Engagement Rings 101: What You Need to Know About Buying an Engagement Ring

engagement rings 101

You've finally found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with. Now you have to find a ring that is just as special. You did the most important job, so let us help you with this one by answering some of the most common engagement ring FAQs. 

Why Do We Wear Engagement Rings?

There are many stories that explain why we wear engagement rings. The Egyptians believed that the circular shape of a ring represented eternity. The hole in the middle represented a doorway to the future. The gift of a ring symbolized eternal love.

Back then, rings may have been made only of gold or silver wire. Victorians made rings of hair and gems that spelled out endearments. The first recorded use of a diamond engagement ring is by Archduke Maximilian of Austria, who had a ring made for Mary of Burgundy. The diamonds were arranged into the shape of the letter M.

In the 1900s, women were presented with engagement rings as a sort of insurance. If her betrothed left her and did not marry her, which could leave her virtue in question for future suitors, she would have a valuable ring as collateral.

Today, the engagement ring is a symbol of promise. It represents the love between two people who intend to marry and make a life together. Rings can be made of silver, gold or platinum and can feature diamonds or other gems.

Why Is the Engagement Ring Worn on the Left Ring Finger?

why do we wear wedding rings on the left hand

When you start thinking about buying an engagement ring, common questions sometimes include those about the history of engagement rings. The reason engagement rings are worn on the left ring finger isn't clear. There are several theories on how it all began.

Some people believe the tradition dates back to Egyptian and Roman times. The circular shape of a ring symbolized eternity and eternal love in Egyptian culture. The Romans believed that a vein in the fourth finger on the left hand went directly to the heart. This vein was called the vein of love. So the symbol of eternal love was placed on the vein of love to seal the relationship.

Another possibility is that the Christian church established the tradition when the priest performed a ritual during the wedding. When he said, "In the name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit," he would touch the thumb, index and middle fingers with the ring. When he said, "Amen," the ring would be placed on the fourth finger.

The Chinese have another explanation. According to the story, the thumb represents parents, the second finger represents brothers and sisters, the center finger represents you, the fourth finger represents your partner and the last finger represents your children.

If you put your palms together with the middle fingers bent down between your hands and with your other fingers touching each other tip to tip, you will find that you can separate each pair of fingers except for one. Your thumbs, or parents, will eventually die. Your index fingers, or brothers and sisters, will leave to live their own lives. Your little fingers, your children, will grow up and move away one day. Your fourth fingers, your ring fingers, cannot be separated. This symbolizes that as husband and wife, your love will endure forever.

Some cultures wear the ring on the right hand until the wedding and then move it to the left hand. Some Europeans wear their wedding ring on the right hand. Whatever story you choose to embrace, the finger you wear your engagement ring on is really your choice.

How Much Should I Spend on an Engagement Ring?

Traditionally, the rule was to spend three months' salary on an engagement ring, but that's not an unbreakable rule. An average couple in 2012 spent around $4,000 for an engagement ring. But the right amount to spend is however much your budget will allow. The best way to decide is to look at engagement rings and get an idea of the price range for rings that you think are suitable for your bride-to-be -- with a little wiggle room if you find the ring that will really wow her.

how much to spend on an engagement ring

Don't be afraid to ask us for advice. At Thom Duma Fine Jewelers, we'll help you find the right ring for your bride and your budget. We also have a few tricks that will save you money. For example, choosing a better cut with a clearer color will give you more bang for your buck than a larger diamond with a cut and color that are lower grades.

What Are the Four C's?

While we're talking about cut and color, it's a good time to discuss the Four C's. These are Carat, Clarity, Color and Cut. This method is used to measure the value and quality of all diamonds.

Carat - Diamonds are weighed in carats. A carat is 200 milligrams, and each carat can be divided into 100 points. So a 25-point diamond is the equivalent of ¼ of a carat. In most cases, the higher the carats, the higher the price of the diamond.

Clarity - Clarity is the absence of flaws called inclusions and blemishes. Inclusions are internal flaws and blemishes are external flaws. To determine clarity, a diamond grader must consider how many flaws there are within the diamond as well as the size, position and nature of each flaw. No visible flaws are graded as Flawless (FL). Then it moves down the scale to Internally Flawless (IF), Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1), Very Slightly Included (VS1 and VS2), Slightly Included (SI1 and SI2) and Included (I1, I2 and I3).

Color - Diamonds are also graded on their lack of color. A completely clear, colorless diamond is most desirable and is graded as a D diamond. The more yellow a diamond looks, the lower the grade. The color scale goes from D to Z.

Cut - A diamond's cut is not the same as the diamond's shape. Cut refers to how the diamond is faceted to reflect light without letting light 'leak" out. This is what gives diamonds their mesmerizing sparkle. The scale for cut grades how well the facets reflect light, and it ranges from Excellent to Poor.

What Are the Different Diamond Shapes?

which style of ring should i choose

Diamonds can be made into hundreds of different shapes, but there are 10 shapes that are the most commonly seen.

  1. Asscher - Developed over 100 years ago in Holland by Joseph Asscher, this is a square shape with diagonally cut corners. Think of it as a combination between a round and emerald shape.

  2. Cushion - While the cushion or pillow shape was popular in the 19 th century, it isn't very common today. This makes it a good choice if you are looking for something a bit more unique. It is a rounded square shape.

  3. Emerald - A traditional shape, the emerald cut is made by creating terraces around the gem. They are rectangular with cut corners. Emerald-shaped diamonds are an elongated version of Asscher-shaped diamonds.

  4. Heart - What better choice for the hopeless romantic? Heart shapes must be created carefully to maintain balance and brilliance.

  5. Marquise - This elongated shape creates the look of long, slender fingers. Another benefit of a marquise is that it looks larger than it actually is.

  6. Oval - Ovals look stunning on long, slender fingers and offer almost the same brilliance as the round-shaped diamonds.

  7. Pear - Pear-shaped diamonds are also called tear drops. They often look best accented with other gems on each side.

  8. Princess - The second most popular shape, the princess cut has been around for about 30 years. It combines the classic terracing of the emerald cut with the brilliance of the round cut.

  9. Radiant - Radiant diamonds are similar to princess-shaped diamonds with the facets of a round cut. It is a versatile shape that lends itself well to multi-gem settings.

  10. Round -The round brilliant cut is the most popular, with ¾ of the diamonds sold being this shape. Its symmetry creates the most sparkle of all the shapes, which makes it the most appealing.

There is no right or wrong shape for an engagement ring, so let your heart decide the perfect shape for you.

How Do You Determine Ring Size?

When you come into our store to shop for the right ring, one of our specialists will be able to measure for the correct ring size. It's really just that simple. Want to keep it a surprise? That's not too difficult either. Check out our guide on how to secretly figure out your girlfriend's ring size.

How Do I Know Which Style Ring Is Right for Me?

The best engagement ring is the one that makes you say, "Wow!" But it goes a little beyond just the wow factor. You have to consider things like your lifestyle and even what shape will look best on your hand. 

If you have a simple, classic style, a round- or princess-cut diamond may be perfect for you. If you are a fashionista, you might prefer a cushion or emerald cut. An incurable romantic might like a heart or pear-shaped diamond. If your tastes are more vintage, you will like a cushion- or Asscher-shaped gem.

Here are a few more tips:

  • Long fingers look best with princess-cut and round-cut diamonds. They can also pull off a bolder, larger diamond.
  • Short fingers look longer with a pear-shaped, oval or marquise diamond.
  • Slender fingers are best suited for a smaller gem.
  • Wide fingers look best with wider gems and multi-gem styles. Consider emerald-cut, marquise or oval diamonds.

After the engagement ring is picked out, the next logical step is to choose a wedding ring. When you're looking for a wedding ring, common questions include: Do we want matching wedding bands? Should the wedding ring match the engagement ring? Can I buy the engagement and wedding rings together? So many things to think about! Here are a few wedding ring FAQs to help you figure it all out.

Should We Have Matching Wedding Bands?

This is totally a matter of preference. For some couples, matching bands are the perfect way to symbolize a life together. For others, it may not be desirable or even practical. If the bride wears an ornate wedding band and the groom has simpler tastes, that's completely okay, or the groom may work in a profession where a simple band is required.

Your wedding ring is something you will be wearing for the rest of your life. It should be a reflection of you and your own personal tastes. You and your spouse are individuals, so it's fine for your rings to reflect that individuality. In fact, over two million couples get married each year! That's about 6200 weddings each day. Can you imagine if everyone did the exact same thing? Don't be afraid to be original!

over 2 million marriages each year

Should the Engagement Ring and Wedding Ring Match?

Again, this is completely up to you. We offer wedding sets so you can easily coordinate both rings, or you can purchase each ring separately to create a more unique look. Some people prefer to wear the wedding ring alone, saving the engagement ring for special occasions.

If you plan to wear both rings together, make sure the wedding ring doesn't have so much bling that the engagement ring gets overpowered. The engagement ring should be the show-stopper. Also, make sure both rings have a common theme, such as similar shaped gems.

Should I Buy the Engagement and Wedding Rings Together?

You certainly can, but you don't have to. When you purchase a set, you know the rings will look good together. They will also lay nicely on the finger together and the bands will fit correctly against each other. If you decide not to buy a matching set, keep in mind that the wedding ring and engagement ring should be the same metal for a more uniform look.

What Is the Proper Way to Wear a Wedding Ring Set?

There are several ways for you to wear your wedding ring set. The wedding ring is traditionally worn closest to the heart. To simplify this, you can wear your engagement ring on a finger other than your ring finger on your wedding day and just put it back after the groom has put the wedding band on your finger.

Some people feel it makes more sense to keep the engagement ring right where it is and just put the wedding ring over it. This is perfectly acceptable as well and eliminates the need to shuffle your rings around.

If you have short fingers that won't look right with stacked rings, or if your rings do not match well (such as in the case of one being an heirloom ring), you can wear your rings on different fingers. You can even wear one on each ring finger.

Your wedding is an occasion that will never come again. Traditions are traditions for a reason, but don't feel like you have to adhere to every single one. Make your wedding day unique to the two of you, right down to your rings.

And don't forget, you don't have to figure everything out on your own! When you are ready to shop for an engagement ring or wedding rings, come to Thom Duma Fine Jewelers and talk to one of our specialists. We have lots of experience to share with you to make the entire process easier. Let us eliminate the stress so you can focus on your future happiness together.