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13 Tips for Buying an Engagement Ring

Updated on July 4, 2012

Over the past couple of months, I have been shopping around for the perfect engagement ring for my then girlfriend and current fiancé. As with 99% of guys not employed by a jewelry store – I had NO idea what I was doing.

When I set out ring shopping, I had 2 major goals: #1) Buy my fiancé something that she would really enjoy wearing for the rest of her life. #2) Spend as little money as possible while still satisfying Goal #1.

If your goals are anything like mine, these few tips should help you get started on your engagement ring journey!

1. Get a Feel for What She Likes First

If my fiancé is like most, she wants you to be the one to pick out the actual ring, but she doesn’t want to wear around something she hates, either. A nice compromise is to have her send you some pictures of rings she’s found on Pinterest or seen online or in stores (if you’ve ring shopped together). This way, she will still be surprised, but not by your miserable taste in rings. The last thing you want to do is spend $3,000 on something she doesn’t like.

2. Sacrifice on Color and Clarity to Get the Best Value

You can get the overall best bang for your buck if you sacrifice color and clarity in favor of carat (size) and cut. By going with a level I color (looks colorless) and SI2 clarity (no visible defects to the naked eye), you will be able to get a much larger and sparkly diamond for the same price.

3. Stay Around or Below 0.75 Carats

In my diamond research, I made a spreadsheet with prices from BlueNile.com. On diamonds with the exact same cut, clarity, and color, the price per carat was relatively stable between 0.4 and 0.75, but nearly doubled going from 0.75 to 1.00 carats. It gets even worse as you go from 1.00 to 1.25 and higher.

4. Shop Locally

In my experience, there was a significant price difference between local mom-and-pop shops to the regional chains (think Jared, Kay, Zales). Not only that, but local stores usually have less pushy salespeople, a more friendly atmosphere, and commitment to their community (the store I bought from donates 50% to local charity).

5. Impress Your Girl, No One Else

As such a public display, it’s easy to slip into the mentality of trying to impress others with an extravagant ring. Just try to keep in mind that you aren’t buying it for her friends, family, or random people admiring her finger – you’re buying it for her. Don’t impress them. Impress her.

6. Buy Something YOU Like

Yes, I know - it’s not you. But it kind of is. Even though it’s a gift for her, you’ll be seeing it every day. It’s a symbol of your commitment to each other, so you want to make sure you like it, also.

7. Follow Your Budget, Not the Diamond Industry's

If you ask anyone how much you should spend on an engagement right, I’ll put $10 on it they say, “The general rule of thumb is 3 months worth of income.” Well guess who made that rule of thumb up? The diamond industry. Determine how much you have to spend on a ring and stick to it.

8. Ask for a Student Discount

As a student, I was able to get 25% off of my ring. Even if you aren’t a student, ask for a discount. Tell them some of the prices you have seen online and it’s highly probable they will cut you a break. Also, be sure to ask if they will give you a 2-3% discount if you pay in cash.

9. Look at the Ring in Dimmer Lights

Jewelry shops are lit up like the 4th of July. This makes every diamond in the store look incredibly impressive. Once you find “the one”, be sure to ask to see it under the normal lights. This is the condition where the ring will be seen most often, not the magnificent white lights of the display case.

10. Don't Buy an Extended Warranty

You can put your diamond ring on your homeowner’s insurance. Also, your extended warranty isn’t generosity by the jeweler – the salesperson mentions it to you because it’s a good deal for them. Not you.

11. Don't Fall for the "Exclusives"

“You can’t find this diamond anywhere else.” Oh, please... it’s a diamond. Cut by a jeweler. There’s differences between diamonds, but nothing the jeweler down the street couldn’t get for you. This is a sales technique designed to rip you off. Don’t fall for it.

12. Don't Borrow Money

Whatever you do – don’t go into debt (especially credit card debt) in order to finance an engagement ring. Make a few sacrifices and save up your money each month so you can pay in cash.

13. Demand a "Conflict-Free" Diamond

15% of diamonds are mined by slaves in order to fund drug and terrorist activities. Be sure that the diamond you are buying is “conflict-free” so we can end the suffering of thousands.

Marriage is a big commitment, so make it carefully! Once you’ve decided to pop the question, I hope at least a few of these tips have helped you pick out the perfect ring for your budget.

How did you buy your engagement ring? Do you agree/disagree with these tips? Any other words to the wise? Leave comments below!

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