Engagement ring shopping is exciting! You’ve finally found the one, and now you’re on the hunt for the perfect ring to pop the question with. While engagement ring shopping is a lot of fun, it can also be a little confusing, mostly if you’ve never done it before.
Every great proposal has three essential elements: true love, the eternal question and a dazzling engagement ring. The first two are easy – once you’ve found the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, it’s a no-brainer, really – but the ring. Oh, the ring. How do you encapsulate your history and future, the depths of your devotion and your limitless love, all in a piece of jewellery?
It’s no small task, but it can be made much easier once you learn these simple rules to help you get educated before buying an engagement ring.
Before you begin perusing designs online or head to the jewellery store, you need to figure out how much you can afford to spend on a ring. Typing “How much should I spend on an engagement ring?” to your browser’s search bar will yield arbitrary rules such as spending the equivalent of one to three month’s salary—so don’t do that. In reality, the “right” amount to spend on a ring is whatever you feel comfortable with. While you may be tempted to go overboard, your betrothed-to-be surely wouldn’t want to begin your life together under a pile of credit card debt.
There’s No “Right” Amount to Spend
You may have heard that there’s a specific dollar amount you need to spend on your engagement ring. Commonly, people say that you should pay the equivalent of 3 months salary on an engagement ring. However, there’s no “right” amount you need to spend on an engagement ring. It would help if you only paid what you’re comfortable with. Your budget is a personal decision, so think about your unique financial circumstances instead of following old fashioned “rules.” Then, feel free to spend as little or as much as you want on your engagement ring.
Order in Advance
Unless you’re buying a preset engagement ring, your jeweller will need some time to place your desired diamond in your engagement ring’s setting. Additionally, some engagement rings are made only after your order, which can take a bit of time. So, to make sure you have your engagement ring by the date you want to propose, order your ring well in advance. A good rule of thumb is to collect six weeks in advance, which gives you plenty of breathing room, but consult with your jeweller on the exact time it may take for your ring to be completed.
YOUR PARTNER’S TASTE
Throughout this entire shopping process, keep one thing in mind: Your partner will most likely wear this ring forever. (No pressure.) Therefore, you need to make sure you keep your significant other’s taste in mind. You might prefer yellow gold or may have read that colourful diamonds are trendy, but neither of this matter if your love’s heart is set on a white gold vintage art deco ring. If you haven’t been blessed with a trail of ring breadcrumbs to follow, try asking one of your partner’s close friends—one you can trust not to spill the beans—for a second opinion.
WHETHER TO PASS DOWN AN HEIRLOOM
While some may want a gleaming new sparkler, others would appreciate the added sentimental value that comes with a family heirloom (and might already be dreaming of wearing their mother or grandmother’s ring). As a bonus, family pieces are an excellent option for ring shoppers on tight budgets.
If you like the thought of proposing with a piece of family history but don’t have any jewellery that fits the bill (see #2), consider reworking an item into a new custom piece—with the owner’s permission, of course. Gems can be placed into new settings, or metal can be melted down and recast in a new mould.
HOW INVOLVED YOUR PARTNER WANTS TO BE
You may be dead set on surprising your love with a ring you picked out all by yourself—but she or he may have other ideas. While ring shopping with your significant other before popping the question hardly seems romantic, it’s becoming increasingly common. (Because, again, your spouse-to-be will likely wear this piece of jewellery every single day.) To keep the element of surprise, consider proposing with a different part of jewellery—maybe one of the to-be-redesigned family rings—and then settling on the final design together after you’ve secured a “yes.”
YOUR SIGNIFICANT OTHER’S RING SIZE
Not every ring can be resized to fit the wearer. Since resizing a ring means cutting out a sliver and then adding more metal or closing the gap, many antique rings, rings with engraving or gems that wrap around the entire band, and rings with a tension setting cannot be easily resized. Because of this, it’s best to buy the right size from the get-go. To sneakily determine your partner’s ring size, swipe an often-worn ring from their jewellery box to bring to the jeweller. Or, if you’re afraid it’ll be missed, gently put one of your partner’s rings on your finger and trace around the band with a marker to note how far down it slid. The jeweller can then match this measurement with his sizing tool.
Don’t guess their ring size.
Picture this: you’re down on a bent knee. You ask the love of your life those four unique words, they graciously and joyfully accept. You slide the ring onto their finger, and a tear rolls down your cheek – as you realise it won’t go past the knuckle.
It’s a common mistake to make and, in truth, isn’t the end of the world. But if you’re the type to spend months planning the perfect proposal, it pays to get every last detail right. If you’re able to find a ring that already fits your beloved’s ring finger (hint: wait until they’re asleep and conduct a swift bit of jewellery-related espionage), check an online size guide or take it to a jewellery specialist, who’ll be able to identify precisely which size you need.
THE FOUR Cs
When evaluating diamond quality, consider the four Cs: cut, colour, clarity, and carat. While people may like to boast about a diamond’s carat weight, the amount is the most important of these four qualities: It determines how much the gem will sparkle. Colour refers to the diamond’s clearness, with D being entirely colourless (which is good) and Z being noticeably yellow. Only diamond experts can tell the difference in anything graded higher than G, however, so get the most bang for your buck by opting for a G or H colour grade. Lastly, clarity is how many imperfections the stone has. While a higher clarity rating will increase the stone’s value, your betrothed likely won’t notice a difference without a magnifying glass, so go for an SI1 or SI2.
Know the 4Cs
If like most people, you’re looking for a diamond engagement ring, you’ll want to understand the 4Cs before you buy your diamond. The 4Cs are quality gradings given to a diamond. Here’s a brief overview of the 4Cs:
- Cut: A grading of how well a diamond is cut, which affects how it captures light.
- Colour: A measurement of how colourless a white diamond is.
- Clarity: A grading of how flawless a diamond is, both internally and externally.
- Carat: A weight measurement that can give you an idea of how large a diamond is.
But don’t be tied down by them.
Of course, the four Cs aren’t hard and fast rules. Sometimes differences in colour or clarity are invisible to the naked eye and are only worth more to an appraiser. It’s also worth remembering that some prefer a smaller, more modest stone, while others find coloured diamonds or other gemstones make for a more modern ring. Other factors, including setting and bandwidth, can transform a ring’s look as much as the carat or cut.
Unless you are a jewellery expert, it’s unlikely that you’ll know which of these qualities are most important, and crucially, how they work together.
YOUR METAL OPTIONS
All that glitters is not yellow gold: When choosing the metal for your beloved’s band, you have a bevy of options. Yellow gold may be the most traditional, but many consider white gold to be more versatile; since white gold is mixed with an alloy such as nickel to give it its signature colour, white gold is also more substantial than yellow gold, which makes it more durable and less prone to scratching. More potent than both, however, is rose gold. The trendier rose gold, which gets its pinkish hue from copper mixed with the gold, maybe the right choice if your love is fashion-forward. If you have room in your budget—and if your partner prefers a silvery-white colour—then you may want to consider a platinum band. Platinum is more challenging still and hypoallergenic, although it needs frequent polishing to maintain its sheen.
Know Your Precious Metals
Engagement ring settings come in many different precious metals. And, often, the same setting style can be made in other precious metals. The most popular precious metals for engagement rings are platinum, white gold, yellow gold, and rose gold. Your choice of precious metal will affect your ring’s style and how much upkeep it may need.
DIAMONDS AREN’T ALWAYS A GIRL’S BEST FRIEND
Diamonds have become synonymous with engagement rings, but they aren’t the only option. Other precious stones—like emeralds, rubies, or sapphires—can be a budget-saving alternative if you’re strapped for cash, and some people prefer a more colourful gem even if money is no object.
THE RIGHT SETTING CAN MAKE ALL THE DIFFERENCE
A ring’s setting is how the stone is connected to the band, and the list of different types goes on and on. But here’s a pro tip: Knowing the names of these settings (prong, bezel, tension, channel, pavé, etc.) isn’t as important as knowing the look and design style you and your fiancé-to-be are after. Do you want one large stone to be the focal point, or do you prefer a cluster or row of smaller stones? The right setting can make the diamond or diamonds appear larger, sparklier, or more striking, so think about the ring as a whole—rather than just the diamond’s value—when making a decision.
Settings and Diamonds are Often Sold Separately
Let’s start with something many people don’t know: settings and centre stones are often sold separately. So when you shop for an engagement ring, you’re often shopping for two things, your centre stone (usually a white diamond) and your setting (the metal framework that holds your centre stone).
Some rings do come pre-set with a centre stone. Many antique engagement rings will come fully complete, and many modern jewellers make preset rings. However, it’s more common today for jewellers to separately sell settings and centre stones, so be aware of this when you’re shopping.
Shape and Settings Set Style
The two things that have an enormous impact on your engagement ring style are your centre stone’s shape and setting style. Condition refers to your diamond centre stone shape (like round, oval, princess, emerald, etc.), and each body has a different kind. Your engagement ring’s setting will also impact its style. Scenes can be classic, vintage-inspired, modern, unique, and so much more.
SALES TAX CAN AFFECT THE PRICE
Unless you’re shopping in Alaska, Delaware, Montana, New Hampshire, or Oregon, you’re going to be charged sales tax—and on a big-ticket item like an engagement ring, it won’t be a small amount (you’re looking at hundreds or thousands of dollars). To avoid sales tax, you could consider purchasing online: Internet retailers that don’t have a brick and mortar location in your state do not need to charge sales tax. However, you may be charged a similar use tax by your state, so this loophole isn’t guaranteed.
HOW TO ENSURE THE RING
So you’ve decided on the perfect engagement ring—now get that baby insured! To say it would be a bummer to have the ring lost or stolen would be a gross understatement, so make sure you’re covered. The easiest way to do this is to call your insurance agent about adding the ring to your homeowners or renters insurance as a floater. This will likely increase the cost of your plan a smidge, but the peace of mind will be more than worth it. (And if you don’t have homeowners or renters insurance, get on that pronto!) If you and your betrothed don’t live together, make sure you add the ring to the ring-wearer’s policy.
Warranties are Not the Same Thing as Jewelry Insurance
People commonly mistake warranties for jewellery insurance when these things are quite different. Generally, warranties like our Peace of Mind extended maintenance plan protects you from manufacturing defects and everyday wear and tear on your ring to make sure your jewellery always looks showcase new. In contrast, jewellery insurance can protect you from things like accidental theft or loss.
Think of buying an engagement ring as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, a thing to savour and obsess over for as long as is necessary. Think you’ve found the one on your first visit to the shops? Cool. Make a note, take some pictures, ask if it’s likely to sell out, and continue. Look online, search the high street, make sure you’ve explored every possible avenue before parting with any money. If you’ve set yourself a deadline, forget about it until you’re as sure of the ring as you are of your partner.
REMEMBER WHY YOU’RE DOING IT
For all the worry and confusion it can bring, shopping for an engagement ring is a unique opportunity to show your fiancé(e) just how much you’re devoted to them. Remember why you’re doing it – or rather who you’re doing it for – and it’ll all come naturally.