How to Buy an Engagement Ring

June 11, 2013 Updated: April 24, 2016

Let’s take the ring out of bewildering. Rather, the process of buying an engagement ring should be about discovering a woman’s style and translating that into a unique, lovingly chosen ring that she will proudly wear. Here are some money-saving and time-saving tips to help you get on the right track this engagement season.

1. Stone – Don’t assume that you must buy a ring with a diamond center stone. As I tell my readers on my diamond education site, we have all been duped by the diamond industry into believing that the only way to get engaged is with a diamond ring. That’s what they’d like us to believe, of course, but proposing with such a sparkler is not a long-standing tradition of hundreds of years. So, if you can get away with buying a gemstone other than a diamond, you can save money and conscientiously object to the “establishment.” Consider rubies, blue or pink sapphires, emeralds, her birthstone, or a gem of her favorite color.

2. Shape – Having said that, most readers will insist on buying a diamond. So if that’s the case for you, do your research to find out what shape diamond your girlfriend wants, or just ask her if you’re buying the ring together. The classic and safest bet, and the one that wins the most popular award, is the round brilliant cut. If you have to take a guess, go for round. It looks good in just about any setting. Next in popularity are the more rectangular or square cuts of princess, emerald, Asscher, and cushion. And finally there are more fancy shapes like oval, pear, and marquise — a great option if you are looking for an outside-the-box look.

3. Cut – Of all the 4 C’s, the diamond’s cut is, hands-down, the most important factor. If the diamond is huge and colorless but doesn’t have a decent cut, the stone will appear flat and lack that “sparkle” that most people are after. In order to ensure that you find the best cut for your money, make sure to buy your diamond with a reliable gemological lab certification (like GIA or AGS) and from a reputable jeweler. Just like with the stereotypical used-car salesman who’s trying to pull one over on you, you don’t want to get swindled by a shady diamond dealer who presents you with a “perfect” diamond sans legit certification. Be wary and be wise.

4. Color – Color is important insofar as the diamond looks white and not yellow. But that’s where it ends. There is no logical reason to overspend on buying a diamond with a stellar color grade when the average person can’t appreciate it. As I tell my readers, only buy what the naked eye can spy. That means that you may be able to downgrade the diamond’s color based on the shape and setting of the ring. When the diamond is set in yellow or rose gold, these shades of gold will absorb much of the yellow in the diamond, thus allowing for a lower color grade.  For yellow or rose gold settings, I recommend K-M for round, J-K for princess, emerald, and Asscher, and for all other shapes, I-J. For white gold or platinum settings, stick with H-J for round, G-I for princess, emerald, and Asscher, and F-H for all other cuts.

5. Clarity – Again, don’t overspend on extra features here. Your goal should be to find a diamond that is “eye-clean.”  In layman’s terms, that means you shouldn’t be able to spot any inclusions, or imperfections, in the diamond without the aid of a jeweler’s magnification tool, called a loupe. And it also means that if you are buying a diamond online, you need to see a magnified high-resolution image of the diamond in order to check for eye-cleanliness. This is where you can save big bucks because lower-grade clarity diamonds will sell for significantly less than higher-grade stones. For example, a lower mark could indicate a small imperfection on the side of the diamond, which can be covered by one of the prongs of the ring. If you are unsure what constitutes eye-clean, consult a diamond expert who can steer you in the right direction.

Whatever your budget, style, or stone, arm yourself with knowledge, so you can make the most informed decision possible. Check out our diamond education articles, and drop us a line for free help when you’re in the market for that special ring. We promise to put the ring back in empowering.