Valentine’s Ring-Giving Tips by Auctioneer Samuel Hill

By Paul Joseph

With Valentine’s Day fast-approaching and the highest percentage of marriage proposals taking place on the day, many people are likely to be deep into their research, keen to find the perfect ring with which to pop the big question.

We caught up with Elmwood’s auctioneers Director, Samuel Hill, to ask him for some top tips to help people navigate the exciting but complex task of buying an engagement ring. Can you start by giving us a brief background to yourself and how you came to be an auctioneer?

Samuel Hill: “Despite my passion for jewellery and gemstones beginning at a young age, when my aunt, worried about my education going down the pan due to the amount of time I spent in and out of hospital, loaded me down with five times my bodyweight in books, including two on gemstones, it still came as something of a surprise when I found myself falling into a career in the auction industry.

“Having spent a number of years preparing for a future as a concert pianist, it was quite a sudden surprise when I found myself leaving university early for a summer job at Christie’s, from where I went on to run the Silver and Jewellery departments of Chiswick Auctions. After well and truly establishing myself here, I made the decision to branch out and found my own specialist Jewellery auction house, Elmwood’s in 2017. I haven’t looked back..!”

What are the options in terms of where you can buy an engagement ring?

“Buying an engagement ring can be a scary prospect and people often don’t know where to start, with so many places to choose from. If you don’t fancy plodding along to your local high street jeweller, you can explore plenty of other options including antique shops, antique markets and fairs, auctions, online stores and even car boot sales. We recently consigned a jewel for our March 25th Fine Jewels auction with a pre-sale estimate of £20000-£30000 which was originally found by the current owner at a car boot sale for £5!”

What about buying one at an auction – what are some of the benefits of this?

“Buying at auction can be a bit of a minefield if you don’t know what you’re looking for, but as long as you’ve done your research it is probably the best way to find something you love for a fraction of the price you’ll pay on the high street! Buying at auction allows prospective proposers to buy directly from other jewellery owners via the auction house, without the huge profits whacked on by high street retailers, and by choosing to buy at auction you can find something pre-loved, unique and beautiful for a fraction of the cost.”

Are there any characteristics that differentiate an engagement ring from other kinds of rings?

“When it comes to an engagement ring, things are definitely a bit different… Any old ring can go back in the jewellery box, but this one is going to be on her hand every day… forever! So the main difference, is that is has to be just right… which can add a lot of pressure to the prospective buyer!”  

If someone isn’t sure what kind of style their partner likes, other than asking them, how would you recommend they find out? Could they make a judgement based on their other jewellery choice?

“I think their existing fashion and style is a very pertinent point here! One can garner a lot from the sorts of clothes and jewellery they will already wear, and if in doubt, I would always recommend seeking specialist advice. Our team of dedicated specialists are on hand around the clock help make educated decisions when it comes to matters such as this, and frequently can be found consulting with clients to advise on style and choices based on the contents of their partners’ wardrobes and jewellery boxes!”

If you’d like to buy a ring that will also be an heirloom, what would you suggest in terms of rings that are likely to rise in value over time?

“People always think of heirlooms as old, but this doesn’t have to be true today. If you want to pick something to become an heirloom of the future, it is important to pick something classic and timeless, which will never lose its appeal. Once again, our dedicated team of specialists are always on hand to advise clients about changing trends and enduringly popular designs.

“As well as taking care to focus on design, it is important to remember to invest in something which will not only remain popular but increase in desirability, rarity and value. In the last twenty years there has been a huge surge in demand for fine quality, natural and untreated coloured stones such as Emeralds, Rubies and Sapphires, with the finest and most sought after of each coming from various localities around the world. Colombia are famed for their exquisite emeralds, Myanmar for their beautiful rubies, and Sri Lanka for their superb, velvety blue sapphires.

“As well as this, coloured diamonds are extremely hot at the moment, with pink diamonds leading the way. With the Argyle diamond mines, the world’s largest source of pink diamonds, closing this year, the prices are set to sky rocket - pink diamond prices are out performing all other major stocks at the moment!”

Have you ever bought an engagement ring and, if so, what style is it?

“Alas, at the tender age of twenty-five, I have yet to be blessed with the opportunity to buy an engagement ring, but when the time comes I will certainly be looking to auction for the perfect ring!”

Do you have any other tips for people considering popping the question on Valentine’s Day?

“Remember that this is a moment which will stay with you both forever, and it is as much your special moment as it is hers. Relax, take a deep breath, and take it easy. Go with your gut, and you won’t go far wrong.”

By Paul Joseph