What Really Matters With Engagement Rings

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Men and women are different beasts with different tastes. Watching sport vs. watching Downton Abbey. Weights vs. Cardio. Steak vs. salad. Cocktails vs. a nice glass of rosé.

Just me on that last one? Oh.

It stands to reason though that when it comes to buying engagement rings, guys and girls are going to value different things too. Do you know what your other half thinks is the #1 very most important thing about an engagement ring? The one thing that you absolutely must get right?

Clue: it’s probably not what you think.

This post is going to talk you through the differences between what girls want and what guys think girls want and reading it may just help you avoid a disappointed an fiancée when you do pop the question.

The table below shows the outcome of a survey of over 2,700 men and women by theknot.com. They were asked to rank in order of importance eight key factors of engagement rings. It makes for pretty interesting reading, especially because there are some clear differences in what women want and what guys think women want.

As with all survey results, you’ll need to filter it through the lens of your own knowledge about yourself and your other half, but there are some interesting things to note.

Rank in order of importance:

Stone quality1Style / Setting
Style / Setting2Stone cut / Shape
Stone cut / Shape3Stone Quality
Price / Value4Metal
Stone size5Price / Value
Metal6Stone size

Here’s what I take out of this:

Designer comes lowest for both men and women

Unlike with clothes where a designer may have a signature style or silhouette, with engagement rings the designer is much less obvious. Many of the most popular rings are classic styles that are unchanged since the early 20th Century and any innovation in design often ends of becoming a trend, which is then copied by lots of ring makers.

The exception to the ‘the designer doesn’t matter’ rule is if you want a custom ring. Here, the choice of designer is vital – you want to ensure that you are working with someone who has the technical skills to produce what you are looking for, but also that you get on with to ensure that you have a good working relationship with them.

Retailer is second lowest for both men and women

Equally, it’s interesting to see that the retailer is given the second-lowest level of importance for both men and women.

There are of course a few big name jewellers that sell engagement rings – these will vary from country to country, but the most famous international retailer is probably Tiffany’s.


As with all premium brands, jewellers can leverage the goodwill that surrounds them to charge a higher than market price. The brand increases the perceived value, without adding any real value.

A Volkswagen Golf has the same underpinnings as an Audi A3. They have the same chassis, they share engines, but people are willing to pay a premium for the Audi over the Golf not because it’s a better car, but because of the association with the Audi brand.

audi a vs vw golf prices

It’s easy to tell an Audi from a VW – the extra money invested has a noticeable result, a different body and badge which elicit different emotions. They may even get you a little more acceptance in the country club car park. But with engagement rings, the difference between a branded ring and an unbranded one is much less noticeable. It’s almost impossible to tell the difference unless you are a trained jeweller.

So don’t spend your money on a branded ring where the difference will be lost as soon as it is taken out of the box. Instead, invest in the attributes of the ring that people will actually notice and value.

Groom’s number one is stone quality

Like a lot of guys I know, I obsess over details when I’m doing research before buying something.

I want to know that my mountain bike has the most suspension travel in its class, my phone screen has the most pixels and my food mixer has enough power to blend an iPad (it can and there’s a video on YouTube to prove it. We like to go for the ‘best of breed’ of everything.

Diamond icon

Really though, these requirements are excessive. Although I have six inches of suspension travel, I’m lame enough at mountain biking that four would do. It doesn’t help me stay on my bike any more than my friends.

While my phone has a 2k screen which means that I can watch HD movies on the toilet, it’s way beyond what I need for Facebook and grainy YouTube videos of squirrels on waterskis. And though it’s useful to know that I can destroy all the household electronics I please, all I really use the blender for is making short work of the odd kumquat.

With each of these, I could have saved cash by settling for the ‘best of need’, rather than ‘best of breed’. Things that take care of what I need, without excessive capabilities and the hefty price tags they bring.

With engagement rings, it’s important not to get carried away with stone quality, especially when the differences between gradings can’t be seen by naked eye, even by a trained jeweller. You can find out more about this on the introduction to diamonds page, or on the more detailed pages about the 4Cs of diamonds.

I’m not suggesting you opt for a cheaper or ‘worse’ ring, but you should consider spending some of the budget that could go on stone quality on some other things instead – such as size of rock or quality of band.

Bride’s number one is Style / Setting

Brides rated the style and setting of a ring as their top priority – the thing they care about most, so it’s the one thing that guys need to make sure that they get right.

Ensuring that you get a setting style that your girl will love should be your number one priority.

Style and setting incorporate a range of factors:

  • What stone or stones are used
  • The way they are set on the band
  • Any design that is incorporated into the wedding band itself

If you’re a guy and you’re not sure what style of ring to get, it can be helpful to look at online galleries of real rings that have recently been purchased to get an idea of what people are buying right now.

Stone Cut / Shape

Stone cut and shape rated highly for both men and women. Along with the style and setting, they are one of the most obvious visual markers of an engagement ring. There are 10 common shapes of diamonds used in engagement rings – you can access a guide to each of them on the ‘Diamond Shape’ section of the ‘Learn Here’ menu.

Each of these shapes go in and out of fashion, which means that certain cuts demand a premium over others, even if the diamond itself is the same size and quality.

This means that if your girl is looking for a less common or older cut found in a vintage ring, you may be able to pick up a bargain.


Most women have a preference for either gold or silver-colored jewellery – seldom both. Unfortunately, even in this enlightened age segregation by colour is still very much alive in most jewelry boxes. This post will help you to choose the right metal for your ring.

And in conclusion

There are clear differences between men and women’s priorities, and also some similarities too. Retailer and designer are both bottom of the pile for both, that’s clear.

But men put much more focus on stone quality – it’s their number 1, while women only rank it number 3. As the ring is really for her, make sure you take note of this and focus more on the setting and the stone shape – those are the two most important things to get right.