How to Buy a Diamond Engagement Ring
Buying your future wife a diamond engagement ring is one of the biggest purchases of your life. Yet, you’ve probably never bought a diamond before!
This site is designed to be a friendly, easy-to-understand guide on how to buy a beautiful diamond engagement ring that your soon-to-be fiancée will treasure for a lifetime. We’ll cover:
- Lingo you’ll need to know like the Four Cs of Diamonds.
- What to look for in a diamond engagement ring.
- How to get the best deal on a diamond engagement ring.
In this article, we’ll look at some specific things to consider as you shop for a diamond engagement ring.
1. GET YOUR GIRLFRIEND’S INPUT
All diamond rings may look the same to you and me, but we’re not women. Your girl probably has a very specific idea of what kind of ring she wants in mind, and unless you ask her, you’ll never know. Now this is hard without giving away that you’re shopping for a ring (and the last thing you want to do is to make her think you’re going to propose any day when you’re not ready!)
My recommendation is this: The next time you and her are walking by a jewelry store, say you want to go in and look around. (Lie and say you’re looking at watches if you have to.) Then, as you’re passing the rings, jokingly ask, “Oh, which one do you like?” If you’re light enough, she won’t know you’re serious, but you’ll still get brownie points and, hopefully, a few clues into her taste. Here are some specifics to find out:
- Does she like yellow gold or white gold/platinum?
- Does she like one diamond or several?
- What diamond shape does she like?
2. SET A BUDGET
There’s that old line that you need to spend two months’ salary on a diamond for your fiancée. If you have the cash, by all means, spend that much, but whatever you do…don’t buy a ring you can’t afford. Personally, I wouldn’t go into debt to buy an engagement ring. I don’t want to be paying 15% interest on my credit card even after the wedding is over. Maybe I’d get a new card that had a 0% teaser rate to spread the cost of the ring over a few months, but it’s best to save up the money first.
Although diamond engagement ring is a symbol of your commitment to your fiancé and, in an old-fashioned way, proof that you will be able to provide for her financially (or at least be an equal partner financially), the size or value of the ring you give her is not a measure of how much you love her, etc. In this author’s opinion, if two people are in love and ready for marriage, how much the ring cost should not matter one iota. If it does, somebody’s not ready for marriage.
That said, women like diamonds. They dream of having a sparkling reminder of their man’s love and commitment and showing it off to all of their single friends. So unless you are 100% confident that your girlfriend doesn’t want a traditional engagement ring, is OK with another stone, stick to the traditional diamond ring to avoid any potential disappointment.
Just buy a diamond engagement ring you can afford.
Fortunately, although the sky is the limit on how much you can spend on an engagement ring, there are rings available to fit every budget, even one of just a few hundred dollars.
3. COMPARE AND CHOOSE A JEWELER
It’s definitely a good idea to shop around for rings for a while before you buy. Aside from getting the best price on your diamond engagement ring, different jewelers don’t always carry the same styles of rings.
As you shop, think about where you’d like to buy your ring. Because it matters. Essentially, you have a few choices. You can buy your engagement ring:
- At a national retail jeweler (e.g., Zales or Jared)
- At an independent local jeweler
- From an online jeweler like Blue Nile or James Allen
- Second-hand from a pawn broker or online auction
Every one of these has pros and cons. Let’s break them down.
Chances are the chain jewelry stores at your local malls will be the easiest place to browse diamond rings, and you should certain start there. On the upside, national jeweler stores have reputations so you know you’ll be getting the diamond you pay for and, if anything goes wrong with the transaction, you have a big company backing the transaction.
On the downside, national jewelry stores prices are the highest. Even those that announce crazy 40% off sales are still charging more for their diamonds than you can find elsewhere.
Lastly, you have limited ability to customize your ring. Although most stores will let you change settings and choose between platinum or yellow gold, you’re limited to the diamonds and settings they carry.
With an independent jeweler, you may have more unique choices in styles and settings, as well as the ability to customize the setting if your jeweler does bespoke rings. Your local jeweler can, for example, reset a diamond you buy elsewhere or have in the family. It also feels good to support a local business.
As a precaution, you should do your homework on business before you buy. Ninety nine percent of jewelers are honest but you don’t want to risk buying from one of the one percent who isn’t. Also, ask about the jeweler’s return policy before you buy.
Prices at a local jeweler may be high as well, but you also may be able to talk the price down. Many independent jewelers are business owners with the power to negotiate to close the deal. That’s not always true of the sales clerks at the mall stores.
As e-commerce has become more familiar, people buy everything online, including diamonds!
Sites like James Allen and Blue Nile feature a wide variety of diamond engagement rings and the ability to build a custom ring by matching a loose diamond and setting. Like national chain jewelers, these sites have a spotless reputation so you can have 100% confidence in your transaction (no questions asked return policy, insured shipping, etc.)
The big difference? Diamonds at online jewelers cost almost HALF what they do at the mall. Don’t believe me? Go find an engagement ring at the mall and note the “Four Cs”. Then build a comparable ring on Blue Nile and note the price difference.
How can they do it? Pretty simple: By not paying for 1,000 stores across the country. The rent at your local mall is not cheap. Nor is it cheap to pay a staff to sell the jeweler. The result? Near-wholesale prices on diamonds.
The downside to buying online is that you can’t see the ring immediately, but no cost two-way shipping solves that problem in case you don’t like the ring you buy.
There are two ways to beat the diamond prices you can get from an online retailer: buy wholesale or buy used.
I’ve omitted buying wholesale because few people are able to…you either have to know somebody in the business and/or live near the diamond district in a major city like New York. But anybody can buy a used diamond ring if you know what you’re doing. Sadly, these things are in pawn shops across the country and on auction sites like eBay at a fraction of the cost of retail pieces.
If you’re going to buy used, you want to either know how to inspect a diamond or be confident of an iron-clad return policy so you can get the ring checked out by an independent jeweler (most will do quick appraisals either free or for a small fee).
4. CHOOSE AND BUY YOUR RING
Now that you’ve identified a) the style ring your girl likes b) your budget and c) where you’ll buy the ring, it’s time to pick a rock. To do that, you’ll need to understand the four C’s of diamonds (cut, color, clarity, and carat). Decide which are most important to you and find a stone and setting within your price range.
One you get an understanding of what you’re looking for, have some fun! Blue Nile has one of the best “build a ring” features, and is the jeweler I used to pick out my engagement ring.
Depending on where you buy your diamond, you may be offered some kind of “protection plan” at an additional cost, often several hundred dollars. This plan will offer free repairs and adjustments (ring settings loosen over time and should be tightened as needed so the stone doesn’t fall out!) Personally I would skip these plans and simply pay a local jeweler when the ring needs adjusting. If the ring is valuable, however, I would add the ring to my homeowner’s insurance policy or renter’s insurance.
5. POP THE QUESTION!
And you thought buying the ring was the hard part? Now it’s time to ask her. I could give you lots of corny ideas on how to pop the question, but in my opinion it’s best to plan a nice evening doing something she loves and then ask her, in private, when the moment is right. But to each his own. Good luck!