Should an engagement ring be a surprise?

You’ve found “the one.” You’re in love and want to spend the rest of your lives together. You want to propose. But when it comes to the ring, you’re stuck. Should the engagement ring be a surprise, or should you and your fiance design it together?

We see this all the time at Secrète Fine Jewelry in Washington, DC, and Bethesda, MD. The proposer doesn’t know whether it’s best to go traditional and romantic-- to buy a ring and really “pop” the question-- or to get the bride- (or groom-) -to-be’s input.

The truth is, like any romantic advice, there’s no universal answer. It depends on your personalities, your relationship, and your plans together. Let’s weigh some pros and cons!

Handmade emerald engagement ring at Secrète Fine Jewelry in Washington, DC, master-crafted at our Bethesda, Maryland workshop. This gorgeous emerald is bezel-set in 18k yellow gold, accented with tapered baguettes.

Surprise engagement rings:


  • Romance! Some of our most romantic proposal stories at Secrète Fine Jewelry involve young people going the traditional route-- we conspire with boyfriends, girlfriends, family members, and old friends to find the style that’s right for her, we look at pictures of her and take ring sizes from jewelry “borrowed” from her jewelry box in secret, we send updates to hidden email accounts, in a secret mission of love.

    Sometimes it’s months before we actually meet the bride-to-be, but it’s always worth the effort. The proposal stories are heartwarming, personal, and fit-for-the-movies when it’s a surprise.

Gorgeous handmade engagement ring in blue-green tourmaline with 18k white gold and diamonds. This Edwardian-style custom ring is one-of-a-kind, a Secrète original masterpiece.  

  • Effort! There’s something to be said for good old-fashioned effort. Choosing an engagement ring takes time, it involves personal attention, and when you have a custom engagement ring made at Secrète, it involves creativity and a lot of thoughtfulness.

    When you choose to surprise the love of your life with an engagement ring, you’re showing that you’re willing to put in time and effort to do something special for her without having to be asked, without having to be prompted or helped along the way. It shows a lot of care to take the initiative and choose something to symbolize your love.

  • Keep a little mystery! When it comes to engagement rings, budget is going to be a factor no matter how much or little you’ve saved. At Secrète Fine Jewelry in DC and Bethesda, we can work with whatever your budget is to custom design the perfect engagement ring for you, however, you may prefer to have straightforward conversations with your jeweler about your budget without revealing that information to your bride-to-be.

    It’s not unusual to have some doubt about how much to spend on an engagement ring at the start of the process, and it can be helpful to you to be able to make a careful, thoughtful decision about your budget without an audience.


12ct Unheated Ceylon Sapphire engagement ring surrounded by F color diamonds is available for sale at our DuPont Circle location of Secrète Fine Jewelry. Who would object to being surprised by this?


  • Style… Our team at Secrète in DuPont Circle has heard it all when a person comes in to buy a ring for the person they love. We’ve heard bewildered men trying to describe their girlfriends’ style, “Uh, well, she always looks really… nice?” While we consider ourselves to be real style detectives and can normally enlist a mother or sister or best friend to provide some more useful adjectives, it’s not always easy to determine exactly what someone will want to wear for the rest of their lives.

This modern, sculptural custom engagement ring with sapphire and diamonds at Secrète Fine Jewelry is an amazing example of how custom engagement rings can be affordable and unique for any style and budget.

  • One-sided responsibility… When you take on the process of buying an engagement ring, there is a lot to consider. While our team at Secrète does everything we can to make it an exciting, fun, and stress-free experience, some people are just worriers. If the idea of making decisions about the size, shape, clarity, and color of a diamond gives you a migraine, you might want to share the responsibility with your significant other.

Choosing a ring together:


Gorgeous radiant-cut natural honey sapphire engagement ring set in a stately halo of diamonds in 18k white gold by Secrète Fine Jewelry.


  • Getting exactly what they want! You can alleviate a lot of stress about whether the ring is the right one by making the choice together. Because Secrète custom designs and hand makes our jewelry, your beloved can make decisions about every aspect of the ring, ensuring that it’s absolutely perfect. Especially if your love has eccentric or creative tastes, it’s great to have that creative input.

  • Making a commitment together! According to Huffington Post, the process of making a big decision together like choosing an engagement ring is good prep-work for other marriage decisions. As you welcome each other’s input, make compromises, and listen to what each other value, you’re practicing good marriage skills. While the Secrète Fine Jewelry team doesn’t have a couples’ counselor on staff, we can tell that when couples work together well, it’s a good sign.

  • Ring shopping is fun! At Secrète, we love that moment when a couple says “yes” to a ring and “yes” to each other. We laugh together, get to know each other, and have a lot of fun trying different styles. We pop a bottle of champagne, eat some chocolates, and even share hugs!

  • Communication! reminds you to communicate honestly about big decisions, which is sound advice for any couple.


Secrète Fine Jewelry's custom handmade engagement ring featuring a cushion-cut emerald in a double halo on an accented split shank setting. The 18k yellow gold prongs accent the rich grass green of this unheated emerald, while the 18k white gold in the rest of the setting lets the diamonds sparkle in their own right.

  • Thoughtfulness… Let’s face it, getting a special gift that was hand-chosen just for you feels more personal than getting a gift card. Many women may feel a lack of surprise that comes with choosing a ring together compromises the thoughtfulness involved. At Secrète Fine Jewelry in DC and Bethesda, we make the whole process of choosing a ring a luxury experience, whether one or both members of the couple are involved, so that can help, but if your significant other loves surprises and is the type to hand-make gifts or enjoy personalized messages of love, shopping together might not be the best choice.

  • Those tricky budget issues… when you bring your significant other ring-shopping, you make the price-tag a little less mysterious. Even when you let our team know you wish to be discreet about the budget, you’ll have to talk ballpark budget with her-- what if she wants to try on a ring way outside your budget? What if she thinks you’re being too extravagant? Just like you wouldn’t leave the price-tag on a gift, sometimes it’s better to leave budget discussions out of the romantic moment.

Custom engagement ring by Secrète Fine Jewelry featuring a dainty halo, and airy open-space on the curved, feminine setting in 18k white gold and diamonds.

Is there a compromise between the two extremes? Of course!

Unless you’re planning to surprise your significant other totally with the proposal, there are ways to get input and advice on the style of the ring while leaving the ultimate purchase, timing, and proposal a surprise.

  • Enlist a best-friend to help with a secret mission. We’ve had ladies pop by Secrète for watch battery changes or jewelry cleaning with friends in tow. While they wait, they browse the showcases and ask their friend her opinion about different styles. Days later, the lady comes back with the boyfriend to help guide him through his significant other’s preferences. It’s a great way to get her opinion and still have a surprise.

  • Do some initial shopping trips together, but come back alone. Any member of the Secrète Fine Jewelry team can help a couple navigate the basics of custom engagement ring designs-- you can come in together, see some styles, get a feel for what you both like, and then return alone to make some final (guided) decisions. We keep detailed notes for every engagement ring visit, so even if you return months later, we’ll be able to pull up the notes in the system, letting you know exactly which setting she loved, what diamonds she loved, and any changes she suggested based on the designs she saw. You’ll tip yourself off that you’re going to propose, but you’ll still be able to surprise her in the end


Secrète Fine Jewelry in Washington, DC, designed this dainty, classic engagement ring as a custom job for a lovely young couple. Set with beautiful diamonds all around in platinum, this will be an heirloom for generations. 

  • Take her jewelry-shopping, but not necessarily “engagement shopping.” If you want to get her ideas on jewelry, bring her to a jewelry shop for something else-- tell her you want to treat her to a nice pair of earrings. You can call Secrète ahead of time at either our Washington, DC or Bethesda locations and let us know what you’re planning. When you come in, we’ll help her choose a nice small gift, but we’ll also spend extra time talking engagement styles while she’s here (and keep good notes for your return trip). We can pretend to have you distracted with wristwatches while the conversation happens just so you don’t blow your cover. According to The Knot, just knowing what shape diamond she likes helps a lot because settings can always be changed or altered.

Green tourmaline and diamonds in 18k white and yellow gold- Make a statement with this bold, custom engagement ring by Secrète.

Also, fun-fact, apparently the surprise engagement ring isn’t all that traditional. According to the Washington Post, traditionally couples wouldn’t have known each other very well at the time of the proposal, so they didn’t buy extravagant rings beforehand if their odds were kind of a toss-up.

This engagement ring is as unique as the love-of-your life. Find more modern designs like this at either Secrète Fine Jewelry location, or talk to a member of our team to start custom-designing your own, personal symbol of love. 

Whether you want your engagement ring to be a total surprise or if you want to choose it as a team, Secrète Fine Jewelry in Washington, DC, and Bethesda, Maryland will make your shopping experience as customized to you as our hand-made fine jewelry. Send us a message or stop by one of our stores today to get started today! 

Abigail Bracy