They’re being sold as fun placeholders – so the couple can then choose together. But with money tight and marriage in decline, maybe they’re the real deal

Good news for all romantics out there – Poundland has come up with a range of cheap and cheerful engagement rings in four colours, each presented in a red heart-shaped box with the tagline: “Because we promise they’ll want to choose their own.”

The notion of proposing with a “placeholder” for fun, before choosing the real ring together, not only avoids costly errors but feels more in line with modern romance. A survey of 1,000 women by the jewellers Beaverbrooks in 2017 found that 10% couldn’t stand their engagement rings, and a quarter of men now cautiously propose without one at all.

One traditionalist took umbrage with the Poundland rings, posting on social media: “Why would anyone want to pick their own ring? Isn’t the point of it that the man you love has chosen it for you?” But expectations have changed since the time when engagement rings were status symbols and men the sole breadwinners. According to GQ magazine’s latest guide to buying engagement rings, the old rule that a ring should cost roughly three months of the man’s salary is dead. “Whether it’s £200, whether it’s £50,000, each [ring] is super special to whoever is buying it,” said a spokesperson for Lila’s, the fashionable jewellers in south London.

But if anyone can be bothered to get married these days (the latest ONS figures, from 2015, showed heterosexual marriages were at an all-time low), money is tight for debt-ridden young fiances who would like to buy a home some day.

In any case, it’s best not to get hung up on tradition. The custom for a big-ass solitaire diamond may date back to the Archduke Maximilian of Austria’s proposal to Mary of Burgundy in 1477, the first recorded example of such a ring being given. But no direct trend timeline can be traced between it and De Beers copywriter Frances Gerety’s genius 1947 slogan: “A diamond is forever.”

So perhaps we shouldn’t write the Poundland rings off as disposable. After all, the most romantic engagement ring of all time is the one in Breakfast at Tiffany’s – and that came out of a bag of Cracker Jacks.