The story of the wedding ring begins long ago in North Africa. Ancient Egyptians, living along the green flood plains of the river Nile, used vegetation found on the banks to first create this circular symbol of love. Reeds, rushes, papyrus, and other plants were carefully braided into rings and bracelets. These rings, however, were not made to last a lifetime; they usually wore out within a year, when another ring would be made. Ivory, leather, and bone were sometimes used to fashion longer-lasting rings. Due to a belief that a vein in the finger of the left hand goes directly to the heart, rings were worn (as they still are today) on the third finger.

If you are seriously thinking about popping the biggest of all questions, consider the engagement ring that you plan to present to your special girl. It is an important decision; of course, you want to get it right. Here are a few tips and ideas for choosing an engagement or wedding ring that she will love.

Take note of her jewelry preferences

Does she wear yellow gold or white gold? Most women have a preference for one or the other, with younger women tending to like white gold better. If you simply cannot decide between yellow and white gold, one option is to choose a style of ring that elegantly incorporates both colors. A third option is platinum, which is a silver/gray metal and much more expensive than gold, making it less appealing to many shoppers.

Has she dropped any wedding ring ideas or hints your way? Casually set out the shiny jewelry ads that come in Sunday’s paper. Did her eyes light up when she saw a princess cut white diamond? Or maybe that single eternity band – encircled with alternating blue sapphires and white diamonds – made her smile? Depending on your relationship with her family members, you may be able to ask your future mother-in-law or others which style of ring she would like most.

Consider her individual style

The range of styles of wedding rings available is dizzying. To help sort through the options, take a moment to visualize your fiancé as she goes through her day. Does she work with young children who could easily be scratched by a ring with a tall, pronged setting? Perhaps she would prefer a bezel setting, which provides a low profile and minimizes wear and tear on the stone, keeping it safe from harm.

Does she prefer a bold design or something more delicate? Some rings look better on women with large fingers; others are better suited for daintier hands. If you know she is looking for a big diamond look, but you don’t have a big diamond budget, buy a ring that looks like it has a large solitaire (single stone), but actually consists of four or more small diamonds set seamlessly together.

Shop at a jewelry store that has a jeweler’s bench

If you can actually see a jeweler in action – whether working on a custom creation or making a small repair – it is a good sign. When I designed my wedding ring I chose a local store, owned by a family. The head craftsman, an older gentleman, operated the storefront with his wife and son, who was apprenticing for his father. I thumbed through several jewelry catalogs, filled with page after page of ring options. I finally chose a ring mounting on which to base my design, and the jeweler took it from there. He worked with me and my fiancé to create my vision at a price we could afford.

Having the wedding ring checked periodically for wear and damage through the years is a great way to extend the life and beauty of the piece. National chain jewelry stores will likely need to send your jewelry out for even the smallest of repairs, since a jeweler is not on site. Uncomfortable with the idea of sending the ring out for repairs? You can avoid doing so by choosing a reputable jewelry store with a skilled jeweler on site.

Let her decide

Maybe your fiancé is incredible fussy and hard to shop for, or maybe you just want to give her the opportunity to get exactly what she wants. In any case, if you decide to have your fiancé choose a style or design a custom wedding ring, you can pick out a diamond beforehand. Some jewelers will mount the diamond that you purchase in a simple setting, which is later exchanged for a mounting that the bride-to-be chooses. It’s the best of both worlds – you get to propose with a beautiful diamond and let her ultimately choose the ring of her dreams.

Carol Neuwirt is a freelance writer from Butte, Montana. She is an avid antique collector. She is an expert in antique jewelry and antique rings in particular.