It’s a big decision to get married, but it’s only the first of many in your new life together. Picking the engagement ring is probably one of the earliest that will need to be made. But how much should you spend? What styles are in fashion? And how can you get the best value for money?

ABC Jewellery’s Apple Hiranya, a graduate from the Gem Institute of America, says that in the US, people are usually advised to spend around two months of their salary on an engagement ring. "But in Thailand, it’s probably a little more because the groom’s parents will contribute towards some of the cost."

Prior to the economic crisis three years ago, Apple estimates that people spent around Bt300,000 on a two-carat diamond. Throughout the crisis, however, people were spending from Bt80,000 upwards. "This year things have picked up and now people are spending Bt300,000 upwards."

Gemsmond’s Bhuvanart Bhuvanattrai says that people are spending anything from tens of thousands to several million baht. "But of course, the price and size of the diamond are not everything. People need to take the design, the craftsmanship, the hand of the bride-to-be herself – among many other things – into consideration."

Currently, the most popular engagement ring for Thai couples is the single diamond solitaire, set in white gold. "Thais tend only to buy diamonds for engagement rings – only a few buy coloured stones," Apple says. "Ninety percent of the cost of a ring will depend on the diamond. Only ten percent or less of the cost is for the setting itself and the band."

Bhuvanart concurs with this trend, adding that it’s a round brilliant diamond on a prong setting that remains the most popular style. "Yet Thai women are increasingly seeking an engagement ring that signifies their taste, style and personality. Fancy-shaped diamonds are getting in on the scene more and more."

Apple says she’s noticed heart-shaped diamonds are becoming more popular, even though it can be very difficult to judge whether the cut is of a high quality.

It seems that unlike in the west, where men are often pressured into surprising their bride-to-be with the perfect ring, in Thailand couples usually shop together. "Maybe he doesn’t want to surprise her with something she may not like," says Bhuvanart.

Apple adds that whole families -parents, grandparents – used to come in together to choose a ring everyone liked, but now it’s usually the couple who come in together. "It’s very sweet. She says, ‘It depends on what you’d like to give me’ while he says ‘It depends on what you like’!"

This means that words of advice on how to covertly find her ring size are superfluous; what’s more important is that the couple educate themselves about the so-called 4Cs of diamonds – clarity, cut, colour and carat – so that they can make an informed purchase.

Both jewellers warn that there are plenty of tricky characters in the industry. "Bangkok is well known as one of the world’s leading gems and jewellery centres – I’d say Bangkok is one of the best places to buy engagement rings," says Bhuvanart. "But as with anything else, you have to pick a good and reliable store – because there are also a lot of bad ones out there."

Apple strongly advises shopping around and suggests couples educate themselves by talking to jewellers. "The only mistake that people make when buying an engagement ring is not understanding what quality means," says Apple. "The price for a particular quality of diamond will not vary much from shop to shop, but you need to be sure that the diamond has been graded correctly."

She knows some customers who have flown to New York or Belgium to buy rings. "There was no need to fly anywhere. Thailand has a lot of good jewellers. You need to find one you can trust, and they will be the jewellers who take time to explain to you what you should look for."

/ Finance