For thousands of years, lovers have used grass, strings, wire, puzzles, and thimbles for centuries to publicly indicate their intent to marry. The ancient Egyptians tied a single gold wire to their finger to indicate their betrothal. The Puritans offered their beloved a thimble as a way to offer sentimental value without indulging in the material possessions of the world. In the 1940s, the DeBeers Company launched an aggressive advertising campaign to combat low diamond sales. Interestingly enough, their campaign slogan, "Diamonds are forever", has stood the test of time.
These days, engagement rings are still in high demand. Over 80% of women in the United States receive an engagement ring along with their proposal. Despite their popularity, engagement rings are frequently and hotly debated. The purchase of an engagement ring brings a multifaceted (pun absolutely intended) discussion about environmental impact, sociopolitical impact (read: conflict diamonds), economic value, social privilege, and sentimental value.
If you do opt for an engagement ring, how much should you spend? The spectrum of cost is absolutely baffling - ranging from heirloom jewelry that is passed down through the family as a gift to Elizabeth Taylor's $8.8 billion dollar, 33+ carat ring. One frequently touted "rule" is that one ought to spend three months' salary on a ring. Depending on your social circle and current financial situation, this may strike you as too high, too low, or just right. In 2013, couples in the United States paid an average of $5,200 for their engagement ring.
Every couple has different values and different priorities; this is reflected in our lifestyle and appearances, engagement rings included. Some choose to wear a minimalist gold band and start preparing a travel/retirement nest egg. Some opt for tradition and opt for a modest diamond ring and a comparable wedding. Some opt for a premium ring with the understanding that this ring will become an heirloom, passed down for generations to come.
My fiance and I did not ring shop together; however, we did have some dialogue about the ring beforehand. My three requests: I wanted a (1) beautiful, (2) unique ring (3) on a budget. I picked one out that I was absolutely, completely head-over-heels in love with. It was a small solitaire that cost less than half the national average from a small, independent designer with vintage flair. (Hint: it's featured below, think you can find it?)
For the Bride Who Prefers Gemstones to Diamonds:
Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but they're certainly not for everyone. One of the easiest ways to set your engagement ring apart from the rest is to rock a precious gemstone. Ruby, sapphire, emerald, even pearls can make for lovely pieces.
For the Bride Who Loves Metalwork:
Plain bands are classic; pave bands are beautiful... But there's something particularly lovely about a carefully crafted band and setting that can set a heart aflutter. Whether the band has been carefully hammered or sculpted, it sets itself apart from other rings.
For the Bride Who Love Uniquely Shaped Stones:
Traditionally, cushion, round, and square cuts have been very popular. Why not mix things up by choosing an unusual stone cut?
For the Bride Who Wants To Be On Trend in Rose Gold:
So you love to be on trend but don't want to deal with the fallout of a dated ring. Why not think rose gold? Choosing a classic design in an on-trend metal will make your ring stand out and stand the test of time.
For the Bride Who Seeks Conflict-Free Diamonds:
So you've heard about blood diamonds. You know that it's a bitter, x process that you know you don't want to be a part of. So it's important to do your homework: learn about the UN's Kimberley Process and check for certification. Shop at retailers who exclusively offer conflict-free diamonds, or better yet, shop at retailers who specialize in them.
In the end, my fiance did not propose with the ring I picked out. After my (now) fiance proposed, family and friends "ooh-ed" and "aah-ed." Their follow-up question was asked if I liked/loved my ring. My response? I love it! Was it the ring I picked out? Not even close... I picked a solitaire, he picked a cushion-cut with a halo and a pave band. Is it a style that I love? Absolutely. Even better, this ring has sentimental value for me. I love knowing that he took time to look for something he could envision suiting my tastes and our future together.
Well, lovely readers, what do you think? Are you (or would you be interested in) sporting an engagement ring? What are you looking for in a ring? Tell us about your favorite ring in the comments below!
Lauren Miller is a northern born, southern bred girl planning a January wedding. She lives in Memphis with her fiancé, Mitch, and their two dogs, Bosco and Cassidy. She loves dogs, traveling, and fresh food. Check back for regular updates on her adventures in wedding planning, detailed how-to guides, and design inspiration! You can also follow her on Pinterest.