How to Propose with an Heirloom Engagement Ring

A man putting an heirloom engagement ring on a woman's hand as he proposes.

There’s something so romantic about an heirloom engagement ring. Whether it belonged to your grandmother, great-aunt, or a family friend who passed it onto you, it’s nice to have a sense of history before you ask someone to have a future with you. (Even royals have an affinity for heirloom engagement rings; who can forget that sapphire ring Prince William gave to Kate Middleton, which belonged to his late mother, Princess Diana?)

If you’re lucky enough to possess an heirloom engagement ring, however, the proposal and the process may not look exactly the same as it does for someone who’s going the traditional route of shopping at the jewelry store. Here’s what you need to know if you’re thinking about proposing with an heirloom engagement ring.

First, Ask Yourself if She Would Want to Wear the Ring

A woman's hand wearing an heirloom diamond engagement ring.

Your mom may be over the moon that you’re thinking about proposing with your heirloom engagement ring, but do you think your future spouse would be? If she’s had her sights set on a specific ring, or you just don’t think that the heirloom is her style, you should maybe think twice about using it to propose. However, if she loves a good sense of history, enjoys vintage items, and has seen the ring and commented on the fact that she liked it, all signs are a go.

Ask Your Family if You Can Propose with It

You may have known of the ring’s existence, but until your grandma pops it out of storage and hands it to you, don’t count on it being yours just yet. Ask whoever is holding onto the ring now if you can have it. If you have multiple siblings, the ring could go to your sister, or maybe the oldest brother who was promised it a long time ago. If this is the case, it may be worth it to ask if there are any other heirloom rings in the family that someone else is holding onto. Should your family say no, try not to press the subject too much—especially if the ring was promised to someone else.

Don’t Forget to Get it Sized

If you’ve never dealt with anything vintage before, just know that everything old tends to be a bit small. We’re bigger people than we used to be, and it’s likely that Great-Aunt Betty’s finger may be much smaller than your future spouse’s. Save yourself the embarrassing moment and make sure you get the ring sized well before the proposal date. The first thing your future bride will want to do is wear that ring and show it off to friends, so make sure she can do this right away.

Take it to a Professional for a Good Cleaning

An heirloom diaomond engagement ring on pink flowers.

If the ring has been up in your mom’s closet or in storage for a while, it may have lost a little bit of its luster. When you get it re-sized, ask the jeweler if they can do a bit of polishing to really let it sparkle. Even if you don’t have to get it re-sized, take the ring to a jeweler for a professional cleaning so she’ll really be impressed once you take it out of the box.

Incorporate the Story of the Ring into the Proposal

A really romantic way to propose would be to weave in the story of the heirloom engagement ring. Tell your future spouse what it means to have her wear it, why it’s so important, and how old it is. If you’re unsure about the history of the ring, ask your mom, grandma, or whoever last owned the ring to tell you more about it. Not only will you be able to learn the sweet story about the ring, but it’s a great way to learn a sense of your own family history.

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