engagement ringIt's a ring you'll wear for the rest of your life: your engagement ring. It's funny how a piece of jewelry women obsess over -- I mean seriously, girls start Pinterest boards for them before they're even out of high school -- is so often left to a man's judgment. And yet, most of the time the prospective groom manages to surprise his girlfriend with just the right ring. And it even fits!

This does not happen by accident.

Women have been devising subtle and not-so-subtle ways to get the engagement ring they want for ages. Do you just tell your guy exactly what you like? Or are hints enough? Here are 5 tactics for leading your man to the perfect engagement ring.

engagement ring

More from The Stir: What Your Diamond Engagement Ring Says About You

Tactic 1: Plant hints.

You want it to be a surprise. Or at least, you want to appear surprised when you open that box (or cupcake, as the case may be). That means you'll have to leave hints. And if you're hinting, you're probably better off sacrificing subtlety for clarity.

For example, one of The Stir's editors admits, "I ripped out picture from magazines and left them in his apartment. I also 'accidentally' left behind my class ring -- which I wore on my ring finger. Subtle, right?" How convenient! Now he knew her ring size and her style, and they never had to have a conversation about it.

Tactic 2: Go "what if" shopping.

Michelle Velasquez of proposal planning company The Heart Bandits told Brides Magazine you can go "what if" shopping. Briefly stop by a jewelry store window, point out what you like, and move on.

Chances are you'll probably have to do some maneuvering to get yourself in front of those store windows, especially before they close and move all the jewelry out of the displays. And then you'll have to act all casual about suddenly noticing (Oh, hey!) there are rings in the vicinity. And (Oh, gee!) you just happen to really like that one, right there. No big deal, just the perfect ring you've been obsessing over ...

Tactic 3: Leave your rings around for sizing and inspiration.

This tactic is super subtle and may work best for women who like jewelry, but don't have one particular setting in mind. But you can just make sure your boyfriend knows where you keep your jewelry in case he wants to independently do his own ring style/size intelligence work. This assumes he can extrapolate your style based on other examples, which is not a skill all men have.

"I wanted to be completely surprised and I was!" says one mom of three who didn't so much as drop a hint. She says her then-boyfriend just looked at her jewelry to figure out what she likes. "And the ring fit, too!" she says. "The diamond was the cut I would've picked." 

A guy could, theoretically, look through your rings and trace the size on some paper. You know, if he were clever. And if he knew exactly where to look. And if you kept pen and paper visibly nearby.

Tactic 4: Just tell him what you want.

And then, there's the most direct approach. If you're already pretty darn sure you're getting engaged, you might as well tell your about-to-be fiance exactly what you want. "It may be unromantic, but I told my husband down to cut, clarity, size, and metal," says one mother of three. "I was engaged twice before and wasn't beating around the bush." A lot of men appreciate this because it takes out all the guesswork and pressure.

There are different ways the women I talked to have done this. But the most popular is to send a screen shot or a link to a ring you like. One newly-engaged woman told me she sent her boyfriend an image saying, “it doesn’t have to be this exact one, but bring this picture in to the jeweler.” She also got her ring finger sized and told him, “just so you don’t have to ask around down the road, here is my size.” They had already discussed getting married, but it was still a fun surprise when he proposed -- with the perfect ring.

A married mother of one, now expecting twins, says she fell in love with a one-of-a-kind vintage ring from the 1890s. She and her then-boyfriend of three years had talked about getting engaged, so she showed him the ring on the store's website. "I used to go 'visit it' on their website a lot, then, one night,  it was gone. I was totally crushed." 

Nine months later her boyfriend proposed on a mountain. "He pulled out that ring, and my eyes nearly popped out! 'YOU bought it!' I said. 'Of course,' he said. 'I reserved it the day after you said it’s the one you wanted.'" Needless to say, she's a big fan of telling what you want -- and she was still surprised.

Tactic 5: Pick out your dream ring together after he proposes.

You don't have to have your ultimate engagement ring when you first get engaged. Some of the women I talked to got it after the proposal. An editor and mom of one told me she was married without an engagement ring -- but she got one later when she and her husband were more financially stable. "We'd actually been married a year and a half when we were in a jewelry store one day," she says, "and he said 'I want to buy you an engagement ring.'" They picked one out together.

An editor and mom of two says her then-boyfriend poposed with a "placeholder" fake diamond ring. "He wanted to make sure I was surprised and thought that was the best way to do it." They went shopping later and picked out the diamond, cut, and setting together.

Even if the ring he picks out isn't exactly what you have in mind, you can always alter it later. One newlywed says her future mother-in-law had her mother's diamond put in a setting for her son's proposal. The bride later had it reset more to her liking. "I feel like there shouldn't be any shame in doing it yourself," she says. "And we shouldn't expect guys to take a crash course in diamond grades and precious metals in order to pop the question."

That goes for all of these tips. Don't expect your future husband to read your mind or to suddenly take up a keen interest in jewelry just so he can find you the perfect engagement ring. Clearly the engagement itself matters far more than any single piece of jewelry. But if you do have your heart set on something specific, you should find the best way to get your message across.

Did you get the engagement ring you wanted? How did you go about that?

 

Image via © iStock/olio, ©iStock.com/blackred