There is no greater symbol of a marriage than the bride's engagement ring.
It signifies the engagement, centerpieces the wedding ceremony and binds the couple. The ring marks the beginning of a couple's married life and often is passed down through the generations that follow.
Sometimes the man and woman pick out rings together, while other times the selection is left to surprise. No matter what the situation, there are plenty of options and information available.
What a newly engaged couple looking for a ring might find is that the diamond solitaire on yellow gold wedding set isn't the only choice anymore.
"Some people like to pick out other stones. They are breaking with tradition," said Nette Hosman, who works at Steamboat Jewelers.
Hosman said she sees many people who are looking for non-traditional rings going with stones such as tanzanite.
"They are just buying what they like," she said. "But diamonds are still selling more than anything else."
Norbert Delhaute, owner of Del's Jewelry, said though some styles change, the diamond solitaire is still the old standby.
However, it's not the most popular thing going this year.
"The hottest thing is the three-stone ring," he said. "It was our best-selling ring this Christmas."
That ring has a large center stone flanked by two smaller stones, all of which are usually diamonds.
Yellow gold is the most popular type of band. Delhaute said white gold and silver were becoming more popular in the last few years, but now yellow gold is making a comeback.
Today, 75 to 80 percent of wedding rings sold at Del's Jewelry are yellow gold, Delhaute said. "Platinum is selling fairly well, too," he said.
Platinum is more durable than gold, but it's also about one-third more expensive.
"If they want something to last a lifetime, platinum is the way to go," Delhaute said.
More than 50 years ago, Delhaute bought his wife a platinum wedding ring and it is still in good shape, he said.
Prior to coming into the jewelry store, a man or a couple should have a ballpark figure regarding price and be willing to work with the jeweler to get the most for their money.
"We will have couples come in for a consultation," said Richard Thielemann, co-owner and vice president of Hofmeister Jewelers in Steamboat Springs. "We will sit down with them and talk about what they want. In order for me to do my job the best, I need to know where they want to be."
Coming to a ballpark figure should be an easy decision for couples, Thielemann said.
"Marriage is what the ring represents," he said. "Couples should shop for something they can afford. I would rather sell a customer something they can afford.
"You shouldn't put too much financial burden on your life to begin with."
The Diamond Information Center suggests using two months of a groom's salary as a guideline for the expenditure.