Thursday, March 10, 2011

I don't want a $20,000 ring

Dear ESB,

My boyfriend and I are completely in love and totally different. I don't think either of us ever thought we'd end up with someone like the other. I consider walking down the aisles of organic co-ops the ideal all-day outing. He eats buffalo wings and enthusiastically dumps hot sauce over gourmet salads. He reads the Wall Street Journal; I read David Sedaris. He works in finance; I work in education. We agreed some time ago that we want to be together forever. It's beautiful, actually. Now all that's left are logistics. 

We've gone shopping for rings a bit, and to no one's surprise we like very different things. I like handcraft detailing, antique, vintage looks, and appreciate the mysterious story, beauty, and consciousness of estate engagement rings. I don't care if a diamond has inclusions or is small or cut unevenly, as long as it has a personality. He likes clean lines, large solitaires and classic settings. He wants to be spendy and blingy; I find so many different types of rings at so many budgets beautiful that I would rather put the money toward a more bomb wedding, honeymoon, home etc.

We realized this during ring shopping, and recently he made it known he doesn't want me to know what's in the box at the end of the day. I get the sense that I'm being cut out of the process because he is overwhelmed by looking for what I'm looking for. I am afraid he is going to go into Tiffany's and spend 20K on a ring that someone else would love, when I would prefer a different one that is far, far less expensive. In fact, I know the jeweler he is working with can't produce the kind of ring I hope for. And as lovely as my beau is, he's unlikely to hit the mark without direct guidance from me, assuming that bigger = better (which is the preference of many, I know). 

Some of my male friends feel that I've offered my input (more than some gals get to do) and now I must let the ring choice be his. They say we will undoubtedly make many financial decisions together down the road, but that this ring is a symbolic gift from him to me, and therefore he should pick it out and make the decision on whether he'd like info from me.

Any thoughts?  Should I shut up or should I speak up again for my ring finger? I want this to remain an exciting and fun-filled experience for both of us but it sort of has the potential to make him feel like I don't trust him, or make me feel like he isn't trying to understand who I am--- it's a sparkly, small loaded trinket. Don't want to cramp his style, but pretty sure where this is headed...

As always, value your wisdom. 

- One Half of The Odd Couple


Imagine the worst case scenario: a ginormous, UGLY rock. Would you be willing to wear it?


I mean, at that point, of course I WOULD, but... it would be an unfortunate miss (and not a cheap one or temporary one, either)



Once you've got a wedding band on your finger (which you get to pick out, b/t/w), you can retire the damn engagement ring to your jewelry box.

Image by Russell Leng via Design For Mankind


  1. Can you just give him some direction, like buy it from Erie Basin? My fiance was in the same boat as yours (hard to please antique aesthetics), but he chose to let me pick it out after he surprised me with the engagement. I got my ring on ebay, but I'm pretty sure that if he had chosen ANYTHING from Erie Basin I would have been over the moon.

    If its huge and ugly, you can always find something old, gorgeous, and sparkly to stack with a simple band.

  2. My thought is this - you've told him what YOU like and what you want - so that's as much as you need to do.

    I had a similar worry, my fiance is very generous with gifts and he insisted that he was going to buy me an e-ring. However, I told him that I really wanted to wear my grandmother's ring, which was both financially practical and it was more sentimental.

    I told him this over a year before we got engaged, and during that year he would make statements that he was "saving up for my ring" I was convinced he didn't hear me. But he DID! He proposed to me with her ring. He was actually saving up for a wedding band, which he's going to "surprise" me with on our wedding day!

    So - that was a long story to essentially say - trust him!

  3. You know ... I just can't help it. I completely disagree with all of this pre-shopping for engagement rings together. I think it destroys some of the mystery and romance of getting engaged. Let the man pick the fucking ring and be done with it. Overthinking it leads to nothing good.
    Your grandmother.

  4. If you're gonna have an engagement ring and you care about how it looks, you should choose it yourself.

    I always find it a bit funny that women spend months fretting over a wedding dress they'll wear for a day while leaving the decision of the engagement ring--perhaps the only piece of "fine" jewelry many will ever get to own and wear--to the guy.

    I fretted over BOTH the ring and the dress and am happy I get to look at a piece of jewelry I love every day. My husband and I shopped for the ring together, which was fun. But he was ultimately relieved to leave the decision to me.

    I was really struck when trying on rings how different they can look on your hand vs. in the display case: just like clothes on the rack vs. clothes on your body. Hands and fingers have distinct shapes, and some rings I loved in the case looked really funny on.

    You are a vintage girl. I am too, so I really feel you on the desire to have a piece of jewelry with history and character. If you haven't already, browse these sites:

    For vintage jewelry awesomeness. Maybe you and your guy will see something you can agree on.

    Good luck!

  5. no way, i dont agree. i wouldnt want 20k collecting dust or hidden away when that could make a HUGE dent in the wedding or the honeymoon. i would speak up, or at least make it clear that bigger does not equal better.

  6. I say bollocks to that!

    You've got to wear the sodding thing. Even if you don't keep wearing it once you're married I'm guessing your engagement is going to be at least a few months and do you really wanna have a ring that you dump in the back of a drawer the day after your wedding and hope never to see again.

    I chose mine, or at least I chose a few ones I liked, then he made the final call.

  7. For many men, picking out an engagement ring is a really big deal. Try to think of it less about you and more about how he feels about you. If he wants to spend the dough, it's probably because he wants to show you how important you are, and that you deserve it.

    I, too, wanted a cool, indie ring as an engagement ring, but ended up with a very traditional (and beautiful in it's way) new, flawless, asher cut ring that looks straight from Tiffany's.

    I love it because it is from him, and it is what he wanted to get for me. In all of your upcoming wedding planning, chances are you will get to make most of the decisions. Let him make this one.

  8. Input from a man here, and I'm a bit biased because I did it the other way. I took my lovely to the jewelery store, and she picked out what she liked, but I didn't buy it then and there. I was very secretive, and she only knew about it when I popped it out to propose some months later.

    Also, she's the one wearing it, so her opinion is the important one. I do want to look at something pretty (which fortunately, she picked!), but it all comes down to what she wants.

    This might be a non-issue, but another thing to think about is that once you get married, what's yours is his, and vice-versa. So if he doesn't have 20k in the bank right now, and he charges your bling to a card, that debt is your debt once you're married. So in this way - it can affect you.

    Here's the engagement ring I got my wife. Individuality + bling =

  9. Like Ms Fran, we window shopped together, I said "ooh I like that" to a few, and perhaps "Of the ones we have seen so far, this is my favourite" to one in particular...which is the one I got.

    But even that was a sort of compromise. My beau is similarly in finance and all of that. I told him I didn't want anything big. I also dropped heavy hints that I was interested in something non-diamond or perhaps antique, but he told me straight up front that he wanted a diamond in a classic setting because he likes the classic simplicity of them.

    So I got the diamond. And I love it.

    Moral: try and find a compromise. I probably initially wouldn't have chosen this ring for myself out of a collection of many, but the beauty of it is that it was a decision made together, and that context sort of makes it even more beautiful to me. Now, in retrospect, I wouldn't consider a different ring. Our tastes, in a sense, grew together.

    The other beauty of it is, since I have such a basic and simple but gorgeous ring, it's technically a future antique. That's how I see it anyway!

  10. I think you've got to sit down your almost fiance and come to an agreement.

    Obviously you want to have input, he doesn't want you to. I think that's sh*t for a woman not to be part of the decision if she wants to be. Why should a woman sit around and wait for the man to choose something so important. I mean, I'm totally ok with that if that is the arrangement both people want, but that's not what you want.

    So tell him he needs to take your desires into consideration. Come to a compromise: you show him the styles of rings you like, and he gets to pick without showing you before hand but agrees to take your desires into consideration.

  11. oh the perfect post for me, the wedding band maker and lover!

    i'm with you.. she has to wear the wedding piece on your finger for the rest of your days.. make sure the wedding ring is what you want.

  12. My engagement ring is not what I would have chosen, given a choice. It's a classic solitaire diamond. If I had to choose? Probably would have not had a diamond, would have chosen an antique or something by a designer maker.

    BUT I love it. I love it because he gave it to me, because he chose it, because it made us official. Your fiance has made it clear that he really wants to choose this for you. He may yet surprise you and choose something in your style, after all you have told him what that is. But even if he doesn't, you may feel differently about the ring when you are given it, because it came from the man you are going to marry and that after all, is pretty special.

  13. You could always say to him, "Please, please don't spend more than X dollars on my ring! It's really important to me that we have an awesome honeymoon." If you plead with him to limit the price, then at least your ring won't be enormous, even if it is the kind of solitaire that you don't like.

    Also, I told my fiance multiple times that if he is going to buy jewelry for me, he should consult my mom. (She knows my taste exactly, and I told her ahead of time what kind of rings I like.) He did ask her for pointers, and he picked out a ring that I LOVE without any input from me. So if you a friend/sibling/parent that understands your taste, you could refer him to that person.

  14. @caseyfriday: the ring you got your lady is too lovely for words!

  15. @caseyfriday - Wow! Well done, you. It's a beaut.

    @one half of the odd couple - Tough spot. I'm typically of the opinion that he should choose the ring, and he should decide when/where/how to propose. But in your case it may help to email or print out a few photos for inspiration? I find this site helpful: - good luck! xo.

  16. I really disagree that you should have to settle for something you don't want. My guy actually went out and bought one that I didn't like (borderline hated), but thankfully he made it clear I could return it and find something I liked. It took me a while to find the 1930's ring that I wanted, but it was less than he was willing to pay and I love, love, love it! It makes me happy every time I look at it. I actually hate taking it off. He sees how much I love this ring and he loves it too, he laughs when he sees me admiring it and is happy for me. He even wants to show it off to friends, and he tells a funny story every time about how my tastes differed from what he expected. You shouldn't have to settle for a ring you feel conflicted about. You are never going to love a big ugly blood diamond solitaire, even if it came from him. He should want you to have a ring you love, it shouldn't be about him. All that silliness about it being symbolic and His Gift To You... forget that! It's simply not true, and I suspect the women who believe it, have to, because they are stuck with their rings ;) I have a friend who tried to tell me I shouldn't return the first ring, but she changed her tune pretty quickly when she started to think what she would do if her guy gave her a ring she disliked.

  17. I definitely think you should be allowed input in the ring if you want input. As caseyfriday mentioned, your finances will be joined in a matter of time (if they aren't already), so allowing him to spend all kinds of cash on something you don't want and might only wear for the duration of your engagement seems ludicrous. I just think that the idea that the ring is his gift to you and that you should just accept it without saying anything seems pretty outdated, especially when you're the one who'll have to wear the damn thing.

  18. i think i just found my new favorite in russell leng.

  19. There is totally no set in stone way of doing this. I told my fiance (pre-fiance days) that I didn't want an engagement ring and now that we are nearly hitched we are both picking out what we'd like to wear on our hands forever (me: his great grandma's rose gold engagement ring and him: a simple white gold band). For me the story and history was important...for him comfort was king. If you want something with history pick it out. If he wants bling bling he can wear the $20,000 ring.

  20. 1. How clear have you been about your taste preference in rings? If you've been very clear, I think few men would steer too far away from what they know their partner wants.

    2. Why do you want the kind of ring you described? For aesthetic, interesting story, etc. reasons? Or because you consciously object to bringing a new diamond into the market b/c it's something that conflicts with your values, may be unethically sourced, etc?

    If it's the latter, I would have a chat with him again.

  21. I totally disagree with ESB, and find it slightly creepy that someone might try to impose their will on me and insist that i wear a ring that I don't actually like, especially if i didn't even feel as if i could speak up and insist on something different. I don't think this is the best way to enter into a lifelong commitment with someone - tell him how you feel and come up with some kind of compromise, but for god's sake don't start your marriage sucking it up to his wishes.

  22. I think this is a slightly different situation to the average 'do you trust your man or pick your own' question. Its not like the result is going to be an unexpected derivation on what you like. It's going to be 'I want a used car but he buys a ferari'. This issue seems to suggest more than different tastes, its different values. I don't understand why a man would want to be way way more spendy and blingy than his partner wants, unless its to show off to others.

  23. I think you've gotta trust him. He know's what you like and hopefully he'll get something that combines the 2. Even if its not the exact ring you'd pick for yourself maybe you could make it a cute thing... like you wear something that is his style and he wears something that's yours... another way to be with each other.

  24. You could send him shopping with a friend you'd trust to steer him away from the uglies?

    If my boyfriend expected me to wear and keep something I didn't like and hadn't seen (even though I wanted to) I'd get him an e-ring he'd hate and make him wear it too. Because I'm immature. And because he obviously needs a little help to see how you're feeling.

  25. Aw, this one is tough! I don't think anyone is suggesting that you be forced to wear a ring you loathe, but it can be tough when your lovely man insists on something outside your own personal price range/style/general life vibe.

    You've made it clear that what you want is something off the beaten path, while he seems to want the interstate at rush hour. Wait and see what he comes up with: it might not be three carats in a solitaire setting. There are gorgeous, unique rings out there (my pal just got a pearl engagement ring, which sheloves, and loves her fiance for picking) that are also spendy. But I like the commenter who suggested you set a price cap, with the promise that the difference be put towards something awesome for THE TWO OF YOU. And if you haaaaate what he gets you, go from there. Don't assume you will right out of the gate.

  26. Don't panic until you've actually seen the ring. Let go of this for now, since you have no actual evidence of what he will purchase.

    When you see the ring, you can assess from there. You absolutely should have a ring you feel comfortable wearing, by the way. And like my husband caseyfriday said above, if it's a 20,000 dollar ring that he can't afford (also known as "credit card"), then that's a serious, serious issue that needs to be discussed.

  27. I am way late to weigh in but:
    I find it a bit strange that he asked you to be involved and then unasked you. If he wanted to pick something out for you himself he should not have taken you with him on that shopping trip.

    I think you are allowed to bring it up again in these circumstances. Let him know that memories with him (in the form of a bomb honeymoon) are more important to you than an expensive ring. Unless of course he an afford both of these things?

    That said, I also bet when the time comes he will give you something along the lines of what you want- why would he give you something he knows you wont like?

  28. i emailed him a bunch of inspiration pictures (including links), and then wrote underneath that i would never open my mouth about it again. he took them to heart and to the jewelry stores and they led him in the right direction. i too wanted something vintage and different - and he did it. do that, and then trust him.

  29. I told my now husband that I would love anything from a particular store -- Erie Basin in New York or Single Stone here in LA. Both had antique pieces I loved, and at the time EB was carrying Conroy and Wilcox which is really minimal, modern and lovely. He ended up getting an antique one from EB which I love and totally did not expect because he had previously expressed distaste for it. But when he saw it in person, he knew it was right! Plus, he took his sister with him who has great style, and she helped push him along.

  30. Ok. Don't forget that you can always reset it down the line. Price of the stone aside, if you end up with a setting you don't love, you can shop around later on for a vintage or estate mounting that you do and "upgrade."

    My fiance told me he wanted to propose with his grandmother's ring - i was thrilled because I also wanted an antique.
    Then, when i saw it, it wasn't quite what I had in mind. He could tell, and let me know that it was important that i have his grandmother's stone and what it is set in doesn't matter to him. So I took the rock and bought an 1920s mounting - everyone's happy!

  31. My ring is from Erie Basin! I emailed my now-fiance ring after ring after ring and he picked one out from Erie Basin that I had just briefly seen while we were looking at it together. It's actually not one I would have picked initially but I love it. Everyone loves how special and different it is (it's from the 1800s).

    I'm lucky, though, because my fiance and I generally have the same taste and aesthetic.

    BTW: I told him about this post and he completely disagreed with ESB's advice.

    Oh, and I totally know engaged girls who don't love their rings. It's a bummer. Maybe other than showing him rings you DO like, you could show him some you DON'T like, too?

  32. Here's what I would like to add to this conversation. And just think about it. My fiance and I are similar to you two (he is in finance, I am in the arts). The only thing I really told him prior to the proposal was that I thought I wanted a vintage ring, something with character. And he also knew that I would rather have us spend more on the actual wedding/honeymoon than a ring. And thats it! He did an amazing job of finding estate jewelry, narrowing it down to a few he liked alot, and then he asked my best friend to come out and take a look at the one he decided on before he bought it "to make sure he wasnt choosing a stupid one." The ring he ended up giving me may not have been exactly what I would have picked out by myself, but to be perfectly honest, I love it. I love it more every time I look at it! He did such an amazing job.

    I would trust him.

  33. jezebel's post about helping men pick out engagement rings is really sweet.

  34. I agree with sofia.romps. There seem to be two ways to get engaged, either, you don't discuss it and he surprises you with a proposal and a ring you have never seen and the whole point is the incredible surprise, or you plan, you share, you discuss, you shop, and then it is your choice that matters. You're in a strange middle ground and afraid of hurting his man feelings. Lame. Show him he's a man in another way maybe...

    (Also, there is obviously a third and fourth way where the woman surprises the man with the giant sparkly ring, which judging by these comments most men seem to want more than the women...)

  35. I'm not sure how to say this well, but as a fellow David Sedaris artsy type, is it at all possible that the lack of control combined with the strong feeling that you are on the side of the angels and he isn't, might be part of this anxiety? want the ethical ring that speaks about your indie cred/right mindedness, the sort of bling that you can kind of kick people's asses with, because of how virtuous and cool it will be? Because I would. That's how I roll. I'd want to be all, "well it only cost 500 and it came from the most charming old man and was owned by the coolest victorian woman and the sapphires are because my bueau and I have an in joke about sapphires", and all the other girls will swoon, and I WILL WIN AT LOVE. And you are scared you can't trust him to know he has to do all that, because you don't necessarily admit that outloud at all? Because afterall, if you spell it out, then you don't win at secret mind communication?

    If so it's possible he wants exactly the same thing, but he is using a different language, where he's looking for a ring. You suspect that hes going to get you a 20k ring from tiffanys- which is the fiance equivalent of the perfect ring sourced from a local jeweler with history and bones. To me at least that view helps make it more understandable, and make it about the way you might share the same goal, but come at it from different sides. And you both maybe want to win? No judgement here- because I'm like that too, but it helps to be honest about the root motivations. Control anxiety for me can be at the base of a lot of my relationship tension points.

    If you regconize the two of you in the above paragraphs then maybe a compromise? Tell him that you do love him and do trust him, but you also know you have super discriminating tastes, and you want to make it easier on him. Then give him the lists suggested above- a list of rings you like, and why you like them, and rings you hate and what you hate about them. And then, like the wise lady said, promise not to mention it again.

    As for price. I think him going into debt would be bad and dumb and later on it's going to be your problem. Also stress that it's more important to you that the ring reflects your personality than any given price bracket. So say that in your last conversation that you will be having with him about it. But after that, I don't think the price matters. Some people like to spend 400 dollars on shoes, some people won't spend more than 20. You don't have shared finances, or an official engagement yet. This means this is his still his time to spend his money how he likes. And for me, I love giving extravagant gifts. I don't say lots of "I love yous" but I do make people presents that make them gasp and say, "oh my god! This is amazing", and I do it because it feels great. So if he wants to make you gasp, he should spend whatever he wants, as long as he doesn't end up being broke. Also a lady never asks the price of her ring, so how would you know 1,500 from 15,000 anyway?

  36. @E 1. Who are you? 2. Will you be my friend?

  37. So, didn't you say he was in finance? Meaning he should be able to know exactly how much he can afford without going into debt?

    Give the man a break. And as long as he pays for it before you have a joint account, let him. It's his GIFT to you. Bc he loves you. And on that same thought, he will prob try to get you what you want... I mean, who wants to spend 20Gs on a gift your're not gonna swoon over?

    You guys sound a lot like my husband and I... personality wise.

    and he wouldn't discuss the ring at all with me. What he ended up doing was getting an amazingly beautiful diamond for me, and I chose the custom setting. The diamond isn't the shape I had always thought I'd wanted, nor the size (he likes things much bigger)but it turned out beautiful. And the fact that he put so much effort, and time, and thought into it makes me smile all the time.

    He also really ended up liking the unique style I chose. So, win for both of us.

    Moral of the story- you can put your input in, and you should since you'll be wearing it, but do it nicely. And know when to shut up or else he's not going to enjoy the process and you won't enjoy the outcome.

  38. 1. A person with a boring day job who lurks on wedding blogs, because I have a drama addiction, and a compulsive need to give advice but unfortunately I mostly know people who lead very conflict free lives. Wait. No, of course I mean, "yay! good for my very calm friends!"

    2. Of course!

  39. To One Half of The Odd Couple,
    I think you should totally have input on what goes on your hand! If it's something you're not going to wear, him spending thousands of dollars on a ring is insane. You should try to talk some sense into him about the price, at least. As far as the style, could you ask him to get one that's returnable? That way he has a chance to try to impress you, and you have a chance to get what you want. I don't know how common this is, but my ring was.

  40. I don't want to go all bra-burner, but stand your ground here.

    Show him what you like, and tell him, in that you will prob wear this everyday for the rest of your life (a long time) you are going to have to LOVE it. If you hate it you won't wear it.

    My husband wasn't going to spend 'money' on a ring as he doesn't get jewellery at all. He loves watches. I used the watch as a comparison and he was able to see my POV.

    Good luck, be tactful but don't be a pushover.