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The Ultimate Engagement Ring Buying Guide

Ring Advice

Jewelry shopping can be intimidating. That’s why we started Ask Holden, our blog where we answer your FAQs, break down scary industry lingo, and guide you in finding the perfect piece of jewelry.

It’s official: your relationship is #goals and you’ve got marriage on the mind. Allow us to be the first to give you a resounding 'CONGRATULATIONS!!!' because that's a huge milestone!

If you and your partner plan to get engaged in the near future, you’re probably already thinking about engagement rings. That’s where we come in with the Official Holden Engagement Ring Buying Guide, a checklist of things to consider before you embark upon your search.

To simplify things, we’ve compiled a shorter checklist at the beginning of this article but will break down the details on each item later on.

1. Before Getting Started

a. Talk to Your Partner

b. Determine Your Budget

c. Consider Your Timeline

2. The Center Stone

a. Do You Want a Center Stone?

b. Diamonds vs. Gemstones

c. The 4 C’s

d. Choose Your Center Stone Shape

3. The Setting

a. Choose Your Setting Type

b. Customize the Band

c. Determine the Ring Size

4. Last Steps

a. Insurance & Warranties

b. Care & Cleaning


1. Before Getting Started


a. Talk to Your Partner

Whoever said every proposal needs to be a surprise was lying (we blame you, rom-coms 👀). Spoiler alert: Not everyone likes surprises, especially when it comes to important decisions like getting engaged!

Before you plan to pop the question, it’s always advisable to have an open discussion with your partner about your relationship expectations. Does your partner even want marriage? Are you both on the same timeline? And if the answers to the first two questions are “yes,” does you partner want to wear an engagement ring? Do you want to wear one as well? Who’s proposing?

Having a serious discussion is less romantic than what you’ve seen in the movies, but trust us when we say that it’s definitely the right move.

Once you’ve squared these details away, you can definitely discuss whether or not to have a “surprise” element to the proposal. Maybe your partner wants to be surprised in the moment, but they don’t want to be surprised with the ring. These days, we’ve found that it’s super common for couples to pick out an engagement ring for one or both partners together!

b. Determine Your Budget

We’re sure you’ve heard the rumor that you’re supposed to spend three months’ salary on an engagement ring…but did you know that it originated from a sneakily successful marketing campaign? The culprit was De Beers, one of the largest diamond manufacturers, who had significant trouble selling diamonds during the Great Depression (go figure!).

Up until this point, diamond rings actually weren’t super common. In order to speed up sales, De Beers launched a campaign claiming that the only true way to prove one’s love was with a diamond engagement ring—worth at least one month’s salary. The campaign ended up being extremely successful and lasted for years: by the 1980s, De Beers upped it to two months’, which eventually turned into three.

Alas, Holden is not De Beers, so our advice will be a little different. The amount you spend on an engagement ring is totally up to you and your partner!

Lots of couples today choose to save with simple engagement rings, and spend more on a honeymoon or down payment. Or maybe you aren’t a fan of natural diamonds (they aren’t our preference, either), so you save on the ring by choosing a lab-grown center stone or a diamond alternative.

c. Consider Your Timeline

Before pulling the trigger and buying an engagement ring, it’s advisable to consider your timeline for the proposal.

Different jewelers will have different lead times—for example, we have a standard turnaround time of about three weeks for the production of our engagement rings since we make them custom to order.

If a customer were to order a bespoke ring from us (feel free to submit a request here!), they’d also want to account for the time it will take to finalize the details with our design team (this can vary depending on the intricacy of the design).

Additionally, if you’re not 100% sure that the ring will fit, or that your partner will love it once they see it in-person, you may want to double-check your jeweler’s resizing, return and exchange policies. You can check out our resizing policy here, and our return and exchange policy here.


2. The Center Stone


a. Do You Want a Center Stone?

Onto the fun part: the ring itself! The first question to ask your partner (or yourself!) is whether or not they’d prefer to have a center stone. The biggest factors to consider here are style preference and lifestyle.

Wait, so not all engagement rings have center stones? Correct! Any ring style can be an engagement ring style, though most commonly they tend to be solitaires.

Many of our customers have gotten engaged with our wedding band styles—especially men or those in the LGBTQ+ community who prefer simple rings that are typically seen as less traditionally feminine. At the end of the day, what matters most is that the person who’s wearing the ring loves it and feels that it comfortably reflects their personal style.

Holden Wedding and Engagement Rings

When considering lifestyle, think about where your partner will want to wear the ring. Many like to wear their engagement rings every day and plan to wear them for life!

A delicate center stone shape, such as a pear cut or marquise cut, may not be the best for someone who works with their hands or exercises vigorously, since these can be more vulnerable to chipping. It definitely depends on the overall design and setting type, but expressing any concerns about lifestyle to your jeweler can help them guide you in the right direction.

If you decide against a center stone, we recommend checking out our Wedding Band Buying Guide here!

b. Diamonds vs. Gemstones

Pearls are soooo pretty, but you’ll probably regret getting one as the center stone on your engagement ring. Why? Meet your new bestie, the Mohs Scale.

In short, the Mohs Scale classifies the hardness of minerals. Since diamonds are one of the hardest substances on Earth, they boast the highest grade of 10! This makes them ideal for engagement rings.

However, this isn’t your only center stone option. A sapphire ranks at about a 9, meaning that it’s softer than a diamond, but is still quite hard compared to that pearl we were discussing earlier (which has a grade of 2.5).

For your purposes, you’ll just want to remember the lucky number 7—don’t go for anything graded lower than this, since these gems will be much too soft for your engagement ring. If you have a gem in mind, simply google its name followed by “Mohs Scale” to get clarity on whether it’ll work for your ring!

If you’re interested in setting a gemstone (or a mined/natural diamond) in one of our engagement ring styles, simply reach out here to get the fully custom process started.

c. The 4 C's

If you’ve decided on a diamond center stone, now’s a great time to do a quick lesson on the 4 C’s. You’ve probably heard of these before, and possibly already know what they are: carat, cut, color, and clarity.

We don’t expect you to be a diamond expert, but it definitely helps to familiarize yourself with these terms before you embark on your search for the perfect stone. Here’s a list of simplified definitions for you:

Diamond Carat - refers to the size of a diamond, which is measured in weight

Diamond Cut - refers to the proportions of a diamond, which determines how well it reflects light (and sparkles!)

Diamond Color - graded to indicate lack of color on a D-Z scale for diamonds, with D indicating the most colorless; for fancy-colored diamonds, the grading scale will indicate depth of color

Diamond Clarity - graded to indicate imperfections in the diamond, ranging from FL for Flawless to I for eye visual (visible to the naked eye) inclusions

    To learn more, we recommend checking out our blog post on the topic! Diamonds with higher grades are considered more valuable, which is reflected in the price.

    You’ll want a diamond graded by a reputable institution like GIA (Gemological Institute of America) or IGI (International Gemological Institute). Don’t forget to ask for the diamond certification, and to review this carefully when making a purchase.

    d. Choose Your Center Stone Shape

    Before we dive in, we encourage you to check out this post we wrote on the 9 most popular diamond shapes. Note that these aren’t all of your center stone shape options, but it’s a good place to start!

    Breaking Down The 9 Most Popular Diamond Shapes

    Beyond visual preference, each shape has its pros and cons. Since oval cut diamonds look bigger than round cut stones of the same carat weight, you can go with this shape to get a bigger rock for less money! However, an oval cut diamond won’t conceal inclusions (imperfections within the stone) as easily as a round, so go for a higher clarity grade for this shape.

    Believe it or not, there’s no rights or wrongs when it comes to choosing the shape of center stone you want. That’s because everyone’s preferences are different! If you don’t love super sparkly diamonds, opt for an Asscher cut, emerald cut, or baguette cut. These shapes are great if you want something more minimalist.

    Live and breathe for sparkle? You may want to stick to brilliant cuts, which have more facets to reflect light. A round, pear, oval, or radiant cut diamond will be your best bet for maximum sparkle.

    Holden The Domed Solitaire with an Oval Cut Diamond East-West Orientation

    You can also switch up the orientation of your center stone! Most center stones are set in a vertical fashion (this is called a North-South orientation), but you can definitely have yours set horizontally (East-West) to achieve a different look.

    Just remember the 4 C’s, and do some research on your preferred shape to learn what its pros and cons are before purchasing. When equipped with even just the basics, you’ll feel much more confident that you’re getting the best available stone for the best value.


    3. The Setting


    a. Choose Your Setting Type

    Now that you have your center stone, it’s time to choose a setting type. Your main priority here should be security, followed by visual preference!

    If you don’t want a classic solitaire engagement ring, you might consider a flush setting, where the diamond or gemstone will sit flush with the metal. Signet styles can also provide protection for pointed edges—our Marquise Diamond Signet is a great example of this.

    If you do want something more classic for your solitaire ring, you’re probably most familiar with prong settings. With all of our prong set styles, there will be four prongs—these are sometimes referred to as “claws” in the U.K. and Canada.

    We offer three different standard prong (and band!) shapes on The Domed Solitaire, The Square Solitaire, and The Triangle Solitaire. Keep in mind that prong shape can definitely be customized, and yes, we can make the prong and band shapes different upon request!

    Holden The Domed Solitaire, The Square Solitaire, The Triangle Solitaire comparison

    A hidden halo can also be incorporated into to some prong set styles. This subtle design feature will encircle the base of your center stone with small diamonds that are visible when viewing the ring from its side. Though it won’t be visible from a bird’s eye view, it can add an extra layer of sparkle to your ring!

    Holden Hidden Halo

    Again, if your center stone will have pointed ends, please protect them (we simply cannot stress this enough). A half/semi- or classic bezel will do the trick, since this setting type will wrap around the edges of your stone. You can still go with a prong setting, though! Some jewelers (Holden included) will make sure to add what’s called a V prong to any pointed edges.

    Holden The Square Bezel Solitaire with a marquise diamond

    If none of these settings types are quite what you’re looking for, you can also work with a jeweler to create a completely custom setting. This might be the way to go if you’re a fan of more unique engagement rings.

    We’ll offer one last piece of advice before you choose a setting type: If you or your partner plans to wear an engagement ring stacked flush with a wedding band, you may want to stay away from low and wide settings.

    Time and again, we’ve encountered frustrated customers with low-set engagement rings that are difficult to pair with a flat wedding band without gapping between the rings. Though our Curved and Open wedding bands are great solutions for many in this predicament, not even these styles will work with every engagement ring!

    For this reason, it’s best to keep wedding and anniversary band stacking in the back of your mind when shopping for an engagement ring. You can thank us later! 😉

    b. Customize the Band

    Now that you have the diamond details squared, you can think about the band. What kind of metal do you want? Do you want a thinner or thicker band, and what shape? Do you want accent stones?

    Let’s talk metal first: do you want rose gold, yellow gold, white gold, or platinum? If you’re just starting to think about metal type, you can check out this blog post we wrote on the topic.

    Overall, the main thing to consider here is color preference. Think about the metals the unique engagement ring wearer already owns (you’ll probably regret going for platinum if they only wear yellow gold jewelry).

    For rose gold and yellow gold engagement rings in particular, you’ll also want consider how the karat affects the metal color (this blog post breaks it down beautifully).

    White gold and platinum will visually look the same, but there are other factors like density and maintenance that you’ll want to think about when choosing between the two. (Need some help? We’ve got a blog for that, too!)

    You also don’t have to go for a plain metal band. You can also go for an eternity style, like our Eternity Solitiare, Floating Solitiare, or Channel Eternity Bezel Solitaire.

    Holden The Eternity Solitaire with a radiant cut diamond

    The last step in finalizing the details of your engagement ring? SIZE, and remember: size matters! You can get sized in-person at a local jeweler (our rings run true to size on the standard U.S. and Canadian sizing scale) or with one of our free ring size kits (you can order one here).

    Not able to check your partner’s size before the proposal? Don’t stress it too much. Here are some tips on how size your partner secretly.

    We offer one complimentary resizing within 60 days of recieving the ring, but different jeweler’s resizing policies will vary. But be sure to check your jeweler’s policies before you buy—the last thing you’d want is to be stuck with an ill-fitting ring!


    4. Last Steps


    a. Insurance & Warranties

    We’re almost to the end, we promise! At this point, you have all the info you need on the ring itself, but these last tips will help you hold onto it for life.

    You’re gonna want to check all of your jewelers’ policies on warranties (and/or insurance), since damage to your ring can happen and you may require maintenance to keep it in like-new condition. We sincerely hope nothing happens to your ring, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!

    We offer a Limited Lifetime Warranty on all of our products, which covers manufacturing defects but not damage caused by normal wear and tear. For accidental damage or additional maintenance, we’ve partnered with Extend to offer protection plans on our rings.

    Extend plans cover things like additional resizing (if you were to gain or lose weight, causing your ring size to change), rhodium-replating (for white gold rings), repolishing, and replacement of side/accent or center stones (due to worn or broken settings).

    Extend is not insurance, though, and does not provide coverage for theft or product loss. If you’re looking to insure your jewelry through a third party, we’ve heard from many of our customers that Jewelers Mutual is a good option!

    b. Care & Cleaning

    Now that you finally have the ring, it’s gorgeous and you want to keep it that way. That’s why it’s important to have an understanding on how to care and clean your engagement ring, which will keep it in lasting condition!

    Please be careful with saltwater and chemicals, as these can cause damage to platinum and gold engagement rings. Think lotions or makeup, chlorine in pools or hot tubs: these are no-nos when coming into contact with your ring.

    If you notice your ring becoming dirty, the best first step is typically a DIY, at-home cleaning. Here’s a blog post we wrote on the topic. If you’re a visual learner, we also made this TikTok you can reference (be sure to follow us for more tips!):

    @holdenrings From dish soap to professional polishing, here's all the ways you can clean your ring 🫧 #ringcleaning #jewelrycleaning #wedding ring #engagementring ♬ vampire - Olivia Rodrigo

    If the at-home cleaning doesn’t quite do the trick, you can also have your ring professionally cleaned in an ultrasonic or professionally repolished to restore its original shiny (or matte!) finish.

    Though we personally love the way precious metals wear over time, some will choose to have their rings repolished every so often. Just don’t have it done too frequently, since the ring will lose a small amount of metal each time it is repolished. (To read more on ring scratching, feel free to check out this post we wrote.)

    If you purchased your ring from us, simply reach out to to get a cleaning or repolishing started! (Please note that third-party servicing voids our Limited Lifetime Warranty. If you purchased your ring elsewhere, make sure to double-check their warranty policy!)

    Shop Engagement Rings

    Questions? Give us a shout at or a ring (pun intended) at  646.722.6817.