Tip #1 Make a Plan
Buying an engagement ring is a major financial purchase. When you buy a car or you buy a house—other major financial purchases—you sit down and create a plan. The same holds true when you are planning to buy an engagement ring. The first part of the plan is to create a budget, which is discussed in detail in Tip #2.
Some of the other aspects your plan should include are:
- The estimated size of the diamond
- The other 3 Cs—color, clarity and cut
- Shape of the diamond
- Ring size for your fiancé
- Whether you want to pay cash or finance the purchase
When you are creating the plan, it is best to plan in ranges rather than specific numbers.
Tip #2 Set and Stick to a Budget
Probably one of the biggest pieces of advice you can take when it comes to shopping for an engagement ring is to set and stick to a budget. Budget is one of those words that tend to send most people screaming from the room.
When it comes to making any major purchase, however, it is important to take the time to take a realistic look at how much money you can spend.
Setting a budget for buying an engagement ring really requires you to take a look at your overall budget.
So, here is what you need to do:
- Fill in all of the numbers in the budget that pertain to your personal financial situation.
- Look at the bottom line of the budget worksheet, which is the amount of money you have left over after paying all of your expenses, or the amount of money you are short of covering all of your expenses. This number has to be a surplus or positive number in order for you to afford to pay cash for or even afford to make monthly finance payments on the ring.
- If the amount of money in the bottom line of the worksheet is a negative number or not enough to pay cash or make monthly payments on the ring, then you have some work to do. You either have to find a way to cut your expenses or a way to increase your income. First, go back into your budget and look for ways to cut down or get rid of your expenses. For example, if you are paying $85 per month for cable or satellite services, cut down to a less expensive package to free up some cash. The same holds true for your home and cell phone, money you spend on eating out at restaurants, your daily trip to the coffee shop and any other discretionary spending.
- Continue to work with the numbers in your budget until you free up extra cash to use toward buying the ring.
- If this still isn’t enough, consider your options for making some extra cash to pay for the ring, such as taking on a part-time job, selling items you no longer need or use, or borrowing the money from a family member.
Tip #3 Consider More than the Diamond
The setting is just as important when choosing an engagement ring as choosing the diamond itself. The type of band and the type of metal you choose for the ring setting impacts the overall cost of the ring too. For example, gold is generally less expensive than platinum when it comes to choosing the setting for the ring. According to CNN Living, a platinum ring setting can set you back an additional $600 over that of a gold one.
Settings also matter because it can change the entire look of the diamond. For example, with a solitaire diamond, a four-prong setting gives a different look to a diamond engagement ring than a five prong setting does. The safety of the diamond also comes into question because a five-prong setting holds the diamond better than a four prong setting to help ensure that stability of the diamond in the setting.
Finally, it is possible to use the setting of the ring to offset costs without sacrificing the look of the engagement ring.
While one large solitaire stone can set you back according to the carats and quality of the diamond, you might be able to use smaller diamond accents and a smaller center stone, but wind up with higher weight and beautiful engagement ring.
For example, a one-carat diamond can be expensive. Instead, you might be able to choose a smaller center stone accented with baguette diamonds or pavé diamonds. Overall, the weight of the ring is higher, but the price might be lower than buying a solitaire. A bezel setting gives the illusion of a larger diamond without the expense of purchasing a larger diamond.
Using the setting to your advantage allows you to focus more on the quality of the diamond, so that you get your money’s worth. Simultaneously, it allows you to get the ring you know your wife-to-be will wear and enjoy wearing for years to come.
Tip #4 Buy from a Reputable Seller
The best practice when buying a diamond engagement ring is to buy from a reputable and credible seller. Generally, this is a jeweler, jewelry store, online jewelry store or business that is trustworthy. Working with a reputable seller helps you to start out on the right foot because it creates a situation where you know you are buying quality jewelry.
If you are buying from an individual or some other sources you might not have this assurance upfront.
Second, reputable sellers tend to offer you some type of guarantee. For example, if you buy a ring and then take it for a third-party appraisal, many reputable jewelers and stores allow you a grace period, which gives you time to accomplish this and return the ring if it is not what you thought you were getting in the first place. Services also tend to include sizing the ring after you pop the question, and some even include periodic inspections of the ring for a set time to make sure that the stone is secure and that everything is copasetic with the ring and the setting.
The bottom line is that there is accountability from reputable sellers. They are willing to stand behind the ring they sell you.
Tip #5 Shop Together or Bring Along a Friend
One of the easiest and fastest ways to ensure that your fiancé gets the diamond engagement ring she wants is to take her along on the shopping excursion. This one step takes all of the guessing out of the equation. Additionally, shopping for an engagement ring can be an exciting, but also stressful time. It helps not to have to make such a major financial purchase and purchase decision on your own.
If you prefer not to take your fiancé-to-be along, then take someone you know with you. Taking someone along helps you to obtain a second opinion on the choices you are making. Additionally, this is an emotional purchase for you, so you can lose perspective on the financial aspect of the purchase. Your friend helps to ensure that you are making logical decisions and not letting your emotions erode your good judgment.
Tip #6 Obtain a Diamond Certificate
Requesting and obtaining a diamond certificate with the diamond engagement ring you are considering and that you ultimately buy answers a lot of your questions and puts to rest a lot of your concerns upfront. Almost all reputable jewelers, jewelry stores and suppliers offer the certificate to you upfront. If not, ask for the certificate prior to making the purchase.
The diamond certificate contains all of the characteristics that are specific to that particular diamond. The certificate does not contain the value or the price of the ring. The information on the certificate should, however, be supportive evidence of the price you are paying for the ring.
These certificates are issued by the Gemological Institute of America or the American Gem Society. Both are third-party and unbiased organizations that provide an expert opinion on the characteristics of the diamond.
Tip #7 Match the Ring Style with Her Style
You have learned a lot about how to set your budget and then find a ring that fits within it and meets the four Cs in diamond shopping. While all of this is important, it is even more important that you find and buy an engagement ring that fits the lifestyle of your girlfriend and matches her personal style.
In other words, you want to buy a ring style that she likes and is proud to wear on her finger for years to come. You can pick up clues all over the place to help guide you in this area. You can look at the jewelry she already wears. You can listen to what she says when she sees engagement rings at the store, in magazines or on the fingers of people you know and see. You can get some help from her mother, best friend or someone that knows what your girlfriend likes.
In the end, it is not just about buying a ring that you can afford. It’s about buying a ring that your girlfriend adores as she becomes your fiancé and your wife.
Tip #8 Compare Offline and Online
In order to truly conduct comparison shopping, you have to shop offline and online. The reason is that shopping offline permits you to touch, feel and see the ring up close and personal. You can gather a ton of information on the ring or rings you are considering, including the price that the jeweler or store is charging.
With this information in hand, you can then turn to your online options. Many reputable jewelers and stores sell online. Some of these sellers have brick-and-mortar shops, but some are just online jewelers. Now that you know exactly what you are looking for in an engagement ring, you can search online for comparable rings to see if there is a price differential.
In some cases, you can get the same or a very similar engagement ring online for less money than the brick-and-mortar stores. Primarily, this happens when the online source doesn’t have a brick-and-mortar store, so they have less in overhead costs. Again, you want to compare rings with similar color, cut, carat and clarity in order to conduct a true apples-to-apples comparison.
If you opt to buy online, be sure that you know what the return policy is and that the diamond comes with a certificate—just in case.
Tip #9 Buy Now, Trade Up Later
Life changes. What you can afford in an engagement ring now might drastically change as you spend the rest of your life with your future wife. Many couples discuss buying an engagement ring now that they love and can afford, with the agreement that if finances permit in the future, they will upgrade the ring. Generally, the upgrade comes at an important milestone, such as a 10-year anniversary or another special occasion.
If this is the case, focus on buying the best ring that you can afford at the moment. Since it might be something she has to wear for the next 10 years before you can afford a new one, you still want the ring to fit all of the necessary requirements so that she wears it proudly until you can afford the upgrade.
The original ring can be handed down as an heirloom to a child. Another option is to use the diamond or diamonds from the original ring as part of the new design of the new ring.
Tip #10 Mind Your Four Cs
Since an entire chapter of the guide is dedicated to the four Cs of diamond engagement ring shopping, it should clue you in as to how important these characteristics are. Learn the details of each diamond characteristic. Use these characteristics as a guide when you head out to shop for and buy the engagement ring. The best plan is to get the highest quality in cut, color, clarity and carats that you can afford. Balancing these characteristics so that the ring fits into your budget is the key element in getting the balance right.
Tip #11 Educate Yourself
Buying a diamond engagement ring is not a test that you want to fail. This requires you to prepare yourself and educate yourself to the best of your ability before heading out to the jewelry store. Read this guide from beginning to end. Go back, read it again and take notes you can use to take with you to the store and use as a guideline for making the purchase. If you follow the guide, you will possess the information you need to make an informed decision when it comes to choosing the right engagement ring.
Tip #12 Make a List
Make a list of exactly what you are looking for in a diamond engagement ring. Appendix B of this guide provides you with a checklist you can use to make your list. Making the list of what you are seeking allows you to focus your efforts on finding and purchasing the engagement ring that fits all of the needs and wants you have written down on your list.
No matter how level headed you are before you leave the house, buying an engagement ring is an emotional purchase. Having a checklist you can go down as you are reviewing diamond engagement rings helps to remove the emotion out of the equation and keep the selection process on the logical side.
Tip #13 Cut Expenses Where You Can
Buying an engagement ring isn’t an all or nothing situation. There is a lot of gray area that you can stray into to still get a great engagement ring and meet all or the majority of the requirements you want in the ring. Some of the ways you can cut the expenses of the ring include:
- Choose a ring with several small stones and a smaller large stone: Approximately 85 percent of the cost of a diamond engagement ring is attributed to the center stone. Cutting down the carats on the center stone automatically cuts down the price of the overall cost of the ring. You can opt to use all or several smaller stones to offset the size of the large stone. The ring could end up with the same weight, but still be less expensive than going with one large stone.
- Use a family heirloom, or the stones from the family ring to create a new engagement ring. Some families have engagement rings that are passed down from generation to generation. You can take your engagement ring cost down to zero if this is the case in your family. Additionally, you want to make sure that the engagement ring is something your fiancé-to-be will like as far as the style is concerned. If you or your fiancé-to-be do not like the style of the ring, another option is to use the stone or stones of the ring to create a new engagement ring. In this case, your only cost is for any additional stones and the setting you choose, as well as any designing costs the jeweler charges.
- Shop antique shops. Antique shops typically stock jewelry. If vintage style is your girlfriend’s style, this can be a great way to get the ring style she wants and save money simultaneously.
- Shop pawn shops. Pawn shops are another great source for great deals on diamond engagement rings. Costs savings can range, but it is conceivable to save 50 percent off a pawn shop ring versus that of a retail jewelry store selling the same or similar ring. This guide becomes even more important when you straying outside of retail jewelry stores because it falls back on you to truly know and understand what you are buying. It is unlikely that you will be able to obtain a diamond certificate for a ring that you buy in an antique store or pawn shop.
- Shop classified ads. Individuals often sell old diamond engagement rings that they no longer need or want. Again, you can pick these rings up at a drastic costs savings to you. Buying from an individual can be risky because you have to take the word of the seller as to what you are buying. It is best if you can agree an appraiser to accompany you on the viewing of the diamond, or get the seller to meet you with the ring at a reputable appraiser location before buying the ring. Some individuals will have a diamond certificate, but it might be hard for you to verify the certificate goes with the ring you are buying, while an appraiser can help you to verify the certificate information applies to the diamond.
- Consider an alternative to a diamond. Traditionally, diamonds are used for engagement rings. There are exceptions to the rule, however. You can also cut back on the cost of an engagement ring by choosing an alternative stone, such as an emerald, sapphire or any stone that you and your girlfriend like. Some brides-to-be opt for a center stone that is not a diamond, but is surrounded by diamonds as an engagement ring. Others choose a solitaire of the alternate stone. There are no engagement ring police so you can choose any type of engagement ring that you and your girlfriend want and like.
Tip #14 Shop and Compare before You Buy
Shop and compare several different rings at several different locations before you decide on buying one. In Appendix C and D of this guide, you will find some comparison charts you can use to help in your shopping efforts. Not only do you want to compare the stores where you are shopping, but you also want to keep track of the individual rings you are comparing.
Using these comparison guides will help you sit down later to review the information and make an informed decision on the ring that you want to purchase. The best rule of thumb is to compare at least three different stores, retailers, or sellers and at least three different rings before deciding on the one. It is likely that you will compare even more than three rings before choosing one.
Tip #15 Know the Lingo
You want to know what you are talking about when you step into the store to buy the ring. You also want to understand what the jeweler or sales person is talking about as they describe the ring to you. Reading through this guide provides you with the primary lingo you need to know what you are talking about and understand what the seller of the ring is talking about.
Keep in mind that it’s not just about recognizing the word or throwing it out during the conversation. You need to understand what each word means and how it contributes to the value, cost and quality of the diamond.
Tip #16 Appraise It
No matter where you buy the diamond engagement ring, you should have it appraised by an unbiased third party. It is a good idea to verify that what you think you are buying is what you are actually buying. Depending on where you buy the ring, the seller might allow you the time to do this within hours or days of buying the ring. Others might require that you bring the appraiser to the location of the ring so the appraiser can review it and value the ring on site.
Your goal is to pay the value of the ring or less. You don’t want to pay more than the diamond is worth. The appraiser also verifies the four characteristics of the diamond—cut, color, carats and clarity.
Tip #17 Insure It
Diamond engagement rings are valuable. As you insure all of the other valuables you have in your life, you should insure the engagement ring too. If you already have a renters or homeowners insurance policy and jewelry is covered, then you need to contact your insurance company to add the ring to the policy. You could also opt for a separate policy that covers loss, theft or damage to the ring. The premium price for any of these policies compared to the value of the ring tends to be nominal.
Tip #18 Size It in More Ways than One
Size plays different roles in buying an engagement ring. You definitely want to size the band setting of the ring so that it fits on your bride-to-be’s finger. If you know her ring finger size, then you are ahead of the game. If not, buy a ring that you know if big enough to size down to fit on her finger after she says she will marry you.
Size also counts for look purposes. You want the size of the diamond to fit your budget. Second, you want the size of the diamond to fit the size of your bride-to-be’s finger. All of these sizes can directly affect the cost of the ring as well, so sizing correctly is important here.
For example, if your fiancé’s fingers are long and thin, a larger diamond looks better on her hand than it might if her fingers are short and wider. In the latter situation, a smaller diamond can look even bigger on her hand because of the size of her finger.
Tip #19 Buy Separates
While many stores sell you the engagement ring as a whole—with the stone already in the setting—you always have the option to buy each piece separately. Buying separates allows you to choose the stone or stones you want. Then, you can choose the setting you want to set the stone or stones.
This alone is one way to control the cost of the ring. Additionally, it gives you more control over the ring design too.
Tip #20 Choose an Alternative to a Diamond
Diamond engagement rings are traditional, but not a necessity. Rubies, diamonds, sapphires and many other gemstones create just as equally attractive and beautiful engagement rings. If you are considering another gemstone, do your homework on its durability. Diamonds were originally chosen for the hardness and endurance of the stone, along with its brilliance. Since an engagement ring is worn throughout the lifetime of the bride and wife, you want to make sure that you are choosing a stone that will stand the test of time too.
Tip #21 Assess Payment Options
You need to assess the different options you have for paying for the engagement ring. Once you have created your budget, you might find that you have enough to pay cash for the ring. The budget exercise might also leave you with extra cash after paying your expenses, but not enough to pay for the ring with cash.
That’s okay. This means that you either have to save up for the ring, or you have to find an alternate way of financing it. When you are shopping, find out the terms and conditions the individual stores have for financing the ring. You might also want to talk with your bank to see if they offer a loan that is less expensive than financing the ring from the store.
Contrast and compare the different options you have. Choose the one that fits all or the majority of your needs. No matter how you finance or buy the ring, make sure the ring has the four Cs you want and a certificate to certify you are buying what you think you are buying.