Re: engagement rings and engagements:
I really couldn't have cared less about the ring. But it was really important to my now-husband that he get me one, and that it be pretty and shiny, and that I liked it, but he didn't want to go pick it out together. We decided we were going to get married a long time before we got engaged, and I guess the engagement was ceremonial fun for us (completely private and a memory I treasure).
We talked about the kind of rings I liked, just straight-up without any subtlety, because we didn't see the point in pretending, also I am really bad a subtle conversations lol. I told him I had ethical problems with diamonds, I didn't want him to spend a ton of money, I hate the look of a solitaire with the stone poking up out of a band, and I'd worry about catching prongs on clothing and losing the stone. We also went online and I pointed out some specific styles I did and didn't like.
A year or so later he proposed with the ring he'd picked out. He inherited his grandmother's wedding rings, so he had the stone reset in a more modern design--so the diamond is an heirloom, which means that somebody probably died for it at one point, but not just so that I could have it, plus I like that it was his grandmother's. It's more "diamond embedded in a swoop of metal" than a solitaire with prongs, and it doesn't look like any other ring I've ever seen on anyone else's figure. It's platinum, because he wanted it sturdy and apparently when it's scuffed, the metal is just moved around and can be polished back to its original state?
Anyway, I like it, he likes it, it didn't break the bank, the diamond is an heirloom, and I'm going to keep it forever. No "trade-up" for me.