Engagement Ring Shopping Guide: Find the Diamond in the Rough
It isn’t easy making such a large, emotional and financial commitment. Before you go engagement ring shopping, it pays to do some research to make sure you know what to look for and what to expect.
Here’s a quick guide to help keep you on track.
- Engagement Ring Shopping Tips
- The Four C’s of Diamond Quality
- Should You Go Ring Shopping Together?
- 6 Ways to Secretly Find Her Engagement Ring Size
- Do You Need Engagement Ring Insurance?
Engagement Ring Shopping Tips
Determine Your Budget
Budgeting will keep you focused on a certain price range and even makes the purchasing more easily as the jeweler will be showing you the jewelry that falls within your budget.
Remember, this isn’t the time to make a hasty decision or impulse buy. Think of this ring as Super Bowl tickets. If you had one chance to pick any seat available, you’d pick the best one you could afford. This may mean staying in one night per weekend, but it’ll be worth it. This ring will be on her finger for the rest of her life. Do yourself a favor and make it count!
Understand the Different Varieties of Engagement Rings
One of the most traditional examples is the diamond solitaire. This ring features a band and a single (or solitaire) diamond. This can be a good way to go if you aren’t sure about her jewelry preferences. This option also offers the most diamond for your dollar, size-wise.
Know the Four C’s
The four most important things to know about a diamond are its cut, color, clarity, and carat weight. You’ll hear all about them during your engagement ring shopping excursions, but it helps to go in with some knowledge. We’ll fill you in on exactly what the four C’s are further down in the guide.
Consider Whether You’ll Also Want to Purchase a Matching Wedding Band
A wedding band is generally a smaller band that is sometimes sold in a set with the engagement ring. Again, this is something you may want to do a little research on before you buy. Talk with your girl so that you know what ring to propose with. Some women like to have a wedding band while others prefer the engagement ring by itself.
Get the Most For Your Money
Diamond prices vary from store to store as no two diamonds are exactly alike. It pays to do your research and shop around. Go to several of the larger chain stores and price what you want. We then suggest checking out a few smaller mom-and-pop stores. Pay them a visit and compare prices. You never know where you’re going to find your diamond in the rough.
Research Engagement Ring Insurance
With such a substantial purchase, you’ll definitely want to consider protecting the ring with an insurance plan. The store that you buy from may have an in-house program or you can find a national company that specializes in insuring engagement rings.
TMR Recommendation: Engagement ring shopping is an area where you’ll most likely need some help and that’s perfectly fine. There are many resources you can turn to for guidance. First and foremost, it’s always a good idea to be aware of what type of ring your girl prefers. Knowing her preferences is half the battle. Other people you can seek help with are her best friend, her mother, or if all else fails, one of your groomsmen who has already gone through this process.
The Four C’s
When buying a diamond engagement ring, the first step is to do some research to understand how the quality of a diamond is measured and how it affects pricing. Buying a diamond engagement ring is no simple task and it isn’t exactly cheap either. We’re not one to mince words; you are going to spend a lot on it, but before you do, at least know what it is you need to buy and what’s the best that your budget can get you. Truth-be-told, the hardest aspect of buying an engagement ring is knowing what your bride-to-be prefers.
If you have an idea about what she likes, you can narrow it down by what’s known in the diamond business as the four C’s — clarity, color, cut, and carat.
Clarity – the clearness or purity of a diamond
Technically speaking: Traditionally, a diamond’s quality meant clarity, but in today’s world this is the second most important quality that affects pricing. Clarity is determined by the number, size, nature, and location of any internal inclusions and external blemishes (the number of crystals or clouds that can be seen using 10x magnification).
In regular guy terms: Let’s be honest, before you stress about being able to afford a flawless diamond, remember that 99.9% of the time you and your fiancé will be looking at the ring with your naked eyes. Unless you’re viewing the diamond with 10x magnification, there really isn’t a noticeable difference. A medium clarity diamond is just as striking as a flawless one.
Color – the amount of color the diamond contains
Technically speaking: The majority of diamonds have a hint of yellow or brown, but a perfect diamond is perfectly transparent with no hue. All diamonds are graded by their comparison to perfect diamonds. So the closer the grade is to D, the closer the diamond is to being perfect.
In regular guy terms: Before you break into a sweat and call off the engagement altogether, remember that the vast majority of diamonds are not perfect. It’s more typical for people to purchase a diamond that’s Grade G or below, but depending on your budget and priorities, Grades D, E, and F are slightly more beautiful diamonds.
Cut – the proportions, finish, symmetry, and polish of the diamond
Technically speaking: A diamond’s cut doesn’t actually refer to its shape, but its reflective qualities. A diamond’s angles and finish are what determine its ability to handle light, which creates the sparkling effect that girls love.
When a diamond’s well cut, light enters it and travels to a point where it reflects from one side to the other. It then reflects back out of the diamond and into the observer’s eye, once again, creating the sparkling effect.
Diamond cuts are separated into four categories: ideal cut, very good cut, good cut, and fair-to-poor cut. Because ideal cut diamonds reflect the most amount of light that enters the diamond, they typically sell at a premium, while poorly cut diamonds usually sell at discounted prices.
In regular guy terms: Diamonds with a cut grade of good or very good are the best value with high-quality appeal. Just find out what works best for you and your budget.
Carat – the unit of weight of the diamond
Technically speaking: The value per carat increases exponentially with carat size because larger, rough diamonds occur less frequently than smaller ones. In other words, 2 half-carat diamonds taken together won’t cost as much as 1 one-carat diamond because the one-carat diamond is rarer.
In regular guy terms: Does size really matter? That’s a personal question for each bride. If you’re like most grooms-to-be, your budget makes a difference. Your bride might prefer to have a lower- quality diamond for a larger look, or she might prefer quality over a larger size. It’s up to you to determine her preference.
TMR Recommendation: Diamond engagement and wedding rings are personal to each bride. It’s best to follow this general approach:
- Establish the budget you can afford. The rule of thumb is to go with the two month’s salary approach. For example, if you make $10,000 per year, you should spend approximately $1,667 on the engagement ring.
- Be sneaky and determine her preferences on size, quality, and shape on the sly. Or be direct and ask for her opinion; she’ll thank you later.
- Narrow down the four Cs of a diamond based on:
- Her preferences
- What your budget will allow
- Make sure to shop around. The average markup for a diamond ring from a brick and mortar store is 200% to 400%. It pays to do your research!
- When you’ve narrowed down your selection of diamonds, make sure to ask the jeweler to let you review the independent Diamond Grading Reports, also called certificates. These reports will verify the classification of the four Cs and will help you compare apples to apples.
Should You Go Engagement Ring Shopping Together?
Before getting engaged, should you go ring shopping with your girlfriend? If you want your proposal to be a total surprise and you already have a good idea about what kind of ring your girlfriend likes (possibly even down to the color, cut and size — turns out you really were listening when she dropped all those hints!), then you can forgo a shopping trip.
But otherwise, taking her ring shopping is a great idea. There are so many options available when it comes to engagement rings. You don’t want to make a completely uneducated guess and risk disappointing her.
Picture this: You get down on one knee with a heart-shaped diamond ring in yellow gold, only to find out later that she wanted a traditional white gold round diamond ring. Awkward… Don’t let this happen to you.
Most likely at this point in your relationship, you both know that marriage is on the horizon, so why not see what ring options are out there ahead of time and get a better idea of what she likes? Remember, this is a ring that she’ll wear every single day and should absolutely love.
Although you don’t have to tell her how much you’re planning to spend or if you’ll absolutely be getting a specific ring, at least you’ll have her input, which will make it easier to make this big purchase when the time comes. Trust me; she’ll definitely appreciate the opportunity to clue you in on what she has in mind. And just imagine the look on her face when you propose with her dream engagement ring….
6 Ways to Secretly Find Her Engagement Ring Size
Alright men, so you’ve finally decided the time is right to pop the question. You’ve picked out the engagement ring, you have the perfect proposal planned out, but one thing is standing in your way: You don’t know her ring size.
Don’t fret because we are here to help you complete the perfect surprise proposal with a list of tips on how to find out someone’s ring size without asking them.
Quiz the Inner Circle
If your girlfriend has a tight knit circle of friends, then one of them may know her ring size. You could also question her mother or sister about her ring size. If they don’t know it, you could ask them to covertly find out and get back to you with the answer. A friend asking about a ring size is less likely to make her suspicious than if you casually ask what her ring size is.
Have someone take her “window shopping” for a ring. Get her to see what her ring size is for “fun”.
However, keep in mind that asking the friends and family members of your girlfriend does take a leap of faith. Whoever you ask must be sworn to secrecy to prevent ruining the surprise. In addition, be prepared to act quickly once you ask someone else to help you. The more people who know what you’re doing, the harder it is to keep it a secret.
“Borrow a Ring”
If you can get your hands on a ring that your girlfriend wears you can take it to a jewelers and get it measured.
However, in order to get an accurate measurement you’ll need to be sure that the ring actually fits her properly and it is worn on the correct finger (left ring finger), as all fingers are different sizes.
If she does not wear a ring on that finger you can settle for an estimated measurement for another finger, but beware the ring will most likely need to be re-sized.
When the Ring Can’t Leave Home
Let’s say you are unable to take her ring to a jeweler without her noticing it’s missing. There are several ways you can estimate the size without taking the ring out of the home.
For one, you can try the ring on yourself and mark on your finger where it falls. Then you can go to a jeweler and have them find the size that falls in the same place.
Also, you can make an impression of her ring in a bar of soap or clay and take it in for measurement.
One last way is to trace the inside of her ring with a pencil and have a jeweler match the size.
If your girlfriend can sleep through a hurricane then this may be the best method for you to find out what size diamond ring to buy. While your girlfriend blissfully slumbers, unaware of what you have planned you can wrap a piece of paper or string around her ring finger and mark the size that way. However, expect to have a pounding heart and sweating brow as you pray she won’t wake up while you’re tying the string. On that note, be prepared to have an answer as to what you’re doing in case she does wake up.
If you bring this in to a jeweler they can help you to find a measurement. Just make sure she’s not a light sleeper.
When in Doubt: Size up!
A ring is easier to re-size if it is too big, and most jewelers offer free resizing. Just note that thin bands or those which are intricately covered in gems might not be able to be re-sized.
Make sure you check with your jeweler if the ring is re-sizable. Also, if you’re guessing her ring size it’s important to know that rings which have a thick band will need to be larger than her normal rings.
Tell Her It’s For Someone Else
You may be able to get her to divulge her ring size by telling her you want to buy a ring for your sister or mother.
Tell her you want to get an estimated size for someone else and either ask her to try on a ring or ask her outright what her size is.
Beware though; this method could be a dead giveaway if not done right.
Using these tips you should be able to get a fairly accurate measurement of her engagement ring size and be well on the way to spending the rest of your life with the woman of your dreams.
Just remember to keep in mind these important points:
1) You need to find the size of her left ring finger. Rings worn on any other finger aren’t likely to give an accurate measurement.
2) When in doubt size up because it’s easier to resize down.
3) Make sure the engagement ring is resizable.
Do You Need Engagement Ring Insurance?
Congrats — now that you’ve finally found the ring that perfectly shows how much you love your bride-to-be (or as much as three-month’s salary will tell her), don’t forget that final, but very important, step in the ring-buying process: insurance.
There are several ways to handle this. There are a variety of different companies that specifically sell insurance for jewelry. To find one, try a simple search online, or simply ask the store where you purchased the ring. A lot of times wherever you’re buy the ring (especially if it’s a retail store) will have deals, or if nothing else, a recommendation of a reputable insurer.
Ring insurance should run between $50 to $150 per year, depending on the value of the ring.
It’s very important to have some sort of insurance for the ring up front, but once the wedding day is over, consider looking at other options such as adding it to your homeowner’s or renter’s insurance policy. You may find that going that route can be a better deal.
Just remember to keep the appraisal in a safe place so you don’t have to get the ring it appraised again if you switch insurance companies. You’ve spent a lot of time finding her the perfect ring, take 10 minutes and make sure you have a good insurance policy for it in case something happens.
TMR Recommendation: This is an incredibly busy time in your life. Do yourself a favor and go with an insurance company that the jewelry store recommends. The store may even be able to set it all up right then and there. This way, it’s done and taken care of and you won’t need to worry about it again for at least a year.