Size. Again, there's no one rule about how big an engagement ring should be and the size of the stone will directly correlate to what your partner can afford. But if your guy is looking for a little guidance, here's a rule we've heard and like: the size of the stone should be 10% of the woman's age. So if you're 25, your ring should be 2.5 carats. 42? 4.2 carats. Not bad, right? [Photo: Neil Lane]
Shape. Most people think the shape of a diamond is strictly aesthetic, but it also has meaning. Round diamonds are said to denote faith and tradition, while princess cut diamonds are associated with trends and being in the spotlight. Just something for your guy to think about when mulling over his options. Click here for more diamond shape meanings. [Photo: Hearts on Fire]
Color. No we're not talking pink and yellow diamonds, although those are options, too. Rather, clear diamonds are all actually graded by color and that grade can greatly impact how much your ring is worth. Diamonds with a grade of D-F are pretty much the best of the best because they are truly colorless. Diamonds with a grade of G-I aren't too shabby either--only a trained diamond expert can see the slight color in them. If you want your guy to knock his ring choice out of the park, make sure he gets something that's I grade or higher. [Photo: Ross-Simons]
Loose Stones. Just as bad as losing an entire ring is having one or more of the stones fall out. That's why it's important to check the security of your gems immediately after you get the ring. Whether you go with a bevel, prong, pave or other setting, make sure it's of the highest possible quality and have a professional closely inspect your new ring for loose stones.
Fit. Whether it's turning your finger blue--because it's tight, not because it's fake of course--or falling off at every flick of your hand, your ring's fit needs to be just right. Unless your guy gets your finger measurements before the big proposal, get your engagement ring sized as soon as possible—for your own comfort, and so it doesn't accidentally fall off and get lost.
Storage. For times when you're not wearing your ring, find a secure spot to store it in. A safe is your best option (also keep the appraisal papers here). Look for an individually lined compartment, which will keep the ring from rubbing against other pieces of jewelry and getting scratched.
Maintain It. You can clean your ring at home with warm water, milk dishwashing liquid and a soft toothbrush, but make twice-yearly appointments with your jeweler to check on the setting and get it professionally cleaned. [Photo: Martin Katz]
Protect It. If you're doing any deep cleaning at home - especially if you're using bleach or other harsh chemicals - take your ring off beforehand. (Put it, of course, somewhere safe that you won't forget.) It's also smart to take off your ring before any heavy manual labor.
Insurance. The value behind a ring is both sentimental and material, and with good insurance you can make sure that at least your monetary investment is protected. Remember to bring your receipt and appraisal information to your appointment to talk about insurance. Generally, you'll pay one to two dollars for every hundred that the ring is worth per year. Look for a policy that covers everything: theft, damage and loss.