13 engagement ring buying tips for us clueless ring shoppers

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Are you ready to propose but are an engagement ring noob? Join the club, we're all clueless when it comes to rings at first. Fear not, we've got some tips to make ring buying a wee bit easier including budgeting, thinking outside of the diamond market, and options like customization. Save these engagement ring buying tips for your shopping trip and feel a little more secure. Oh, and good luck with that proposal. Tell us about it, eh?

Pick a budget and stick to it

Salespeople can be hardcore, so pick your budget early and try to keep to it. Remember: ring size is not dick size. Figure out how much you can afford to spend, and throw out the antiquated “two months salary” price rule.

Think outside of the commercials

You can find quality jewelers creating unique and beautiful rings not found in those big box jewelry stores you see in commercials. A lot of them focus on more ethical diamonds and creation practices, which feels good, too. Just make sure the store is accredited by the Jewelers of America or is a member of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). Oh, and definitely keep an eyeball on their return policy and any online reviews. We've even got a whole list of awesome vendors with whom we work.

Do some homework

Take a look at what options you'll be encountering at the store (or online): metal options, gemstone options, setting options… don't go in too blind. If you're surprising your partner, try to gauge their style ahead of time so you can match it.

Wanda white gold skull ring for women tansanite alternative wedding ideas from Offbeat Wed (formerly Offbeat Bride)
Skull engagement ring by KIPKALINKA

Common metals and materials

Silver tones: platinum (bright white tone, very durable), palladium (silver-white metal, less dense than platinum), titanium (greyish and can be polished black), white gold (a more cost-efficient metal, customizable colors), and sterling silver (inexpensive, but won't last as long).

Yellow and pink tones: yellow gold (gets combined with different metal alloys for strength), rose gold (pink-tinted with copper alloy).

Non-conductive materials: wood, resin, ceramic, and silicone.

Choose a stone

You can sometimes get a better deal if you choose your diamond or other stone separate from the setting, so don't automatically consider a complete ring. We LOVE us some non-diamond options, too. Consider some colored sapphires, topaz, moissanite, pearls, and even gemless rings.

Choose a setting

Consider what kind of setting you'll want: solitaire, filigree, side stones, etc. This is where you'll just want to do some online browsing to see what's out there.

Consider customization

Some of our favorite vendors specialize in super customized rings. How do you think couples get their adorkable rings, right? You can often find really easy ways to get the ring hidden in your imagination with a store that works with your designs.

Consider antique rings

Engaged to a vintage fashion fan? Antique rings bring a whole level of awesome to fans of the past. Or look to your family for heirloom rings.

Look for ways to cut costs

Buying a non-diamond is a killer way to save money, but if you're going whole hog with a diamond, you can still save some cash. Ask for a stone with more surface area which will make it look bigger. Or ask for stones that are slightly less than the next carat (0.9 instead of 1, for instance). The difference in size will be minuscule.

Figure out the ring size

If you're not shopping together, you'll need to figure out your partner's ring size. You can always sneak a ring that you know fits their ring finger.

We've got lots more tips over here.

Bring a friend (or go with your partner)

Ring stores can be scary and you may want a second opinion. Grab a friend or family member with some idea of your partner's taste to handle the salespeople as a team. Or forgo the surprise and shop with your partner to really ensure they'll love what gets chosen.

Leave least six weeks

An ordered ring can take as long as six to eight weeks to arrive, so unless you're buying in store, leave some time to receive the ring with some wiggle room for errors.

Get it in writing and insured

Diamonds one carat or larger should be inspected by a diamond-grading report issued by an independent gemological association like the GIA or the American Gem Society. You might also get a “fingerprint” of your ring, which would include the stone's 4 Cs, shape, dimensions, and any other enhancements. Also include any other information that might affect its value. Then, unless you're going super budget-friendly, get it insured.

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Comments on 13 engagement ring buying tips for us clueless ring shoppers

  1. I second the “think outside the big box.” We bought my ring from a major jewelry chain store at the mall, then started looking at reviews. So many horror stories online. Later that week, we had an issue involving a credit card and employee deception that confirmed the general sense we’d gotten from the horrible reviews. We returned the ring, went to a small local jeweler, and couldn’t be happier. So, just saying, read store reviews (big box or otherwise) before e-ring shopping!

  2. Also, know if your partner has any allergies (for example, nickel) and what metals contain the irritant. We didn’t realize that white gold generally gets its color from mixing in nickel until my ring was partway through being crafted. Luckily the jeweler was very sweet about it and re-did the work in white gold whitened with palladium (charging more for the metals, but not for re-making the ring). I can’t tell you how many times jewelry I loved has made my skin blister. Having it happen with my engagement and/or wedding rings would have been a nightmare! (As a cost-saving measure, my wedding band is titanium.)

  3. I would love to hear some thoughts on ‘diamond like’ non-diamond alternatives – moissanite, white sapphire, cubic zirconia. Especially the latter – often it’s used for big flashy costume jewellery but I’ve seen some etsy examples where a smaller stone is used to reproduce something more like a classic diamond solitaire, and in pictures it’s pretty convincing. Is this a viable alternative?

  4. This kind of makes me wish I’d gotten a ring for my husband when I proposed to him. I ended up getting a watch, which looks really good on him. It did work out in the end. 🙂

  5. When I decided to propose to my girlfriend I had a teeny-tiny budget. I decided to propose on Halloween and it was two days before Halloween. I had only one day to find a ring, and 30€ max to spend. (€ because I live in Germany.) What was important to me was that it was a ring that meant something to me/us. Not some costly extravaganza that would look like an engagement ring, but had only a financial value. I ended up buying a 10€ ring made of silver from one of these tiny shopping isles you sometimes have in big shopping centres. And it was perfect: plain yet meaningful, because it has an ankh on top. I included the symbolizm of that in my proposal. ;3

    Moral of the story: Know what’s important to you and don’t be scared to go completely offbeat. Also, if you really mean it, don’t let little money stop you.

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