Sustainable luxury, centuries of craftsmanship

Samuel Mee, The Antique Ring Boutique founder

How people decide on an engagement ring

"There's a particular charm to those who seek the unconventional. I love it when people opt for engagement rings that might not suit daily wear but are selected simply through heartfelt passion. That special piece of jewellery. One that might not make it onto the finger every day but is reserved for particular occasions.

"Today, there's a heartwarming trend of modern couples choosing antique engagement rings. It’s not just for the timeless appeal and beauty, but for ethical and sustainable reasons too. From the intricate Georgian era, romantic Victorian motifs, refined Edwardian elegance and the bold geometry of Art Deco, buyers certainly have plenty of options.

"Lately, there's been a surge in the popularity of purple, pink and yellow sapphires. White sapphires, especially those set in Victorian designs, fly off the shelves. Of course, romantic acrostic jewellery inspired by Victoria and Albert’s engagement is always popular.

"I also enjoy meeting a client who has no idea what kind of engagement ring they want. Often, I find myself piecing together clues from snapshots of their partner’s existing jewellery collection. This involves a deep dive into understanding personalities and preferences. Then, we make a list of candidates before whittling it down. Questions about birthstones or favourite colours further make the experience of antique engagement ring shopping profoundly personal and rewarding."

The best engagement ring: how to pick and buy the perfect ring

First of all, congratulations! If you’re reading this, chances are you’ve found someone amazing and are planning to pop the question. That’s tremendously exciting, romantic and brave, and we’re delighted for you.

While you might be thinking about the words and location, choosing the perfect engagement ring is vital to any proposal. Getting it right can be tricky, and there’s certainly lots to consider. From carats to ring sizes and everything in between, many things combine to create the ideal symbol of romance for your significant other.

Step 1: The Planning Phase

If you want to get this right, the first step will involve a bit of homework.

How to get the right engagement ring size

Finding your partner’s ring size without spoiling the surprise can be the most challenging part of engagement ring shopping. To start, we’d suggest any of the following tactics:

  • Measure one of their rings at home using our handy ring sizing guide
  • Take a ring they already wear to a jeweller for measuring
  • Ask one of their best friends or family members for help — if you trust them to keep a secret!
  • If you can’t find their actual size before popping the question, don’t panic. We offer a complimentary one-time size adjustment where possible (some ring materials mean this isn’t always available). Feel free to check with us if you think resizing might be needed.

Sam Mee, Founder of The Antique Ring Boutique, adds: “If your detective work fails, we can still make a reasonable estimation of the right size. For example, the average UK woman’s ring size is around L or M, while a male’s is T.”

How much should you spend on an engagement ring?

Next, it’s a good idea to have a budget in mind. While tradition suggests spending anywhere between one to three months' salary, that’s not a requirement.

Surveys show that the average UK engagement ring costs between £1,600-2,000. But there’s nothing wrong with spending more or less than that — it all depends on your tastes and circumstances. You should only spend what feels right and what you can afford.

Consider things like your savings, salary and financial situation to come up with a rough budget. We offer a variety of designs to accommodate most budgets, so if you have a top figure in mind, just ask. That way, we can narrow your shopping list to only the most relevant options.

Vintage or new?

Finally, it’s an excellent idea at this stage to have a general idea of ring styles. Are you looking to design your own ring, buy a new one, or choose a classic vintage piece?

Designing your own ring can be a lengthy and more costly process. If buying new, you can typically choose from a vast range of budgets and qualities. Meanwhile, an antique or vintage solitaire ring can range from under £1,000 to £10,000 and beyond, depending on factors like the cut, jewel, design intricacy, craftsmanship, era and quality.

With a general idea of size, budget and styles, you can narrow down the field.

Step 2: Choosing an engagement ring

In Step two, we will think more deeply about what your partner likes — and what type of engagement ring would fit their lifestyle.
What does your significant other like?

Now, it’s time to examine the engagement ring style more closely. Think about the following question: Do they have a “type”?

By this, we mean does your partner already favour jewellery of a particular style? If you know that they are a fan of antique jewellery, for instance, then an antique engagement ring is a great choice. Similarly, if they already own specific metals or gemstones, that could be a clue as to their favourites. Check their existing jewellery for ideas.

If your partner doesn’t own much — or any — jewellery already, think about their other tastes. What sort of fashion styles do they prefer? You might be able to match an engagement ring to their preferences this way, too.

At this stage, you could once again lean on a trusted friend or family member for advice if needed.

Find the right ring setting and design

The next step is picking the right engagement ring settings to suit your partner’s style and activities. People tend to wear their engagement rings daily, so if you want it to stand the test of time, there are a couple more things to consider when choosing.

For example, some stones are harder than others. The best choice for an engagement ring is a harder stone that will stand up to daily wear. The best options for this are usually towards the top of the Mohs scale of hardness, such as:

  • Diamond
  • Sapphire
  • Ruby
  • Aquamarine
  • Garnet
  • Topaz.

While many people judge engagement rings on their looks, it’s also important to think about the practical side. Does your partner do any activities that could damage a stone? During your search, check the engagement ring settings to see if they’d be a good candidate. Generally, the more a jewel sticks out, the more likely it will get the occasional knock.

For maximum durability, the edges and corners of the stone should be adequately covered by claws or even entirely covered by a collet setting. This way, when it inevitably gets knocked, it’s the metal and not the stone that takes the hit. Remember that even the hardest stones can be damaged, so it’s a good idea to remove the ring during physical or hazardous activities.

How big should an engagement ring be?

Next, you can start to get an idea of size. A lot of this comes down to personal taste — if you already know that your partner prefers smaller, more subtle pieces of jewellery, then a smaller stone could be a good idea.

Similarly, if you want to make a statement with your choice, choose a larger stone. In some cases, you might not need to buy a huge one — a stone’s cut and setting will change how you perceive it, so some can look bigger (or smaller) than they actually are. For example, many antique pieces feature flat cuts that give the appearance of a larger stone. Any high-quality stone with careful craftsmanship will also reflect light and demand attention.

You can get a general idea of stone sizes by asking for their carat weights. At their simplest, carats are used to describe how physically large a stone is. Some examples from around the world could help you decide:

  • In the UK, the average diamond engagement ring is around 0.6 carats.
  • This rises in the USA, where the average engagement ring is 1 carat or higher.
  • Europeans prefer smaller rings, with an average of 0.5 carats.

While tastes around the world vary, it’s important to use these average sizes only as a guide. If your partner prefers a more subtle ring, then choosing a lower-carat design is fine. Likewise, feel free to go above the one-carat mark for a statement piece.

Step 3: Getting specific

Next, you’ll dig into the specific styles available in an engagement ring.

Look at engagement ring styles

Selecting the perfect engagement ring begins with understanding different ring styles. Generally, the more popular styles (in the UK and US, at least) are the solitaire diamond ring, the halo or cluster diamond ring and the five-stone or half hoop ring. Let’s take a closer look at your options:

  • Solitaire: Classic and timeless, a solitaire ring features a single stone, usually a diamond, making it a popular choice for engagement rings.
  • Two-Stone: Known as 'toi-et-moi' (you and me), two-stone rings are rare and romantically named, symbolising the union of two souls.
  • Three-Stone: Featuring three stones side by side, either of the same size or with smaller side stones accentuating the centre, three-stone rings are traditional and pair well with wedding rings.
  • Five-Stone: Particularly cherished from the Victorian era, these rings feature scrolled sides and tiny rose diamonds between the stones, creating a delightful visual appeal.
  • Cluster: Cluster rings focus attention on a central stone, are versatile and wearable, and provide protective settings for more fragile stones like emeralds.
  • Eternity: Available in half (stones across the front) or full (stones all around) eternities, these rings traditionally symbolise ongoing commitment.

Choose your precious metal

Choosing the right metal for your engagement ring is the next step. It’s important to consider your partner's current jewellery preferences, as we mentioned earlier. Do they mostly wear yellow or white metals, or do they mix and match?

  • White gold engagement rings: A timeless choice, white gold is a popular and traditional option that complements diamonds beautifully.
  • Yellow gold engagement rings: Classic and evergreen, yellow gold offers a warm, rich hue that never goes out of style.
  • Rose gold engagement rings: Trendy and romantic, rose gold has a pinkish hue from its alloy metals and has gained popularity recently.
  • Platinum engagement rings: A strong and durable option, platinum goes with almost any gemstone.
  • Silver: An elegant choice that, like platinum, suits a range of stones and settings.

Each metal varies. You’ll see various colours, grades, strengths and prices, so consider your budget and your partner's preferences before deciding. Keep in mind that some metals may be more prone to scratches and require more maintenance (platinum is the hardest).

Ultimately, the right metal is one that suits your partner’s style and can withstand everyday wear and tear.

Choose your gemstones

Now, it’s time to pair gemstones with your precious metal. When buying an engagement ring, consider the four Cs of stone valuation. Here, we apply the four Cs to diamonds as an example:

  • Colour: Less colour is more valuable, but coloured diamonds can offer an eye-catching alternative.
  • Clarity: Fewer natural blemishes (inclusions) increase a stone’s value, so a higher quality diamond will be more expensive.
  • Carat: Heavier diamonds generally cost more. But remember to consider your partner's lifestyle and comfort, as bigger is not always better — a smaller diamond is still an excellent choice for many.
  • Cut: Round or princess cuts are popular, but many variations are available.

While diamonds are an extremely popular engagement ring choice, there are many other gemstones you could consider:

  • Sapphire rings: traditionally blue but available in various colours.
  • Emerald rings: green but softer and requiring careful wear.
  • Ruby rings: ranging from pink to blood-red.

Of course, there is a whole range of stone options out there. For the best choice, call us and we can help you choose a gemstone.

Step 4: other considerations

So, you’ve got the perfect engagement ring in mind. How far in advance of the big day should you buy it?

The answer depends on your choice, of course. If you’re going to design a new, bespoke ring, then you’ll need plenty of notice for production, delivery and alterations.

Buying a vintage engagement ring generally means you can buy closer to the proposal date. The ring has already been made, after all. This allows you to get your hands on your engagement ring much faster, without a delay in popping the question.

While considering the timescales involved is important, remember that the most important thing is to buy the right piece.

Consider different antique and vintage styles

While “antique jewellery” might conjure visions of classical pieces, remember that there are many different styles and eras. Antique and vintage rings are unique — and their value often depends on individual factors that may not be directly comparable.

Whether it’s the charm of a Georgian cluster or the slick geometry of an Art Deco design, we have great vintage and antique engagement rings from all eras. Consider the following periods, for example:

  • Georgian (1714 - 1830): Georgian era rings are characterised by early cut stones such as old mine, rose and table cut diamonds, along with foil-backed gemstones such as pink and imperial topaz, old Ceylon sapphires, and Burmese rubies.
  • Victorian (1837 - 1901): Marked by romance and grandeur, Victorian rings are often set with cameos and intaglios, with beautiful five-stone rings and rare gemstones aplenty. For the ultimate romantic gesture, consider the Queen Victoria and Prince Albert snake engagement ring story.
  • Edwardian (1901 - 1915): Edwardian rings saw the birth of platinum jewellery. Expect delicate, ornate designs (think laurel wreaths and bows) contrasted with the decadent, poetic style of Art Nouveau.
  • Art Deco (1915 - 1945): Art Deco era rings feature clean, geometric designs and new stone cuts — baguette diamond shapes and industrial designs created a stylish aesthetic that feels as fresh now as it did in the 1920s.

How to buy an ethical engagement ring

Today’s shopper is increasingly looking for a more ethical and eco-friendly choice. Buying an ethical engagement ring can be challenging but is well worth the effort.

To start, ask your retailer about the origins, supply chain and backstory of pieces you have in mind. In some cases, this will lead you to a more sustainable piece.

If you’ve chosen an antique engagement ring, you’ve already made an eco-friendlier choice. Vintage and antique rings avoid much of the intensive mining methods, ecosystem damage and worldwide supply chain of the modern jewellery trade. As they’ve already been made, they also don’t contribute further to ecological issues. This makes vintage pieces a fantastic choice for an ethical engagement ring.

Finding the perfect engagement ring

Using our guide, you can narrow down — and hopefully pick — your perfect engagement ring. While there are many things to consider, remember that your partner will be wearing it. Above all, you are buying for their pleasure — prioritise choosing the ring they will like the most, and let that guide you.

Don't forget, you can always ask us for advice. Feel free to get in touch — no question too great or small, we promise. You can also browse our selection of antique engagement rings to find the perfect piece.