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The Etiquette of Proposing with an Heirloom Engagement Ring

There's more to do than just dust it off.

Contributing Writer
engagement ring
Photography by: Rebecca Yale Photography

When Prince Harry proposed to Meghan Markle, he gave her a diamond engagement ring with side stones from the personal collection of his beloved late mother, Princess Diana, "to make sure that she's with us on this crazy journey," the royal touchingly explained. In 2010, his older brother, Prince William, asked then-girlfriend Kate Middleton to marry him with the same 12-carat sapphire-and-diamond ring that his father had proposed to Diana with almost 30 years earlier.

 

Whether you're planning to pop the question with heirloom stones or an intact ring, it's emotional when a proposal ends with a cherished piece of family jewelry being slid on someone's finger. But there are certain things to think about before the ring goes anywhere.

 

Related: Perfect Marriage Proposals

 

Does she want to wear the ring?

Even though Charles and Diana ended up divorcing, William still offered his mom's ring, which Kate was presumably fine with. Are you sure your girlfriend will also be willing to wear an engagement ring if the wearer ultimately got divorced? Even if the marriage was happy, be absolutely sure there's a true willingness to wear an engagement ring that was originally intended for someone else.

 

Does the ring need to be appraised?

Yes, you'll need to have the ring appraised in order to buy insurance, which is essential. Go to a professional jeweler with a stellar reputation for assessing heirloom or estate pieces.

 

Does the ring need cleaning or resizing?

That would likely be yes and yes. It may have been sitting in a jewelry box or vault for some time, so bring it to a jeweler for a cleanse and for resizing so that it fits correctly on her finger. (If you don't know her ring size, get help from her girlfriends or sisters in finding it out.)

 

Can you change it?

Whether it's getting a bigger center diamond or adding side stones, change means updating what's there, and what's there may be how the family wants the ring to stay. Get permission before making any renovations, so there are no hurt feelings once the new ring is unveiled.