Get in the know about modern proposal pieces.
Heirloom Emerald and Diamond Engagement Ring
Credit: KT Merry

Think you know everything there is to know about engagement rings? Think again! It's time to get up to speed on the modern engagement ring landscape, starting with tossing some outdated (and inaccurate) preconceptions. To get in the know on contemporary engagement rings, we spoke to Jennifer Gandia, co-owner of Greenwich St. Jewelers in New York City. Below, a list of engagement ring rules to break, courtesy of one of the industry's experts.

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1. An engagement ring should cost the buyer two-months salary.

"There is no longer a budget guideline," says Gandia, "rather customers today decide what they feel comfortable spending and often start from there." This means Gandia's sold rings ranging from $500 to $100,000-a price point isn't set in stone, and cost is more about the couple's specific needs. One contributing factor is the way we live today. "In a society where coupling makers are non-linear," budgets take a broader range. Once upon a time, "it was the norm to get engaged, get married, buy a house, have a baby, etc.," shares Gandia. "Today those milestones happen in any combination and the timeline is non-linear. This can effect what is spent on a ring, due to available funds or simply the value placed on the engagement ring as part of that couple's relationship markers. For some it is the ultimate symbol of love and they go to great expense," while "for others [it's] a sentimental heirloom that can be modest in price while rich in meaning."

So before you or your partner dive into a wallet, feel free to hash out a budget with one another. A good marriage begins with open communication, and if that means discussing costs before buying, by all means, get the conversation going.

2. Your stone(s) should be diamond(s) and colorless or nearly-colorless (white).

Some might have you believe that white or colorless diamonds are the only stone option, but Gandia says this isn't so. "We have seen a big increase in colored gemstones and diamonds being used in engagement rings," she assures. "This traditionally meant sapphire, ruby, or emerald but today extends out to tourmaline, aquamarine, morganite, and other less traditional gems."

So if your heart's set on something in a shade derived from the rainbow, fear not. Nothing's stopping you from taking the color-loving plunge. "Don't buy a ring unless you LOVE it," suggests Gandia, "and if you LOVE it now, you'll LOVE it forever." "I see many people trying to rationalize this purchase and because of the emotional nature of an engagement ring you have to go with your gut," she adds. "Don't buy a solitaire because it's classic and will never go out of style if what you really want is a rose gold halo ring." The same goes for a ruby versus a diamond, or anything else you adore but are hesitant about.

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3. The man should buy the engagement ring.

This couldn't be farther from the truth nowadays, says Gandia. Besides, the exclusive rule assumes that there has to be a man (or just one man) for an engagement to occur. "When I began selling engagement rings it was 95% men buying for women," she shares. While the shift was gradual (beginning with women accompanying their soon-to-be fiancés to browse and then stepping out while he made the purchase), "women are more involved in the entire process [now]," says Gandia. "Women are equal partners in the relationship, and want to be involved in choosing the ring that they will wear for the rest of their lives."

"With LGBTQ+ couples there's even less distinction on who buys, who gives, and what the ring looks like," Gandia adds. For example, "there can be two engagement rings for men, [or] two bands for women." The possibilities are endless, leaving plenty of room for creativity. "Truth be told we haven't experienced many women proposing to men in heterosexual relationships," Gandia does note, "but I think that's coming!"

4. Engagement rings should be styled a certain way.

Aside from the rise in colored selections, Gandia's noticed multiple other trends that prove there's no "right" way to do engagement rings. Not interested in silver, yellow or white gold, or platinum? Try rose gold. Can't decide on one metal? Mix them. Aren't into stones? Buy a band. Engagement ring designs and options are more versatile than ever, so think outside the box if tradition doesn't suit your tastes. Need more ideas? Gandia's witnessed two more trends: the use of oval diamonds, and the use of antique (think old-European-cut or rose-cut) diamonds.

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5. Your only concern should be selection.

Picking the ring is obviously important, but so is getting informed about after-care. "Just like any other big purchase (think a car or house)," says Gandia, your ring will need post-purchase care forever. Within this category sits "professional cleaning, polishing, prong tightening, [and] repair," and it's crucial that you know how to access these services. To stay on top of preserving your special piece, consider these questions posed by Gandia. "Does the store [you're buying from] offer [these] kind of service[s]" and "if the ring gets damaged, how will it be fixed?" And if your store does offer the aforementioned repairs and cleanings, will it cost you anything extra? "You must know what happens after the ring is purchased," warns Gandia, "and you don't want to be surprised."

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