10 Essential Tips for Buying the Engagement Ring of Your Dreams

10 Essential Tips for Buying the Engagement Ring of Your Dreams

A guide to choosing the right engagement ring for people who know nothing about them. 

Is it time to start looking for an engagement ring? Congratulations! It's easy to get caught up in the romanticism of buying an engagement ring and planning a proposal, but remember: an engagement ring is usually a significant investment, so you want to make sure you do it right.

Whether you'll be looking for rings with your significant other or on your own, our comprehensive guide will help you choose the perfect engagement ring.

 Decide on the shape you want

If you know what kind of diamond shape your significant other prefers, it will help you narrow down your search for an engagement ring. Every shape (also known as a cut) is priced differently, with each carat costing a different amount. The most expensive cut is round, followed by pear and marquise. If size is essential to you, choosing a form other than the conventional round cut will allow you to receive more carats for a lower price. Study up on ring cuts and have one (or two) favorites in mind before going out to buy an engagement ring.

 Decide on a metal for your band

Engagement rings (and wedding bands) have traditionally been fashioned of yellow gold, white gold, silver, or platinum, though rose gold has arisen as a new, modern option in recent years. While platinum has a similar appearance to silver, it is substantially more expensive due to its higher density (and is also rarer). Some metals scratch more easily than others, so think about your lifestyle—as well as your budget—before making a decision. You should also consider whether or not you want stones put in the band(s).

 Decide on a carat size

The age-old debate over quality vs. quantity applies to engagement rings as well; some people prefer a larger stone to a whiter stone, while others desire the clearest diamond imaginable, regardless of carat count.

But keep an open mind as well. When it comes to size and shape, your significant other may believe they know what they want, but after trying on rings, they may discover they want something completely different—always it's different until you see things on your finger in real life. If you choose a less common carat size, you can save a lot of money. Diamond prices increase significantly when they weigh the most desired weights: like half and whole carat weights (.50, 1, 1.5, etc).

Get the right measurements

This may seem self-evident, but make sure you both measure your ring fingers. You don't want a ring that's cutting off your circulation or, even worse, one that's loose enough to slip off. It should be tight yet not oppressive. You can get sized at a jewelry store on your own if you're not shopping for engagement rings together.

Think of how your engagement ring will complement the wedding band

While it's easy to get caught up in looking for the right diamond, the engagement ring is only half of the equation (or less than half if you're going for a ring stack). The second half of your wedding band—you know, the actual sign of your marriage—is sometimes ignored. Consider the style of wedding band that would complement your ring. Because some engagement rings prevent a band from fitting flush against them, it's crucial to weigh the pros and cons of prong versus pavé and channel-set stones before deciding on an engagement ring type.

Always purchase certified products

One of life's most expensive purchases is an engagement ring, so take your time and shop wisely. Make sure you get a certified stone from an accredited laboratory, such as the American Gem Society for the Gemological Institute of America, when you finally find the ring of your dreams. According to expert Ira Weissman, developer of The Diamond Pro, diamonds certified by other labs can have inflated grades, giving the customer the impression of a fantastic deal when, in reality, they've received a lower quality diamond. In fact, according to Weissman, this is the most common ruse used by jewelry sellers.

 Double-check that the certificate coincides with the diamond

Most diamonds have laser inscriptions on the girdle, which may be checked with a jeweler's loupe. Many diamonds have inclusions, so look at the diamond and see if you can match the flaws to the map on the certificate.

Pay attention to the cut's quality and clarity

Purchase the lowest color diamond that will appear colorless to the human eye to save money.

This is usually an I or J hue for round white gold diamonds. You could even go down to a K hue in yellow gold. The price difference between a J color and a D color is huge. The same notion applies to clarity. If all else is equal, choose the lowest clarity diamond that is still clean to the human eye, as it will appear identical to a perfect diamond. The price difference between a flawless diamond and a SI1 or SI2 clarity diamond is enormous.

Reach a deal

According to Rosey West creative director and creator Michael Dobkin, engagement rings can be marked up way beyond the minimum margins. In fact, some rings have been marked up by as much as 500%. Dobkin advises, "Really do your research before pulling the trigger and don't be scared to negotiate." "A good jeweler will work within your budget to find you the greatest quality that meets your requirements."

Go to the wholesale district

Another approach, according to Monil Kothari, founder of NYC fine jewelry start-up Antandre, is to deal with nontraditional diamond retailers or wholesalers to avoid needless markups. "A wholesaler or a private retailer like myself can work one-on-one with customers to design a ring that is unique to them," adds Kothari. "In addition, because we don't have the overhead that traditional merchants do, we can save customers more than 30%, providing them the biggest bang for their buck."