Engagement rings. Oh my. What one other thing do you give to another person that is imbued with so much meaning and substance? All other purchases pale by comparison. Here you are saying I want to spend the rest of my life with just this one other individual. And you have to actually give them something that represents that, both to them and to you.
This is usually the time you start to figure out if you really know the person. You walk into the jewelry store and the jeweler (in my case) or the salesperson starts to ask you questions. PERSONAL questions. Does your intended like white or yellow metals? Do they want a diamond (how can you even know this if you haven't actually discussed what you're doing with them)? What colors do they wear. Do you know their ring size? Do they like simple things? More unusual items? How do you know they'll say yes? What's a guy (or gal) to do?
Unfortunately this confusion often leads to picking out something incredibly simple. Guys, in particular, tend to feel it's much safer to choose the simplest, most straightforward design that they've been told through advertising (and, because most of their friends aren't much more adept when they propose, what they see on their friends' girlfriends) is the right way to go. Hence the somewhat absurd popularity of what is commonly known as the "Tiffany setting". This straightforward design with a plain band and a four prong setting was originally popularized by Tiffany And Co. (although it is unlikely it was actually created by them as it is such a basic design) and a version of it is made, and sold, by just about every jewelry store in America---well except in Daniel R. Spirer Jewelers.
This is a fine way to go if you're pretty certain that is what your intended really wants. After all, the goal is to make them happy. However if the guys actually knew how many women I get in here on their 5th, 10th, 15th, or 20th anniversary who say to me: "I really wanted something more interesting, but I couldn't say anything to him at the time. He had just proposed to me!! NOW I want you to make me something I really like because we've been married long enough I can tell him what I really like."
It's also a fine way to go if you really understand your intended and their style and it fits into that. Unfortunately, most of the time, most guys pick out something they like (or think they like), as opposed to thinking about what their intended would like, and let's face it, most guys tend to be pretty conservative in what they themselves wear. There aren't many out there like me who actually wear clothes that aren't off the rack and that represent my own sense of style!
So what is a guy (or gal) to do??? Well one thing is to simply propose without a ring and say let's go ring shopping. Women today are not what they were 40 or 50 years ago and many of them want a real say in something they are going to wear every day for the rest of their lives. Another is to make sure that anytime you're passing by a jewelry store with your significant other, stop and look at the stuff. You can ask what a person actually likes without giving anything away. You can also always give them some jewelry for other occasions (oh you know, like birthdays, Christmas/Chanukkah, Valentine's Day or my personal favorite giving holiday July 4!) and you'll get a feel pretty quickly if they like what you're picking out. Actually looking at what they already wear is also a good starting point. If your intended tends to wear big, wide rings with a bunch of work on them, you can probably be pretty assured that a simple four prong setting isn't going to work.
My belief is that you shouldn't be restricted to what is "customary" unless the intended makes it quite clear to you that is what they want. People like to be different and express themselves in ways that are different from every other person out there. Additionally, our lifestyles today don't lend themselves as much to a ring where a big stone is sticking up all over the place. How many rock climbers want to have their engagement ring sticking up all over the place as they grab onto various sharp ledges? What is most important to remember is that it's okay to do the unexpected these days.
Pictured above is my idea of an interesting engagement ring. My next posting on engagement rings will be on stones for them.