Buying an engagement ring? This is your guide to the most popular shapes and cuts

popular engagement ring shapes with pictures
The most popular engagement ring styles 💍Getty Images

Choosing an engagement ring is a massive task. And if you're buying or designing a ring for someone else, as opposed to yourself, the responsibility is practically anxiety-inducing. After all, it's a piece of jewellery that will – hopefully, if things go right – be worn forever. So, it's a good idea to know *exactly* what you're shopping for.

Something that is actually a lot simpler than it sounds. Warning: there are a lot of choices and decisions to be made when it comes to engagement rings, and the terminology can get a little confusing. Even for those who have a secret engagement ring Pinterest board (basically, everyone), it can be tricky to verbalise what you want from your engagement ring beyond "sparkly" unless you know what you're talking about.

Enter Cosmo's complete guide to the most popular engagement ring styles, from the different shapes and cuts to the stones you can go for and how much you should expect to spend. Spoiler: you don't need to have a diamond, especially if your budget is on the smaller side.

Whether you're expecting to be engaged sometime soon, already have your engagement party dress sorted or are just planning ahead for the future, knowing which kinds of engagement rings are out (you know, other than the fist-sized rocks our fave celebs get engaged with) there can make the whole process feel slightly less daunting. To help, we consulted jewellery designer Antonia Guise who has plenty of experience designing custom engagement rings, including her own.

What are the different engagement ring shapes?

According to Antonia, there are seven iconic diamond shapes that are most commonly featured as the central stone in an engagement ring. There are more unique styles like a heart shape, along with cuts that are more commonly featured as side stones such as princess, baguette, trillion and marquise, but the most popular engagement ring shapes are as follows...

Round Engagement Rings

When you picture an engagement ring, it's likely a solitaire round diamond you'll think of. Classic and simple, this is easily the most popular shape.

Oval Engagement Rings

According to Antonia, oval rings are a slightly more interesting choice from a design perspective. Less traditional than a round style, oval diamonds can be set in the same way as round stones.

Pear Engagement Rings

Pear stones share the same shape as a tear-drop and offer a whole host of different design options. They can be set asymmetrically off to the side (like in Megan Fox and Emily Ratajkowski's engagement rings) though most commonly are centred and surrounded by a halo of smaller diamonds.

Emerald Engagement Rings

If you're after a rectangular-shaped engagement ring, you'll want an emerald cut. Emerald engagement rings generally have a higher price point than other styles due to the number of step-cut facets involved, requiring a higher-clarity stone.

Antonia does warn if you're after that blinding diamond sparkle, an emerald engagement ring may not be right for you. Due to its elongated shape, it's more linear when you look into it. This didn't stop her from choosing an emerald cut for her own engagement ring design, though.

Radiant Engagement Rings

If maximum sparkle is a must-have in your engagement ring but you like the silhouette of an emerald cut stone, you can't go wrong with a radiant engagement ring. Its facets are cut in a similar way to that of round diamonds – angular as opposed to linear – giving it that hypnotic diamond glint.

Asscher Engagement Rings

Or, combining the best of both, an asscher engagement ring gives you the clean, sharp lines of an emerald in a square-shaped stone while still delivering sparkle in a linear cut due to the higher number of facets – meaning more light refractions.

If that's still not enough sparkle for you, there's always the princess cut. Appearing square from face-up, it offers the same brilliance as a round diamond as it's actually the shape of an inverted pyramid.

Cushion Engagement Rings

Which leads us on to cushion engagement rings. Straddling the line between a square and a round shape, cushion-cut stones have elongated silhouettes with smooth corners. This gives plenty of depth when you look into the stone and delivers that diamond sparkle perfectly.

A number of our fave celeb engagement rings are cushion designs, from Zoe Kravitz' sparkler to Meghan Markle's iconic ring from Prince Harry. Jennifer Lopez's current engagement ring – her second from hubby Ben Affleck and sixth overall (no shade, she's clearly in demand!) – is a green cushion cut sparkler, but she has previously been presented with emerald cuts, too.

What are the different engagement ring settings?

Okay, so now we've got the different engagement ring stone shapes down, what about the options for settings? Antonia advises sticking to one of the following, depending on what look you're going for.

Claw Setting

Easily the most popular kind, claw settings feature metal prongs that sit up and over the top of the stone to keep it in place. There are different kinds of claw settings, though the most common is a four claw setting with the claws positioned at each corner or at the centre of each side of the stone (referred to as a compass point setting).

If you're after a more traditional Victorian or Georgian-influenced design, you could opt for a six claw setting. There are also options in the claw finish, from rounded prongs to square prongs or talon claws, that finish in a sharp point for added drama.

Bezel Setting

For a more modern, art-deco vibe, a bezel setting – à la Lily Collins' engagement ring – wraps the entire edge of the stone in metal (either gold, rose gold or silver depending on your desired finish) to hug it tight and keep it in the ring. According to Antonia, a bezel setting suits any type of ring, no matter the number of stones. Emily in Paris would certainly approve.

Tension Setting

And finally, a tension setting sandwiches the stone between two bezel settings, leaving the remaining sides of the stone open and creating a floating effect. This lets more light into and through the stone for major sparkle.

What are the different engagement ring style names?

If you really want to get all the terminology down, it can be helpful to know how to refer to an engagement ring based on the number of stones it has and how those stones are arranged. For example, a single diamond set simply on a band is a solitaire ring while a Toi et Moi design refers to two stones set together, recently popularised by the likes of Ariana Grande and Megan Fox.

Trilogy rings containing three stones are also a popular choice, with each stone in the design said to represent the couple's past, the couple's present and the couple's future. Too cute!

The final most popular style is a halo design when smaller stones circle a larger main stone. Antonia advises this can be a great option if you have a smaller budget but still want your ring to have an impact. The cost of your ring will mainly come from the largest stone you select, opting for a smaller (and therefore cheaper) one but setting it in a halo style will make the individual stone appear bigger when it's on the finger.

How much should you spend on an engagement ring?

Ahh the big question. And when we posed it to the expert, Antonia was quick to answer with, "no more than you're comfortable spending." Yep, forget the rumours about spending three times your monthly salary.

Instead, Antonia advises setting a budget before you start looking. You can always revise it once you have a better idea of what you can afford and what you want within your given bracket, but it will help guide you in your initial search to have a starting point. Don't forget, you're not just buying an engagement ring, you'll have to pay for a wedding to follow, too.

How much an engagement ring typically costs also comes down to what you want and is largely dependent on the stone or stones you plump for. But this is where clever design comes in.

Unless you're a jeweller, most people can't look at a ring and tell you how much it costs. If you go down the bespoke route and create a custom engagement ring, you can end up with a lower spend ring that looks as good – if not better – than a single giant and very expensive diamond.

This is something Antonia is somewhat of a pro at, with her eponymous jewellery brand creating custom engagement rings starting at £3000 (due to the quality of the stones sourced). One of her top tricks if you can't afford to splurge on one or two big stones is to instead spend your money on multiple smaller diamonds and cluster them in a design to create the illusion of a better, more expensive ring.

Do you have to have a diamond engagement ring or can you have other stones?

Of course, you don't need to propose with a diamond. Diamonds are simply the most popular choice for engagement rings due to their hard-wearing nature. Fair warning, if you're going to be wearing your engagement ring every day, it's going to get bashed.

But, diamonds are also the most expensive stone you can go for, so if your budget doesn't stretch you might end up having to compromise on the stone's quality. Instead, you could pick a different gemstone as the central focus for a more unique engagement ring.

Antonia suggests considering first of all the colour. Think about colours that are in your wardrobe, these are colours you like and are drawn to, but you also want to make sure you don't end up with something that clashes with the majority of your clothes. Or your nails if you love a statement mani!

You also need to think about durability. Every gemstone is graded on its hardness on the Mohs Scale, with diamonds ranking at number 10. Anything below an eight is not suitable for everyday wearing and best avoided in an engagement ring. Sapphire, emerald and ruby are all great choices, with celebs like Emma Stone popularising pearls in engagement ring, too. Don't discount lesser-known gemstones like moissanite and spinel.

If you do want a diamond in your ring somehow, look at having smaller diamonds in the design as side stones or choose a salt and pepper diamond. Salt and pepper diamonds are filled with internal inclusions – minerals and other non-diamond material that become part of the stone itself while it's being formed – making it part of the gem's aesthetic and often come at a more affordable price point compared to clear white diamonds.

Basically, anything goes as long as it's right for you and your partner. And you can always rearrange your budget and save on a high street wedding dress.

How to choose the best engagement ring for you

Now you have a better idea of the different engagement ring shapes and cuts out there, you might want to start thinking about which style would suit you.

Whether you're buying or creating a custom engagement ring, Antonia says to first of all think about the person the ring is intended for. Not just their fashion preferences, but how they live their life day-to-day. A boho bride-to-be might like a vintage-inspired sunburst design, for example.

Thinking practically? Things like their job or hobbies could influence the type of engagement ring that is best suited to them. If you don't want to risk your ring getting caught on things day-t0-day then you might prefer to opt for a less proud setting.

Contrary to the old adage, when it comes to engagement rings bigger is not always better. Big stones can overwhelm small hands, plus can result in an off-balance ring that ends up constantly swinging around your finger, pulled down by the weight of the stone.

Similarly, it's worth noting that wider bands tend to work well on longer fingers, while narrower bands work well on shorter fingers. As for finish, if you're shopping solo and the engagement ring is a surprise, check out some of your beloved's favourite jewellery brands or have a rummage through their jewellery box at their existing trinket collection to give you a good starting point.

Whatever you, or you and your partner, go for, it's all about choosing a style which looks and feels right for the wearer.

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