Shopping for an Engagement Ring

Buying an engagement ring is one of the largest purchases you will make in your life.  Like picking out your lady, you want to make sure you get this one right.  Conventional wisdom says that it does not matter what type or size the ring is, but let’s be honest with each other.  It matters…and a lot.  And while you may not be able to buy a Kardashian sized ring, you can still make your lady happy forever.  Love is what really matters, and putting your love and thoughtfulness into the ring is how you can make up for the serious lack of carats you are going to have in comparison to the celebs.

Like any gift giving exercise, the thought does count, but the execution of said thought is the key to making it a success.  So you need to take time and make this gift the most thoughtful one from you of all time.  There are many things that go into finding the perfect engagement ring; and they all start with her.  Check out our post on how to find out what type of engagement ring she wants you to buy for her here.

As with any large purchase, the first thing you will want to do is come up with a budget.  We have all heard the old saying that it should be two months salary.  What does that mean?  Is that before or after taxes?  Who even made that rule up?  Honestly, none of that matters.  Maybe you have a lady who requires a giant ring regardless of what you make.  Perhaps your lady just wants a ring as a symbol of your commitment and the size does not matter.  Your options are as plentiful as there are women in the world.  Just make sure to know yours.  Have a conversation with her sometime about rings you see on other people.  She will volunteer what she wants in a ring nearly every time.

Your engagement ring budget needs to include the engagement ring and the wedding band.  Don’t forget about the band.  You can really mess up your budget if you do.  You will then need to decide on how you are going to pay.  Will you be saving and paying cash or will you be financing?  If you are financing, you can do some additional research on what your best options are.  Some jewelry stores provide financing on their own.  Perhaps you have a longstanding relationship with your bank and you can finance it through them.  You can also “finance” your purchase using a credit card, though that will probably be the highest interest rate.

Just remember this.  “A women who can be bought isn’t worth having.” –Fisk

Now that you have your budget, and presumable you have figured out the type (shape) and size of ring she would like, you can start shopping.  First, you will want to take a crash course on the terminology of diamonds.  The 4 C rule has been standard for many years.  Cut, Color, Clarity, and Carat weight.

Diamond ShapesThe cut of the stone is what makes it truly shine.  The brilliance of a diamond actually comes from the reflecting light from the bottom back up through the stone.  The more ideal the cut, the more the stone will sparkle Diamond Cutand shine.  I think the technical term for this is “bling bling”.  All joking aside, from a technical standpoint, the cut of the stone is the most important factor in its quality.  When you are shopping for stones (presumably before she sees any of them), you should find diamonds that are the best cut for your budget, even if some of the other C’s have to suffer a little.  It is a delicate balance and you can be more subjective when you are shopping.  Chances are a lady might subconsciously pick the larger size of the ring even though it might not be the best.  You can help her not be blinded by the size by instead blinding her with the true sparkle of a wonderful stone.

Key terms for Cut:  Ideal and Very Good.  If you can get either of these two cuts, then you are in good shape (no pun intended).

The color of the stone is the second most important feature to consider when looking for a diamond, in my humble opinion.  If you want your lady’s ring to sparkle, then you want it to sparkle with the bright white light.  The term color can be misleading because it is actually a grading scale based on how little color the stone has.  You can get super rare and expensive stones that are “colored”, which are pink or other vibrant colors.  For the purposes of most of us normal folks, we are looking for a stone that has as little color (colorless) as possible.  The scale goes from D (totally colorless) to Z (too much color).  Most places you will be shopping won’t carry anything lower than M.  If you can get an E, F, or G in your price range, then you should be in great shape; especially if it also has an ideal or very good cut.

Diamond ColorKey terms for Color:  D, E, and F – Colorless.  G, H , I, and J – Near Colorless; color increases considerable as you go down the scale.  Most often in the G and H range, you cannot tell the stone has any color unless it is sitting right next to a D or E stone.  Grading is also somewhat subjective, so you can get some variation in the grade of the stone depending on the lab.  Just make sure that whatever stone you buy is certified by an accredited lab and you get the certificates with it.

Diamond ClarityThe clarity of a diamond is something that I was never concerned with.  I figure a stone could have some flaws as long as i could not see them in the big flat part of the stone.  Who really carries around a magnifying glass anyway?  I also figured that I could get away with a slightly more included stone to help with my budget since I did not want to sacrifice cut or color.  The grading always confused me for some reason.  Perhaps because I did not care about the title as much as I just wanted to see how the stone looked with my eye.  Your jeweler will be able to cover many of the details about the clarity grading.  Just make sure to tell them your standards for your stone.

Key terms for Clarity:  FL or IF – Flawless or Internally Flawless.  Super rare and probably outside all our budgets.  VVS1 and VVS2.  Very, very slightly included.  Really?  Fancy jewelers could not find a fancier term than this?  At least Nelly was able to use it in some sort of decent fashion.

Carat.  We all know about this one…or so we think.  To most women, this is the benchmark number for their ring.  In this case, you want to get the biggest stone for your budget, but make sure to keep in mind all the other C’s.  It is a delicate balancing act.  You may have to sacrifice some of the other C’s if the largest stone is what you are looking for, but I urge you to stay under control here.  1 carat is a magic number.  If that is your (or her) magic number, then shoot for a .99 carat diamond.  The prices really go up once you hit that mark.  The same applies once you get to 1.5.  If you can get a 1.45 in your price range with acceptable cut and color, go for it.  She won’t be able to tell the difference in a 1.45 and a 1.5.

Key terms for Carat:  Remember it is a measure of weight, not size, so the cut can make a difference here.  A large carat stone with a disproportionate cut can sparkle a great deal less than a smaller one that is ideally cut.

A couple more considerations for you when you are buying a ring for your lady is the band.  She may want yellow gold, white gold, or platinum.  These can also affect your budget, so keep this in mind when you are shopping for the ring.  You can also take your lady into consideration when you are shopping for a ring.  When it comes to carat weight, you can get away with a smaller stone if your lady has porn star hands because…well you know why.  Lastly, if the wedding band(s) are also going to have stones in them, they don’t have to be perfect.  You can skimp here if you need to.

Keep in mind.  I am not a gemologist or a jeweler, but I have been in your shoes.  So I can tell you from experience that you can get caught up in all the technical stuff and miss what actual matters.  Pay attention to her and what she wants, then fit it into your plan.

Just like you are hopefully planning a creative proposal for your lady, you can also ring shop with her in a romantic and creative way.  I had fun taking Bekah to the jeweler to pick out her stone and letting her finalize the ring design.  But even though we finalized the ring, I still waited over a month before I actually proposed.  I still had to plan the proposal at that point.
As you begin on your journey to making her the happiest woman on earth, start by sending her a bouquet of flowers. Or better yet, how about some Shari’s Berries?

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