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7 Tips for Buying the Perfect Engagement Ring

Updated on December 4, 2018
Alexis Wainwright profile image

I am a writer and editor. Sharing information with the world through my writing is my passion and dedication.

The type of engagement ring you choose might be one of the most important purchases you make in a lifetime.
The type of engagement ring you choose might be one of the most important purchases you make in a lifetime. | Source

You've found that "special someone." Maybe you've been an item for a while or just for a short while. Whenever you think about the future, you find yourself always including them in your outlook. For many reasons, you've decided it's time to propose marriage.

Most likely, as soon as you began thinking about popping the question you started thinking about buying an engagement ring. It is your token of commitment and a physical symbol of your willingness to take your relationship to the next level. You'll only have one chance to get this once-in-a-lifetime purchase right.

For many men planning to purchase their life partner an engagement ring, it might be the first time they've taken a look at jewelry. Most jewelers don't use terms commonly understood by people new to the market. And though most jewelers are good people, there are some in the industry who are not scrupulous.

You'll hear things such as "inclusions," "eternity bands," "Tiffany settings," "the four Cs," among many others. In most cases, the buyer has no idea what these terms mean or the message you're sending the person receiving the ring. And if you're asked about the meaning behind the ring, you'll want to be able to give the right answer. So it's important to know a little about engagement rings before you walk into a jewelry store.

If buying an engagement ring sound complicated, don't worry. This article has been written especially for you. Follow this simple, concise guide, and you won't go wrong.

A budget doesn't mean you'll be forced to buy you future fiance a cheap ring with a diamond the size of a grain of sand. Presently, the average engagement ring cost around $2,500 to $3,000.
A budget doesn't mean you'll be forced to buy you future fiance a cheap ring with a diamond the size of a grain of sand. Presently, the average engagement ring cost around $2,500 to $3,000. | Source

1. Establish Your Budget

Before you even think of stepping foot in a jewelry store, establish your budget. Not only will it show the jeweler you have done your homework but it'll also help them show you the types of rings that fall in your price range. If you find a ring that is a few hundred dollars above your budget, don't worry. Similar to buying a vehicle, most jewelers are willing to negotiate the price.

You might have heard the wise old tale claiming you should buy an engagement ring with a value equal to two months salary. To put it bluntly, this is hogwash.

This engagement buying "rule" was introduced by DeBeers during the 1980s with an advertising slogan that stated, "You can't look at Jane and tell me she's not worth 2 months' salary.” The ad further hinted at the fact that the ring shows other men she’s “yours.”

Being that we live in a time where women hate to be viewed as objects or someone’s “property,” it goes without saying that suggesting your girlfriend can be valued by any dollar amount, let alone only two weeks worth of income, is a very bad thing to do.

Additionally, there is nothing romantic about entering your marriage owing thousands of dollars for a ring - a debt you assumed based on a misogynistic ad campaign from the 1980s. That is not a good way to start a marriage either.

If you keep it simple and affordable, focusing on the special meaning of the ring, your partner and future spouse will be more than pleased. Believe me.

Anyone who has gotten engaged before will tell you that it isn't about how much you spent on the ring, but rather the thought you put into choosing and purchasing it. In addition to that, most people would like to start their new life with you debt-free.

And imagine how much of that money you could put towards a great honeymoon, which is another significant life event for you and that special person of yours.

A traditional is what every girl dreams of. Surprise her with a proposal when she least expects it.
A traditional is what every girl dreams of. Surprise her with a proposal when she least expects it. | Source

2. Stay Traditional and Keep It a Surprise

Before I sat down and wrote this article, I visited a jewelry store not far from where I live. I asked the owner several questions about this topic.

One of the questions I asked included: "What important consumer trends have you as a jeweler noticed when it comes to purchasing an engagement ring?"

Among some of the most popular trends she mentioned is that more and more men are bringing their girlfriends with them to shop for engagement rings. The apparent motive is so that the bride-to-be can get precisely the kind of ring they want. The other reason is in order to size her ring finger.

Though these seem like logical reasons for bringing her along, you're cheating her and yourself out of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show them how thoughtful, romantic, and, get this, clever you are. Other than that, you’ll just have to weigh the pros and cons for yourself.

It takes ingenuity to get her wedding ring finger size without her immediately figuring out why. Plus, whatever ring you present her with will be exactly what she wanted because it's from you.

In the rare event that your girlfriend is like me, and she already has the ring she wants in her possession, it still doesn't hurt to buy her a ring. What I mean by this is that the ring I had planned using for my wedding was an heirloom passed down from generation to generation.

All I had to do is ask my mother if I had her blessing to wear it and, if she gave it, have it resized to fit my finger.

So unless your girlfriend has already mentioned this to you, you most likely won't know about its existence. If you're bent on keeping it a surprise, you can ask the jeweler what their return policy is in the event the above mentioned is the case.

However, just because she had initially planned to wear the family heirloom doesn't mean she won't change her mind once she sees the ring you got for her. A marriage proposal is one of those things you have to play by ear and see where it goes.

Be sure you get the ring size right the first time.
Be sure you get the ring size right the first time. | Source

3. Finding Out Her Ring Size

The next topic the jeweler touched on is ring sizing. According to them, a lot of men pick the perfect ring, the girlfriend loves it, but when it's all said and done, the ring doesn't fit.

How embarrassing would that be to get down on one knee, possibly in front of a bunch of people, not to mention the suspense, and after she says "Yes," you go to slip the ring on only to find out it doesn't fit. Talk about a mild mood killer.

Of course, you'll be able to recover from it by getting it sized but why go through all of that?

Some people suggest the best way to get your girlfriend's ring size is to obtain one of her rings she's not wearing and take it to the jeweler to be measured. But there is one problem with that idea: most women don't wear just any ring on their ring finger. Even if she ever had done so, what's the likelihood you'd also know which one it was or if she still has it for all that matter?

When I asked the jeweler what ideas they thought were the best, they advised the man to tell her he wants to buy her a promise ring. In this way, he can achieve two things: 1) He can get her ring finger measured, and 2) he can ask her in a roundabout way what engagement rings she likes.

Furthermore, it's a good idea to buy the promise ring that day as to fend off suspicion. But don't worry. You don't have to buy an expensive promise ring. You'll make it up to her in a few days or so when you surprise her with that proposal.

4. Pick the Type of Metal for the Engagement Ring Band

When it comes to engagement and wedding ring bands, there is a variety of metals you can choose depending on the look you want. Most engagement rings are produced from yellow gold, white gold, rose gold, silver, and platinum.

New market trends show that consumers like to mix different kinds of metals. When comparing platinum versus gold, there are some things to consider.

But each metal has advantages and disadvantages. One example is platinum which is very durable and doesn't scratch as easily as gold and silver. Nevertheless, the surface dulls quicker than gold and harder to bring the initial luster it once had.

Unlike platinum, gold is much shinier platinum because it is inherently softer. This softness is easier to buff and polish, returning the ring to its luster. However, gold wears down a lot faster. It's not uncommon for gold rings to wear down so thin within 15 to 20 years it has to be re-shanked.

While it's good to invest in durability, your future wife will more than likely be interested in the way it looks. But, again, every individual is different. You know better what she would prefer.

Surprisingly, silver and silver-looking engagement rings are trendy in 2018 going on into 2019. It doesn't look like this trend will change any time soon. If your girlfriend is someone who likes to stay on top of the hottest fashion trends, it's an excellent choice to buy a white gold or a platinum band.

For a gal who is more into the classical look, getting her a nice yellow gold band might just be a winner.

5. Understanding the Four Cs: Diamond Quality

Once you have selected the band that suits your girlfriend, it's time to move on to the focal point of all engagement rings: the diamond.

For many people, picking a diamond can be daunting. With a bit of knowledge, you can confidently walk into any jewelry store and pick a stone she'll love.

The selection process involves the "4 Cs:" cut, color, clarity, and carat. These four characteristics determine a diamond's quality and cost. To pick a high-quality diamond, you must understand the 4 Cs.

Despite the photo showing you various types of diamond shapes, the word "cut" doesn't refer to the shape but rather the stone's angles and proportions.

Though nature is responsible for the other Cs, the diamond cutter determines its aspects and dimensions.

If the cutter cuts the diamond well, it will reflect light from one facet to another, projecting the refracted light through to the top of the stone, giving it that nice sparkle everyone loves so much.

When a diamond is cut too shallow or too deep, the light doesn't reflect light from one facet to another, but rather the light leaks through the bottom or side of the diamond. This leakage results in a lackluster appearance.

The Second C: Color

If you never stepped foot in a jewelry store, you should know that diamonds come in many colors.

A diamond's color grade can range from "D" (colorless) to "Z" (light yellow.) Believe it or not, diamonds that are genuinely colorless are the rarest and priciest stones on the market.

However, you'll soon find out that color diamonds are the most popular among the majority of consumers. This is a good thing for you since it'll save you money. But that's if your gal knows her diamonds because the color of the diamond will entirely depend on her preference.

Remember that ring reconnaissance you're supposed to do? This is a perfect time to see what her favorite stone colors are.

The Third C: Clarity

The number of imperfections in a diamond determines its clarity. The more defects, the lower its clarity grade, as well as its value; the fewer flaws it has, the higher its clarity grade, which increases its value.

The technical word you should use when asking a jeweler about a diamond's clarity is "inclusions." Inclusions are nearly microscopic minerals or fractures that occurred during its formation.

So, rather than asking something like, "How many imperfections are in this diamond," it's better to ask them, "What if any inclusions are in this diamond?" It goes without saying that fewer inclusions are better.

Similar to color, diamond graders measure clarity based on a scale.

In order to find a diamond that is reasonably priced, you might want to go for a stone measured at S11 or S12, which are only slightly included. You shouldn't be able to see these imperfections with the naked eye.

Avoid stones that have inclusions at the top and in the center of it, because this will have a significant impact on how the light is dispersed, making it less gleaming.

The Fourth C: Carat (Weight)

A diamond's carat is just another way of describing its weight. Obviously, the heavier the stone, the more expensive its price tag. But of course, that's general knowledge.

However, depending on your budget, you don't need to sweat the carat weight too much. A master jeweler can make a diamond appear more substantial than it is through proper shaping and mounting. Plus, if it glimmers nicely, that's a huge bonus.

6. Selecting a Diamond Shape

While the Four Cs are essential, the shape of your diamond means all the world to your future fiance. It also speaks volumes when it comes to the ring's meaning. Below are only a few of the various shapes you can choose:

Classic and timeless. Worn by such women as Emily Blunt, Miranda Kerr, Brooke Shields, Allison Williams, and Mila Kunis. This shape really brings out the sparkle.
Classic and timeless. Worn by such women as Emily Blunt, Miranda Kerr, Brooke Shields, Allison Williams, and Mila Kunis. This shape really brings out the sparkle.
It is one of the most popular cuts for engagement rings. Worn by women such as Hilary Duff, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Kate Bosworth. It speaks of modern style, contemporariness, and maximizes the diamond's sparkle. Perfect for the modern girl in her
It is one of the most popular cuts for engagement rings. Worn by women such as Hilary Duff, Sarah Michelle Gellar, and Kate Bosworth. It speaks of modern style, contemporariness, and maximizes the diamond's sparkle. Perfect for the modern girl in her
Worn by women such as Princess Charlene of Monaco and Kaley Cuoco, this is not a popular stone among average buyers. It's perfect for woman who march by the beat of their own drum.
Worn by women such as Princess Charlene of Monaco and Kaley Cuoco, this is not a popular stone among average buyers. It's perfect for woman who march by the beat of their own drum.
This cut is one of the industry's up-and-coming favorites among those who like to stay ahead of trends. It also speaks of elegance, class, and a classic aestheticism. A perfect stone for the woman who creates her fashion statements.
This cut is one of the industry's up-and-coming favorites among those who like to stay ahead of trends. It also speaks of elegance, class, and a classic aestheticism. A perfect stone for the woman who creates her fashion statements.
You can find this cut on women like Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga, which should give you an idea of its energy. It's sweet and bold all in one package. Women who rock it definitely throw norms to the wind.
You can find this cut on women like Nicki Minaj and Lady Gaga, which should give you an idea of its energy. It's sweet and bold all in one package. Women who rock it definitely throw norms to the wind.

7. Now Its Time to Choose the Setting

The setting is the way in which a stone of any kind is placed on the ring.

Just like every other aspect of an engagement ring, which configuration you choose will depend on what you're trying to communicate through the ring and a lot on her preferences.

A popular trend sweeping the engagement ring world is creating different combinations of settings. This means you don't have to stick with a manufactured ring; you can create it all from scratch if you want to. Some setting examples are below.

This setting is named after the company that designed it. It is a pure classic to the core.
This setting is named after the company that designed it. It is a pure classic to the core.
The Bezel setting features a metal rim the encircles the stone, thus offering it much more protection than other settings. A great choice for the active woman.
The Bezel setting features a metal rim the encircles the stone, thus offering it much more protection than other settings. A great choice for the active woman.
The Channel setting can feature a single diamond surrounded by other stones or comprised of all diamonds. Some people like to design this setting with a larger diamond set in prongs.
The Channel setting can feature a single diamond surrounded by other stones or comprised of all diamonds. Some people like to design this setting with a larger diamond set in prongs.
The Pave’ setting is perfect for an engagement ring with a lot of diamonds, a few diamonds surrounded by other stones, or a single diamond surrounded surrounded by other stones.
The Pave’ setting is perfect for an engagement ring with a lot of diamonds, a few diamonds surrounded by other stones, or a single diamond surrounded surrounded by other stones.
The Eternity Has diamonds going all the way around in a continuous circle. It is a perfect expression of a love that lasts for all eternity.
The Eternity Has diamonds going all the way around in a continuous circle. It is a perfect expression of a love that lasts for all eternity.

Alternatives to the Classical Diamond Ring

For the most part, women prefer a traditional diamond engagement ring. However, some women don't want to follow tradition. After all, the whole idea that an engagement ring must include a diamond is not that old.

De Beers pushed the overall trend starting in the early 1930s during the great depression when diamond sales were hurting.

Diamonds are expensive solely because De Beers and others in the larger diamond cartel have succeeded in controlling supply, demand, and public opinion.

Since these diamond-Barrons didn't want diamonds to lose their value due to overselling, and needing consumers to keep buying them, they created this romantic meaning behind them, along with high social status.

De Beers invented the slogan "A diamond is forever" in the hopes of sealing the diamond's place in every matrimonial union for as far into the future as possible.

The De Beers' ad agency noted in 1951:

The millions of brides and brides-to-be are subjected to at least two important pressures that work against the diamond engagement ring. Among the more prosperous, there is the sophisticated urge to be different as a means of being smart…. the lower-income groups would like to show more for the money than they can find in the diamond they can afford… It is essential that these pressures be met by the constant publicity to show that only the diamond is everywhere accepted and recognized..."

So, if you and your partner have already agreed that you'd rather not spend the money on a diamond, that's perfectly fine. There is no need to feel pressured to follow social trends in order to compete with other couples.

What matters at the end of the day is that the engagement ring you present her has deep meaning behind it and makes her happy. I personally love diamonds but it doesn't mean I will support the diamond industry's propaganda simply to make my article likable by the general audience.

Whatever choice you make in a ring, above all else, be sure to cherish and love one another no matter what.

© 2018 Alexis Wainwright

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    • Alexis Wainwright profile imageAUTHOR

      Alexis Wainwright 

      6 days ago from Bozeman, Montana

      I'm so happy to know the article is a help to you! Thanks for commenting as well. Comments like yours give me inspiration to keep writing more articles like this one.

    • Alexis Wainwright profile imageAUTHOR

      Alexis Wainwright 

      11 days ago from Bozeman, Montana

      Oh, I apologize if I misquoted you.

      I agree that "fairytale proposals" aren't a prerequisite to a happy and successful marriage. My husband is not romantic. His proposal was pretty basic.

      However, his strong characteristics that possibly affect his ability to express his love for me in a romantic way are the things I love about him.

      I'm not saying that romantic men are weak - not at all. But as for my husband, I understand why he's not so. And his job requires him to have the characteristics he does, so maybe it was just his fate in a way.

    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 

      11 days ago

      I never used the words "most women".

      I simply pointed out "There have been numerous articles written about women who were very disappointed in the engagement ring.."

      I agree with you that anyone receiving any gift from a mate whether it's an engagement ring or not should grateful and mindful of their intentions. However as I stated shopping for the ring together as a couple can be fun and romantic.

      As you noted it varies from couple to couple.

      The "fairytale proposal" isn't a requirement to be happy.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      12 days ago from New Delhi, India

      An excellent, well written and well presented article!

      I must congratulate you for publishing your first one and that too a wonderful one.

      I enjoyed going through your article and pictures. Though, I am past that age but I am sure, it will definitely be helpful to those, who are soon to get engaged or married.

      Thanks for sharing and welcome once again to HP.

    • Alexis Wainwright profile imageAUTHOR

      Alexis Wainwright 

      13 days ago from Bozeman, Montana

      @Poppy I think I am supposed to respond using "@," am I correct? I'm trying (rather testing) since my responses weren't automatically directed at particular people.

    • Alexis Wainwright profile imageAUTHOR

      Alexis Wainwright 

      13 days ago from Bozeman, Montana

      Thanks! I sure do hope so! Your feedback gives me inspiration.

    • Alexis Wainwright profile imageAUTHOR

      Alexis Wainwright 

      13 days ago from Bozeman, Montana

      I simply love those types of diamonds - having things laser-etched in. I've always dreamt of buying one. I have some crystal pieces with things etched into them. I don't know why I love looking at them so much, but I do. :)

    • Alexis Wainwright profile imageAUTHOR

      Alexis Wainwright 

      13 days ago from Bozeman, Montana

      A lot of what you wrote is true. But, as I wrote, it's all up to the individual couple.

      The only thing I tend to disagree with is "most" women disliking the ring their man bought them. I don't recall ever hearing anyone I know complaining about it unless they just didn't say.

      Lastly, I don't think it's very gracious of a woman to dislike the engagement ring her man worked so hard to pay for. As a matter of fact, I think it's pretty bratty for anyone not to appreciate any gift someone gives them.

      Of course, if the gift is inappropriate or the ring is a fake but he lied and said it was real - or something along those lines - I can jump on your side. But, I mean, if he was genuinely trying to be sweet the best he can, there's no need to be a brat about it.

    • Alexis Wainwright profile imageAUTHOR

      Alexis Wainwright 

      13 days ago from Bozeman, Montana

      That's such a sweet story...sounds like a nice one to write about. :)

    • Rodric29 profile image

      Rodric Anthony Johnson 

      2 weeks ago from Peoria, Arizona

      This is a great article and very informative. You are what HP is looking for.

    • leahlefler profile image

      Leah Lefler 

      2 weeks ago from Western New York

      What a fantastic article! We shopped together for my engagement ring, though it would have been fun to be surprised, too. We have a polar diamond, which was mined in Canada and has a microscopic polar bear laser-etched into one of the facets. I love that the diamond is slightly unique. 17 years later, the ring is starting to thin on the back from wear and tear, so we may have to replace the band one day!

    • dashingscorpio profile image

      dashingscorpio 

      2 weeks ago

      Good advice.

      However I think it's best for a couple to shop for the ring together.

      There have been numerous articles written about women who were very disappointed in the engagement ring their mates purchased and want to know how to tell them without offending them. Their are also other women who silently hate their ring each time they look at it.

      Shopping for the ring together can be the first of many expensive buying decisions a couple makes together along with planning their wedding. Very rarely does life imitate the "fairytale".

      Truth be told most women are NOT surprised that their mate proposed. As a couple they have most likely already have had discussions about marriage and having a family. Rarely does someone make a proposal believing there's a 50/50 chance of being rejected. Commitment is behavior and the wedding is a legal status presented as a traditional symbolic gesture.

    • poppyr profile image

      Poppy 

      2 weeks ago from Tokyo, Japan

      This is a fantastic article chock-full of useful information. My husband proposed to me at Tokyo Disneyland in April this year, exactly two years after we started dating.

      At the time he bought a cheap ring from the Disney store but later he got a silver one with a gem. I've no idea how much it was and I don't want to know, but I know he thought very carefully about it and I love it.

      Your article will definitely help others hoping to propose to their special ones. Great work!

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