Picking an engagement ring while keeping your fiancé completely in the dark is a bold move, for power players only. You’ll have to engage in some CIA-level intelligence gathering to make it work.
At a bare minimum, you need to figure out what diamond shapes she likes, what metal she prefers, and how many carats she’s hoping for. That’s just the minimum, though: the more information you gather, the more you can focus your search. On online sites such as Blue Nile, this information will allow you to virtually “build” the perfect ring before you spend a cent.
You’re going to have to be creative here, but the methods below—perfected over 50 years of Cold War espionage—will give you a good start.
You’ve watched plenty of episodes of NCIS and CSI, so you know how this works. Like a forensic psychologist creating a profile of a serial killer, you need to build a profile of your fiancé-to-be.
If you’re really serious about this, you’ll cover one wall of your room with newspaper clippings, blurry photos, maps, and hand-drawn charts, then diagram the connections in thick magic marker or with twine held up by thumbtacks. But even if you don’t go that far, you’ll need to draw some conclusions:
- If she’s a jeans-and-boots type, you’ll want a ring that’s spare, clean and minimal.
- If you have yet to see her wearing anything but vintage dresses, consider something antique (or at least antique-inspired.)
- If she has a job in which she uses her hands all day– a landscape artist, say, or a surgeon–you’ll want an engagement ring setting that sits low on her finger, to minimize the risk of damage to the stone.
This kind of deductive thinking will help you focus your shopping strategy.
Spy on Her
Not literally: we’re talking about some benign Internet stalking here. Start on Pinterest. This social network has become the default place for women to keep track of, and share, photos of all the things they love. It can provide a wealth of clues to her aesthetic.
If you already have a Pinterest account—hey, plenty of guys use it (the sports cars section alone is insane)—then you know your way around. But if you don’t, you can use your Facebook log-in to gain access. Just enter her name in the search field, figure out which of the 15 accounts that come up is hers, and start lurking.
Some women love to show off the engagement ring the moment they get engaged, from the biggest celebrities to your girl’s Facebook friends. The next time it comes up when you’re together, ask her why women like to do this, and see if you can finesse this into a conversation about which of rings she particularly likes.
Recruit a Double Agent
Specifically, other women who are close to her: her mom, her sister(s), her friends. If she hasn’t shared her dream engagement ring with you, she most definitely has with her girlfriends.
Ask them for advice, even have one of them come shopping with you. (But if your girlfriend catches you stepping out with one of her friends, you better have a good story to tell. There’s no use having an engagement ring if you no longer have a girlfriend to give it to.)
Feed Her Information
Hip her to the awesome wedding site for guys that you’re reading from right now. There’s a good chance she’ll end up on one of The Plunge’s engagement ring tools, such as our extremely cool and comprehensive ring finder. This one will definitely clue her in to the fact that you’re thinking of proposing, but the ring preference intel you may gather will be priceless.
If, after reading all the above, you decide that the surprise engagement ring is too much work, then your next move is simple. Just ask her what she wants. Boom. Now she is part of this ring-buying conspiracy (though once she’s in on it, you probably can’t call it a “conspiracy” anymore.)
You might even hear things that will save you money: “I always thought I’d wear my grandmother’s ring,” or “I definitely don’t want a diamond” or “My friend’s mom is in the jewelry business and can get us a deal.”