The 7 Heirloom Engagement Ring Etiquette Rules to Follow

Planning to propose with a family’s heirloom engagement ring can be tricky business. Not only do you essentially have to ask someone to give up their jewelry, but you have to follow proper etiquette when it comes to resetting and more. If you’re hoping to get permission to pop the question with a heirloom engagement ring, just follow these golden rules.

Here’s everything you need to know if you want to propose with a heirloom engagement ring.

Ask both sides of the family about heirlooms
A family heirloom engagement ring can come from either your or your partner’s side and it doesn’t necessarily have to be a traditional wedding ring. If you’re having a hard time choosing which side of the family the ring should come from, don’t over think it. If you’re asking for your partner’s hand in marriage, the possibility of using a heirloom ring in your proposal may come up naturally. If there are multiple rings to choose from, pick a ring based on family history or tradition—such as if a ring has been passed down from generation to generation or if the ring belonged to family member who is particularly special to your partner. And if there isn’t a ring at all, there may be another piece of jewelry that can be reset into a ring (diamonds from an heirloom necklace, for example).

Know the ring’s back story
It’s a good idea to learn the history behind the ring before you start asking for permission to use it. Knowing who the ring first belonged to or how the ring came into the family will make your proposal that much more meaningful. Also, you can easily figure out which part of the ring, the diamond, band etc. is the most special to the family—which is great for resetting purposes. Getting the lowdown on the ring’s back story is even a segway into the conversation of having the ring passed down—if you’re worried about how to start that convo.

Don’t assume you’ll be given the ring
Just because you want to propose with the heirloom, doesn’t mean it’s automatically yours. You MUST ask permission to have the ring passed down. Plan a time to meet with the family member and get to know them (if you haven’t done so already). This catch up will make asking for the ring more personal, and let them know that the ring is important to both you and your S.O.

Photo: Freas Photography

Don’t pressure the family member into giving over the ring
When it comes to heirloom engagement ring etiquette, the last thing you’ll want to do is put pressure on the family member to hand the ring over. Remember this ring has probably been in the family for some time now, so the decision to pass it over could take time. Give the family member a few days or more to think it over—and try your best to not push them. You want them to be happy about passing the loom down, rather than feeling forced.

Have the ring cleaned and checked for damages
After you’ve received permission to have the ring (yay!) you’ll want to take the ring to a trusted jeweler. There the ring can be properly cleaned and also checked to see if any stones are loose or missing. A jeweler will ensure the diamond is sitting correctly in the setting and can fix any problems or damages—making the ring look almost brand new!

Always ask if you can make changes to the ring
Many people, once they receive an heirloom engagement ring will want to have the ring reset or altered—which can totally switch up the look. This change can be a touchy subject for the former owner, so follow heirloom engagement ring etiquette and ask the family member if you can make alterations. You can easily avoid any hard feelings by having a convo with the former owner about resetting the ring. Just make sure to be honest about what aspects you wish to adjust or change, such as cutting the diamond or getting a new band, so they can give you some feedback.

Make sure to say thanks
It’s a grand gesture to receive a family heirloom, nevertheless an heirloom engagement ring. Therefore, you definitely will want to let the family know how grateful you are for having the ring passed down. We suggest writing the former owner a thank-you note or giving them a gift as a way of saying thanks for making your proposal more meaningful and special.

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