The Basics of Buying an Engagement Ring

Buying an engagement ring is a tricky, stressful, and complex business. But just keep in mind how good you will feel once you have the perfect ring!

Getting engaged is one of the biggest moments in your life. It marks a major turning point in a relationship, and the start of a new life together. And the engagement ring has become such an important symbol that buying the right one can be stressful and difficult. Make sure you have some idea of what you are getting into with this guide to buying an engagement ring.

Know the Basics of Diamonds

If you are buying an engagement ring, you will most likely be buying a diamond engagement ring. The diamond is a perfect symbol of timelessness and unconquerable love. It’s also an expensive purchase, and one which you need to make carefully. Whether you choose to buy the stone separately, or already set into a ring, it’s important to have some basic knowledge about buying a diamond.

The 4 Cs of diamonds refer to the 4 characteristics that make a diamond unique, and which play a huge role in determining its price.

Carat

Carat simple refert to the weight of the diamond. Before modern scales, jewelers used carab seeds to determine the weight of diamonds, and the term carat has stuck. Modern standards set 1 carat at about 200 milligrams. Keep in mind that the carat is purely the weight of the diamond—it has nothing to do with the shape or apparent size. Depending on the cut and setting, diamonds that have the same carat can appear to be very different sizes.

Cut

The cut is more than just the shape of the diamond. It is also how the diamond is styled and cut to reflect light. Different cuts have different characteristics and can emphasize or hide certain features of a diamond.

If you are getting more detailed into the subject of diamond cuts, then you will come across a lot of terms that describe certain areas of the cut. Facets are the flat surfaces of the diamond’s cut. The table and pavillion refer to specific facets of the diamond.

Clarity

Most diamonds aren’t perfect. They have slight flaws, such as material or air bubbles that became trapped inside during the diamond’s formation, or chips on the surface. The clarity of diamonds is graded from Flawless (F) to Included (I). Flawless is the highest grade, and is the most expensive. However, the difference between most of the higher grades of diamond clarity can only be detected by a high powered jeweler’s loupe. It’s only in the lowest grades, I1, I2, and I3, that the inclusions become visible. As long as you avoid Included diamonds, then the difference in clarity won’t have a huge effect on the visible beauty of the stone.

Color

The ideal for diamonds is to be completely colorless. Diamond color grades start at D, which is completely colorless, and continue through the alphabet to Z, which is light yellow. D to F are considered the highest grades, but G, H, and I grades show no color visible to the naked eye. So, buying an engagement ring with a G, H, or I grade diamond can save you a lot of money.

Keep in mind that this is only true for the standard clear diamonds. Diamonds actually come in all colors of the rainbow, and the deeper the color, the more valuable the diamond. If you are interested in colored diamonds, yellow diamond engagement rings are the most popular choice.

Know the Basics of Rings

Settings

The setting is that holds the gemstone (or gemstones) in place. Buying an engagement ring setting once you have the loose stone means that you have to very carefully consider how the style of the setting with match the diamond. Even if you are buying an engagement ring with the stone already set in place, it’s important to consider the practicality, beauty, and suitability of the setting.

The prong setting is the most traditional, while the bezel setting holds the diamond most securely in place. There is also the very modern tension setting.

There are also types of setting that include more than one diamond, such as pave setting engagement rings.

Metals

You have a lot of choices in the metal that you can get for your engagement ring, too. This also makes a different in the engagement ring price, so anyone buying engagement rings should think carefully about the metal they choose.

The most common choices are gold, white gold, silver, and platinum, although palladium and titanium are also sometimes used. Each of these metals has their own pros and cons—in particular, watch out for allergies with gold and silver. Research the metal type carefully before you make a decision.

Budget Carefully When Buying An Engagement Ring

Always set your budget first! Engagement ring prices run the gamut from a few hundreds of dollars to more than most people will spend on a house. Don’t get caught up in all of the galmor and sparkle of celebrity engagement rings, or designer engagement rings, and don’t fall victim to the belief that the amount of money you spend on the engagement ring is a more important symbol than the ring itself.

There are a number of things to think about when budgeting, so don’t just follow the two months salary rule. If you have enough savings and can afford to spend two months salary, then go for it. But don’t forget that the engagement ring is ja symbol of starting a new life together—and that new life will have a lot of expenses.

Make sure you think about how much you will need for your wedding, your honeymoon, an apartment or a downpayment on a house, a car, and all of the other expenses that you’ll have.

Get The Most Out Of Your Budget

Once you know how much you can afford to spend, you can find a lot of ways to save money, and to emphasize the qualities in a ring that matter most to you while sacrificing some of the things that may not be so important.

For example, if the apparent size of the diamond is something you think is very important, then you can choose a cut that will make a lower carat diamond look larger. A marquis cut can create this illusion, and so can getting the diamond cut slightly shallower to increase the size of the top. You can also choose an illusion setting for your engagement ring to make the diamond look bigger.

Another option is to buy a diamond that is just slightly below the next carat weight. You can save more money than you’d think by buying a diamond that is 1.9 carat rather than 2.

When it comes to carat, more is not necessarily better. The price of a diamond is determined in large part by its weight, so watch out for cutters giving a sub-optimal cut just to keep some weight on the stone. Often a stone with less weight that is cut better will shine more brilliantly and look far better than a stone. So when buying, your stone, don’t go based on carat alone! Make sure you know about cuts and facets, and talk to the cutter about how the stone is shaped and cut. Look closely at the stone, as well.

Most importantly, set your basic criteria. What setting do you want? What cut? What size of diamond? Will you sacrifice a little clarity and color for a larger stone? Or is clarity and quality of the stone more important?

Get the size right—for women, get your finger measured to know your exact ring size. And for men, if you’re planning to surprise your fiance with the perfect engagement ring, make sure it fits! Depending on how much you trust her friends or family members not to spill the beans, you can ask for their help in finding out her ring size. Another option, although you’ll have to plan and execute this carefully, is to “borrow” a ring that you’ve seen her wear before.

Find the Right Style and Size

The overall style and design of the ring are very important. They have to compliment and showcase the diamond that you’ve bought, and they also have to match with the style of the woman who will be wearing it.

You have a lot of options to choose from, from antique engagement rings to very chic and modern engagement rings.

For men looking to buy the engagement ring in secret, start paying very close attention to the jewelry that your girlfriend wears. Is it mostly gold or silver? Does she like large flashy jewelry or more subtle pieces?

You’ll also need to find out her ring size. There are a number of ways to do this, such as carefully “borrowing” one of her rings to measure the size, or asking a friend of hers for help. But resizing a ring isn’t too difficult to do for most ring styles, so don’t stress too much about finding the perfect fit.

Shopping for An Engagement Ring

Once you’ve got all of the details figured out—you’ve set your budget, reserached diamonds and rings, and figured out the perfect style—you just have to find the right ring.

Your main choices are to buy from a jeweler, or to buy from an online retailer. If you choose to buy from a jewelry store, make sure that you know what you are looking for and don’t get talked into buying something that is over budget. If you are customizing the ring, then work with a jeweler that you like and trust who understands what you are looking for.

Buying online is becoming more popular as well, and it certainly gives you a lot more freedom and convenience. Some people are nervous about not being able to see the diamond first. One thing that you can do to make sure that you get what you are paying for when buying a diamond ring is to get the right paperwork. By getting an appraisal from a third party, you can rest assured that any diamond you buy online is of the quality standards that you have been told.

Buying an engagement ring doesn’t have to be overly stressful. Knowing what your budget is, what you want, and what you should be able to get for your money can go a long way to helping you buy the right engagement ring.