The hardest part of proposing is finding the perfect engagement ring for your boyfriend

As a woman, proposing to your boyfriend is the Wild West of romance. It's a lawless frontier land where tradition simply doesn't exist; uncharted territory that lurches you from one puzzle to the next. 

Will he mind being asked? Do I mind asking? Should I buy myself a ring? Should I ask his parents first? Do I wear the suit, or does he? 

From the outset, you will find yourself inventing rituals to fill the void, taking that one big question and making it your own. 

Ring a ding ding

At the centre of this whole experience is a very practical aspect: the ring. This is your most important prop. And in my case, the only clue to my partner of what was actually happening - he was under the impression for most of the evening that it was just a really, really expensive date night. 

Male engagement rings, however, are the unicorn of the jewellery world. 

Despite some recent big-name celeb type gents (ed Sheeran, Skylar Astin and even Michael Buble) choosing to rock engagement rings there remains no classic guide to choosing one for your male partner. 

Shop for a female engagement ring, and you will be inundated with helpful salespeople, squealing girlfriends, and a veritable tome of online content guiding you on how to choose the right ring. Shop for a male engagement ring, and you will at best get a sympathetic shrug, and at worse a blank stare. 

Details of the design

My fairy godfather came in the form of a six-foot-four Dutchman named Stefan Witjes

Witjes is a fifth-generation jeweller located in the heart of Amsterdam, a giant of a man with the Midas touch for beautiful design. He's also a seasoned professional at male proposals - bless those progressive Dutch! - and led me through the design process with grace and humour. 

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The first thing to consider when designing a male ring, he said, was to think practically about your partner's lifestyle. 

We spoke a lot about my boyfriend's day-to-day: did he exercise? Did he lift weights? Was he outdoors mostly, or indoors? Did he work near chemicals? Did he wear other jewellery, or have a particular style? 

Bling for a bloke

After our first session together, we had a brief: butch, but stylish. Classic, but not boring. Something that could be worn daily, but also could withstand intermittent bush bashing. Oh, and I wanted a diamond, dammit. And so my unicorn ring began to take shape.

I was bucking the trend of traditional mediums and opted instead for stainless steel in a thick band, brushed on the surface and polished on the interior. 

And floating in the middle? A baguette-cut black diamond, of course.

Job well done

The first time I saw the finished product, I felt a wild sense of elation. 

It was truly a beautiful thing to behold - not just an extraordinary feat of jewellery, but as a symbol of the proposal itself. I was asking the man I loved to share a life together, and this precious ring was the physical manifestation of all the nerves and joy and preparation that went into that.

It felt strange that most women don't get to experience this process.

A shift in paradigm

And yet, change is afoot.

Back in the 1920s there was a poor attempt to get the guys in on the tradition but it didn't quite click with the masses. One hundred years on things are looking brighter.

Pinterest reported a  336% increase in women looking to propose to men, and same-sex marriage made up 5.5% of marriages in the first year it was made legal in Australia. Whilst proposing to a man can feel like you are single-handedly dragging matrimony into the 21st century, the reaction from my friends and family assured me that absolutely everybody loves a proposal, no matter what it looks like. 

The big day

I proposed on a frosty winter's afternoon in Amsterdam, where we live. 

Dressed to the nines, we boarded a vintage canal boat loaded with buckets of bubbles and a smiley captain who very nearly gave away the game with her enthusiasm. 

Because I was so nervous, we had barely had a sip of champagne before I asked Julian to close his eyes and listen to a very, very long speech which I had prepared some three months prior. 

When I finally got around to blurting out those four words, he let out a cackle. Despite my months of shoddily-kept secrets and bad excuses, he had absolutely no idea what was coming. Still laughing, he opened the wooden ring box that was engraved with our initials and the date (handmade by our hugely talented friend, woodworker Tom King) and he melted. 

Black diamond or not, holding a ring that I had lovingly chosen for him was all that mattered. For those looking to propose: remember that. 

Just desserts

If Instagram is anything to go by, the proposal was a piece of cake. 

But underneath the sequins and the champagne and the sparklers was a great many months of planning and preparation. It was a hilarious adventure, but a piece of cake it was not.

It was the whole damn bakery and then some.