Buying an engagement ring is very exciting, but with so many decisions to make and so many options to choose from, it can be overwhelming to keep the perfect ring in mind. A reputable jeweler can walk you through your decision-making to ease the burden of information overload, while still helping you understand your options and the pros and cons of various choices. If you feel like you’re in over your head, follow this beginner’s guide for engagement ring shopping and take it one step at a time. Before you know it, you’ll be proposing with the perfect engagement ring that you and your bride-to-be will love and cherish.
Step 1: Start with the Budget
Despite what you may have heard, there is no set rule about the “proper” amount to spend on an engagement ring. Spending a specific dollar amount is not nearly as important as being comfortable with how much you spend and simultaneously giving her a ring that she adores. Setting a budget before you start looking at rings can help you understand what features you want to prioritize, and sticking to that budget will allow for a strong foundation as you plan your wedding (and life) together. Trusted and reputable jewelers will know how to help you balance quality pieces and perfectly-sized diamonds with the budgetary goals you have, leaving both you and yours satisfied and stress-free upon purchase and receipt of the ring.
Step 2: Think About Her Style
Her style may be tricky to nail down, but it’s important to consider this in selecting a ring style. Consider her lifestyle, clothing style, and what her other jewelry looks like. If she tends to dress a little more vintage, chances are that she would prefer a more vintage-style ring. If her clothing is sleek, clean-cut, and modern, she probably wants a ring that lines up with that style.
If you’re still struggling to nail down her style, consider asking her family or close friends if they have any insight. Many women will share their engagement ring style preferences with girlfriends or even save styles they like on their phones or an online platform. You may need to do a little detective work, but figuring out her personal style will substantially help you nail down the ring’s design/style.
Step 3: Select the Shape of the Center Stone
If you suspect that your bride-to-be wants a center stone other than a diamond, now is the time to explore those options. But if she wants a traditional diamond engagement ring, the next decision on your list is the shape of the center diamond. While round is the most popular shape by far, it is also a little more costly in comparison to other diamond shapes. If her heart isn’t set on a round stone, you may want to consider some more unique options to lower your overall price per carat, which will allow you to purchase a larger stone.
After round, the next most popular shapes are princess and cushion, which are square and a kind of rounded square, respectively. If you want to keep your budget low but want a diamond that appears larger, you might want to look at emerald and marquise-cut diamonds.
Step 4: Educate Yourself on the 4 Cs
The 4 Cs are the primary components of diamond quality that you’ll look at when picking out a specific diamond for your center stone. They include cut, carat, color, and clarity. The cut is not the shape, but the way the stone was cut in terms of angles and proportions. It directly affects how sparkly the diamond is, making it perhaps the most important of the 4 Cs.
Carat refers to the weight of the diamond. While this isn’t about the diamond’s actual size, it does play a role in how large the stone is in the end. It’s important to note that cut plays a role in how large a diamond appears, and two stones of similar carats can actually appear vastly different in size due to their cut.
Color is about how colorless the diamond is, with completely colorless being the rarest and therefore most expensive. Most non-gemologists cannot tell the difference between two rings with close color grades, so while this C does matter, you need to focus more on the overall look of the diamond in its setting than the color grade.
The final C is for clarity, and it is all about inclusions or blemishes in the diamond. Being “eye-clean” is the most important here, which simply means that the diamond looks flawless to the naked eye, even if it’s not. A reputable jeweler can walk you through the 4 Cs and how they present in different diamonds, as well as help you compare and contrast different options within your budget. Ultimately, it’s all about how the diamond sparkles, so that is what you should prioritize when searching, regardless of the grades the diamonds are given in each category.
Step 5: Choose Your Precious Metal
Engagement rings are typically available in four metal options: white gold, yellow gold, rose gold, and platinum. They each have their own benefits in terms of care, cost, and durability, but the main thing you should consider is your bride-to-be’s personal style. If the majority of her jewelry is silver in color, go with white gold or platinum. If she’s a yellow gold kind of girl, stick with that for her engagement ring. If she has a variety of metals, she may love rose gold, but it’s best to confirm that before making such a unique design decision.
Choosing between platinum and white gold is one of the biggest hang-ups that most people face at this point, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelmingly difficult or complicated. Both look about the same at first glance, but they differ a great deal in upfront cost and long-term care. Platinum needs to be cleaned and maintained more regularly than white gold and it is more expensive. However, platinum is more durable. Talk to your jeweler about the differences and ask for their advice before making a final decision on the precious metal for the engagement ring.
Step 6: Choose a Reputable Jeweler
Where you choose to shop is significant: You can probably find inexpensive products online or with less-than-reputable jewelry dealers, but the risk is simply not worth it. This is a very important purchase, and you want to make sure you’ve covered all your bases. If you haven’t already selected a reputable and trustworthy jeweler, you’ll need to do so at this point. You may have talked to multiple experts, but you need to narrow down your options and select the jeweler that you feel is the most honest, trustworthy, and helpful. Remember that you’ll probably need to go back to this jeweler for cleanings, possible resizing, and future jewelry purchases, so it’s smart to establish a good relationship from the start and ensure that you can trust them moving forward. You also want to shop with a jeweler who values you—your time, your opinion, and your business. You don’t want anyone too pushy or who seems frustrated at your many questions, but you should shop with someone who is excited to teach you things, offer advice, and show you multiple options that meet your criteria.
Step 7: Size It Well
Sizing the ring properly is very important, as many rings cannot be resized too frequently or by a large amount. If you don’t already know your bride-to-be’s ring size, do whatever you can to figure it out before purchasing the engagement ring. Be sneaky about figuring it out by using her current jewelry or trying to size her finger while she sleeps, or ask one of her friends or family members to try to find out for you.
Step 8: Protect the Ring
No matter how much money you spend on an engagement ring, it’s an investment and quickly becomes a sentimental piece of cherished jewelry. Be sure to protect the ring with insurance coverage as soon as you purchase it, whether through your preferred insurance agent or with the jeweler you bought it from.
Once you’ve completed all of these steps, you’ll have an incredible ring that she is sure to love—and all that’s left is to pop the question! Enjoy every step of the process, and make sure to notice the shine in her eyes when she sees the ring and says “yes” to spending the rest of your lives together.