Choosing the right engagement ring can be a bewildering business, considering all the various factors to consider. What style does she like? Should you choose yellow gold, white gold or platinum? What is the best shape and how big should the diamond be? How much should you spend? If you want the proposal to be a surprise, how do you keep it secret, and get the right ring size?
Start with her. What is her style, what kind of jewellery does she wear? Does she like classic and traditional or contemporary and modern, elaborate or simple?
What's her colouring? Does she usually wear silver or gold? If she wears silver, consider platinum or white gold. What's her lifestyle? Is she very active?
Be attentive. Has she commented on other rings she has seen in shops, magazines or worn by friends? If you're still not sure try asking her friends and family what they think she would like.
Think carefully about the kind of jewellery your loved-one usually wears and consider that she is going to be wearing this ring everyday for the rest of her life!
Most traditional engagement rings consist of an 18k white gold, yellow gold or platinum band set with one large diamond and possibly some smaller gems set as side stones.
For something different but that is still classic, look at some of the more striking vintage jewellery styles such as Art Deco.
In choosing the metal type, you should look at the kind of jewellery your partner wears. What colour is the metal she usually goes for? Most women have a definite preference and stick to it. If you like the idea of gold but she usually wears silver, consider the option of white gold or precious platinum.
Platinum is a precious white metal, popular because it is very strong and durable and doesn't tarnish. It is more expensive but will last a lifetime.
Gold comes in several colours so try out a few options. The most popular is the classic yellow gold, closely followed by the more expensive white, which is excellent for people who prefer the look of white metal but want something more precious than silver. White gold naturally tends to have a light greyishcolour and to make it appear whiter it is often plated with rhodium, a metal with similar properties to platinum.
The kind of setting you choose must suit the shape and cut of your diamond but the less metal you have surrounding the stone the more of it you will see and the more it will be able to sparkle. But do be conscious of security; don't go for a setting that leaves the stone too vulnerable.
A solitaire setting with a single stone is the most common and classical for engagement rings, but you might prefer something with smaller stones set either side of the central diamond. These side stones might have raised settings or be channel set so that they sit flush to the side of the ring. Another option is pavé setting; this is where lots of very small diamonds are set closely together giving the impression of one continuous (and very sparkly) surface.
The round brilliant cut diamonds are the most popular for engagement rings as they have the most sparkle, but you might prefer something different such as the emerald cut or even a romantic heart-shaped diamond.
More elongated shapes such as the oval, marquise or pear shaped stones can have a lengthening effect on shorter fingers. Some of the fancy cuts work particularly well when set with side stones and they often can look bigger than traditional round diamonds of the same carat weight.
Once you have decided on the best shape, then look at your budget and pick the best quality diamond you can afford. Arm yourself with plenty of information, starting with the all-important four Cs - Cut, Colour, Clarity and Carat weight.
Please see our diamond guides for more information.