How Do I Choose an Engagement Ring Style That Will Last Through the Ages?

Styles and materials will make a difference in how timeless your engagement ring is.

It’s pretty certain you’ve looked at pictures from years past, capturing those moments when you thought you had it just right — great clothes, perfect haircut or shoes — and just cringed in horror or howled with laughter. It happens. Fashions change, and if you’re tired of your clothing style, you just pick up something new, update your hair and slip on a new pair of shoes.

It’s a bigger problem if, in a decade, either of you looks down at your engagement ring and asks, “What were we thinking?” The truth is, as much as fashions change, so do our sensibilities and tastes. It may also be the case that the big diamond or extreme setting you choose now doesn’t work for a lifestyle you might not even have yet. Have you thought about what the mere act of, say, changing diapers might mean when wearing a chunky, complicated ring?

The engagement ring you pick out now should be as pleasing to you on your 10th, 20th and 30th anniversaries as it is now.

This is the time to figure out not only what your ring says about the woman who wears it — and the fiancé who gave it to her — now, but what it might say in the future.

It’s about style, not fashion

There’s a reason we call some styles classics — they endure, and can’t be pegged to one time in fashion history. Take Holly Golightly’s iconic look in the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” — little black dress, big black sunglasses. The only thing that really dates it is the cigarette holder. The engagement ring you pick out now should be as pleasing to you on your 10th, 20th and 30th anniversaries as it is now — and the meaning behind it will carry more weight every day.

The classic engagement ring is the solitaire set with a round brilliant diamond. A princess cut diamond is close behind. You can play with the size and shape of the diamond, the height of the setting, the metal and the width of the band to suit your tastes, but this style will always look “right.” Don’t think of it as a safe choice, it’s a smart choice.

Conversely, if your style and tastes have always had a romantic or more dramatic bent, go with it for your engagement ring. It will always look like “you.” Do some research in your own jewelry box. Go online to check out styles, and keep track of styles that you love — if you find a motif, style or diamond shape that just keeps coming up as a favorite, chances are that will never change. Out of the ordinary, but still classic, diamond shapes like emerald cuts, pears or hearts will let you express yourself, but still retain that timeless appeal.

Make it last

Today, the most popular materials for engagement rings and wedding bands are yellow gold, white gold, rose gold and platinum. In addition to color and style, choosing the right material for your engagement ring has a lot to do with how well it will withstand the wear and tear of daily activity over the years. You should also consider both of your needs and wants if you’re planning on having matching wedding bands.

Gold

From a practical standpoint, the higher the gold content, the softer the metal. Pure gold is labeled 24 karat, and anything else is alloyed with other metals. In the U.S., most gold jewelry comes in 18K, 14K and 10K. 18K is softer, has more pure gold with the other alloys, while 14K is harder and 10K harder still. Yellow gold is a timeless choice for an engagement ring.

White gold

White gold is a mixture of yellow gold and a white-colored metal like silver or palladium. White gold came into popularity during World War II, when platinum, which has numerous industrial uses because of its strength, was barred from non-military uses. Most white gold is rhodium plated for an extra layer of hardness and a shiny look, but will need to be re-plated every few years.

Rose Gold

Rose gold gets its color from being alloyed with copper. It has a warm glow, and is popular on its own and mixed with yellow and/or white gold.

Platinum

Platinum is a relative newcomer to the world of jewelry after disappearing during World War II, becoming more widely available and popular in the last few decades. Platinum is strong, more rare than gold and therefore more expensive. It’s heavier too, so be sure to try these settings on to see how they feel to you compared to gold. Some people love the heft, while others prefer the lighter weight of gold.

A love to last

You may also want to look back to an heirloom ring — one that has already transcended time. It might be a ring that’s been in one of your families for generations. Or you might be trying to find the ring that will symbolize your love now and be available for passing down to future generations. No matter the passing of time and the vagaries of fashion, you can rest assured that with a little care and research, you’ll be as proud of your engagement ring as you are of the relationship it celebrates.

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