simple engagement ring
Photo: Mary Dougherty

Understand her style.

Whether she's dropped a hint about her dream engagement ring or not, figuring out a place to start ring shopping can be tricky. By now you already know her interests and style, from how she likes to dress to the way she decorates her space. Does she typically go for the modern and simple? Do unique vintage items often catch her eye? Keep those things in mind while picking out a ring and if you need more assistance, consult her family, friends and her Pinterest.

Consider your budget.

Once you've gained a better idea of her ring style, set your price range. The average cost of an engagement ring falls between $5,000-$6,000, so talk to a reputable jeweler to get an idea of something that falls within your budget while meeting her style. You could even consider a more sentimental alternative by proposing with a family ring instead of a customized one.

Know the shapes.

If you've decided you're going to propose with a gemstone engagement ring, it's essential to learn the shapes and cut. Round cut (also called brilliant cut) is common for diamonds, but there are many other popular options to consider including oval, princess and cushion cut. It can all seem like a lot to study, but you can always consult your jeweler for suggestions.

round diamond ring
Photo: Anne Edgar

Determine the right setting and metal.

Once you've selected a shape, choose the setting for the stone. A prong is a simple and traditional claw-like setting that grips the gem in place. A popular option, especially in recent years, the halo setting (shown above) sets smaller stones around the stone to make a single stone really pop.

When you're ready to choose a metal, be sure to take into account the color of jewelry she typically wears. If she has a preference to gold or silver, pick an engagement ring band that will match.

Select a gemstone.

If you've studied up on your 4C's (for those who haven't, this means clarity, cut, color and carat), you know there are a lot of options when it comes to picking a diamond. It's the most popular engagement ring stone with a lot of variety to choose from, but it generally happens to be on the more expensive end.

If a diamond doesn't fit your budget, consider a unique gemstone like her birthstone or an alternative that's nearly identical in appearance. And if it's not an option now, you could upgrade her engagement ring to a diamond down the road, which could make a super sweet anniversary gift.