Will you marry me? No four words have ever had more impact or held more promise than those. And every woman worth her salt remembers exactly when and how they were uttered. “He got down on one knee, told me how much he loved me and that he wanted to spend the rest of his life with me,” says Bermudian resident Marcia Chaney Breen as she explains how her then boyfriend, now husband, Ivan, proposed to her. But it was the presentation of the ring that really sealed the deal. “The first thing I thought was WOW! That is so beautiful,” remembers Breen. “I can’t believe he loves me enough to buy something so gorgeous for me.”
Estimates are that half of all men pop the question with a ring the bride-to-be has never seen. Breen says she and her husband shopped together for her engagement ring so he could be sure of the shape she wanted. Then he went back to the store alone to actually select it. Breen says he performed beautifully. “But I have a friend who dated a guy for years,” she remembers, “and she told him that if they were to get married, she’d love any ring so long as it wasn’t marquise cut on a gold band. Guess what he got her?” Breen deadpans. It was not a surprise the relationship did not last, she adds. “I have to say, if my fiancé had done the same, I would’ve seen it as a sign. I think it’s important for guys to know what their ladies like and respect that she’s the one who will be wearing it for the rest of her life.”
In an effort to increase sales, the diamond giant De Beers became the first to declare what a man should expect to spend for an engagement ring. Wikipedia says that De Beers suggested three months’ pay would be sufficient. According to the website About.com, nowadays the average cost of an engagement ring is $3,500 to $4,000.
“The most common size engagement ring, which we affectionately refer to as our ‘learner’s permit’ size, is between a quarter carat and a carat,” says Susan Millar, vice president and general manager of Crisson’s. She says a full carat will cost “between $6,500 and $8,000.00. And I would advise them to consider the top end of their affordability scale, because this is an important decision they’re making, so spend as much as you can afford on it. Don’t skimp. It is a lifetime investment.
“Don’t go size first,” she also cautions. “Ever.” Instead, Millar tells customers to decide what would be the smallest size stone they would be happy with. “Then I’ll say, ‘This is the best quality you can get for this size. If you come down a little bit in the colour and down a little bit in the clarity then we can up the size a little bit,”’ she explains and adds that bigger is not always better. “You can get a lot of big stones that might have horrible flaws in them and are poorly cut. Therefore, they don’t give the scintillation that you want.”
The shape of the diamond a woman chooses is purely subjective, but it can reflect something about the bride-to-be. Millar says the most popular shape is round. “Most people will go for the traditional ring because they want it to have longevity.” If you are undecided about what shape you should choose, these suggestions compiled from EHOW.com and the Wedding Channel might help.
Round: its wearer reflects a bride drawn to traditional romance. They themselves are honest, faithful, conservative and team players. The round shape also represents eternity as it has no beginning and no end. It is also the choice for women who are smart and down to earth as the round diamond wastes the least amount of cuts and gives you the biggest bang for your buck. Barbra Streisand sports a round ring.
Pear: The woman who wears this shape is her own person but values tradition and romance. She is stylish and emotional. The pear shape, much like the shape of a tear, may suggest many a tear could be shed in joy. Because of its unusual side cut, accent diamonds can’t be used, so the stone itself should be significant. Liza Minnelli owned a pear-shaped ring.
Oval: Although this is much like a round diamond, it takes the classic stone one step further and demonstrates a fresh originality. Its wearer is stable and faithful. Its egg-like shape represents fertility or a desire for children. Oval-shaped rings can also elongate fingers. Singer Toni Braxton sports a four-and-a-half-carat oval-shaped ring.
Cushion: It is unusual but classic. The stone has soft edges and a pillow-like shape. Its wearers value intimacy and romance. Brooke Shields and Ashley Judd received cushion-cut diamonds.
Emerald: Elegance is what an emerald-shape diamond is all about. It has a cool, classic feel. The stone is cut so that it is clear, which suggests its wearer has personal clarity, depth and an open heart. Prince Rainier gave Grace Kelly a 12-carat emerald-cut ring.
Heart: The heart shape is a symbol of pure romanticism. The strong shape also borders on fantasy and sentiment. Romance may struggle with reality but its wearer is optimistic that love will win out. It is difficult to cut but it is truly the most visible symbol of love. Joan Collins wears a heart-shaped ring.
Marquise: The marquise shape is not for the faint-hearted. It is flashy and suggests its wearer likes opulence and glitter. Optical tricks of dimension are maximized with this ring. Catherine Zeta-Jones wears Michael Douglas’s 10-carat marquise.
Radiant: The radiant cut is trendy and coquettish. It is also rare. The underside is cut in such a way to make it remarkably sparkly. Jennifer Lopez received her radiant-cut diamond from Ben Affleck.
Princess: The name says it all. It is so glittery it cannot help but attract attention. And there are so many cuts in this shape it hides flaws. Its wearer may be willing to take risks and assume a leadership role. Kevin Costner bought his bride a 5-carat princess-cut diamond.
Asscher: This ring is all about drama and glamour, very 1920s art deco. And like the diamond itself, it can indicate the clarity of a person. Actress Reese Witherspoon was given a four-and-a-half-carat Asscher-cut diamond from former husband Ryan Phillippe. Rocker Chris Robinson gave Kate Hudson a 5-carat Asscher-cut diamond as well.
Traditionally, the engagement ring sits on the fourth finger of the left hand, which legend says contains the vena amoris. Translated from Latin, it means the “vein of love.” It was believed that the vein ran directly from the heart to the fourth finger. According to Wikipedia, some of the earliest evidence of betrothal rings dates back to Alexander the Great in 332 BC. “Up to this time, betrothal rings were generally made out of hemp, leather, bone or ivory. In early Rome, the use of metal rings gradually began to take over from these materials, and the metal of choice back then was iron. Gold and silver rings were given on rare occasions, to prove that a man trusted his wife with his valuable property.”
There are alternatives to purchasing a new diamond ring from your local jeweller according to About.com: Use a family ring for your engagement. Buy a ring from an antique shop. Purchase stunning high-quality cubic zirconia. Consider pawn shops or classified ads. Consider an alternative stone. Purchase a setting using several smaller stones instead of one large stone.
In the end, it is the ring you like the most that will suit you the best and represent your relationship in its truest way. “It is pretty nice to have something so pretty as a symbol of your love,” says Marcia Breen about her ring. “I would’ve married him without one, but don’t tell him that!”