Sizing a surprise ring?
January 26, 2014 12:41 PM   Subscribe

I want to propose but I'm getting hung up on not knowing my girlfriend's ring size. How does this work? (more inside)

My girlfriend and I have been together a long time and discussed marriage before and I'm going to propose. She has said in the past that she wants it to be a "total surprise" and so I'm trying to do the groundwork without just asking her. I don't even know if that matters because neither of us know what ring size she wears. She has no other rings to compare to.

I tried to wrap some string around her finger while she slept, but she's both ticklish and clenches her hands. What other ways can I use to clandestinely measure her ring size without raising her suspicions? My only other idea has been somehow taking pictures of her hands and measuring from there, but I think that I'd only be able to measure the width at the top, not the circumference.

I'm sure this will be a funny story for later but for now I just want to get this done. How can I tell what size she wears?
posted by anonymous to Human Relations (39 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
It's pretty normal for engagement rings to need sizing after they're given. Don't get hung up on're going to have to revisit the jeweler after you pop the question, most likely.
posted by xingcat at 12:43 PM on January 26, 2014 [5 favorites]

You're overthinking this. Most rings can be resized and it is completely normal to resize the engagement ring after it's given. Just make sure to confirm with the/a jeweler before committing to a ring that it will be possible, and err on the side of too large rather than too small.
posted by telegraph at 12:45 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

Re-sizing a ring is not a big deal; just propose (congrats) and expect to bring it in for a fine-tuning.

If you Google for "ring adjuster" you'll find a variety of little products meant to make a too-large ring a little more snug; they're cheap and could bridge the gap between proposal -- wanting to wear it -- being willing to let go of it for long enough for the re-sizing.

(other answers are missing the She has no other rings to compare to.)
posted by kmennie at 12:46 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

So, there's no way you can propose first and then go shopping for a ring?

Even if she wears rings, her dominant and non-dominant hands will be different in size. For me, the difference between ring fingers on r/l hands is over one full size! So, you might have to guess with a ring she wears often, then have it sized later to ensure it fits perfectly. Getting the ring re-sized is pretty trivial, unless it has be sized many sizes or it has a lot of decoration/channel set gems/etc.

If you go for a classic solitaire, it'll be very easy to resize and double check with the jeweler before you select the ring. You'll be fine! :)
posted by absquatulate at 12:46 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

For reference it cost me about $75 US to have my male wedding ring resized at a jeweler. No big deal. If her mother or a sister is roughly the same size as her you could ask them what their ring size is and start there.
posted by Justin Case at 12:46 PM on January 26, 2014

Yes, my husband surprised me, and I just got the ring sized afterward.
posted by Kriesa at 12:47 PM on January 26, 2014

There are all sorts of ring size charts you can get online, which will be useful for at least getting close if you use a ring that you know she wears on her left ring finger. But if not, don't sweat it -- you can get it resized, as everyone says.

also, since this is a surprise, do you want to anonymize your question?
posted by scody at 12:50 PM on January 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

According to this, the average ring size for the ring finger, for a woman, 5' 4" tall and 140 lbs. is size 6. Googling for "average ring size for women" brings up the same size.
posted by Houstonian at 12:51 PM on January 26, 2014

She has no other rings to compare to.
posted by lalex at 12:54 PM on January 26, 2014 [6 favorites]

The rule of thumb for re-sizing: Silver, platinum or gold can be resized, as long as there isn't an unusual pattern, gem(s) or a precious metal inlay set into the outside of the band.

Grade 2 commercial titanium can be resized by an experienced jeweler.

Avoid resizing rings made of cheaper metals.
posted by zarq at 12:56 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I have a friend who proposed with a beansprout wrapped around his girlfriend's finger. You just want a placeholder, because the size depends on how it's made, and shopping together for the real thing is more fun anyway.

(This is going to be a great story - congrats!)
posted by Space Kitty at 1:03 PM on January 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Other options include proposing with a fake or joke ring -- a spider ring, a candy ring -- or with a pretty-but-inexpensive birthstone ring and then buying the "real" ring together later on.

Resizing is very easy on solitaires. Consult with the jeweler about whether to go big or small.

The other traditional method is to get her sister or best friend to find out her ring size, perhaps by trying on one of the sister/BFF's rings, or by the sister/BFF making your girlfriend go jewelry shopping with her. If someone asked me to find out his girlfriend's ring size, you can bet I would SUDDENLY BE IN THE MARKET for an anniversary ring from my husband at your preferred jeweler, I would definitely need outside opinions on what looks right on my hand and "not too tacky," and I would call ahead to engage the jeweler in my subterfuge so he'd make sure to get a good idea of HER ring size.
posted by Eyebrows McGee at 1:04 PM on January 26, 2014 [34 favorites]

If you do decide to get a ring that will likely have to be re-sized get a simple chain necklace she can wear it on until it gets re-sized.
posted by mareli at 1:14 PM on January 26, 2014

The most commonly purchased ring sizes at many jewelry stores are 5 through 7. If you absolutely have to guess, get a 6 if she's got an average frame, size down if she's petite and up if she's larger. Your jeweler may have additional advice about guessing/figuring out her size, and will definitely be able to help pick out a resizeable ring.

posted by Metroid Baby at 1:20 PM on January 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Lay your hand on her's and see if any of your fingers look the same size as her's - i.e. your pinky may match her ring finger, then see what ring fits a little loose on your finger.
posted by 445supermag at 1:27 PM on January 26, 2014 [11 favorites]

My husband proposed without a ring to let me design what I wanted myself. I got a lovely proposal and I also got a ring later that I love and that no one else has. I was a little sad he didn't pick a ring, but he explained he wanted it to be something special, and was really stressed trying to figure out what I might like. After he showed me what he'd been considering, I was happy that I'd been allowed to choose.
posted by goggie at 1:51 PM on January 26, 2014 [4 favorites]

Seconding using your hand as a measuring tool.
posted by MadamM at 1:57 PM on January 26, 2014

How much of your gf's clothing do you pick out? Should you pick out a ring that she will wear for the rest of her life? A jeweler may lend you a ring to use. After the proposal, you and your fiancee can return the loaner to the store and your fiancee can select a ring she likes.
posted by Cranberry at 2:11 PM on January 26, 2014 [14 favorites]

I agree with both goggie and Cranberry. It's really hard to gauge someone's taste even if you have been together a long time. Plus, even if she's "average" size like some people are suggesting, does not mean she has average fingers. I think it's a good idea like others suggest to get a beautiful birthstone ring that she can wear but explain why you went with that one as a 'placeholder' so she can pick out her own. A friend of mine offhandedly mentioned she liked x to her fiance and he ended up getting her a ring that depicted x and she *hated* it. Of course, what do you do in that situation? Crush your fiance's heart or wear the ugly thing? Don't be that guy.

CONGRATULATIONS! Exciting time for the both of you, her expression and the *magic* of the moment are what you're going to remember of the proposal, so don't stress on the ring part because the proposal is only going to last a few minutes in itself, but she will have to wear that ring for the rest of her life. Let her choose.
posted by lunastellasol at 2:36 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I proposed with a gemstone ring, that I knew would probably be a size too big, so it could be resized down.

We then chose an engagement ring together, which ended up being a heirloom from my mothers family. We then had that sized. I didn't want to propose with the heirloom in case she didn't like the ring or the idea of it. I chose a coloured gemstone so she'd know it wasn't the real ring, rather than thinking it was just a cheap engagement ring!

It's no big deal getting a ring resized, but I definitely recommend having something to keep to propose with.
posted by chrispy108 at 2:39 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

maybe you can buy a diamond (if that's the way you're going) and propose with just the stone. then you can pick out the setting together.
posted by sabh at 2:58 PM on January 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

This is kinda' out there and may/may not work, but:

If you can have her get a paraffin-wax manicure at a spa (should be rather easy, its winter, and the paraffin treatment works beautifully for soft lovely hands!), collaborate with the spa to ensure that the paraffin cast from her finger be removed intact, you will essentially have a cast of her ring-finger if they are careful about it.

A simpler method: make a cast of her hand - somehow figure out a way to have her press her hands into wet/damp sand so that it will form a deep-ish impression, and just save it? Say, if there are kids/young adults around - you with the kid can take up a fake "class-project/art project" to make plaster of paris casts of stuff for his school project... have them, you, girlfriend imprint their hands in damp sand enough to make a deep impression, pour plaster of paris in it, and let it set - you will again get a cast of your girlfriend's hand.

Shouldn't be very difficult with some imagination, and will certainly make for a nice story.
posted by greta_01 at 4:02 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I proposed with a diamond only... after that we went to the same place to have it set in a ring design she liked. Turned out the valuation for this was higher than the cost of the two separately for some reason.
posted by Admira at 4:07 PM on January 26, 2014

Go to a Claire's or someplace similar and get the cheapest, gaudiest, most ridiculously fake looking "diamond" cocktail ring you can find with an adjustable band. Then you both get to go ring shopping for the real thing after!
posted by mibo at 4:18 PM on January 26, 2014 [1 favorite]

I had some friends who were Jewelers. I always loved being in their shops for some time, spending a day there. It never failed that one guy with this problem walked in everyday, and on a good day you might get seven or eight a day, but that was only between Thanksgiving and Valentine's Day, plus a week in May. She always had the nicest, greatest, way of giving care to the scared gentlemen.
She'd always tell them her advice of buying a size 8 ring, as a "standard practice" and most all times the ring was sized down, but if the ring had to be sized up-apparently it's cheaper and easier to go 8-up, than a 7 or below. So that's my advice-and my source. Buy a size 8 ring, and deal with it afterwards.
posted by QueerAngel28 at 4:19 PM on January 26, 2014

What QueerAngel28 said, except I've always heard to buy a size 7.
posted by echo0720 at 4:41 PM on January 26, 2014

Do you wear rings? My partner, whose hands are much bigger than mine, jokingly slipped one of his pinkie rings on my ring finger. It me fit pretty well. It turned out that this was just a ploy to have a standard of reference for my ring size. He later took the pinkie ring to the jeweler and said he needed an engagement ring slightly smaller than the pinkie ring. When he proposed on Christmas morning, the ring fit perfectly; no resizing needed.
posted by southern_sky at 5:26 PM on January 26, 2014 [3 favorites]

Obviously you know your girlfriend's body type better than anyone here, but I would definitely lean more toward the people saying "get something large and then figure it out" or other methods rather than the people saying "go off this chart of averages" if you can't figure out another way of measuring. I say this as a woman who is 5ft tall and around 100 lbs/really petite but wears a size 7 ring. I have very large knuckles and also slightly chubby fingers. Bodies are weird.
posted by primalux at 5:27 PM on January 26, 2014 [2 favorites]

Might be a long shot, but does she have a mother or sister that she (mostly) physically resembles? If they could keep a secret, you could ask them what their ring size is. My mother and I are of a similar build and have the same ring size, for example.
posted by castlebravo at 6:22 PM on January 26, 2014

Make sure the ring you buy is resizable. Do not buy an eternity band, a design with channel gemstones, or anything of that sort. A gold solitaire in a simple setting is just fine.
posted by crazycanuck at 7:10 PM on January 26, 2014

Buy a resizeable ring, propose, then you go to a jeweler together to get it properly sized.

Don't bother trying to get it sized for her ahead of time, it's hard to do properly and she may have opinions on how she wants it sized as well. (Or the ring you "borrow" to use as a guide may be tighter or looser than she wants, and then she'll just have to get it done all over again.) Not a good idea.
posted by Kadin2048 at 7:36 PM on January 26, 2014

A colleague of mine has a beautiful ring that she designed herself, and the proposal was a total surprise - her fiance proposed with the loose stone. I thought this was a great compromise, with the caveat that my colleague has a sideline as a jewellery designer.

But solitaires with plan bands can be very, very easily resized.
posted by nerdfish at 3:14 AM on January 27, 2014

Take a picture of her hand with a ruler next to it. Extrapolate.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:11 AM on January 27, 2014

Don't buy the ring before you propose.

Buy a cheap ring for presentation in the box, but go shopping for your ring together, so she can pick out exactly what she wants. Go with a size 7 if she's average sized, or up or down from there.

Either that, or see if there's a little ring that's been in your family, perhaps something a female relative has laid away (I have rings I never wear, for example.) Present that as a token, and again, take her shopping.

There's even a place where you can buy little rings just for this purpose. Wilshi has a site. I think $130 is a bit much for this, but it serves the purpose.

Ross-Simon has really nice CZ jewelry that would be perfect for this. Pick something pretty that she might wear as a cocktail ring in the future.

posted by Ruthless Bunny at 7:18 AM on January 27, 2014

My fiancée is a size 5, which I was pretty sure about, but to be on the safe side, I proposed with a size 6. I also got a package of these so she could wear the ring until we got it resized. They were very necessary; the difference between size 5 and size 6 is the difference between staying on one's finger and flying across the room. It actually took two resizings, down to 5 1/2 and then finally to 5, to decide what was right.

If you have no idea where to start, find a few total strangers whose hands look about the same size as your girlfriend's and ask them what size ring they wear. You could ask the receptionists at a dentist's office, or the salespeople at a wireless phone store, or literally anyone. You'll get a variety of answers because some people prefer their ring tighter than others, but it should get you in the ballpark.
posted by RobinFiveWords at 8:23 AM on January 27, 2014

even if she's "average" size like some people are suggesting, does not mean she has average fingers

Absolutely true. My stepdaughter at 15 is approximately the 5'4", 140 lbs. that Houstonian quoted, and she'd be lucky if a size 6 ring fit on her pinky. Her ring-finger size is a 9, the same as mine at significantly taller/heavier. We don't know why--she just has big hands. Don't go by averages.

I liked the suggestion about getting a girlfriend involved, if that's possible.
posted by dlugoczaj at 8:50 AM on January 27, 2014

Our jeweler allowed me to buy a placeholder ring. We then returned it for the same amount as credit towards the final ring. Ask if yours might do the same.
posted by bonehead at 8:59 AM on January 27, 2014

I agree that you should let your girlfriend have input on the ring she's going to wear every day for the rest of her life, but I also understand that this is A Thing with some folks, and you might have discussed this with her before, etc. etc.

In that case, what you need to do is create a situation where she's wearing a ring, and needs to take it off while you surreptitiously size it. I suggest some sort of baking: make bread or pie crust or something, while she's already wearing a ring. She'll have to take it off because, ugh. Then, a pot overflows! Her friend calls her with something that absolutely can't wait! Chaos ensues! And you trace the ring she has left on the counter, on the waiting notepad with pencil.
posted by Mayor West at 9:11 AM on January 27, 2014 [1 favorite]

So she doesn't own any rings at all. Some people can't wear rings. You might want to figure out if she's one of them before you buy one.

Also, ring sizing isn't just the distance around the top of the finger, some people need a larger ring to clear their knuckles going on.
posted by yohko at 11:46 PM on January 27, 2014

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