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Published: 12/21/2008

It's the season to get engaged: Here's a guide to shopping for the ring

BY BRIDGET THARP
BLADE STAFF WRITER
Left: Engagment ring with yellow center stone. Center: White gold fashion ring has an oval ruby and diamonds. Right: White gold ring has scrollwork on both sides. Left: Engagment ring with yellow center stone. Center: White gold fashion ring has an oval ruby and diamonds. Right: White gold ring has scrollwork on both sides.
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If the twinkling Christmas lights have you putting some twinkle on her finger, you aren't alone. The winter wonderland provides the most popular backdrop for wedding proposals.

'It's a romantic time of the year,' says Steve Schoch, sales manager for Leo Marks Jewelers in Toledo. 'All the songs are about it, and there is nice scenery if anybody is proposing outside.'

The reasons winter holidays are prime time to pop the question range from romantic to practical, jewelers say.

'It's a time when all the family is together and they make it a very special moment,' says Nick Licata, whose family owns Joseph Licata Jewelers in Toledo. 'Then you get the guys that want to kill two birds with one stone you get a Christmas present and an engagement ring.'

If you're a nervous groom shopping solo for that once-in-a-lifetime surprise, know that round diamonds are a time-tested favorite for engagement rings.

Many couples who long for something different and distinctive are trading diamonds for colored gemstones think rubies or sapphires as the centerpiece of an engagement ring.

But the most popular trend favors extravagant, antique-inspired designs, Mr. Licata said.

'More detail is probably most popular,' he said. 'It was a very simple solitaire with clean lines. Now, it's a throwback to the 1930s and 1940s with hand engraving or bead setting. Details are coming back.'

The best-selling styles are pave or Edwardian styles a diamond framed with smaller gems or a diamond-lined band, Mr. Licata said.

Couples may also decide to look beyond the offerings in a jeweler's case and have their rings custom-made. And while that process could take up to two months, it's easily done through many specialty jewelers.

The inspiration for unique rings may be drawn from history perhaps ancient Egyptian designs used 3,000 years ago or something more personal, says Keith Belles, of Wax Jewelry Design Studio in Pittsburgh. One bride showed him the lace in her wedding gown and asked for that pattern on her wedding band.

Some brides will opt to fuse their engagement and wedding bands into one single ring. One popular option is to set a diamond in the center of a band and place additional gem stones on either side. Ask if the stones are natural or heat-treated, because treated gems may offer more intense color, jewelers say.

The average would-be groom drops $3,500 to $4,500 on an engagement ring, though rings are available from $1,500 to $10,000, Mr. Schoch said. Financing seems to be a popular option given the economy's downward spiral, though Mr. Schoch doesn't believe the cost would deter a man in love from getting down on one knee.

'People are always going to get married,' Mr. Schoch said. 'Just because times are tough, it doesn't mean people are less excited or less in love.'

Marylynne Pitz of the Block News Alliance contributed to this report.

The Block News Alliance consists of The Blade and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Contact Bridget Tharp at: btharp@theblade.com or 419-206-0356



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