One of the most daunting tasks involved in proposing to your future wife, is not always the actual act of proposing itself (even though that can be pretty nerve-wrecking as well), but picking the engagement ring. For the people that are anything like me, and that know absolutely zilch about rings or jewelry in general, it is a minefield out there to say the least.
To make matters worse, around a fifth of women admit to being secretly disappointed with their proposal, while a tenth admitted that they would turn down a proposal if they didn’t like the ring. What happened to just getting married out of love? I guess those days are over.
Needless to say, I’d question if you were with the right woman if she were to reject your proposal just for the engagement ring, but it does show that it is very important for some ladies out there. There is just so much conflicting information, coupled with people that are just trying to take your money, that it’s easy to get lured into making the wrong decision when purchasing your ring for clueless guys like me.
I literally spent days trying to figure out the basics, and many months more before I pulled the trigger and made an actual decision to purchase the ring. Not knowing where to start made this process a whole lot longer and more cumbersome than it had to be.
Being the nice guy that I am, and having drawn on learnings from my personal experience, I have put together a summary of steps that should make the whole engagement ring purchase a heck of a lot easier.
#1 Do Your Research First
When I say, “Do Your Research”, I mean get a basic understanding of the main characteristics of a diamond engagement ring. Make sure that you understand the 4 Cs of Diamond Quality – that is the diamonds cut, carat, clarity, and color. Also understand the various settings that are out there and the metals that they use.
This should be the absolute first thing that you do before anything else. Why? Because if you want to have any sort of meaningful conversation with a jeweler, and more importantly, make sure you don’t get ripped off, you need to be talking the same language.
As I soon discovered by embarrassing myself multiple times by not having a clue what I was talking about, there are many other aspects that come into play when deciding which engagement ring to buy than simply the size of the carat. A very big carat is nice, but when the color and clarity are bad, you’ll just have a very large diamond that may resemble something you have just picked out of your left nostril. Not exactly what girls dream of when imagining their ideal engagement ring. Also figure out what type of engagement ring she likes (ie. morganite engagement ring, aquamarine rings, or something else)
I’m by no means saying that each characteristic of the diamond you pick has to be of the highest quality, but you need to find a balance somewhere that ultimately doesn’t bust your budget, but also makes your other half happy.
#2 Find Out What She Likes
Once you have done your homework above, and you can at least tell the difference between an actual diamond ring and one from the toy store, it’s time to start figuring out what kind of diamond she likes. Since engagement rings come in so many shapes and sizes, it’s important that you have somewhat of an idea of what she prefers. The hard part is finding this out in a way so that she doesn’t become suspicious if you want to keep it a secret. If you’re not concerned about that, of course, this part should be easy. Straight out asking her what she likes and doesn’t like, or even having her pick out her own ring, should do the trick, in which case you probably don’t need to read the rest of this article either.
However, if you’re like me and try to be a bit of a mystery man, you’re probably keen on keeping it a secret. Suddenly asking her about the type of engagement rings she likes would probably set alarm bells ringing, so you have to be a bit more subtle. You could take two approaches here.
- Have one of her close friends (that you can trust and that can keep a secret) ask her and have her report back to you
- Mention that one of your male friends (that she doesn’t know and will not likely be in contact with) is thinking about proposing to his girlfriend and has asked you for advice on the type of ring he should get
I ended up taking the second approach which worked very well. I was able to show her a number of different pictures on the internet that my friend had supposedly suggested, and got a good idea of what she liked. She liked a round cut, with a platinum band, and didn’t seem to be too concerned about the size of the carat. Have I found the dream woman or what?
#3 Set Your Budget
By now you should have a decent understanding of engagement rings, and the type that she will like. That’s when you can start setting a realistic budget. I hate to break it to you guys, but engagement rings are expensive. Being a practical guy, I never attach much value to something that is only there to look pretty, so having had to spend this much money on an engagement ring was a bitter pill to swallow. However, after feeling sorry for myself for a while, I realized I just had to grow a pair. It’s a once in a lifetime expense.
So how much should you spend on the engagement ring? Some say you should be spending anywhere from 1 to 3 times your salary. At the end of the day, there is no right or wrong answer to this. You need to figure out what you’re comfortable spending and don’t break the bank over it. Just make sure that once you set a budget that you stick to it, since it’s easy to get dragged into buying something more expensive. Also note, that many jewelers are open to negotiation, and you can use the negotiating tips we used with our wedding venue to garnish a discount on your engagement ring purpose as well.
#4 Compromise on Some of the Cs
The four Cs – namely, the cut, color, clarity, and carat – each affect the price of the diamond. The good news is that many slight imperfections as measured by this system aren’t visible to the naked eye. Unless your girlfriend and her friends are going to be pulling out the microscope, there is no added value in purchasing a flawless diamond other than being able to boast about it.
People generally say that the cut of the diamond is the most important as this is what brings out the fire and brilliance. Once you make sure that you have a great cut, you can afford to be a little bit more flexible on the other 3 Cs. For example, a clarity level of as low as SI1 and color of as low as J won’t be visible to the untrained eye. This can save you a lot of money as there can be a huge price differential between the two for something that you won’t even be able to see!
#5 Don’t Go For Brand Names
Branded stones can often cost double of their non-branded equivalents. You are ultimately paying for the name and the experience, but won’t see that back in the actual engagement ring. In my opinion, this is a waste of money since people will not even be able to notice, which is generally the whole purpose of buying a branded item. At least if you purchase a branded handbag, the brand name is visible on the product, and people will be able to take notice – this is not the case with an engagement ring.
#6 Figuring Out Her Ring Size
Finding out her ring size is tricky without causing suspicion and admittedly one that I completely screwed up. I’m not sure how I got it that wrong, but the one I ended up purchasing was so large that a 350 pound sumo wrestler could have probably fit his finger in there.
Honestly, this is something that you want to get right. You don’t want to be sweating through dinner, rehearsing what you’ll be saying to her, getting on your knees, only for the ring not to fit on her finger. The good news is, it’s relatively easy to figure this out.
All you need to do is go into her jewelry box (I can already hear all female readers screaming in disbelief) and take one of her rings while she is out for the day. You can take it to a jewelry store, they can measure it for you, and voila, you’ve got her ring size. Make sure you write it down somewhere, or put it in your phone, because you will forget.
#7 Visit Various Jewelers – Shop Around
Once you know what you’re looking for it’s time to go to the jewelry store and look at the options that are available. You may also want to go to a website like Bluenile where you can customize the ring online and get an idea of what you want it to look like, and use it as a benchmark for pricing to show to the jewelers. However, ultimately when making the actual transaction I still prefer to do it with a brick & mortar store for a big purchase like this. You can call me old fashioned, but that’s just how I roll.
Also bear in mind that you can ask the shop to customize the ring. Just because the diamond you are looking at is on a particular setting doesn’t mean they can’t put it on another one. That is what they are there for! Make sure you shop around and look at a number of jewelers since pricing can vary considerably between them, and go with one that you feel comfortable with and trust.
#8 Ask If They Will Resize For Free
Since I’m sure a lot of guys will mess up the size of the ring, a lot of jewelers will offer free resizing for one or two occasions. Make sure that you ask this in advance just to confirm. Even if you have done all your homework and know her ring size, there is always a chance that it will be slightly off or that her finger size has changed slightly after devouring a few too many pizzas.
Also bear in mind that this is usually only one or two sizes. In my case, where the engagement ring I chose was probably about twice the size it should have been, there was no way they could resize it. Thankfully they realized how clueless I was, and they were nice enough to replace the entire setting of the ring for free to the correct size. This may not always be the case though.
#9 Negotiate on Price
Personally, I love to negotiate in anything I do. I get a kick out of getting a discount, and this is no different when buying an engagement ring. Given that an engagement ring is quite a significant expense, jewelers are usually open to negotiate and it’s definitely worth doing. The summer tends to be the slow season for jewelers so this is when you stand most chance of getting a discount. Some jewelers also prefer being paid in cash, which can carry some weight in your negotiations.
I wish that I had known all of the above before I started my search, but through my sacrifice, I may be able to help some other clueless guys out there that have just started to think about proposing.