Don’t Buy An Engagement Ring Without Reading This First
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Buying an engagement ring isn’t just one of the most expensive purchases you’ll probably make in your life — it’s also one of the most exciting. But along with that excitement comes some confusion, a bit of panic, and a whole lot of little questions before you ask the biggest one of all: “Will you marry me?”
You’ve probably seen movies or TV shows where the guy goes into a jewelry store and leaves with a big rock ten minutes later, but that’s not the case in real life. (Thanks, Hollywood!) Instead, stepping into those doors and standing in front of cases upon cases of blindingly sparkly diamonds can be incredibly intimidating. With all the factors — from how much you should spend to what style of diamond you should get — you might go from feeling pretty confident to wanting to run out of those doors as fast as you came in. But it’s much too early for cold feet: You just need a little guidance.
Shopping for an engagement ring is actually a lot like shopping for a house or car, except the finished product is much smaller and much shinier. You can’t really just look at one and say, “Ok, I’ll take it!” You want to know what materials it’s made of, any imperfections it has, if it’s within your budget — the list goes on. You also don’t just want to say yes to something without being sure your significant other is going to love it, too. It’s a big deal and an equally big investment, so there’s nothing wrong with taking your time to find something that will check off all the qualities on your list.
You might not know the difference between yellow gold and rose gold, what the 4Cs are, or the difference between a princess and cushion cut right now, but you will soon: Before you know it, you’ll be such an engagement ring pro that all your friends will be coming to you for answers when it’s their turn to get hitched. Here’s everything — and we mean everything! — you need to know about how to buy a ring.
How Do You Know What She Wants?
Listen up, guys, because this is a crucial step in buying an engagement ring: You have to figure out what your significant other wants, because she’s going to be wearing that ring for the rest of her life (so she better like it). Luckily, there are many ways to go about finding “the one.”
Since it’s 2017, technology will be your best friend in figuring out the perfect engagement ring. If you want some hints from the recipient herself, she might just send you a link to her private Pinterest board full of ideas she’s been collecting over the years, screenshots of rings she liked on Instagram, or some inspiration from her favorite celebrities. But if you’d rather decide for yourself without her knowing, talk to her friends and family because there’s a good chance she’s let them in on some of her favorite looks over the years.
When you’re looking at pictures of rings or getting tips on what she likes from those close to her, there are a few things to keep in mind: the different settings, bands, and specific styles.
The Most Popular Settings:
All the different types of engagement ring settings might be making your head spin, but these are the ones you’ll see the most:
Solitaire: A solitaire ring is exactly what it sounds like: a single stone. With that stone, you can choose how many prongs — aka the claws that hold the diamond in place on the band — you want, which is typically 4 or 6.
Vintage: Vintage rings come in many different styles from certain eras — such as Victorian and Art Deco — and they each have a very distinct look.
Gemstone: Instead of a diamond, it’s common to pick a gemstone as the center stone, like sapphire or aquamarine.
Sidestone: Perfect for someone who wants a little extra bling without being too in-your-face, sidestone engagement rings have a line of pavé or a halo that makes the center stone stand out more.
Halo: Instead of having just a solitaire diamond, it’s common to choose to put a halo of smaller diamonds around the main stone.
Three-Stone: Instead of having a solitaire stone, some couples go for three-stone engagement rings for what they represent: the past, present, and future.
The band of the engagement ring might not seem like a huge deal compared to the stone, but it makes all the difference in how the ring looks and feels. The first thing that plays a big role is whether the band is thick or thin. How wide the band is can totally transform the look of a ring, and it’s really a preference thing. While thicker bands used to be more common, thin and delicate bands are now becoming increasingly popular.
Next comes the material. There are many different directions you can go in, but these are the most common choices:
Platinum: a silvery hue
White Gold: looks similar to platinum, but is made of a mixture of gold and white metals
Yellow Gold: pure gold mixed with other metals for a yellow hue
Rose Gold: gold mixed with copper for a pinkish hue
While platinum stands alone, white, yellow, and rose gold all look slightly different depending on which karat you choose: the higher the karat, the purer the metal is. These are the most common choices you’ll see:
14k white gold
14k yellow gold
14k rose gold
18k white gold
18k yellow gold
18k rose gold
The styles of engagement rings are seemingly endless, but there’s something to match everyone’s personality. While some women prefer a simpler look, others love vintage rings that take inspiration from different eras with intricate details.
You might instantly think a diamond is the way to go, but don’t forget about gemstones: Kate Middleton is rocking a blue sapphire ring, after all. There are many different gemstones to look at, but the most popular options are the following:
Sapphire: deep blue
Moissanite: looks very similar to a diamond
Aquamarine: light blue
It’s also possible to get diamonds in different colors, from the timeless yellow canary diamond to incredibly rare red and blue diamonds. The only problem? They can be even more expensive than colorless diamonds depending on the size, how vibrantly colored the diamond is, and other factors. One exception, though, is the black diamond, which is becoming more and more popular but remains much cheaper than other colored diamonds.
If you’re still feeling a little unsure of what to get your significant other, you’ll be happy to know the decision doesn’t have to be 100% yours. In the past, it was common for a guy to go to the jewelry store and choose what he thought his bride-to-be would want, but now it’s more common to set up an appointment to go look at rings together.
“You don’t want to be in a situation where you pick out something that she doesn’t like at all,” says Sarah Behar, diamond and social media advisor at Lauren B Jewelry in New York City. “It used to be where the significant other had no idea what to expect, but now we usually see couples coming in together. That way everything will be done to their liking and there’s no room for error.”
How to Find Her Ring Size
If you don’t have your significant other’s ring size and don’t want to ask her, there are some sneaky ways to go about figuring out what it is without her suspecting anything at all.
Option One: Find a ring she already wears all the time and have someone check the size based on that.
Option Two: Ask one of her friends or family members if they know her size. If they don’t, find out what sizes her sister and mom wear; they might have the same finger size.
Option Three: If you’re really desperate and have ran out of all other options, you can always pull the string trick. If your significant other is a heavy sleeper, try to tie a string around her finger while she’s catching some zzzs, then take it with you when you go to the jewelry store, says Behar.
The great thing about engagement rings is that there’s something for every budget, no matter how small or how big it is. You’ve probably heard the old theory on having to spend one months’ salary on a ring, but that’s not necessarily the case these days. Instead, most people are simply making a conscious decision about what they feel the most comfortable spending.
According to Behar, the average amount spent in the U.S. on an engagement ring is a little over $6,000. But in bigger cities like New York, she finds people are spending closer to $10,000. “People aren’t specifically going by the ‘one month’s salary’ rule anymore, but it can sometimes happen coincidentally that that’s what they end up spending,” she says. “Most people are sitting down and saying ‘What can I feasibly spend?” or “What do I personally feel is the appropriate amount to spend on something like this?”
Really, there’s no right answer or rule: You can get a beautiful $500 engagement ring, or a beautiful $50,000 engagement ring. But when you’re deciding how much money to fork out, pay close attention to the 4Cs, which can make a huge difference in how much bang you get for your buck.
So you’re probably wondering what the 4Cs everyone keeps talking about are. To put it simply, they’re the four very important aspects of how the diamond looks and just how big and shiny it is: carat, color, clarity, and cut.
The carat refers to the diamond’s weight — not the size, like most people assume. The range differs depending on where you buy your ring, but you can typically find something as small as .25 carats to something as large as 5 carats and up. It all depends on preference (and your budget): some women prefer something dainty, while others want something that really stands out.
Obviously the bigger the ring, the more expensive it gets. Luckily there’s an easy way to make a diamond look bigger without increasing the carat size. “The most common size is going to be a little larger than a carat, and the best way to make it look bigger is by adding a halo around the surface,” Behar says. “You’re taking a diamond that’s one carat in the middle, but you’re giving it the surface area of a two carat diamond simply by adding that extra perimeter around it. When the halo is done seamlessly, you really can’t tell where the diamond in the center starts and ends.”
When you think of a diamond, you probably think of something really clear. The color of a diamond is graded on the absence of color, with a scale that ranges from D, E, and F as the most colorless to Z, Y, and Z, which have a visibly yellow tint. The most popular types are colorless and near colorless, and those also cost the most.
Clarity refers to the number, size, and position of the diamond’s imperfections. The GIA Clarity Scale ranges from Flawless (FL) where no imperfections are visible to a skilled grader using 10x magnification to I1, I2, and I3 (Included) where imperfections are easy to spot under 10x magnification. “The imperfections could be everything from a black dot or grey line to a cloud within the diamond,” Behar says. “No diamond is really perfectly pure, but the closer and higher up it is on the scale, the more flawless it is. The goal is not being able to see any of those imperfections with the naked eye; that will take away from the sparkle of the diamond.”
The cut of the diamond doesn’t refer to the shape of the diamond. It’s actually talking about the diamond’s proportions, symmetry, and polish — aka what makes it sparkle. Cut can be a little tricky, though, because GIA only assigns cut grades to round diamonds, which range from poor to excellent.
“When it comes to a shape — like cushion cut or oval, for example — it’s something where you’ll have to sit down and look at the diamond’s proportions and evaluate for yourself,” Behar says.
Aside from the standard round diamonds, there are plenty of other cuts that make for a beautiful engagement ring that are equally dazzling:
Round: a standard circle shape
Princess: a square or rectangular outline
Emerald: a rectangular outline that has a step cut with rows of pavilion
Asscher: a square cut Emerald with a deeper pavilion
Cushion: a square with rounded corners
Marquise: a long and narrow football-shape
Radiant: a square shape with cut corners
Oval: a standard oval shape
Heart: a standard heart shape
Pear: a standard pear shape
How to Avoid Dodgy Diamonds
When you’re looking for the perfect diamond ring, make sure you’re buying from a trustworthy retailer and your diamond is certified by a reputable source, like GIA or EGL. If you get a certificate from another source, the quality of the diamond might not be as good. “If you’re getting a certificate from a certifier that’s not well-known, they may be more lenient. The diamond could be certified, but it could be 2 or 3 grades lower than what a stricter certifier would go by,” Behar says.
Besides making sure your diamond has a reputable certificate, there are also things to look out for that your certificate won’t tell you. “The certificate isn’t going to tell you if the imperfection in the diamond is visible to the naked eye. It shows you it’s there, but it doesn’t tell you if it takes away from the sparkle of the diamond,” she continues. “It’s definitely important to not just go off the certificate alone. Make sure you see the diamond in person if you can.”
If seeing the diamond up close isn’t an option, there are many companies that have high-quality videos of the diamond you can look at online, as well as magnified and zoomed-in shots.
How to Save on Your Ring
There are many different factors that go into picking the perfect engagement ring, but one thing to keep in mind is it doesn’t have to be perfect and there are lots of ways you can save money and still have a diamond that will sparkle and shine for years to come.
In place of diamonds, moissanite — a gemstone that looks incredibly similar to diamonds — is becoming more and more popular. The sparkle might not be quite the same as a diamond, but it’s still beautiful and can allow you to get a bigger gemstone for a lower cost. You could also look into morganite, a pinkish gemstone that looks especially stunning with a rose gold band. It also costs much lower than a standard diamond.
Aside from using a different gemstone, you can also knock off some of the cost by cutting back on one of the 4Cs.
“If someone is trying to save a little bit and work their budget tighter, clarity is important but it’s also the first place you can give up a little bit. I find that it’s the least obvious to the eye,” Behar says. “If you get a slightly larger diamond, don’t spend the extra money on clarity; the larger diamond will show up more prominently. The same thing goes for color. If you give up a little on clarity, you can get a diamond that looks visibly whiter. When you’re looking straight at the ring, you might see that the diamond has a tint of yellow to it quicker than you’d see if the diamond has a tiny imperfection somewhere.”
Some other ways you can save money on an engagement ring are by going with a non-traditional design that doesn’t include a center stone, looking into lab-grown diamonds from retailers like Brilliant Earth, or finding a unique vintage ring that suits your significant other’s personality. You can also opt for inexpensive settings that look great, like a solitaire diamond with a platinum band. It’s simple, romantic, and inexpensive depending on the size of the diamond.
Where to Shop
Ready for the fun part? When you’re ready to start shopping for the perfect engagement ring, there are plenty of places you can go, both online and in-store. Trustworthy online retailers like Blue Nile, Brilliant Earth, and James Allen make it incredibly easy to choose the perfect ring from miles away. And retailers like Zales, Kay Jewelers, Jared, and Tiffany & Co. have specialists that can show you the styles in person, helping you figure out the best options within your budget.
When it comes to brands of engagement rings, some people are dead-set on a certain one, and others could care less. Some of the most popular ones to keep an eye out for are Neil Lane, Tiffany & Co., David Yurman, Tacori, and Harry Winston. Because the ring has a designer behind it, it’s probably going to be more expensive. (But it will definitely be stunning.)
If you’d rather be your own designer, that’s possible, too: Many places let you create your own ring, from the band to the type of diamond. If you’re shopping online and have a certain setting in mind that you don’t see available to purchase, it’s a great way to create your significant other’s dream ring without paying someone big bucks to put it together for you. Many online retailers also offer free shipping and returns, making it easy to get your money back if you’re not happy with the finished product.
Insurance is something that’s often overlooked, but it’s probably the most important thing you can possibly get when buying an engagement ring. Sadly, mishaps happen more often than you think.
“You don’t know what could happen, whether it’s an accident, or your ring gets lost or stolen. You’ll be thankful to not have to shell out thousands of dollars all at once to replace something your insurance could have covered for you,” Behar says.
Any ring you get comes with some sort of appraisal, and you can use that document to set up your insurance. It only takes a few minutes for you to get covered, and it doesn’t cost much each year to keep the ring insured. The exact yearly cost depends on how much the engagement ring is worth, but it’s usually between $50-$300/year.
Our Top Picks
What are the most popular designs and styles this year? It really depends on the look you’re going for. Just because something is trending for 2017 doesn’t mean it has to be the option you opt for. In fact, we suggest choosing something timeless. This piece of jewelry is going to be with her for, ideally, the rest of her life. The last thing you want to do is choose a cut that will look dated once the trend passes.
Here, we’ve laid out a few rings to base your decision on. Simply put: keep timeless, classic looks at the forefront. That said, if your leading lady would appreciate something with a little edge, consider organic shapes such as a round cut with a swirled band or a simple stone on a multi-band ring.
The solitaire engagement ring style is timeless. It features a beautiful 1/2 ct. Diamond and is set in a 14k white gold band. It is perfect for the woman who appreciates simplicity and elegance and doesn’t want to compromise on sparkle.
$1,499.99 at Zales.com