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How to Design an Engagement Ring

One of the most important factors in choosing an engagement ring is to determine what the person who will be wearing the ring really likes and wants. A woman has probably already dreamed about her engagement ring. Close friends, family, and even the woman herself (those subtle hints that she seems to drop) are all excellent sources of information and ideas.

Some men choose to approach the selection of the engagement ring with their fiancée to be- making the design and creation of the ring a special moment as well. In any case, combining both of your visual styles into a finished engagement ring is part of the challenge and part of the fun.


Engagement ring budgets are different for everyone and entirely personal. There is no need to go into debt to get engaged. You also want to 'wow' her. De Beers has established the 2 months salary guideline. I have made beautiful engagement rings from several hundreds to many thousands of dollars. I am happy to consult on determining a comfortable yet 'extravagant' budget.

Ultimately, some of your own visual and design preferences will guide some of the pricing process. I recommend thinking in terms of an overall ring 'budget' to determine how to break down diamond price and ring price specifically.

Ring Size
A basic fundamental of the engagement ring is its size. If you can find out her ring size, great! If not, you may need to guess a ring size to keep the surprise. Some rings have to be resized after they have been 'presented.'

The standard ring size is 6. Ring sizes can be listed in full, half, and quarter sizes. They can also be listed as tight and loose versions of whole sizes: tight 6, loose 7, etc. They can be custom sized to fit the finger comfortably.


Practical Concerns and Design Inspiration

There are a multitude of variations on engagement ring styles. Two factors are involved in the design of any jewel: visual and technical. The design process can be engaged on these two levels. I pursue the following procedure when approaching the design of a custom engagement ring.

Visual Questions:

When designing an engagement ring for another person, I generally ask myself many questions about her (or his) specific tastes and preferences. The first step is to immerse yourself in her style and tastes to begin to think along her design style. Magazine clippings, jewelry catalogs, and even jewelry history books (both more modern and ancient) also provide inspiration for ring designs. I have worked on all types of styles and designs for engagement rings. The starting inspiration can come from something as simple as an architectural detail or can stem from a classic ring design with a new twist. The design can even combine several different appealing aspects of multiple rings.

I start with the following design aesthetic questions:

How does she dress?
Some words that come into mind as I think along these lines: funky style, more vintage, conservative, modern, stream-lined, hip.

Does she wear accessories? Often? Bold? Subtle?

Does she change her jewelry often? Does she coordinate shoes, purses, etc., with her clothing ensembles?

Does she have an active lifestyle? If so, I might be thinking along the lines of a design that can take more day-to-day punishment- with fewer high prong settings and more streamlined surfaces.

What type hobbies does she have? Fashion? Design? Athletics?

I then think along the following lines of design style: Modern? Geometric? Classic? Antique? As you can see, I try to compile a list of adjectives to see an overall pattern in preferences.

Ultimately, once I have compiled a list of descriptors, I can focus on the technical considerations of ring design using my list to 'sound off' my ring design options. These adjectives should be kept in mind as you start to consider the technical side of jewelry design.

Technical questions:

What type of setting?
All Metal? Solitaire? Side Stones?
What metal?
Will the ring be worn alone or later with a wedding band?

What type of Setting? Prongs or a bezel?
A prong is a pointed projection that extends up the side of a gemstone, curls over the top of the gem, and secures the gem in place. A bezel is a solid wall, or rim, of metal that surrounds the entire edge of a gem and holds the gem in place.

To some extent, the selection of a prong setting or a bezel setting is a visual preference. Prongs allow more light to enter the sides of a stone, and a bezel may protect a stone more. Bezels often give a more modern, streamlined look while prongs remain more visually neutral. A 6-prong setting is considered the most secure prong setting for a round brilliant cut diamond. However, many people prefer the look of a 4-prong setting for a more minimal setting appearance. Some colored gemstones are too fragile to be bezel set easily and are, therefore, prong set.


Solitaire Design v. Side Stones


The diamond solitaire ring is a classic in the jewelry world. Solitaire admirers love the elegant simplicity and the focus on one fabulous gemstone. The band itself is almost an airy mechanism to bring focus to the diamond at its center.

The gemstone setting
The diamond is often set in a prong setting to position the diamond centrally above the band. Prongs settings can have either 4 or 6 prongs. The diamond can be set high in these prongs or low in the setting- a matter of visual preference. The diamond can also be set in a bezel, a metal rim around the diamond's circumference.

The band

How wide should the band be? Narrow or wider? Tapered?

A narrow band can offset the diamond or center stone to give it a more prominent 'spotlight' position. A wide band gives a different degree of heft or substantive visual to the overall appearance of the ring. A wide band often incorporates the diamond into more of an integrated 'band.'
The band width for a solitaire setting can have additional variations:

--continuous width around the finger
--tapered at the top or bottom

Tapering at the top can create focus for the center stone. Tapering at the bottom can create comfort on a thicker band.


The engagement ring band can have a rounded surface or squared edge. All of these variations alter the perception and style of the solitaire ring. Rounded is softer to the eye, and more squared has a more geometric appearance. For comfort, slightly 'softened' edges are generally more comfortable.


The band can be brightly polished, satin finished (fine consistent 'scratches,' engraved (very detailed), hammer finished, or a combination of the above. Texture variations influence the visual style of the ring- enhancing the feeling of being more contemporary, antique, or classic.

(Please see 'Texture' in the 'Wedding Bands' section below for more detailed information and images on texture options.)


Side Stones

Side stones are any gemstones added to an engagement ring in addition to a center diamond. Both diamonds and colored stones can be used as visual accents in engagement rings. While diamond side stones reinforce a diamond engagement ring's 'white sparkle,' colored gemstones contrast the colorless nature of a diamond.

Should a ring incorporate side stones to accent the center diamond or colored stone?

As with all design elements, this is a matter of visual preference and is entirely subjective. Side stones can embellish an engagement ring design with their placement and integration within the ring. Depending on their size and number, side stones can frame a center stone, highlight it, or incorporate it into a grouped balance. They can be fairly large in size or very tiny, few in number or numerous. The band design for a side stone engagement ring follows the same design considerations as with a solitaire design. Band width, shape, and texture should all be considered as well as how they relate to the number and shape of the side stones.


How to Choose an Engagement Ring: Metals

What kind of metal does she prefer?

There are many different metals used in jewelry: with gold and platinum the most common for engagement rings. Diamonds look beautiful set in all metals. With colored gemstones, metal choice is somewhat subjective. Certain gems, such as ruby, have warmer tones and complement yellow gold. Others, like blue sapphire, have a 'cool' appearance and are highlighted by platinum. Ultimately, beautiful gems will look beautiful set in any metal. Diamonds and platinum are often paired together since the colorless nature of platinum accentuates the colorless nature of diamonds.

Metals Background

24K is pure gold. Pure gold is known for being very malleable and ductile, meaning it can be easily stretched and shaped without breaking. Basically, the higher the karatage of gold:

--the greater the amount of gold
--the softer the metal
--the more expensive the metal

Reducing the amount of pure gold by adding other metal alloys increases gold's hardness, durability, and even changes its color. If you reduce the total number of parts of gold, you have a percentage of alloys and a percentage of pure gold. These different proportions determine gold karatage.

14K gold is 14 out of 24 total parts gold and has 10 parts alloy.

18K is 18 out 24 total parts of gold.

14K gold is 14 out of 24 parts gold and is stamped 14K or .585 gold . 18K gold is 18 out 24 parts gold or .750 and can be stamped either.

(If you divide 14 by 24, you get 0.58333- or .585- the other reference for 14K. Divide 18 by 24 and you get .750 or the other reference for 18K gold.)

In order to increase gold's durability, additional metals are added to the gold mix. The proportions of the mix account for the different gold 'colors' and the alloyed gold's hardness.

karat yellow gold--ALLOY--silver and copper
karat white gold--ALLOY--nickel, copper, zinc -- or palladium, copper, zinc

colored golds:
rose gold--ALLOY--larger amounts of copper (red) and silver
green gold--ALLOY--silver with no copper

The 14 karat golds tend to be the most durable and are excellent for long term wear. With yellow gold, 18K gold is softer than 14K gold but is preferable to some for it's higher gold content.

White gold is a dervative of yellow gold- its color generally coming from the 'bleaching' by nickel, palladium, and zinc combination alloys. Because of this, white gold is not as white as platinum and is often plated with rhodium (a thin layer of metal in the platinum family) to 'whiten' its color. From time to time, roughly every several years, it will need to be re-rhodium plated. As far as durability, white gold is a very hard metal and keeps its polish longer than platinum.

Platinum is a very rare, dense metal with a pure white color. The sheer whiteness of the platinum is often the reason it is chosen for settings for very colorless diamonds. Because of its rarity, platinum is the most expensive metal for an engagement ring. While platinum is very dense, it has a softer surface and will develop its own texture from daily scratching and wear. It is also the most expensive of the precious metals used in jewelry.

Will the ring be worn alone or with a wedding band?

This can be hard to determine at this stage but is worth considering when focusing on design. If the engagement ring will be worn with later with a wedding band, a nice visual balance is always preferable. Generally, the wedding band looks best when no wider than the band section on the engagement ring.

In terms of mechanics, wedding bands often have to be custom-shaped to fit next to the engagement ring- especially when a larger solitaire is involved. The width of the engagement ring's stone setting often extends beyond the width of the engagement ring band. This creates a gap when a flat wedding band is placed next to the engagement ring. A straight wedding band cannot sit flush against the band of the engagement ring. Some visual 'gap' is visually acceptable and looks beautiful. However, too great a gap can cause excess friction between the two rings and abrade the metal on each.


Long ago, jewelry designers and artisans had wealthy patrons to promote them. These patrons, from kings to merchants, could call upon their jewelry attendants whenever they needed a gift. No going out to the store, no hassles with the wrong gift. The jewelers and artisans would appear at a convenient time, suggest appropriate pieces, direct design preferences, and work closely with the patron to create the jewel.

At this point, by asking yourself some good design questions, it is likely that you will have developed a good sense of your own engagement ring preferences- ring style, diamond/colored gemstone placement, metal choices. If you think through the different nuances of technical design and styling with her specific style in mind, you should have a gauge for refining your engagement ring design. A custom jeweler can always help with this refining process and blend multiple design factors together.


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