Rings Are The Most Popular?

Naturally, Meghan Markle's engagement ring prompted a rise in online searches of three-stone rings. And Mortimer has been asked to design pieces based on Markle's jewellery. The other person cited by some other customers, she says, is Millie Mackintosh. 'It's interesting to see who people look to for inspiration and does give you a helping hand if people give you a visual.'

Lambert suggests that there are a few celebrities whose engagement rings are dictating emerging trends in the market. 'There are a few great trends that are appearing for the new decade - happily for us, coloured gemstones is one that’s gained in popularity in recent years thanks to high profile brides such as Princess Eugenie and Alizée Thevenet (James Middleton’s fiancée) sporting sapphire and ruby styles respectively. Another big trend is the 'east west' where the centre stone is set horizontally instead of vertically - Natalia Voldinova just sported a beautiful example of this.'

Former BBC Radio 1 DJ Nick Grimshaw announced on Instagram recently that he is engaged to long-term beau Meshach Henry and the ring is not only stunning, but super unique.

Following in the footsteps of Emily Ratajowski, Meghan Fox and Ariana Grande, Grimmy's ring appears to be set with 2 stones (technically called a Toi Et Moi ring) on a chunky band and we just can't get enough.

Emily Ratajowski engagement ring
©Em Rata

Earlier this year, Megan Fox and Machine Gun Kelly took the internet by storm when they posted their engagement video - and had us once again obsessing over Toi Et Moi rings. Fox's, made up of a whopping diamond and emerald by jeweller Stephen Webster, bears significant resemblance to that of Jackie Kennedy's - and was designed using said gems as they are the birthstones of Fox and her fiancé.

How Do I Secretly Get The Size Right?

If you're unsure of your partner's ring size - try asking friends and family first and see if they can help you out. You can also use a ring they already own as a guide (as long as they wear it on the right finger) and show a jeweller photos of their hands for comparison.

If you're really unsure, always size up so they can get those engagement shots actually with the ring on! Adjustments can be made after.

How Much Does A Bespoke Engagement Ring Cost?

This obviously varies depending on what you want and who you ask to design it. As a guide, Mortimer says that her unique designs start at around £2,500. 'Remember you are getting stones sourced for you and something created especially for you,' she advises.

Given that Lambert specialises in coloured stones, all of which are sourced ethically and responsibly, there are lots of options from which to choose at Fenton & Co. You can choose everything from cut to metal, meaning it's entirely bespoke to you. Prices start at around £1,250 and the brand offers 12-monthly payment plans, too.

At Alex Monroe, the team strives to cater for all budgets, although every bespoke design is crafted from either 18ct gold or platinum. The best thing to do is to message the team, who advise allowing 6-10 weeks for your commission.

Don't be afraid to shop 'off-the-peg' too - Net-a-porter have a great range of fine jewellery pieces at great prices - and affordable, conflict-free brand Mejuri make stunning, unique designs with the cool-girl, and budget, in mind. Plus, they're a fashion editor favourite.

SHOP: The Hottest New Engagement Rings To Bring Sparkle To Every Day

Gallery

The Best Gemstone Rings To Bring Sparkle To Every Day

Fenton & Co, Vintage Oval Blue Sapphire Platinum, Starts From £2,750
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Alex Monroe, Beekeeper Twist Ring with Three Diamonds, £995
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Ruth Tomlinson, Aquamarine Diamond Ring With Granules, £1,820
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Bentley & Skinner, Sapphire And Diamond Cluster Ring, £4,750
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Fenton & Co, Garland Cushion Aquamarine 18kt White Gold, £1,250
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Fenton & Co, Halo Cushion Emerald Platinum, Starts From £2,750
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Lark & Berry, Veto Sapphire Slim Ring In 14K Gold, £595
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Tiffany & Co, Elsa Peretti Wave Single-Row Diamond Ring, £775
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Mejuri, Toi et Moi Diamond Ring, £2,000
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Mejuri, Diamonds Cluster Ring, £2,100
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Vrai, The Three Stone, Starting at £2,423
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Taylor & Hart, Confetti Oval centre with petite petal set diamond band, £1,410
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The Alkemistry, Poppy Finch 14ct yellow gold pearl and diamond cluster ring, £450
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Alex Monroe, Rosa Centifolia Trilogy Diamond Ring, £1,700
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Anita Ko, 18-karat gold diamond ring,  £2,000
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Bea Bongiasca, 18-karat gold, diamond and enamel ring, £6,000
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Vashi, Crossover Pave Side Stone Engagement Ring, £1,840
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READ MORE: The Best Celebrity Engagement Rings Ever - From Emeralds To Pearls And, Of Course, Diamonds

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