IntroductionsI'm a guy that recently went to a whole lot of trouble to research and finally purchase the perfect diamond engagement ring for my fiance. I spent hours pouring over diamond reports, deciphering the intricacies of the 4-C's of diamonds, and filtering out all of the junk to get to what's important. In this article I relate the knowledge I gained and teach you how to avoid most of that work, while still making your partner the most delighted and envied girl she knows. All this, while hopefully leaving you at least a little cash in your wallet. Because, really, do we care about the process of buying the ring? Do we even really care what it looks like? Well, yeah, but only to the extent it makes our girls happy, because we feel good when they're happy and life is better when they're happy. If you haven't learned that yet and you're planning to propose, maybe you should reconsider :)
But anyway, on to the article!
Purchasing a Diamond Ring Can Be Simple!So, you've decided that you want to propose. You've thought about what it means to promise to spend the rest of your life with that one special someone, you're sure that you're doing it for the right reasons, and maybe you've even tested the waters by getting her opinion on marriage before putting yourself out there. Now you just have to buy a ring and do the proposing. Easy, right? All of the many, many details (and expense) of the wedding will most likely be out of your hands, so your job is straighforward and simple...at least it seems that way until you actually look into purchasing the diamond.*
Engagement rings can be quite pricey, and you want to get the most for your money. You don't want to buy into the advertisers' claims that the only way to express your love is to put yourself in debt for the rest of your life, but you want your girl to be proud to show off her ring and proud to say that you bought it for her. Tons of sites exist on the web that will tell you everything you could possibly want to know about purchasing a diamond but I'll begin by telling you in two sentences what you should do: Purchase a diamond that's pretty big (as big or bigger than the friends she'll compare it with) and purchase a diamond that has an ideal cut. Buy it online and get it appraised and insured. That's all there is to it, the diamond's beauty will be very forgiving as long as you get these right. If you've heard of the 4 C's of diamond buying, you can largely ignore the other two (color and clarity) as long as they're not bad enough to be noticeable.
Following those four guidelines will get you an amazing diamond for a great price. If you remember that advice, you could even stop reading right now if you wanted, although I encourage you to read on to see why I strongly believe in my advice. Doing so will also help you defend your choices to your girlfriend when she asks - more importantly, you can turn the tables on that guy that wants your girl and always seems to find fault with what you do (that guy always exists). Keep reading to learn the details that will make her love you for all the time you obviously spent pouring over diamond manuals to find the perfect stone that she's already fallen in love with.
Shopping Doesn't Have to Be A Bad Experience
If you're anything like me, you hate shopping. You dread the day that you're finally forced to replace ragged pants or worn-out shoes. When you have to do it, just like ripping off a band-aid, you make it quick and painful. You choose the closest store and buy the first of whatever it is that you're looking for that's reasonably priced and not something your buddies will tease you for owning. Despite what a lot of people will tell you, ring shopping can be like this too.
The reason shopping for yourself is so easy is that you know exactly what you want, you know what you care about and what you don't. The hard part about shopping for women is that you rarely know what they want. In terms of engagement rings, women want big and sparkly. Big translates to the Carot size, somewhere and sometime the standard size for an engagement ring was set to 1.0 Carots. Don't go much above 1.25 Carots, because it'll take a big change in the weight above this to make a difference in the apparent size of the diamond.
If you choose a ring larger than 1.0 Carot, then approximately 1.25 Carots is the optimal price point because it looks noticeably bigger than a 1.0 Carot stone, meaning she can impress her friends, but a 1.5 Carot stone only appear marginally (if any) bigger than a 1.25 Carot stone. This has to do with the area of the top face of the diamond increasing only in proportion with the square root of the Carot weight. Regardless of the size you choose, you can often save a lot of money by purchasing a ring approximately 0.1 Carots less than your target weight. A 0.91 Carot ring costs a lot less than a 1.0 Carot ring for example. Be flexible, there difference between these sizes to the eye is almost unnoticeable and is completely unnoticeable as you approach rings that are 1.25 Carots and above.
The sparkle of a diamond is determined almost completely by its cut, so get a diamond with as close to an ideal cut as you can afford. The cut determines the angles of the diamond that control how much of the light that comes in is reflected back out. The more light that is reflected out, the more the diamond sparkles. Here, here, and here are some excellent resources for learning more about what makes a good cut. If you're shopping with a reputable diamond seller, it's usually fine just to purchase a diamond with "Ideal" or "Excellent" cut quality as determined by them, because, when it comes down to it, you're trusting them to provide you with the correct dimensions in either case. Even though few women know it, the cut is the most important feature of a diamond and an excellent cut should be preferred, even at the cost of other features.
So, what about those other features? Choosing your diamond is the hardest part, but should you choose a ring made of white gold or platinum? Should you choose a band with inset diamonds along the sides, maybe a setting with a couple of accent diamonds on the side? My advice is to simply choose what appeals to you and what you think your future fiance will like, again, without sacrificing the quality of the main diamond you. White gold is a bit cheaper and it looks quite similar to platinum. White gold must be refinished or it will turn yellow and platinum needs to be polished or it will lose its shine. Platinum is a heavier metal so it won't wear down as fast, whereas a gold ring will become thinner with age. These decisions can make the ring you choose really stand out, but they should generally be a secondary decision unless your girlfriend has expressed a strong preference.
The Diamond Retailer For You
Now you know all about what features to look for in a diamond and ring, but where should you look? That depends on what kind of person you are and what your significant other is expecting. The best value is to be had is online, but you miss out on actually being able to see your ring before purchase. You can get pretty close to wholesale prices by buying from online stores (most offer an approximate 5% markup or less). They can offer you these low prices because of their lower overhead. There are also the tax advantages that come with purchasing online, and avoiding sales tax can make a huge difference if you're buying a ring that costs several thousand.
Unfortunately, if your future fiance is expecting to receive her ring in a Tiffany & Co. blue box, you should reconsider proposing to her. Well, maybe not, but if she is then buying from an online jeweler probably isn't the route for you. Tiffany & Co. (and other chain stores) mark their products way up from retail. A Tiffany engagement ring may offer high quality, but you can get a high-quality ring for much less elsewhere. Essentially, if you buy at Tiffany & Co. you pay thousands of dollars for that blue box, which isn't necessarily that crazy. Buying a diamond engagement ring is all about paying a lot for what it symbolizes, because, despite myths to the contrary, diamonds are not scarce, but rather heavily price-controlled by the international diamond cartel De Beers. If your girl wants a Tiffany ring, then consider giving her one, even if it means a smaller ring.
In my search I found two high-quality, low-priced online diamond retailers - Fully Bonded Diamonds and Blue Nile - although there are likely more. Both have favorable reviews online, both are legitimate, and both have real people you can talk to just a phone call away. The main difference between them is that a fully bonded diamond comes with a lifetime buy back gaurantee, so you can be pretty sure that nothing's wrong with it. Blue Nile lets you return the ring up to 30 days after purchase for a full refund but that's it. Blue Nile tends to be a bit cheaper, and if you talk to their representatives both will try to convince you that buying from them is the only way to go. Depending on your preferences, at least one of the two will probably suit your needs. If you choose another retailer online, check with the Better Business Bureau before purchasing, be sure they have some sort of gaurantee and have your diamond appraised after you get it. Buying online can save you tons of money but there are people out there waiting to rip you off and it's easier for them to get away with it if you can't point the police to their brick & mortar store around the block.
Proposing should be fun, however, all too often the process of buying a ring becomes a stressful experience. Don't let it! Follow the guidelines outlined here and you'll be happily engaged with a beautiful ring and a beaming fiance in no time!
Save up to $100 on your order!
BlueNile currently has a great promotion where if you're a new customer and you're referred to them by an old customer, you can save $100 on an order of more than $1000 (or lesser amounts for smaller orders). Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I'll refer you and you'll save! Actually, we'll both save - I get to take the same amount off my next order :)
When you're ready to pick out your wedding rings together, be sure to read my companion article on wedding rings.
Online Diamond Retailers
Other Resources and Guides
* Don't be fooled, purchasing a ring is simple and relatively cheap - purchasing the diamond is much trickier.