Everything You Need To Consider When Engagement Ring Shopping

When it comes to engagement rings, we’re guilty of being drawn to anything that is shiny, sparkly, and quirky. But, we know that there are so many other aspects to consider in the ring-selecting process than, you know, opting for whatever happens to catch our eye. We want our engagement ring to truly last and hold up to everyday wear, no matter how much we end up torturing it with our busy lifestyles.

So, we enlisted the advice from three engagement ring experts — jewelry designers Anna Sheffield, Caitlin Mociun, and Catbird’s Sara Cochran — about what we really need to look for when shopping for the ring we plan to wear forever. Consider this your handy guide on the best metal, gemstone, and setting options that are guaranteed to endure. Now, let’s put a ring on it, shall we?

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What To Consider: Metals
We’ll cut to the chase on this one. When it comes to selecting a metal for your engagement ring, our experts unanimously agree: Gold and platinum are the best metals to use, while silver is the worst because it’s too soft. “I recommend using gold always,” says Anna Sheffield. Gold can be colored, with sleek white gold, the trendy rose gold, or classic yellow gold on offer. “I’d also recommend platinum if a customer prefers a white-colored metal,” she adds.
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Gold
Karatage refers to the percentage of gold in an alloy (since pure, 100% gold is actually way too soft). Fourteen karat contains 48% gold, whereas 18K contains 75% gold. which is where the pricing discrepancy comes from. “I use 14K and 18K gold, in white or yellow, for metals,” says Caitlin Mociun. This dainty golden triangle is a 14K bling ring.
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Most jewelry designers these days offer rings in yellow, rose, and white gold. Rose gold has copper added to the alloy to give it that reddish tint and white gold is an alloy of the yellow ore mixed with a white metal and coated with rhodium. This ring here by Polly Wales can be ordered in yellow or rose gold.
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Gold to get twisted up in — for pretty much forever and ever.
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Platinum
“Platinum and solid gold are both durable precious metals, but platinum is the stronger of the two,” says Sara Cochran, wedding/engagement jeweler at Catbird. “Platinum is sometimes preferred for its durability against scratches.” And the reason why platinum is stronger (and sometimes more expensive than gold) is that it’s a pure white metal that’s also super dense, whereas gold is an alloy (although it’s also incredibly strong and is guaranteed to hold up). If you’re a gal who prefers a white metal, opt for platinum or white gold only. “Silver is typically too soft for a ring you'll wear forever,” advises Cochran. Here’s a platinum setting from Diana Vincent to wrap your diamond with.
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“Even for the trained eye, it’s pretty difficult to tell the difference between platinum, white gold, and silver — honestly,” says Sheffield. “Silver has a softer white color and platinum is slightly more gray. White gold is always coated with rhodium to make it more pleasing to the eye [which can wear off over time into a slightly yellow hue, which you can eventually get replated].” Consider all these options before you go in for that white-metal ring. This platinum band is a modest alternative to the opulent solitaire.
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This platinum ring with a marquise-cut diamond (that almond shape) has really caught our eye.
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What To Consider: Gemstones
Typically, what makes an engagement ring an engagement ring (other than wearing it on the ring finger, of course) is “the rock”. Though many women sport plenty of engagements rings with semi-precious gemstones such as turquoise, pearls, or opal, the diamond is still the Number 1 preferred stone because of its longevity. “Diamonds are my favorite to use for engagement — they’re durable and won’t chip,” says Mociun. “Diamonds are also neutral color-wise, which is a really great reason to use them."
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Diamonds
“Diamonds are popular for a reason because they’re the closest thing to indestructible that you can get,” says Sheffield. “They come in so many different colors and types of cuts, and we can source and reclaim antique diamonds.” This quirky split ring from Anita Ko features two different diamond cuts: a pear on one side, a marquis on the other.
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If you’re looking for a more off-beat engagement ring, look for diamonds in different colors such as black diamonds, which have risen in popularity. "There’s graphite visible in the black diamond which is what makes it appear black instead of clear — carbon is captured in the diamond while it’s formed,” says Sheffield. “Diamonds can come in an array of colors, all influenced by other materials present while the crystals were formed."
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“Part of why I love working with diamonds is because of just how hard they are, which means they don’t scratch easily,” says Cochran. “Opals and pearls are beautiful for engagement rings, but have a slightly higher tendency to get scratched. If you lead a more adventurous life, stick to the hard stones.” This cluster of diamonds may seem fragile, but be assured: They are indestructible.
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Rubies
In addition to diamonds, rubies are one of the three other acceptable gemstones strong enough to be considered for everyday engagement ring wear. (Sapphire is the third kind, but more on that later!) The ruby gets its blood-red coloring from the chemical element called chromium found in the corundum mineral. The more chromium present, the deeper the red.

“Rubies are a wonderful choice because they’re nice and sparkly and come in a variety of ranges of quality and price,” says Sheffield. The one gemstone that should truly be avoided for the engagement ring is the emerald, which is extremely fragile and soft and likely to chip quickly. For the bride whose power color is red, the ruby ring is a sure-fire choice for an engagement ring.
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This thick gold band features tiny, beautiful rubies and diamonds in a flowery formation.
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This dainty ruby and sapphire ring can be worn as a more low-key engagement ring. It’s a stack-worthy dream that won’t break — the sapphire, as you’ll learn about next, is also a tough-as-nails gemstone.
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Sapphires
Sapphires, like rubies, are corundum crystals that actually start out colorless. But whereas rubies turn red from chromium, sapphires get their bright blue shading from a charge transfer process that takes place when both titanium and iron impurities are present. Chemistry aside, just know that sapphires are the hardest rock next to the diamond, which is why you’ll see plenty of these blue options in the ring market.

“I always tell people [who choose semi-precious gemstones that they are] going to have to replace some of them at some point,” says Mociun. “So that’s why diamonds, sapphires, and rubies end up being the stones I most recommend." This white gold split ring featuring two half-moon sapphires is a literal twist on the classic solitaire diamond ring.
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“Sapphires come in a wide variety of colors (rubies are actually red sapphires!) and are hard to scratch, making them good alternatives to diamonds,” says Cochran. This pear-shaped sapphire from Lauren Wolf is a stone we also want to get our claws on.
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This made-to-order ring from Erica Weiner, featuring three square cut sapphires, is inspired by the antique jewelry from the Art Deco era.
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What To Consider: Setting
Now that we’ve covered the ideal metals and gemstones for an engagement ring, let’s move onto the setting. The setting refers to how the stone is set and displayed on the ring, which is important when it comes to how well-protected a stone is and how much upkeep a ring requires.

“A simple setting and band is what makes for a low maintenance ring,” says Cochran. “[For example,] a halo or accent of small stones creates little spaces that need cleaning. A hollow ring or a setting with tall walls are hard to clean on the inside.” Ahead, get a closer look at the three best types settings to look for.
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Prongs
Prongs are the thin, claw-like metal parts that literally hold the gemstones in place like tiny fingers. This setting is incredibly popular with the straight-forward solitaire engagement rings — a lot of light and shine can go through the sides of the prongs. But with all the open spaces in between, the prong setting requires more regular cleaning. “They will accumulate dirt and you’ll want to get them cleaned up,” says Mociun. “But in terms of the stones getting looser, that will happen a lot slower.” Check out all of the prongs working on this Kalan sparkler.
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Note how each of the gems on this Alexis Bittar ring has four prongs to hold them in place.
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Most solitaire engagement rings will either have a 4- or 6-prong setting (depending how fancy the ring gets). This simple Catbird ring gets four prongs for the pear-shaped diamond, whereas the smaller rubies get three.
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Bezel
The bezel setting — which encases the gemstone entirely — is another popular setting because it tends to protect the stones. Look for bezel settings if your ring has fragile semi-precious stones. “Rings that have a lot more metal work around the stones are going to hold up a lot more in terms of stones loosening or falling out,” says Mociun. See how this Jennifer Meyer ring has three individual diamonds set completely inside gold metal? This is a bezel setting.
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You can see how all of the diamonds on this Elisa Solomon ring are completely encased in metalwork.
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This offbeat ring has a hanging diamond set in a bezel, which makes this far more wearable than if the diamond were set with prongs.
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Channel
The third kind of ideal setting is the channel, which is when stones are individually set in a linear pattern. “Rings that are channel set are going to be durable,” says Mociun, referring to the protective metal walls surrounding the stones. It’s a popular style to consider if you prefer an engagement band. Still, you should be prepared to give your diamonds a regular polish. “Diamonds are magnets for grease, so they just get dirty easily — cleaning them regularly is important,” adds Mociun. “You can’t get away from that!” Check out the intricate linear setting on this ring where each diamond is snug within its own channel.
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This statement ring sure has a lot of gorgeous intricate things going on. Note how the channel setting is implemented around the two center stones and on the crisscrossing bands.
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This spiraling diamond ring is essentially a channel set band with a surprise swoop of a larger diamond (set with prongs) coming in to make this a perfect engagement ring for the unconventional bride-to-be.
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