How to buy an engagement ring

WHICH ONE? It's a tough choice for a bloke.
WHICH ONE? It's a tough choice for a bloke.

You've popped the question, it's time to choose the sparkler. Nick Churchouse investigates the subtle art of buying a ring.

There are two seminal decisions you make in a relationship. Both involve rings.

Regardless of the circumstances of the initial liaison, ringing the next day to show that your interest is ongoing can be a hand-wringing, palpitation-inducing affair.

But it's nothing compared to the time you decide, physically, to give her a ring.

Getting married is one of those things that's getting modernised. Folks are doing it all sorts of ways, including not at all.

But popping the question is a fairly standardised procedure. Bells and whistles, location and ambience aside, you still have to ask that question, and you are likely to want to have that ring.

But which ring is that ring? Think choosing a bride was a biggie? Think again.

Choosing a ring for a proposal is one of the greatest blind stabs in the dark a man will ever make. Village Goldsmith owner Ian Douglas has been fitting rings for 30 years. He still sees fear in mens' eyes as they come in to make possibly the biggest cock-up of their lives - choosing a ring she doesn't like.

Douglas says a few men have it in the bag before they come in; they've done the homework, pinched an existing ring for sizing, talked to her best friend, and figured out her style. But most are shooting blind, and haven't figured on how big a gamble it is.

"Girls have been thinking about this since kindergarten. When it occurs, they are more nervous about what is in the box than whether they say yes or no. All she is thinking about is 'will I like it?' "

There's the story of the woman who approached the Village Goldsmith counter at a jewellery event recently and quietly asked how she could tactfully get her wedding ring redone after "hating it" for 20 years. That is pretty common, Douglas says.

The trouble is, the options are vast.

Some punt for the "filler" ring - a novelty ring or seashell from the beach to mark the occasion and accessorise the proposal without betting on knowing what ring will work. Some buy a lesser ring as a proposal ring and buy the real engagement piece together later. Smart dudes.

But most guys want to be romantic and like to think they know the woman they are planning to spend the rest of their lives with. Wrong. "There's only one guy in a thousand that can go in and pick that ring," Mr Douglas says.

In New Zealand the average amount spent on an engagement ring is $3500, but a man's love is not measured by the size of his carat. Working on a ring worth $75,000 plus, Mr Douglas mentions a $1000 ring that "she was over the moon about".

If you're going to choose what to buy your beloved, think it through. What's her style? Is she a traditional or contemporary girl? Does she wear gold or is platinum better?

Imagine it's her buying you a car, Mr Douglas says. Would she know exactly which one you want?

FINGER TIPS

Get the size right. Grab another ring she has and jam it on your knuckle until it won't go any further. A jeweller will be able to try different sizes on your hand until one feels the same.

Will it fit her lifestyle? If she uses her hands a lot she'll need a low profile ring that won't get in the way, or one that comes off easily.

What are her hands like? Long fingers need a ring shaped to match her hand, as do more sturdy digits.

Forget the internet. Would you choose a bride on the web? Don't answer that. While there might seem to be some great deals, there are too many stories of rip offs, fake diamonds and just plain disappointment. Choose a jeweller you trust and ask all the questions you want.

Don't be afraid to secretly take her closest buddy into the shop. "This is my girlfriend's best mate, we want a ring." Sounds dodgy, but jewellers hear it all the time.

The Dominion Post