Buy, Buy Love
How to choose engagement jewelry that’s right for you.
Not so long ago, choosing an engagement ring required just a few simple questions. These days, there’s a lot more to consider when figuring out how to buy an engagement ring. How can you make sure the ring you select will wow your significant other and be a quality piece for decades to come?
The commercials for jewelers are super cheesy, but they’re right: A diamond is forever. There is a wide range available in the quality of diamonds (and other jewels), and you want to make sure the jewels and precious metals you’re selecting are of the best quality for the budget you have available.
The truth is, your honey is going to be showing off this bling not just during your engagement, but (hopefully) for the rest of your lives. Family members, friends and co-workers will scrutinize every angle of that precious piece of bling for years to come. No pressure, right?
Many people don’t want to buy pre-made rings. After all, that’s someone else’s idea of the perfect design, right? And there are so many questions about the origins of the gemstones. Are they sourced ethically? What constitutes a nice one? How do you even begin to choose?
Plus, not everyone wants a diamond. When it comes time to commemorate an engagement with jewelry meant to last a lifetime, Pinterest and Instagram can fuel your imagination with a rainbow of custom-made fusions of stone and metal.
Since an engagement ring could be one of the largest purchases you’ve ever made, it’s important to do your research. Here are some tips on how to make sure the ring you purchase is a decision you both will be gleaming about “’til death do you part.”
Know the Four C’s
If you’ve done any ring research at all, you know that the four C’s are color, cut, clarity and carat weight. Created by the Gemology Institute of America, the four C’s are the global standard for determining the quality of diamonds.
Diamonds are rated on a scale from D-to-Z that determines how close to colorlessness they are. A D-rated diamond is the clearest; a Z-rated diamond is mostly yellow or brown.
The quality of a diamond’s cut determines how well it reflects light. In other words, the cut is what is going to cause girls to squeal after seeing your fiancée’s diamond.
Contrary to popular belief, cut does not refer to the style (princess, oval, etc.), but rather to the symmetry, proportioning and polish of a diamond. The cut of a diamond will affect a diamond’s brilliance because a well-cut diamond will be more luminous.
The age-old question for ring buyers: Does size really matter? Sure, having one big diamond makes a big impression. But the good news is, if you have multiple diamonds on the ring, they don’t all have to be huge. Also, keep in mind that ultimately, quality matters most, so be sure to also follow the other three C’s when considering the carat size.
Clarity is the measure of how many blemishes the diamond has. Obviously, you want to avoid any gems that have large cuts or inclusions. However, one way to save money is to find a diamond that meets the other C’s, has no blemishes that are obvious, but has a lower clarity grade.
Find the right style
Infusing her style into the design of the ring can be as easy as taking a look in her jewelry box or drawer. Think about her taste, lifestyle and job to determine what’s appropriate for her. Next time you pass a jewelry store, notice what ring styles catch her eye.
Pick a metal
Usually the diamond selection is so paramount that the band gets a little neglected. However, the band will affect the overall cost too. You want to make sure you choose a metal that will complement the diamond, and most importantly, you want to choose a metal that she prefers. Rose gold is currently trending, but white gold and platinum are also popular choices. Platinum is much harder than gold. Whereas gold will wear out faster and the claws holding the diamond need checking over the years to make sure they don’t loosen.
Work directly with a jeweler
You’ll want to find someone you can trust. It’s also wise to look for a jeweler who has earned a credential from an accredited school like the Gemology Institute of America. You can save a lot of money by not working with a chain jewelry store. You can get the best deals by working with an independent jeweler, an online diamond retailer or a diamond wholesaler.
Settings that make sense
Popular settings include the classic Tiffany (prongs), the contemporary bezel (the diamond entirely is surrounded by the ring’s metal), and the diamond-clustered Pave. If you’re working with a tighter budget and have to purchase a smaller stone, the setting can act as an optical illusion to offset its size. If you have a smaller stone set in a halo setting (set of smaller diamonds surrounding the center stone), the size and brilliance increase disproportionally to the dollars spent.
Get the size as close to right as possible
A ring should fit comfortably — not too tight, but not too loose either. The perfect ring fits loose enough to slide over your knuckle and tight enough so that it can’t fall off the finger. If you don’t have your significant others ring size and don’t want to ask, it’s OK. Just know there are some sneaky ways to go about figuring it out. Find a ring they already wear and have someone check the size. Or find out what size her sister or mother wears, because they might have the same finger size. If you have to guess, make sure the ring can be resized later.
Don’t go alone
The ring is a big investment, and it’s smart to get at least one other opinion on it. Maybe your significant other is the type who wants to be involved in the entire process. If not, consider bringing one of her closest friends or her sister to help you. This person may also be able to sneakily gather intel as far as her preferences go.
Ask for the lifetime guarantee
The warranty should cover the replacement of damaged or lost diamonds or other gemstones. However, be sure to read the guarantee, understand it and commit to abide by it. For example, some jewelers require that you uphold “your end” of the bargain in order to benefit from the warranty. You may need to have your diamonds inspected every six months or so, for example.
Read the small print
Always make sure you have understood your jeweler’s refund and exchange policy and any resizing terms. Most rings are exchangeable if they’re the wrong size or she does not like the style. But sometimes, custom-made or special-sized rings (meaning very small or very large finger measurements) can have exchange policy limitations. Don’t rush; read the terms carefully.
Ignore the three-month’s wages rule
According to financialsamurai.com, this is an old, outdated rule that needs to be replaced with something that works for each individual. Be realistic about what you can afford. Compromising on certain features can land you within your budget while leaving you a little room to upgrade in others. But you do need to buy the best ring you can afford because it will be exposed to a lot of wear and tear. It will get caught on clothes and doors, knocked against gym equipment, and come into contact with cleaning liquids and cosmetics.
Avoid getting ripped off
When seeking a reputable jeweler, there are only two C’s to consider: credentials and certifications. Talk with your friends about their experiences, read online reviews and check Better Business Bureau ratings. If a jeweler is not trustworthy, the market eventually figures it out. Insist that your jeweler provide you with the AGS (American Gemological Society) or GIA (Gemological Institute of America) certification with the diamond. You can negotiate with local jewelers, and you can also get good deals through online diamond stores like James Allen and Blue Nile.
Get it insured
Insurance is something that’s often overlooked, but it’s probably the most important thing you can possibly get when buying a ring. Sadly, mishaps happen more often than you think. You’ll be thankful to not have to shell out thousands of dollars all at once to replace something insurance could have covered for you. Most rings come with some sort of appraisal, and you can use that document to set up your insurance.
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