The Magpie's Jewel Box

A treasure trove of sparkly bits and pieces

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Popping the question: how do men buy engagement rings?

It’s probably one of the most nerve-wracking occasions in a man’s life – the day he proposes to his dearly beloved. I’ve often wondered how men go about choosing an engagement ring for their wife-to-be so I’ve conducted some rather unscientific research amongst a few male colleagues, family and friends to find out how they bought this most symbolic of all jewellery items.

Here’s what I found out … (and, yes, it would seem that diamonds are still a girl’s best friend!).

Gentleman #1: Mr T

Where and when did you pop the question?  The magical Charles Bridge in Prague 2003 – 2 years almost to the minute from the day we met

Did you choose the ring or did your fiancée? She did – I had it in mind that she might like to choose the ring while we were having a romantic weekend in Prague and I was right!

Describe the ring: Blue topaz set in gold

How much did you spend?  Below my budget of £500 but it was the ring she wanted so I was happy!

Gentleman #2: Mr G

Where and when did you pop the question? I proposed whilst walking around Virginia Waters between Christmas and New Year. It is a place we visit fairly often, so I chose this particular location as not to rouse suspicion as I wanted it to be a surprise but at the same time scenic.

Did you choose the ring or did your fiancée? It was a joint decision, made after the proposal. The ring of choice for my initial proposal was a haribo friendship ring (a type of chewy sweet for all you non-Brits!) as I was not willing to spend a significant amount on jewellery a). I knew nothing about b). She might not like. A few hours after the proposal we chose and bought the ring. That’s when it felt official.

Describe the ring. Brilliant cut 0.33 carat solitaire diamond surrounded by smaller diamonds and set in platinum.

Where did you buy the ring? Mappin & Webb

How much did you spend? £2500, which was within budget

Was your fiancée pleased with the ring? Yes, definitely …  She gets to marry me, so of course she was (I hope)!

Gentleman #3: Mr A

Where and when did you pop the question? I proposed on Christmas morning, when I had a 2 minute window due to an excitable 2 year old and a 9 month baby. I advised my fiancée, N, that I had one small surprise left and made her close her eyes. When she opened them I was down on one knee, amidst wrapping paper and toys galore, both in our dressing gowns at approx 5.30am.

Did you choose the ring or did your fiancee? A female friend of mine, K, is really good friends with my fiancée. Therefore she was able to give me a very specific idea of what was required. I researched lots of different options and quickly realised I could take significant cost out by going direct to the Jewellery Quarter in Birmingham. I managed the whole process online via pictures, briefed the jewellery designer and they did the rest.

Describe the ring: A single diamond set in yellow gold. I purchased the diamond and had it set in the Jewellery Quarter. I was very impressed with the service and savings I was able to make by buying the diamond separately and having it made up.

Did you have the ring ready for when you proposed or did you choose it after the proposal? After applying quite a lot of pressure, the ring arrived at my place of work on the 20th December, my last day at work before the Christmas break.

How much did you spend? I am not a great believer in being told what society tells me I should be paying for a ring, i.e. 3 months salary… I purchased the ring for £1100, the valuation for insurance purposes states £1850. Therefore my fiancee assumes this is what I paid – ha ha ha ….

Gentleman #4:  Mr P

Where and when did you pop the question? Paris, June 2012. My fiancée had worked out that I was going to propose and I knew she would say Yes. She wasn’t expecting me to have the ring with me when I proposed so she was rather taken aback when I produced it and there a few tears from both of us. Fortunately, she liked it.

Did you choose the ring or did your fiancée? I chose it in advance because I thought she would want a ring at the same time I proposed. I did a lot of research online and went and bought it in Reading. After I bought the ring I sent a picture of it to my sister and some of her friends to see what they thought. Luckily, they approved!

Describe the ring – 0.65 carat brilliant cut diamond set in 18 carat white gold.

How much did you spend? Slightly less than a month’s salary.

Gentleman #5: Mr M

Where and when did  you pop the question? London, Christmas 2012

Did you choose the ring or did your fiancée? I chose it. She hinted that she would like a solitaire diamond on a traditional gold band. I did some window shopping in London and looked at 3 or 4 in Fraser Hart. I chose the one I liked (which was different to what my fiancée had hinted at!), negotiated on the price and purchased it all within half an hour.

Describe the ring. 0.5 carat diamond set in a total of 0.5 carat of round cut brilliant diamonds on a platinum band.

How much did you spend?  £3,000

What was your fiancées reaction? She was very happy and preferred my choice to her original choice of a solitaire diamond set on a traditional yellow gold band.

And finally …

Gentleman #6: Mr K (my dear 84-year old dad!)

Where and when did you propose? Birmingham, March 1956?

Did you choose the ring? Yes, probably, I can’t remember! She must have liked it, though, as she’s still wearing it!

Describe the ring: blue sapphire with two diamonds set on a yellow gold band.

How much did you spend? I can’t remember, it was 56 years ago!

My thanks to all the lovely gents who shared their experiences of buying engagement rings with me. Congratulations to the recently betrothed Messrs P, M, G and A and their fiancees. I hope you have fun purchasing your wedding rings.


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Rock, gem and bead fairs – January, February and March 2013

Now that the Christmas holidays are over, it’s time to think ahead and get some dates in your new 2013 calendar for upcoming gem and bead fairs.

The Rock Gem ‘n’ Bead Shows are large events where you can find a wide range of traders selling rocks, minerals, fossils (including dinosaur poo!), gemstones, gem-set jewellery and more.  I have been to the Kempton Park Race Course event on several occasions and can promise you it’s a real Aladdin’s cave. I’ve bought some of my favourite silver jewellery there as well as loose sapphires and tanzanite and jewellery making tools.  The quality of the items for sale is very good and it’s a great day out.

Of the West of England events I have only been to the Midlands Bead Fair which takes place in October every year.  Here, you can find traders selling beads, wire, findings, books, lampwork supplies and semi precious stones. It’s very good for beads, especially seed beads.

Here are the dates and links for the first three months of the year. These have been taken from the respective organisers’ websites and I recommend you check that the dates are still correct nearer the time if you intend to visit:


19 and 20 January:  The Hop Farm Rock ‘n’ Gem Show, Paddock Wood, Kent

26 and 27 January: Rock Gem ‘n’ Bead Show, Chepstow Race Course, Monmouthshire


03 February:  London Bead Fair, Kempton Park Racecourse, Sunbury TW16 5AQ

16 and 17 February: York Rock Gem ‘n’ Bead Show, York Race Course


02 and 03 March: Rock Gem ‘n’ Bead Show, Copthorne Hotel, Dudley, West Midlands

09 and 10 March: Rock ‘n’ Gem Show, Kempton Park Race Course, Staines, Middlesex

Sunday 17 March: Kent Bead Fair, Ashford International Hotel, Ashford, Kent

23 and 24 March: Brighton Rock Gem ‘ Bead Show, Brighton Race Course

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The Jewellery Show at Spring Fair International February 2013

After a hectic couple of weeks with the day job, I’m now back into blogging mode and have just registered to attend The Jewellery Show at the NEC in Birmingham next February. I know it sounds a long way off but in reality it’s only 8 weeks away so it’s worth getting the dates in the diary: 3rd – 7th February.

The Show is part of the Spring Fair, Europe’s largest home and gift trade fair.  It gives buyers the chance to see new collections and get a good feel for catwalk driven jewellery trends.  Even if, like me, you’re a designer/maker and are more interested in selling than buying and, perhaps, do so on a small scale, the Show will give you an idea of what’s around and what’s up and coming.

I went for the first time this year with a particular aim of checking out Steampunk jewellery. I only found a couple of sellers but they both seemed optimistic that this newish style (newish in the UK, that is – it’s very popular in the US) would prove successful during 2012. It will be interesting to see if their optimism was well placed when I return in February.

More on The Jewellery Show and Steampunk jewellery in future posts.