Are you looking to purchase an engagement ring? Read our shopping guide on how to buy one, including what you should take into consideration beforehand, what you need to know to purchase, and how to find the perfect ring.
You’ve finally reached the point in your relationship where you’re ready to pop the question. Whether you’ve been planning this day for months or just a couple of days, the pressure is on. She’ll tell the story of how you proposed for the rest of her life – down to the final details of where it happened, how you asked and every last happy tear that was shed.
After each rendition of that story, no matter how many years have passed, she’ll be asked to show the ring you slipped on her finger that day.
Before you head out to the jewelry store to buy this precious band of gold, it helps to know how to buy an engagement ring so you know you’re making the right choice. Fear not: We’ve created our own engagement ring buying guide to help you make the perfect choice.
Know Your Budget
In 2012, the global luxury market grew to $288 billion, according to the
Bain & Company’s 2014 Global Diamond Industry Report. However, big numbers don’t have to weigh down your decision. The unofficial rules of how much someone should spend on an engagement ring vary from one to three months of your salary, all the way to just spending the national average of about $4,000.
Your soon-to-be fiancée will be wearing this ring the rest of her life, so you don’t want to go on the cheap end, but you should also keep in mind what you can afford. No one wants to worry about paying off an engagement ring years down the road. So, when you step into the store, know how much you want to spend.
If a ring starts to threaten the chance of you being able to pay your rent, that’s a red flag. Back away from the diamond. You also might want to keep any future financial goals in mind. Do you think you and your fiancée will want a big wedding? Will you be planning on buying your first home right away? Do you plan on taking on any other debt in the near future?
Make sure you are open with the jeweler about what you can afford. In most cases, a jeweler will only show you engagement rings within your budget, so you won’t be tempted to go home and sell all of your belongings.
Find Her Ring Size
When you walk into the store, there are some basic things you need to keep in mind so you won’t end up turning around and walking out in two minutes flat. Before you walk in, know her ring size. This can be a tricky little detail to nail down if you don’t want to come right out and ask her about it.
Sneak into her jewelry box and grab a couple of rings that she won’t notice missing for the afternoon. The jeweler can measure the rings and you’ll have a pretty good idea of what size of engagement ring to buy. If you don’t have access to her jewelry box, ask her sisters or a girlfriend who can help keep it a secret.
There’s not much worse than getting proposed to and not being able to wear the ring because it doesn’t fit. The two weeks or so it takes to get it resized can be agonizing for a newly engaged woman. It’s not as much fun to brag about the romantic engagement if there’s not a ring to show off.
Remember the Four Cs
Unless you’ve overheard your girlfriend sit around the brunch table and gab with her friends about the perfect ring, you’ve probably never heard of the four Cs. That’s OK. It’s all right here in this guide.
These four magic words are cut, clarity, color and carat.
Cut determines the shape of the diamond, but also the quality at which it sparkles and shines. The variety of shapes include round, pear, radiant, heart, cushion, princess and many others.
Clarity refers to the diamond’s imperfections, or as jewelers call them, inclusions. You’ll find everything from F, for flawless, to I3, for the most inclusions. Don’t worry about this area too much, though, as most imperfections can’t be seen by the naked eye. So when she’s showing off that ring, no one will notice the tiny deposits hidden under that sparkle.
Color in a white – or what you’re commonly familiar with as a clear – diamond can range from colorless to a bit of yellow. Diamond scores of D, E and F will be the clearest, with the next level being G, H, I and J. The most amount of color is found in a Z grade diamond. Similar to clarity, the untrained, naked eye will not be able to pick up on many differences between the grades.
Carat is the weight of a diamond. Most engagement rings are a bit over one carat. Whatever size you choose, this part will have a lot to do with how much money you spend. Steer clear of anything near the size of the 530.2 carats Cullinan diamond, which will cost you about $400 million.
You might want to bookmark this page so you can refer to it once you’re standing at the jewelry counter and are suddenly overwhelmed by the diamond sparkling in the case. In that moment, it’s easy to forget the four Cs.
Find the Right Engagement Setting
Nope, we’re not talking about a setting for your wedding. That’s a little early in the game. Once you have the right diamond, you’ve got to pick the ring to put it on. You might be a little surprised to know you actually have to make a decision when it comes to the band. Don’t worry — it’s not that difficult.
There are some basics when it comes to the engagement setting, mostly when it comes to choosing the right metal. There are the traditional yellow and white gold, but there are also rose gold and platinum options. The benefits of each are a little different.
Platinum is durable and will hold up well over time. Platinum jewelry has a white shine that is tough to find in other white metals. It’s easiest to see the difference when platinum is next to the other options. It’s also a nice option because it’s hypoallergenic. Some people get rashes from wearing gold, nickel or silver, but don’t have any reaction to platinum.
If you’re thinking of getting a more traditional, gold setting, there are a variety of options. White gold gives off the lighter color and shine. White gold rings are plated with rhodium. This plating is hypoallergenic and helps protect the precious metal underneath. The rhodium plating will wear down over time, so a re-plating process will be required to restore the shine and luster.
Yellow gold and rose gold also are distinct options for a band. A mixture of gold, copper and silver creates the signature look found in these rings. The color and hardness of the band will vary on your carat choice.
While your girlfriend might not care too much about the type of metal, she’ll care about how it looks. The classic choice is typically gold, although the color varies on her personal taste.
Know What She Wants
If you have been planning to propose for any amount of time, you’ve probably perked up to any discussion of jewelry. When you’re ready to shop, you probably want to have a few basic ideas in mind, such as whether or not she likes yellow or white gold. Try to think of any particular cut of diamond she might prefer, or if she even wants a diamond at all. Some women prefer pearl engagement rings or even colored gems over the traditional diamond.
Sometimes the best people to get engagement ring buying tips from are her friends or female family members. Believe it or not, your girlfriend probably has talked to other people about this. She’s likely seen the rings of other engaged girlfriends and chimed in about how beautiful they looked. In most cases, she and her friends have spoken to some extent about what they want when it comes time for each of them to get married. Tap into this bank of knowledge. If you want to keep it a surprise from everyone, be prepared to do some snooping and listen closely for hints.
Being Creative Doesn’t Have to Be Expensive
Sometimes women like a ring that is all their own. It’s customized so that the ring they wear on their finger is one of a kind. While the whole idea of designing your own ring can start the ca-ching of a cash register, it doesn’t necessarily mean expensive. Maybe you’ve seen a band you really like, but the diamond is all wrong. Perhaps you want to add different stones around the solitaire. Whatever it is, don’t be afraid to ask.
If you’re using an old family ring but want to dress it up, there are many options out there for adding diamonds, replacing an engagement setting or doing a variety of touch-ups. Something old can be made into something new without breaking the bank.
Jewelers want to make you a happy shopper. From their perspective, an engagement ring is just the beginning. If they can create a one-of-a-kind engagement ring for you, you’ll likely be back for your wedding bands. So feel comfortable in telling them exactly what you want. They’ll be happy to help.
With wedding bands in mind, it’s a good idea to think ahead when buying an engagement ring. Does the engagement ring go well with a variety of wedding band options?
If your budget is limited now, but you hope to upgrade for a special anniversary, let your jeweler know that’s something you have in mind. He or she can then guide you to find something that would work well as an upgrade item later down the road.What she wears might also have a great deal to do with what you’ll wear, especially if you want to match. So, if you’re buying her a two-tone yellow and white gold ring, keep in mind you might be wearing something similar.
Show Interest When Shopping Together
If buying the engagement ring is less of a surprise and you and your girlfriend decide to shop together, show some interest. Just because she’s there, getting all googly-eyed as she looks into the jewelry case, doesn’t mean you can sit back and let her do her thing.
When shopping together, it’s good to choose a budget point together. You don’t want her to eye up the $10,000 rings when you’re learning more toward the $2,000 versions. Be honest with each other about what you both want and what you can afford.
This is just one of the many decisions you’ll have to make together as a couple. When it comes to choosing a mortgage or picking out baby names, you likely won’t be checking sports scores on your phone or scrolling through Twitter. Take engagement ring shopping just as seriously.
Get Some Insurance for Your Bling
You’re probably going to be carrying this thing around in your pocket or hiding it in your underwear drawer for the next few weeks until you’re ready to ask her to marry you. The worst possible thing would be to lose it or have it damaged, leaving you out of luck and money.
Check with your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance to see if you can add the value of the ring to your policy. Some of those policies only cover the ring if it’s lost or damaged in a fire or natural disaster. So if you lose the ring because it ran through the washing machine at the Laundromat, you won’t get very far.
You also can get actual-value insurance policies, but keep in mind that if the ring is lost or damaged 20 years from now, the policy will deduct wear-and-tear estimates. So, if you paid $3,000 for the ring, you might only get $1,500 for it.
Replacement insurance policies will honor the value of the jewelry, even accounting for market value of gold and the diamond. If it’s lost or damaged, you could potentially get more than you shelled out for it originally.
Whatever type of insurance you choose, ask your jeweler for advice on different insurance companies they’ve worked with in the past.
When in Doubt, Seek Advice
Buying an engagement ring is a big deal, so it’s OK if you feel a little intimidated going for it on your own. If you’re not sure you want to shop on your own, but you don’t want to let your girlfriend in on your plans, ask a buddy who has already gone through this process to tag along.
He’s probably already had all the same thoughts and nervous questions running through his brain – and yet he somehow pulled it off. You can, too. Engaged and married friends are good to keep around for times like this. In all likelihood, you’ll call on the same buddy to chime in on wedding-planning advice later down the road.
You’ve Got the Girl, Now Get the Ring
Once you’ve figured out your budget, checked off all the must-know details and created a vision for what the engagement ring will look like, you’re ready to shop, thanks to the help of this engagement ring shopping guide. Explore all the style options and be sure to contact a jeweler who will
help guide you through the process. Congratulations on finding the woman of your dreams – now go and find her the perfect ring.