A foolproof guide to engagement ring shopping

Choosing an engagement ring for your proposal is no easy feat. While the element of surprise is exciting, it's also a huge risk, and it's important to present your potential bride to be with a piece that wins her heart. So how do you know what to look for?

Instead of stressing, use this guide to help you select the perfect ring from Fine Jewelers:

Step 1: Set your budget
Of course your prospective fiancé deserves the best ring in the world, but it's crucial to first consider what you can afford. As a general rule, some say that a two- to three-month wage budget is realistic.

Gaining some knowledge about the four Cs: color, cut, clarity and carats, will be immensely helpful. Once you have an understanding of these different traits, you can find a balance that suits your needs and also matches your budget. Take the time to research online and explore the different options you have in your set price range.

Step 2: Size it up
The best way to figure out your special someone's ring size is to borrow one they already own. This is a crucial factor when you're surprising her with a ring, but it can be tricky.

The Gemological Institute of America recommended placing a ring she wears on a piece of paper and tracing the inner circle with a pencil, or making an imprint into a bar of soap with the ring. You can also slide the ring onto your own finger and draw a line in ink where it stops. The GIA noted that when in doubt, it's always better to go slightly bigger as it's much easier to size a ring down than up.

Step 3: Consider the style and setting
You need to become extremely observant to figure out what ring style will match her tastes. If she already wears a lot of jewelry, look to certain cues about her preferences. Is she more likely to wear a delicate pendant or an ornate statement necklace? Will she don a big glitzy pair of earrings on a big night out or a dainty pair of pearls? Noticing these things will guide you toward an engagement ring that will delight her.

First, you need to decide on the placement of the diamond. Classic settings will highlight the center stone, while other, more intricate settings include multiple stones. The eternity setting would suit someone who likes a lot of sparkle, as it features diamonds around the entire ring. Gold and platinum are the most common metals for engagement rings, and though gold may have the shine factor, platinum is extremely durable. While yellow gold is traditionally the most popular, white gold is a better choice if she tends to wear more silver jewelry. Rose gold has become increasingly sought-after over the past few years, and is ideal for a trendier bride.

Step 4: Determine the right diamond
Your budget and her personal style will both play a major role in choosing the diamond. Keep in mind that a solitaire, or single round stone, is classic and still one of the most popular choices for an engagement ring as it offers maximum sparkle. Emerald and Asscher diamonds don't have the same sparkle and fire as round diamonds, but are perfect for an elegant bride. A princess diamond has a contemporary look, making it a fitting option for a woman with a modern style. Does the object of your affection have a penchant for retro style? Then consider a cushion cut diamond, which looks stunning in vintage settings.

If you have your heart set on a multi-stone ring, remember that certain diamond shapes, like round, oval and marquise, look better in a cluster than pear or heart shapes. A pear or marquise diamond will allow you to maximize a smaller budget, as these shapes offer the illusion of appearing larger from the top view.