How to Buy an Engagement Ring
Buying an engagement ring marks the next phase in your life with your intended bride. It is also a major purchase and a treasured piece of jewelry she will wear daily. This guide explains how to buy an engagement ring.
Plan Your Purchase
Before shopping for diamond engagement rings, set some ground rules. Otherwise, you can waste time on unsuitable options and even end up with buyer's remorse.
Set Your Budget
Determine your budget in advance. Ignore the old guideline about spending two months' pay. The right price range is the one you can afford without robbing your future. After all, you and your intended bride will be funding a life together. You can find a beautiful, quality ring within your budget.
Resist the temptation to overspend on impressive bling. You can always start with a classic ring and embellish it later as your lifestyle evolves. Many couples choose stones together as a memorable anniversary gift.
The right setting can make the stones in diamond engagement rings look larger or brighter. You can also save money by purchasing a gem just under the next higher carat. The size difference will be barely noticeable.
Work with reputable jewelers who stand behind their products in writing. Keep your expression of love pristine by choosing ethically sourced diamonds and gemstones. We are committed to offering only conflict-free diamonds and can answer any questions you may have about the process.
- Buy a professionally certified diamond. Obtain a diamond grading report from a reputable source attesting to the stone's quality. The nonprofit Gemological Institute of America, or GIA, sets the industry standard and certifies diamonds. Insist on seeing the GIA certification for any stone in which you are interested.
- Shop around. Do not limit yourself to one retailer's inventory unless they have what you want. You did not settle for almost-The-One, so why go home with almost the right ring? You can find the one for her in your price range.
- Do not be upsold. A reputable jeweler should respect your budget and be honest about your options. You can also find quality diamond engagement rings on sale, so go ahead and comparison shop.
- Examine your choices in daylight. Examine the stone or ring in natural light. Each piece has its character, and you want to see it in everyday surroundings to know if it is the one to take home.
- Protect your investment. Life happens even to diamond engagement rings. Plan on insuring your ring, and research policies ahead of time. Jewelry can be covered under separate insurance or often through your home policy. The plan should cover significant causes of loss or damage, including theft and accidents.
Know Your Intended Bride
Diamond engagement rings are about more than bling. Assume she will wear her ring every day of your life together. It should match her taste and lifestyle.
- Her lifestyle. How physically active is she? Does she work with her hands or frequently wear gloves? If so, pass up a delicate or protruding setting in favor of one unlikely to snag, poke, or be damaged.
- Her jewelry style. Assess her style before you start shopping. Is her jewelry simple, chunky, or ornate? Does she favor unique or traditional pieces? Has she dropped clues? If she wears little jewelry, you are probably safe with a classic look. One option is to purchase an unset diamond and have her select the setting. However, you may prefer to propose with a ring you chose just for her.
- Wedding rings. Do you have wedding rings in mind? Diamond engagement rings should complement the wedding bands. Consider whether she will wear the rings stacked. One option is to purchase the rings as a set, which may save you money. A duo is one set for one person, and a trio contains two wedding bands and one engagement ring. Another option is to wait and choose the wedding rings together.
- Her ring size. Know or estimate her ring size. If you cannot ask her directly, try to measure or borrow a ring, she currently wears. The average American woman wears a size 6. Petite women may wear sizes 4½–5½ and larger-boned women, 6 ½–7½. If you must guess, go large rather than small as adjustments are more straightforward.
Consider Non-Diamond Engagement Rings
Diamonds are not always a girl's best friend. Non-diamond engagement rings have been historically popular and are setting trends today. They often feature gemstones either alone or accented with diamonds.
One advantage of non-diamond engagement rings is that couples can choose a unique piece that will not resemble all the diamond engagement rings out there. You might have a favorite color, birthstone, or gem that has sentimental value. Some women are just not fans of the icy diamond, and you should find out if your intended bride is one of them.
Note that some women have their hearts set on a diamond. She may be expecting the classic if she has been eying diamond engagement rings or admiring her friends' diamonds.
Other gemstones are often cheaper than diamonds while being equally dazzling. You also have more design options. If you are considering non-diamond engagement rings, keep in mind that other gemstones will not be as durable. Diamond is the hardest known substance and a 10 on the Mohs mineral hardness scale. Other stones are ranked 9 or lower. If she plans to wear her ring daily, consider the harder gems.
- Sapphire. This gemstone is known for its bright blue color, symbolizing fidelity. It complements diamonds and goes with everything. It also comes in pink, yellow, black, and white. Sapphire ranks 9 on the hardness scale and is an excellent choice for everyday wear.
- Ruby. If she loves red, consider the vibrant ruby. It shares the gem family corundum with sapphire and ranks 9 in hardness. This durability makes ruby a practical choice, albeit more expensive than sapphire.
- Morganite. Morganite is a form of the mineral beryl, which includes emerald and aquamarine. Morganite provides subtle warmth in pink to salmon shades that flatter most skin tones and ring settings. As its hardness is 7.5–8, it can be worn daily with care.
- Emerald. This green form of beryl symbolizes spring, nature, and renewal. Its hue ranges from blue-green to vibrant green and pairs elegantly with a platinum or white gold setting or vividly with yellow gold. Its Mohs hardness is 7.5–8.
- Amethyst. If she loves purple, quartz amethyst is stunning and affordable. Amethyst used to be an expensive rarity until the discovery of Brazilian deposits in the 19th century. Now it is within reach as your ring's centerpiece and is often accented with diamonds. Platinum, rose gold, or white gold setting will showcase this romantic and intense color. Its Mohs hardness is 7, so those with active lifestyles should wear it with care.
- Garnet. Garnet offers many vibrant colors from wine reds to oranges to greens. Reds are the most common. Well-cut, faceted garnets appear fiery due to excellent light dispersion. Garnet ranks 6.5–7.5 in hardness.
Know Your 4 Cs
GIA created the diamond quality standard known as the 4 Cs. GIA also provides a grading report for each diamond it evaluates.
- Color. Diamonds range from colorless to yellow or brown, and less color means a higher grade. Fancy color diamonds are rare and expensive exceptions. They include blue, yellow, and pink stones where color equals value.
- Clarity. A diamond is flawless if it has no blemishes at 10 times magnification. Lower-grade stones have flaws called inclusions, which are tiny particles or lines. There are 11 grades from flawless to I3, which has visible inclusions.
- Cut. Cut refers to how cut and polish affects the stone's brilliance. There are five grades from excellent to poor. Think of cut as the bling factor.
- Carat weight. One carat equals 200 mg, which is the typical size for diamond engagement rings.
Consider Your Diamond Color Options
Diamond engagement rings can feature either naturally colored or color-treated diamonds that will set your ring apart. Fancy color diamonds are natural, and the rarer colors such as blue are usually more expensive than colorless stones. The color drives fancy diamond value.
Blue diamond engagement rings are an elegant alternative to colorless diamonds. Most blue diamond engagement rings feature a color-enhanced stone, which is a natural diamond treated to achieve its striking hue. These diamonds are often an affordable alternative to colorless stones.
The second option for blue diamond engagement rings is to purchase a fancy color blue diamond. Naturally occurring blue diamonds are exceedingly rare and expensive. The mineral boron imparts the blue tone. Shades range from pale blue-gray to bright green-blue, and the vivid colors are among the earth's rarest. Due to their rarity, even blue stones under one carat are valuable.
Fancy yellow diamonds make exquisite yellow diamond engagement rings. The yellow color is due to nitrogen content. Natural yellow diamonds are more common than blue but still much rarer than colorless stones. They are lower priced and, during high demand, can cost less than colorless diamonds. Colors range from almost clear to golden, which is the priciest.
Pale yellow diamonds are a sophisticated and relatively affordable choice for yellow diamond engagement rings. Specific cuts and shapes will intensify the color. The modified cut combines brilliant and step cuts to enhance tone. Flattering shapes include radiant, cushion, and pear.
Choose Your Diamond Shape
The stone's shape gives diamond engagement rings much of their character. Consider your intended bride's lifestyle. Most women will wear diamond engagement rings with both casual and dressy attire. Keep these guidelines in mind:
- The most classic shapes are round and oval.
- Modern shapes include emerald, radiant, and princess cuts.
- Unique or vintage shapes include marquise, Asscher, and cushion.
- The popular emerald cut suits a diamond of high clarity.
- Round, oval, and marquise shapes work well with accent stones.
Here is a closer look at your options:
- Round. Round is the classic shape for diamond engagement rings and has timeless appeal. It refracts light better than other forms and shows off a gem's faceted brilliance. All other factors being equal, a round diamond is the most valuable. The similar oval shape is almost as brilliant and can make a stone of equivalent carat appear larger.
- Princess. The modern princess shape, created in the 1980s, is frequently used in diamond engagement rings. It makes the gem appear larger, hides inclusions well, and is affordable. It also enhances color, which you may or may not want. The diamond is square or rectangular from the top view. From the side, it looks like a beveled inverted pyramid.
- Emerald. Currently, emerald cut diamond engagement rings are enjoying popularity among celebrities. The beveled corners and long facets reveal a stone's clarity and depth. The cut makes the diamond appear more substantial because of the large top surface, or table. The gem's clarity rating is vital as this shape showcases clarity over brilliance. Sophisticated emerald cut diamond engagement rings go with every style.
- Asscher. This shape is the square version of the emerald cut and is equally dimensional. It gained popularity in the 1920s and graces many vintage pieces. Diamond clarity is critical as the Asscher has a flat table that makes any inclusions visible.
- Cushion. The cushion shape dates from the 1800s and features a softly rounded square cut. The woman who likes her classics with vintage flair may enjoy this choice.
- Marquise. This elongated shape with tapered ends is a retro style that flatters the hand and makes the stone look more substantial. Choose marquise diamonds carefully as their facets can create a dark center in a particular light. You can detect this visually.
- Pear. This teardrop shape is a delicate hybrid between marquise and round. The style elongates the finger and is especially flattering on a petite wearer. As with the marquise cut, make sure your choice does not have a dark center.
- Radiant. This modern shape, created in 1977, is a square or rectangular emerald cut with additional facets. Its brilliance approaches that of a round stone. The radiant shape is ideal for the woman who wants both fire and elegance. This cut enhances color, so choose a colorless diamond with a better color rating.
- Heart. This option is the classic symbol of love in diamond engagement rings and universally flattering. Half-carat or larger stones work best for viewing the heart shape. It can also have a dark center, so scrutinize your selection before purchasing.
Select Your Setting
The ring band and stone setting help personalize diamond engagement rings. They enhance the gem's beauty, uniqueness, and size. Once you have your gemstone in mind, decide which metal and setting will best show it off.
Pick a Metal
In diamond engagement rings, the right metal makes a stone shine more brightly. Metals differ not only in appearance but in durability, cost, and suitability for sensitive skin.
- Platinum. Platinum's silvery-white elegance is modern yet timeless. The metal is strong, durable, and hypoallergenic. Its light color does not compete with the stone and is a popular choice for diamond engagement rings. It is the most expensive option as it is 30 times rarer than gold.
- White gold. White gold looks like platinum but is considerably cheaper. This gold is usually mixed with nickel and coated with rhodium. The other metals make it more durable and suitable for everyday jewelry. Karat values range from 14 to 18 percent. White gold requires inexpensive maintenance every few years. It is not hypoallergenic, and some people are allergic to nickel. White gold is also less durable than platinum.
- Rose gold. This romantic choice mixes gold with copper to form a pinkish or reddish hue. A 14-karat gold band will have more copper and a redder cast while a higher karat ring will have a rose shade. A typical mix is 75 percent gold and 25 percent copper by mass. Rose gold needs regular cleaning but does not tarnish. It is more durable than white and yellow gold due to the copper content and usually more affordable. Rose gold flatters all skin tones and many gemstone colors. However, it is not hypoallergenic and may not be suitable for wearers with metal sensitivities.
- Yellow gold. Yellow gold contains metals such as zinc. Karat values range from 14 at 58.3 percent gold to 24 at 99.9 percent gold. Purer gold is softer and less durable. Yellow gold is the most hypoallergenic type. It needs regular cleaning and polishing, and it can be scratched. Its color can make lower grade diamonds look purer.
Choose a Setting Style
Let her style guide you in choosing a ring setting. Do her clothing and decor trend classic, casual, elegant, vintage, or eclectic? Does she wear silver or gold jewelry? Are her rings and earrings delicate or large?
- Solitaire. This prong setting is the most popular for diamond engagement rings and shows off the stone. Three to six claw prongs hold the stone. More prongs better secure the stone while fewer prongs reveal more of the gem. This setting may be cheaper than some and take the jeweler less time to create. The exposed diamond is also easy to clean. A prong-set stone protrudes from the finger and can catch on items. Consider this if she works with her hands or wears gloves frequently.
- Three-stone. This romantic style features three contiguous stones for the couple's past, present, and future. This style looks fabulous with a central colored gemstone flanked with diamonds.
- Antique. Antique rings feature designs inspired by past styles such as art deco and Victorian. They have a romantic uniqueness and charm.
- Single row. Both sides of the band have a single row of accent stones beginning at the center gemstone. It often uses a pavé setting in which small round diamonds coat the band in shimmer. The added brilliance makes the central gem look larger. Accent stones can also be inset more securely in a band channel for a more understated look.
- Multi-row. Like the single-row style, two or more rows of accent stones add brilliance and dimension. This style sports a variety of eye-catching band designs.
- Halo setting. Small accent stones form a halo around a more giant center gem. This style highlights the main stone but can overwhelm more delicate or unique ones.
- Bypass. The bypass is a distinctive setting created by bands that part at the diamond and can appear to frame it. The Victorians favored this style for diamond engagement rings as it symbolized two souls joining.
Knowing the basics about how to buy an engagement ring will hopefully make this significant purchase easier for you. You can focus on choosing the ideal gemstone and style for your intended bride. Jewelry at Work offers an engagement ring selection that demonstrates the many options available. Please contact us to learn more.