PHOTO: iStock
(CNN) —  

If you’ve been opening up your Instagram app or Facebook account and noticing a slew of engagement photos in the mix, it isn’t just a random coincidence. According to Wedding Wire, nearly 40% of engagements happen between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day.

For partners who are ready to get down on one knee, know that there’s plenty more to engagement rings than meets the eye. Aside from knowing what your S.O. will want to wear daily, the secret to finding a quality ring is doing your homework.

In an effort to demystify the process of planning and buying the perfect rock for your partner, we spoke to some ring and wedding experts who break down everything you need to know to find an ideal engagement ring that will soon have your partner saying — scratch that, screaming — “yes.”

Don’t wait until the last minute

First and foremost, this is not a process you want to rush. Your ring can take anywhere from a few days to upward of six weeks to produce (it will err on the longer side if it’s a bespoke creation). If you’re purchasing your ring online, retailers such as Verlas will allow you to try up to three pieces at home for 15 days before you make your final decision, a critical process that will also extend your ring shopping timeline. And as you’ll quickly see below, when our experts delve into the research that everyone should do ahead of purchasing jewels, the information you’ll want on hand prior to setting foot in a jewelry shop for the final time will take at least a week to gather. So do yourself a favor and give yourself ample time to go through the process of ring shopping.

PHOTO: iStock

When we polled jewelry experts from a variety of brands, all unanimously said research was the key. “Start by researching the 4 Cs: color, carat, cut and clarity,” says Tonia Zehrer, senior vice president and chief merchandising officer at Kay, Jared and Zales. “While these terms may be vaguely familiar to you, the meaning behind each of them will help immensely when beginning to research diamonds, as they determine the value of the diamond.”

Figure out what your partner wants

The million-dollar question: How do you purchase a ring your partner actually wants to wear for the rest of his or her life without spoiling the surprise of your proposal? Olivia Landau, founder of direct-to-consumer engagement ring brand The Clear Cut, says social media can be your best friend during the inspiration process.

“Pay attention and take notes when your partner drops hints, and if possible, look at their Instagram saves or Pinterest board to get some initial ideas,” she says. “Be sure to also consult their close friends and family. This will all help greatly narrow down your search.”

PHOTO: iStock

Wedding expert Lauren Grech, CEO and co-founder of event management company LLG Events, also suggests making a day out of ring shopping. “Surprise them by going to lunch near a jeweler in your area,” she says. “Make it casual, and suggest stopping in the store as you walk by. However, the partner who’s proposing should have stopped in the store days prior, talked to a representative that you feel comfortable with and picked out a few rings that you like. Then when you show up on your date, that representative will know to casually pull out the rings you were interested in.”

Regardless of your sleuthing methods, remember that an engagement ring should be a reflection of the person wearing it. As Justine Lançon, the creative director at the jewelry brand Mejuri, put it, “Your engagement ring should be like any other piece you purchase — something that suits your personal style and you’d wear every day.”

Name your final price

That being said, rings come in all shapes and sizes, as well as budgets, and as all our experts tell us, the money conversation should take place between both partners ahead of purchasing a ring. “Choosing a ring is ultimately a joint decision, and often part of a larger conversation regarding wedding budgets,” Lançon says.

And with diamonds, budgets can soon become a slippery slope (after all, there are always ways to spend more on jewelry). So to ensure you aren’t fudging your final numbers, Landau suggests finding a price that you and your partner are comfortable with and drawing a firm line in the sand. From there, you can find the right ring (at the right budget) for them.

PHOTO: iStock

When you’re finishing up the purchase of your engagement ring, make sure you get a certificate. Not only will it help you authenticate the ring, but if it unfortunately gets stolen or lost, the certificate can speak to the value of the ring for insurance purposes. As Grech suggests, the certificate should be considered “even more valuable than the diamond itself.”

Understand today’s biggest ring trends

As Lançon told us, “Being open to less traditional designs and bands is becoming especially trendy, although engraving continues to be one of the most important details for our consumers.” This includes different shapes of diamonds (including pear-shaped); nontraditional gemstones, such as rubies or emeralds; and different colored bands, such as rose gold. Here are some rings to consider.

Neil Lane Diamond Engagement Ring ($3,499.99; kay.com)

Neil Lane Diamond Engagement Ring
Neil Lane Diamond Engagement Ring
PHOTO: Kay

“Fancy shaped diamonds are a growing trend among brides this year, with pear among the most popular shapes,” Zehrer says. This ring features a pear-shaped diamond surrounded by a frame of round diamonds that’ll never go out of style.

Pear-Shaped Blue and White Sapphire and Diamond Ring ($486.75, originally $649; zales.com)

Pear-Shaped Blue and White Sapphire and Diamond Ring
Pear-Shaped Blue and White Sapphire and Diamond Ring
PHOTO: Zales

A nontraditional pear-shaped ring that has caught our eye is this vintage design, which showcases a blue sapphire stone front and center.

Pear Cut Ring ($650; mejuri.com)

Pear Cut Ring
Pear Cut Ring
PHOTO: Mejuri

It’s not just the stone itself that has been influenced by today’s trends. Landau says yellow gold has become one of the most requested metals on engagement ring bands, like this one. “It brings a bit of depth and uniqueness to a classic ring,” she says.

Vintage Morganite Engagement Ring Set (starting at $525.70, originally starting at $751; etsy.com)

Vintage Morganite Engagement Ring Set
Vintage Morganite Engagement Ring Set
PHOTO: Etsy

Don’t feel pressured to get a diamond ring, though. Morganite is an excellent alternative that won’t break the bank, has great clarity and often comes in a blush hue like this one.

Kataoka Opal Sakura Ring ($3,180; catbirdnyc.com)

Kataoka Opal Sakura Ring
Kataoka Opal Sakura Ring
PHOTO: Catbird

This is the ultimate dainty engagement ring. From the Tokyo workshop of jeweler Kataoka, this romantic ring features a center opal and 15 round white diamonds.

Italic Cluster Ring ($750; mejuri.com)

Italic Cluster Ring
Italic Cluster Ring
PHOTO: Mejuri

Shoppers should always know what to expect before buying a ring, Mejuri’s Lançon says.

“When shopping online, we’re always huge proponents of doing your research and buying from a brand you trust,” she says. “Our customers know when they buy a Mejuri engagement ring, they’re getting a high-quality, ethically handmade piece. We offer a two-year warranty and have clear practices regarding social responsibility and ethical stone sourcing.”

This engagement ring features a cluster of peach morganite, diamond and white sapphire unlike anything you’ve ever seen before.

Prong-Set Cushion London Blue Topaz Solitaire Ring (starting at $359; angara.com)

Prong-Set Cushion London Blue Topaz Solitaire Ring
Prong-Set Cushion London Blue Topaz Solitaire Ring
PHOTO: Angara

Jessica Ilitzky Lombrozo of the jewelry brand Luisa Alexander has also noticed a boom in colored gems.

“We’ve seen gemstones such as emeralds as an alternative to diamonds over the years, and now they are coming in strong,” Lombrozo says. “People are now breaking tradition and are also seeking different cuts and mixing nontraditional shapes.” This blue topaz solitaire ring will look stunning on your partner’s finger.

Solitaire Round Morganite Infinity Ring (starting at $566, originally starting at $629; angara.com)

Solitaire Round Morganite Infinity Ring
Solitaire Round Morganite Infinity Ring
PHOTO: Angara

With a band that features the infinity symbol and a morganite gemstone in a lovely shade of pink, this ring is as romantic as it gets.

Rose Gold Diamond Engagement Ring ($1,149.99, originally $2,299.99; kay.com)

Rose Gold Diamond Engagement Ring
Rose Gold Diamond Engagement Ring
PHOTO: Kay

Pear isn’t the only shape that’s been booming in recent years, says Landau.

“Oval diamonds have been one of the most popular shapes for a few years now,” she says. “Blake Lively started this trend with her engagement ring, and since then, many celebrities like Hailey Bieber and Sarah Hyland were engaged with oval diamonds. This shape is great because they are very finger-flattering.”

You can’t go wrong with this romantic rose gold pick.

GioielliRings Hidden Halo Engagement Ring (starting at $1,125, originally starting at $1,250; etsy.com)

Gioielli Rings Hidden Halo Engagement Ring
Gioielli Rings Hidden Halo Engagement Ring
PHOTO: Etsy

Additionally, a hidden halo (or pave diamonds that wrap around the center gem) is a “fun detail that has become very popular, as it doesn’t change the overall look of a ring but gives a flash of sparkle from the side,” Landau says. This ring features a moissanite center gem with a diamond or moissanite hidden halo of your choosing.

Vera Wang Love Diamonds Bridal Set ($4,799.98; jared.com)

Vera Wang Love Diamonds Bridal Set
Vera Wang Love Diamonds Bridal Set
PHOTO: Jared

We typically see colored gems in the center, so we’re loving that the band in this ring set steals the show. It features diamonds and blue sapphires for an unmatched sparkle.

Cultured Freshwater Pearl and Diamond Sunburst Frame Ring ($1,124.25, originally $1,499; zales.com)

Cultured Freshwater Pearl and Diamond Sunburst Frame Ring
Cultured Freshwater Pearl and Diamond Sunburst Frame Ring
PHOTO: Zales

Lançon has also seen an influx of people buying engagement rings, sans any proposal. “We’re also seeing more and more consumers buying engagement rings and wearing them just because,” she says.

A pearl and diamond ring like this one will be a great addition to your jewelry box -— engaged or not.

Vintage Moissanite Engagement Ring (starting at $501.27, originally starting at $716.10; etsy.com)

Vintage Moissanite Engagement Ring
Vintage Moissanite Engagement Ring
PHOTO: Etsy

Moissanite is another alternative for the one who doesn’t care about diamonds or wants a glistening ring without breaking the bank. We’re in love with this ring for its unique art deco style that’s sure to make your partner smile.

Cascais Lab Diamond Ring ($400; withclarity.com)

Cascais Lab Diamond Ring
Cascais Lab Diamond Ring
PHOTO: With Clarity

A simple ring will bring a sparkle of elegance to every day. Grab this one, or anything else from the brand’s Made for You Collection, using code CNN30 for 30% off now through December 21.

Men’s Thin Diamond Band ($510; mejuri.com)

Men
Men's Thin Diamond Band
PHOTO: Mejuri

Mejuri’s line of men’s bands works beautifully for both weddings and engagements. All the designs are crafted from 14-karat solid gold (white or yellow) and can be engraved for a personalized touch. This band features a small black, ethically sourced diamond.

Sunray Lab Diamond Ring ($1,240; withclarity.com)

Sunray Lab Diamond Ring
Sunray Lab Diamond Ring
PHOTO: With Clarity

The stacked band is an amazing option for someone who wants a more elaborate ring. This is enveloped with twines of pave diamonds set in white gold.

Waterfall Lab Diamond Ring ($1,750; withclarity.com)

Waterfall Lab Diamond Ring
Waterfall Lab Diamond Ring
PHOTO: With Clarity

Or perhaps hide the band altogether. This rendition of a baguette-shaped diamond ring is made with 17 diamonds beautifully puzzled together.

Men’s Diamond Wedding Band ($1,699; kay.com)

Men
Men's Diamond Wedding Band
PHOTO: Kay

This eye-catching wedding band has a hint of sparkle. Made with 14-karat white gold, it features a traditional band with two lines of little round diamonds.

Baguette and Round Composite Diamond Octagonal Frame Twist Shank Engagement Ring ($479.99; pagoda.com)

Baguette and Round Composite Diamond Octagonal Frame Twist Shank Engagement Ring
Baguette and Round Composite Diamond Octagonal Frame Twist Shank Engagement Ring
PHOTO: Piercing Pagoda

This 10-karat gold engagement ring is a beautiful take on the engagement rings you already know and love. The twisted band has small round diamonds surrounding a larger statement diamond

Men’s Comfort Fit Wedding Band ($749.25, originally $999; zales.com)

Men
Men's Comfort Fit Wedding Band
PHOTO: Zales

If a simple wedding band is preferred, this is a great option. It has a classic look made in 14-karat gold and features rolled edges that’ll fit comfortably around his finger.

Signature Princes Halo Ring ($626; verlas.com)

Signature Princes Halo Ring
Signature Princes Halo Ring
PHOTO: Verlas

For a design that comes with a micro-pave diamond band, this classic engagement ring fits the bill. Better yet, the princess cut is also a popular engagement ring shape to consider.

Pnina Tornai Diamond Engagement Ring ($3,499.99; jared.com)

Pnina Tornai Diamond Engagement Ring
Pnina Tornai Diamond Engagement Ring
PHOTO: Jared

The fashion lover in your life will appreciate this open-shank engagement ring. Made with 14-karat two-tone gold, it features a princess-cut diamond across from a round diamond for the best of both worlds.