Being proposed to is a wonderful moment for any woman, but when your beloved is on one knee and the top of the box flips open, it can be a nail-biting moment to see if his taste in jewellery and yours are as cosmically aligned as your relationship. This year, however, ladies find themselves in the driving seat with the search for the perfect engagement ring, as the prospect of a leap year turns tradition on its head.
The history behind women proposing to men on a leap year is much contested. Some point towards 5th century St Bridget, who complained to St Patrick that women had to wait too long for suitors to pop the question, so he magnanimously gave the fairer sex one day every four years to hurry the process along. Others trace the origin back to the 19th century when 29 February was not recognised by English law and so it was seen as acceptable to break the status quo on this day.
Lewis Malka, a diamond jeweller in London’s Hatton Garden, who published a book called The Engagement Ring: How to choose the perfect engagement ring and get it right first time, believes that the number of women planning to propose this leap year will increase by 15% compared with last year.
“The research I did for my book showed that not all women are happy to just hang about waiting for their man to propose, and would take the lead if they had the opportunity,” says Malka, who has created diamond jewellery for a number of famous personalities. “A leap year gives them that opportunity. It’s something I endorse. We live in a world where women are just as equal as men, so why shouldn’t they be the proposer?”
And for women brave enough to propose to their partners with an engagement ring in hand, rather than a token gift for him, the added benefit is that you can pick the ring of your dreams. Men will often be safe in their choices, perhaps opting for a simple solitaire, whereas women buying for themselves can be bolder, perhaps opting for coloured gemstones, a cutting-edge contemporary design, or a ring that happily blows the budget as it is unequivocally The One.