If you’re reading this, chances are you’re either waiting for an engagement ring, or you’re starting to shop with your soon to be fiancé. Either way, congratulations are in order! Choosing to get engaged is a huge step in your relationship, and I am internally screaming for you! You are about to embark on the most amazing journey together of planning your wedding and starting your marriage. Make sure you use these tips to help you get the most bang for your buck and give you the confidence you need to say “yes” to your favorite person with your dream engagement ring.
When starting the hunt for that perfect diamond ring (as with anything), you first need to establish your budget. Most jewelers offer payment plan options or you can finance the cost of the ring, but be careful with this since you don’t want to purchase more than you can actually afford. Tradition says that an engagement ring should equal three months of the purchaser’s salary, but I say to throw out that mentality. Simply put, get the best ring you can in the budget that you have. Here are a couple money saving tips that will help you save 20% or more on the overall cost:
1. Go for a larger “table area.” This refers to the actual surface area of the diamond. A larger table will make the diamond look larger since the top (the part that you see) is wider, and the height is shorter. Think about it this way, if you have a shape, and you squish it, it looks like a larger shape from the top. This can result in less sparkle since the diamond won’t have the dimension within the stone to bounce off of, but it will still look a lot larger.
2. If you don’t want to sacrifice the sparkle, buy shy of the carat that your girl is wanting. For example, if she wants a 2 carat stone, look at diamonds that are 1.8 or 1.9 for some tremendous savings! I promise, she will never be able to tell and neither will anyone else unless they take a microscope to it!
After deciding on your overall budget, have a discussion with your future fiancé about what she is looking for in her engagement ring! This day and age, it is totally normal for couples to go ring shopping together, and you can make a fun date out of it! If you want to be more traditional and want to surprise her, consider asking her best friends or siblings for help (and swear them to secrecy, of course!). If you don’t want to tell anyone, then pay attention to the jewelry she already wears. Is it mostly yellow gold? White gold? Platinum and silver? Does she gravitate towards more vintage and eclectic jewels, or is she more classic and traditional? Take inventory of her jewelry box and pay attention to which pieces she wears the most to get an idea of her signature style.
When you’re finally ready to go to the jewelry store, do your research first! Head into the store knowing exactly what you want, how much it usually costs and make sure the store you are shopping from is affiliated with an industry organization. Stores accredited by the Jewelers of America or members of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) are good starting places. Also, large, renowned chains are usually reliable and offer sales through the year (especially during the holidays!). Some stores will likely tell you that they have a warranty if you come to the store once every 6 months for inspection, but I want you to think about your fiancé and if she will really stick to that 5, 10 or even 20 years from now. I recommend shopping somewhere that doesn’t make you come to the store to keep the warranty on the ring since you never know if you will move or what life will bring in the future. As a final note, be sure to find out what the return policy is just in case she changes her mind or doesn’t like the ring you chose for her!
So, you have a budget and a store picked out, and you kind of know what she is looking for. Now what?! Well, here’s how you choose the perfect ring:
1. Shape comes first. Even before the 4 C’s (I’ll explain what these are in a bit), you need to determine the shape she is looking for first. Shapes range from round, to princess, to emerald, or even oval. The shape of the stone refers to the actual geometry of the stone, whereas the cut refers to the facets within the shape.
2. The second thing you need to consider is the setting. The setting of the stone refers to the actual prongs that hold the center diamond in place. If you’re going for a traditional look, a simple 4-prong setting might be best. If your girl loves sparkle to the max, a halo setting might be more her style. Finding the perfect combo of shape and setting will determine how the ring actually looks.
3. After you’ve solidified both of those, choose your metal next. There are several options for metals, but I think Platinum is the most popular. It is solid and sturdy for daily wear and has great hypoallergenic properties that will never ever turn your finger green if you have sensitive skin. Next on the popularity list is gold. Gold no longer just means traditional yellow gold fellas! These days there is white gold, rose gold and even green gold in addition to the old faithful! There are other options for metals as well, but these are the most common and therefore the most budget friendly.
4. Now on to the 4 C’s. If you’ve been shopping for an engagement ring for any amount of time, I’m sure you’ve heard of the 4 C’s – cut, clarity, color and carat. Deciphering what each of these mean can be extremely difficult for first time diamond purchasers, so here’s what they mean in layman’s terms:
Cut is arguably the most important C because it has the biggest affect on the sparkle of the diamond. A diamond’s cut refers to how proportional the dimensions of the diamond are, and how the surfaces bounce off of each other to create sparkle and brilliance. In other words, is the diamond too shallow such that light goes straight through it, or too deep that the light bounces off to the side, or is it ideal in which the light bounces back towards the light source creating the most sparkle. Cut is ranked by poor, fair, good, very good and ideal. Easy enough to understand right?
The second most important C is color. Color refers to exactly what you think it does, the color of the diamond. Did you know that diamonds are found naturally in all colors including black, grey, green and even pink? Diamonds that are “near colorless” are considered to be the most valuable because they are extremely rare. Color is ranked using the alphabet starting with the letter D for “near colorless” and going all the way to Z which is colored. If you are wondering what is a good value, the average person can’t see any color in the diamond from D through J unless it’s under a microscope. If you go beyond J, the color will start to show faintly and increasingly as you go further down the alphabet.
Clarity is probably the least important C there is because it simply refers to the number of imperfections in the diamond which are also called inclusions or blemishes. Think of inclusions as tiny scratches inside the diamond that can affect the sparkle of the diamond, and blemishes as surface scratches on the diamonds surface. In most cases, these don’t affect the diamond’s beauty since they can’t be seen with the naked eye. One tip here is that as long as the inclusions or blemishes are not on the top of the diamond, they can usually be hidden by the stone setting with prongs, bezels or halos. This ranking system is the hardest to understand (which is fine because it matters the least) using letters and numbers. Here’s the best way to remember it: I = included the most, SI = slightly included, VSI = very slightly included, VVSI = very, very slightly included, IF = internally flawless and F = flawless. Then within these categories are rankings from 1 to 3. As long as when you look at the diamond you can’t see anything, don’t worry about its ranking here.
The term carat is often misunderstood. Carat refers to a diamond’s weight, not its size; however, a heavier diamond is usually larger. Carat has no impact on sparkle, only cut can do that. In fact, a high carat weight diamond with a poor cut may look smaller than a diamond with a smaller carat weight and a very good cut. This is why a good cut is more important than the carat weight. Carat is categorized by number increasing from fractions like 1/8 of a carat to as large as you are willing to pay for. One thing to consider here is the difference between “cw” and “tcw” on the ring information slip. “cw” refers to the carat weight of the individual diamond it is referring to. For the center diamond, the “cw” might be 1.2 carats. Then, if the ring has diamonds on the band (called pave), the “tcw” or “total carat weight” might be something like 1.9 carats. Total carat weight refers to all the diamonds on the ring added together.
Once you’ve chosen your ring, be sure to get everything in writing and make sure that you get a diamond-grading report issued by an independent gemological association such as the GIA or the American Gem Society. This will be necessary for you to insure the ring which should be done before the ring leaves the store. You might also get a “fingerprint” of your ring on the bill of sale, which would include the stone’s 4 Cs, shape, dimensions and any cosmetic enhancements. Also, anything that affects its value—if it was made by a famous designer, is an antique or period piece, or is handmade or custom-designed—should also be noted. Then, after you have purchased the ring, give yourself about six weeks to plan the perfect proposal. This can be even longer if you are planning on engraving the inside of the ring (which is super sweet by the way!). Be sure to plan ahead and know exactly when the ring is supposed to be at the store, so you can go pick it up and get yourself a fiancé!
I am so excited for you to pop the question! I hope this post has been helpful for answering all your questions about engagement rings. It’s a big world out there with lots of rings to choose from, so take your time and make sure you get it right. She will appreciate it I know! If you have any additional questions that I didn’t answer then feel free to send me an email HERE, and I would LOVE to help you! Also if you are stumped on what the perfect proposal would be, I have seen my fair share of them and can tell you what works, what doesn’t and help you create the perfect proposal for your perfect person. Last but not least, let me be the first to congratulate you on taking this next step in your relationship, and I hope you’ll reach out to me for help planning your wedding in the near future!
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