Browsing For An Engagement Ring

That's a gorgeous engagement ring you've got there!

No - we're not engaged! (But one day we will be!)

We've been talking about our future for a while now. The usual things like getting married and starting a family. As soon as we've saved enough money to have our dream wedding, we'll be getting married. We'll probably start a family soon after too! So, with all of that in mind, yesterday we decided we'd get on the train and go to Manchester for the day.

You see, whilst I could go out and just buy any old ring and still be confident that Anneka would say yes - I have even joked about getting her a Haribo ring for exactly that reason! - I'd like it to be the right ring. I'd taken a look at the locations of a handful of jewellers in the centre of the city, and planned the day so we could walk around and go in each one. The idea was that, by the end of the day, I'd have an idea of the sort of rings she likes. She'd not know exactly what I'd be buying, so as not to spoil the surprise, but we'd both know that I'd be getting it right!

We'd decided to not dress for the occasion. You see we'd be going into some very expensive places. The kind of places where they have impeccably dressed doormen. I've always found that the measure of a place is how they treat you when you are a bit scruffy. If the service is impeccable regardless of your appearance, then they're worthy of my custom! So we dressed scruffily deliberately!

The first place we went to set the benchmark for all of the other places. The staff simply ignored how we were dressed, we were called Sir and Madam, we were offered a drink of our choice. The lady we spoke to knew exactly what she was doing and treated us with courtesy and respect. I honestly can't fault them. Knowing how high my standards are, after we'd left Anneka said "It doesn't matter what the other places are like now - I know where you'll be getting the ring from!"

That first place also showed me how wrong I was about the style I thought that Anneka would like! I was thinking along the lines of an emerald cut solitaire diamond set in platinum. I was right about the metal, but very wrong about the cut and setting. The photo above gives you an idea of what she'd like! It also increased the amount I'll be spending too!

We went to about 6 or 7 other places throughout the day. Some were good, some were not and one was absolutely awful. The most disappointing was the last place we visited:

We went to Tiffany's to see what all the fuss is about. We're still wondering. Once upon a time, the Tiffany name stood as an exemplar of high quality and excellent service. Then they decided to open stores worldwide. This particular one is inside Selfridges. It has no doorman (no doors you see) but instead had a security guard. Who, by the way, was far less intimidating than the doormen at the other places we visited! It was busy, as you'd expect. Mainly with Japanese tourists when we arrived - which seems a bizarre thing as they have lots of stores all over Japan! We naturally assumed we'd have a bit of a wait, but we were stood there for about 10 minutes (patience of a saint you see!) before any staff even acknowledged us. It just so happened to be the totally non-threatening security guard. "I do apologise for the delay Sir, I'm certain someone will be with you soon."

Eventually we were acknowledged, but only when a couple who were being served made their way over to where we were stood waiting. The lady behind the counter remarked "Won't be long" to us. "Ok" I thought, "I know where she definitely won't be having her engagement ring from!" The look on Anneka's face was priceless! She looked at me as if to say "How are you still stood here without either shouting at someone or simply walking out?!" I detest poor customer service and I challenge it when I encounter it. Yet, somehow, the novelty value and pure curiosity had kept me there, quietly and politely. Britishly...

When we were eventually served - by the assistant manager no less - there was no apology for the wait. All we received was a rather curt "What would you like?" It was though she automatically assumed we'd definitely, absolutely, positively be purchasing something right there and then! Erm... no. When we explained what we were looking for, and I sent Anneka out of earshot so I could discuss the budget, she just huffed and went rummaging in the drawer under the counter. Anneka returned and was presented with the only two rings they had that were remotely close (read: bloody miles off) to the style which Anneka liked. This from a place which has a reputation for being a bit flashy. A bit 'bling' if you will. Additionally both were below, well below, the budget I'd specified.

Tiffany's is a curious place. The pricing structure makes no sense. The more expensive ring had a diamond which, whilst marginally higher in weight, was lower in quality than the cheaper ring. And it wasn't just say £300 more expensive - it was nearly £1,400 more! They also don't get the diamonds certified externally by an industry recognised body - they instead create their own grades and (I quote) "promise that they are the same as the grade you'd get if you had it externally inspected."* Really? That sounds to me like they don't actually have the confidence in the diamonds they supply, and are trying to fool the desperate and the gullible into parting with vast amounts of cash. I am neither desperate nor gullible. After seeing the rings and hearing that, I'd had enough so we decided to leave.

The problem with taking an exclusive brand and shoving it into every corner of the globe is that it loses that exclusivity. It also proves just how stupid people are. There was a girl in there, we estimated to be about 11 or 12 years old - her parents were buying her a £375 bracelet. Excuse me? That to us is absolutely ridiculous. Way to teach your child the value of money...

On the way between one store and the next, we saw a sign outside a spa type place. We found it quite amusing!

Halfway through the day, we went for lunch in Chinatown. I hadn't been here for years. The last time was in 2006 after I'd been on a training course in the city centre. I went for dinner with a fellow trainee. We couldn't find the place I went to then, which was a shame as it was lovely. Instead we ended up going into a restaurant that was partially below street level. As it was 2pm, it was virtually empty. This also worried us because, usually, when somewhere is empty there's another good reason for that. We also wanted to get as an authentic Chinese meal as we possibly could. I'm not a fan of the westernised euro-nonsense we typically get served.

Once our meal had been served to us, we saw the family who own the restaurant all sit down to eat the same thing at a nearby table! That's always a good sign! It was absolutely delicious! Of particular merit was the sweet and sour dipping sauce that accompanied the spring rolls - it was so good I was going to ask for the recipe. But I forgot!

After we'd eaten, we went to the Chinese supermarket a few doors down. It was also in the basement of the building. It's a peculiar street, as lots of places seem to be 'downstairs'. I bought Anneka some tea from the Far East - I know that's where most tea comes from, but this was actually originally for sale in places like China and Japan and had been imported as is. We also bought some Asian biscuits and deserts. Some of what we bought is in the photo below (please excuse the mess - this display was hastily put together while we were cleaning up!)

Obviously the Chanel No 5 wasn't purchased in the Chinese supermarket! When we had done at Tiffany's, I took Anneka to the Chanel concession within Selfridge's, to purchase a bottle of her favourite perfume. People think it's overpriced, if lovely, stuff but you get what you pay for. At nearly £75 it certainly isn't cheap, but one spray of this lasts the whole day. It's also amusing to watch people when they smell it! Almost everyone approaches Anneka and asks "Is that Chanel No 5 you're wearing? You're a very lucky woman - my boyfriend never does anything romantic or spends this much much money on me!" Personally, I don't understand it - I don't bother with aftershave as I don't see the point. Anneka likes it though, and that's all that matters.

I set up a better photo shortly before we went to bed last night.

Whilst today was a very girly day, with me spending much of it sitting around being bored and rolling my eyes, it was useful. I now have a very good idea of the kind of ring Anneka likes. One day, maybe if she's nice to me (tee-hee!), I'll pop the question.

* As a footnote, this is not my first time purchasing an engagement ring for someone. The last time I did, we had it valued a year or so after. We discovered it was worth significantly more than I paid for it. So you can understand why I doubt Tiffany's confidence in their diamonds. 

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