How to Buy an Engagement Ring
How to buy the right ring for your girl. Read before entering a jewelry store
By Sharalyn Hartwell
After many dates, meeting her parents, and too many apple-picking festivals to count, you decide that you have found the right girl and you want to pop the question. The next step is finding the engagement ring.
And it has to be the right engagement ring, because everyone she knows is going to ogle it, comment on it, and secretly judge you as a man based on it.
But how do you get started? How do you buy an engagement ring? Getting engaged is the first formal step toward marriage — something you have been working toward since you met that special girl.
Your engagement, and the ring, symbolizes this, says second-generation goldsmith Brian Lewis. As you get ready to purchase an engagement ring, Lewis suggests looking at your budget, her preferences and quality.
Budget. An engagement ring is an investment. Do your due diligence.
In his 14 years in the jewelry industry, Lewis said he has often seen men struggle with how much to spend. He says a good rule of thumb is about two months of income. Their own income. Before taxes. Plan for that. Save for that.
Once you know your budget, go to several stores and price match, says Lewis. Explain your budget and what you’re looking for; then go back to the ring that stood out.
Eric, a recently engaged man in Colorado, said his biggest concern was how much it was going to cost. After establishing a budget, he was surprised at how many options he was able to find. In other words, pretend the ring is something you are buying for yourself (a motorcycle?) and shop appropriately.
Do not use Craigslist.
Her Preference. “Ultimately you have to figure it out on your own,” said Eric of his ring-shopping experience. “But you have to keep her in mind, and not yourself, when you’re looking for a ring.”
While you are making the tough budgetary decisions, the ring really is about her preferences. Eric took his fiancée with him when he first started shopping and let her choose her favorite ring. Then he went back and got it. While this dulled the surprise, it did prevent him from getting yelled at, which is the key to any good relationship, really.
“I didn’t want to get her a ring that she would be pretending she liked,” said Comstock. “I let her choose the ring because I wanted her to be happy with it. I want her to want to wear it.”
Lewis says that is a good strategy. However, if you want more of a surprise, he says the most important thing is to know whether she prefers white or yellow gold. “Design matters less than color,” Lewis said. “But, get an idea of what her jewelry looks like. Are they solid, simple pieces or very intricate and detailed? Her ring preferences will likely mirror her other jewelry tastes.”
Consider custom design if you’d like to incorporate two designs or if she has very specific likes, Lewis said.
Quality. When it comes to engagement rings, size is not all that matters. Most women are not going to complain if you want to slip a two-carat rock on her left hand, but the quality of the diamond is determined by its color, cut and clarity, not just carat.
Back in the 1940s the Gemological Institute of America, GIA, created the 4 Cs as a way to objectively compare and evaluate diamonds. Any decent jeweler will educate you about the 4 Cs. If they do not, you might want to reconsider your choice of jeweler. (Is her operating out of the back of a van? Yes? Definitely reconsider.) You must have a clear understanding of the 4 Cs to ensure you are getting the best quality diamond for your money.
Color. Diamonds come in a wide variety of colors, but the closer a diamond is to colorless, the more rare and desired it is. Diamonds will be rated on a color scale from D to Z. D, E and F ratings are considered colorless and G, H, I and J near colorless. The further down the scale, the more yellow the tint of the diamond. You want a diamond with a rating as close to D as you can without having to move into a refrigerator box to afford it.
Cut. The cut of a diamond is not, as some think, the common diamond terms “princess,” “round,” etc. Those are diamond shapes and have nothing to do with the diamond’s quality. The shape will be a matter of personal preference to your bride. According to BlueNile.com, a popular Web site for diamond jewelry, the cut is a diamond’s most important characteristic, affecting the sparkle. If the diamond is cut in the proper proportions, light will return out the top of the diamond, or sparkle. If the cut is too shallow, the light leaks out of the bottom. If the cut is too deep, the light goes out the side. Your goal is that she blind everyone in her path with her ring. This will disorient her enemies and keep male suitors from getting too near.
Clarity. No two diamonds are alike. Each diamond has its own individual flaws, either internal (called inclusions), or external (called blemishes). These impact its clarity, and thus, they’re rated by the GIA. The GIA clarity scale has 11 grades from flawless (FL) to diamonds with inclusions obvious to the naked eye (I3). According to the GIA, a flawless diamond is incredibly rare and most jewelers have never seen one. (The fact that they are perfectly clear might have something to do with that…) Most diamonds fall slightly above the middle — at VS (very slightly included) or SI (slightly included). The closer your diamond is to flawless, the higher the quality.
Carat. Everyone knows the size of a diamond is measured in carats. The carat is determined by the number of points on the diamond. The GIA says a carat is divided into 100 points, just like a dollar is divided into 100 pennies. A half-carat diamond has 50 points, a three-quarter carat has 75. Two diamonds of equal carat weight can have vastly different values, depending on the diamonds’ cut, clarity and color. And while women may not discuss it in polite conversation, this is a very important C.
After the Purchase. Once you’ve found the ring, Lewis suggests one more piece of business: insurance. Lewis recommends putting an expensive diamond on your home owner’s or renter’s insurance as a back-up to the jewelry store policy. “A jewelry store won’t jump all over to replace your diamond; your insurance will likely be easier to work with,” said Lewis. But once business is done, focus again on her and that moment when you propose with the quality ring you have purchased. “I always tell guys the best part of asking her to marry you is the moment you get on your knee … never take your eyes off her face,” said Lewis. “It is something you will always remember. Men come back to me and thank me for telling them that.”