How to Choose an Engagement Ring
Tips for Planning your Proposal and Surprising your Bride
The purchase of a diamond engagement ring very well may be one of the most important shopping decisions you’ll ever make.  It also may be one of the toughest. With the right information, though, you'll be able to dazzle and delight your bride-to-be, while still keeping the proposal under wraps. 

How can I choose a ring she’ll like while keeping it a surprise?
Fear is the primary de-motivator when it comes to choosing an engagement ring. After all, how can you be sure you’ll buy a ring that will render her speechless?  First things first:  Take a careful look around to see if she has any bridal magazines. Don’t assume that she isn’t reading them because you’re not engaged!  Many women not yet planning to get married enjoy the guilty pleasure of imaginary wedding dress shopping from time to time. If you’re lucky enough to find a bridal magazine in her bedside table, be on the lookout for the dog-eared pages.                                                                                                                       

Next, take stock of what she likes in non-engagement jewelry by peeking into her jewelry box. Look at the type of jewelry she currently owns:  style (flashy or simple), shapes (squared edges or rounded edges), and gemstones (colorless or colored).  Armed with this information, seek out similar looks. 

Finally, when you are window shopping together, take note of what she seems partial to.  Ask her subtle questions without revealing too much.  

How do I know what diamond shape to get her?
Usually, a pattern will emerge:  mainly curved pieces or mostly square-cut gems. If her current jewelry selection, however, is a true mix of everything, go with the majority rule. Even in a complete mish-mash, she’ll still have three or four pieces that are similar.
Round diamonds still remain one of the most popular shapes in engagement rings today, although cushion-cut and Asscher-cut have become extremely popular in the last few years, followed by emerald-cut, radiant-cut, princess-cut, pear shape and marquise.
Should I go with yellow gold, white gold, platinum, or something else?
For white diamonds, white gold or platinum are the top-selling metals today.  If you choose gold, whether to go with 14K or 18K will depend upon your budget.  Some people prefer the color of yellow gold and will forego the white metal, no matter what. 
How large does the diamond have to be?
The classic engagement ring is composed of two parts:  a diamond and a mounting.  You can buy each one separately or purchase both together; it really depends on your preference.  Once you’ve pinned down a mounting style you think she'll love, devote the remainder of your budget to the best diamond you can afford.   Of course, “best” doesn’t always mean “biggest.” This is where color, clarity, and cut come into play, but that’s an entirely different subject.

In addition, keep in mind that the mounting you choose can dictate the size of the center stone.  For example, a beautiful mounting with a 3 carat center stone may lose its effect when paired with a 1 carat stone. So, be sure to choose the appropriate mounting when selecting a loose diamond. 

Remember to consider her lifestyle, too. If your girlfriend is very active or unused to wearing much jewelry, she may find herself bumping or nicking her new ring. In this case, you may go for a less delicate mounting. 
Another relevant factor is the size of her hands. The smaller her ring finger, the larger a diamond will appear. A 2 carat solitaire looks significantly larger on a Size 4 finger than on a Size 8, because the proportions are different.
If you are unsure of her ring size, place one of her rings on your finger and use a pen to mark where it stops. This will serve as an approximate indication of size for a jeweler. 

What else makes for a great surprise proposal?
Now that you’ve created the keystone of your proposal, it is time to begin building a magic castle around it. Being creative with a proposal is easier than it sounds. Of course originality reigns supreme, but as long as you are inspired by your bride, she will recognize the love behind the effort! 

First, you must decide if you want to make the event a larger-than-life proclamation or an intimate, subtle surprise. Remember: the proposal is all about her. You may love the idea of the JumboTron at the ball game, but that kind of attention could be her worst nightmare. So think of it in this way:  Is your fiancée an introvert or an extrovert? Would she appreciate a large public display of affection or prefer a private moment to cherish forever? The most important thing to remember is this: The more complicated the plan, the more space you must leave for error. Keep it as simple as you can and be sure you have a backup plan.

Location is as important to this event as it is to the movie and real estate industries. Without the proper backdrop, an otherwise perfect proposal may fall flat. Consider such tried-and-true destinations as the place you had your first date, first kiss, or the moment you first knew. You will want to choose a location that will be remembered forever, whether a place marked by a fond memory, or a new location that will forever commemorate this special day. If all goes according to plan, there are many anniversaries on the horizon for which you may want to return to that special place.

Finally, don’t neglect the package. The velvet box and ribbon can be just as exciting as the ring itself. Here are a few creative ideas for the big moment:

·         Fortune 500:  Steam a fortune cookie until it's malleable. Open the cookie and place the ring inside with a note telling her you’ll love her forever.

·         Time of Your Life:  Make a box of mementos from your best dates. Think: movie stubs, dried flowers, concert tickets, photographs, et cetera.

·         Seaside Splendor: Take her for a long walk on the beach. Have a friend prepare a small intimate dinner on the sand in advance. Walk slowly, elongating the moment, and surprise her as you approach dinner, champagne, and flowers along the tide line.
What do I say when I give her the ring?
Although spontaneity can be wonderful, it’s wise to think about the words that will fit right before, “Will you marry me?”  Take a notebook to a quiet place and think it through. Recall the many reasons you want to spend the rest of your life with her. Think about all of the wonderful things she has done during your relationship, as well as the wonderful ways she makes you feel now and as you anticipate the future. Jot these thoughts down.  Of course, you don’t want the proposal to sound scripted, but having some forethought will keep you from stumbling over the words and faltering with the feelings you wish to convey.
What happens if the ring just isn’t right?
Say you’ve done your best to give her a ring you think she’ll adore, but after you proposed, you realize it just wasn’t the ring of her dreams?  Most jewelers will honor an exchange if, and only if, you inform them in advance that you may need to exchange the ring for another in the event your bride-to-be just isn’t thrilled with it.  Most often they will credit the ring you purchased and apply it toward the next purchase.  Ask your jeweler if a fee will be appended to the exchange. 
A word of caution:  If you are not absolutely certain this ring will suit her taste, do not re-size the ring; better you give it to her in a stock size so that the mounting is not affected by the re-sizing.  You can always re-size the ring after the proposal.
What do I do now?
Relax and be confident about your decision. You’ve covered all the bases and are well prepared to turn your proposal into a picture-perfect event. Once you’ve done your research, you can then focus on the moment she will never forget!

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