OT: Buying an engagement ring

Submitted by Eat Your Wheatlies on July 14th, 2018 at 9:38 PM

Other than the sage advice of "don't do it," what info can the board provide. Where to buy, random suggestions, and negotiating tactics are welcome. 

Crack open a cold one and share your knowledge. I'm currently enjoying a Maumee Bay Fake Juice. Very good IPA.

Comments

gobluem

July 14th, 2018 at 9:52 PM ^

Online. Blue Nile or James Allen are good choices. I'll spare the rant about diamonds being overpriced, overmarketed, and depreciate like crazy

 

Don't spend too much unless your partner really really values the bling. Some people really like flaunting it, others don't like bulky, or want to only wear a wedding band most of the time. Opinions are all over the place.

Don't limit yourself to diamonds either - lots of cool gemstones out there.

A conversation about stones and rings and such in advance is wise and could save yourself grief and money down the line. Unless you want to pop the question out of the blue, obviously, or already know something about her ring preferences from talking to friends or family.

Chaco

July 14th, 2018 at 9:53 PM ^

We ended up getting recommendations on a custom jeweler who did good work and had solid reputations (also met a guy who bragged his main clients were "pumps prostitutes and politicians" to which I said "sometimes you get that all in 1 person" but they didn't laugh).  There are some dubious characters out there so check up before you start working with someone unless you go to the mall which wasn't really quite the milieu we were pursuing...

also the color/clarity thing is valid up to a point - after a certain point (especially s clarity if I remember) you can't tell the difference without a microscope so not worth the extra cash for a higher rating

MileHighWolverine

July 15th, 2018 at 3:24 PM ^

I second the advice on color/clarity. I got my wife's ring from a jeweler in Chicago in the diamond district who talked me OUT of paying more for a higher clarity ring. He put the loose stones on his saleswoman's hand and said that if I could pick out the higher clarity stone, he'd let me buy it....couldn't do it so I walked away with a bigger diamond, slightly less clarity. No one to date has every looked at it and guess it wasn't a VVS stone.

Steve Breaston…

July 14th, 2018 at 10:06 PM ^

ASK HER EXACTLY WHAT SHE WANTS.

if you’re mature and you’ve talked about marriage, then you should discuss this. No one wants an error that large. The proposal, etc can all be a surprise but find out her expectations.

1VaBlue1

July 14th, 2018 at 10:16 PM ^

This.  Make sure you know exactly what she likes - what cut (princess, round, square, etc); what metal will the band be (platinum, white gold, something else - it determines the clarity you should get); how big.  Know the answer to those questions BEFORE you go looking for diamonds.  You only get one shot at this...

ZooWolverine

July 15th, 2018 at 12:51 AM ^

Definitely this. It goes along with the "know the answer before you ask the question" advice, which is excellent--the timing can be a surprise, but you should have talked a lot about marriage before getting engaged. My wife didn't want lots of input on the ring, but she knew she liked princess cut, solitaires, and didn't like yellow gold. That still left a lot of options out there, but it helped me narrow my search, and give me confidence that she'd like what I picked. I have friends who picked the ring together, which I'm glad I didn't do (and wasn't necessary since I had gotten lots of input), but I'd honestly rather the ring be a good match than it be a surprise.

Random tips that come to mind:

- If you can get her actual ring size, that's helpful. I didn't, but found a ring of hers from a similarly-sized finger, and slid it on my pinky when she wasn't looking, remembering how far it down my finger it fit. I then went to the jeweler and figured out what ring size that was. I was still modestly off, but it was better than a random guess would have been (and part of the deal from most jewelers I went to is that they resize it once for free). When in doubt, round up. It's better to have a ring that she can wear that evening, even if it's a little loose.

- I liked looking at the diamond in the super-zoom microscope and after looking at a few, you'll get a general sense for what levels of imperfection look like. But I came close to going for a diamond that was more perfect in the microscope than in real life, and I'm glad I didn't do that. You'll never look at it in a microscope again.

- This may be less important for round cut since there is a "perfect" formula for angles, but I bought a princess cut diamond, and was shocked at what a difference there was in how much "fire" the diamond had. The one I decided on almost jumped out at me with reflected light and color; I looked at others that were pretty dead in that regard. It depends a lot on the light source, and is probably less important than color or size, but unlike the super-zoom microscope, I'm glad fire played a role in my decision.

UofM Marine

July 15th, 2018 at 10:03 AM ^

This.

You don't want to waste money it is an expensive investment. Getting her the ring she wants is the most important part of it.

If you are concerned about ruining the surprise for your proposal, then I recommend getting her best friend to help you decide on the ring. Her best friend will know what kind of style and ring she wants, because more than likely, those two have been discussing this for some time. That's what I did and it worked out flawlessly (no pun intended).

With that said, if your relationship is mature enough, you may be able to get her a stand in ring until you can afford the one she wants at a later date. I've seen plenty of young Marines do this and it has worked out very well down the line.

UMmasotta

July 15th, 2018 at 3:32 PM ^

I recommend this as well. We went early, months before engagement was a real possibiolty, and I told her we were going so I could learn what she liked and what she didn't.

I ended up going with a custom ring made by a friend of a friend, which I also highly recommend if you have a good connection/recommendation. You (generally) get a better diamond for the price and she will feel extremely special having a one of a kind ring!

Best of luck! 

Jeffro

July 15th, 2018 at 8:56 AM ^

I 2nd James Allen.  Great customer service.  Free returns no questions asked within 1 month (including shipping), or at least that was the policy when I purchased back in 2010.  Great customer service and way more helpful then any brick and mortar I went to.  The ring I bought appraised for way higher then what I paid (like + $4,000).  The wife still tells me how much she loves it 8 years late. 

MichiganFan1984

July 14th, 2018 at 10:09 PM ^

Get something you can afford with cash, if she’s not happy with that then she’s not smart and you don’t need her anyways. Taking out a loan for an engagement ring is not smart. You are going to have a lot of expenses going forward with this person and a material thing like a ring shouldn’t weigh you guys down. Just my opinion. Congratulations and good luck. 

UWSBlue

July 14th, 2018 at 10:10 PM ^

Worked for a diamond wholesaler for 2 years and was able to do a deal (among others) with Jostens for their superbowl rings, including Brady's last one.

If a wholesaler isn't an option, Blue Nile or James Allen are the way to go. Stick with GIA certified diamonds. Stay away from EGL certs.

Good luck

SC Wolverine

July 14th, 2018 at 10:11 PM ^

I agree with Chaco that higher quality is usually not worth the extra cost, since only an expert can tell the difference.  In general, I would urge you to buy the diamond from a diamond wholesaler and then have the ring put together.  The thing not to do is go to a jeweler and just buy a ring.  You will pay more for less that way.  

As for the bling value, I would point out that your wife is going to wear the ring for the rest of her live (hopefully) as a symbol of being married to you.  So something pretty nice is a good idea.  In general, if a woman is marrying young (and to a young man), she probably has her expectations in check.  But if she and you are older, well, you probably have more money than a 22 year old and she knows it.

Last, it is a good idea to get some idea of what she wants.  Most women would prefer to get what they have long wanted than to be surprised.  

mvp

July 14th, 2018 at 10:13 PM ^

It is hard if you (or through your parents) don't have a relationship with a jeweler you can trust.  I've used the same woman for 20 years and she has built a business on referrals and repeat business.  That being said, even though I trust her, after buying, I've also gotten independent appraisals of any major gem.  My jeweler stands by her appraisals and guarantees them.

All that said, although I haven't bought through Blue Nile, I've looked a number of times and they seem competitive.  

Figuring out what your partner wants can be challenging.  On the one hand, it is nice to know if she (assuming it is a she) prefers a traditional round cut or a princess or whatever.  Also, as others have said, she might like other stones.

In my situation, I wanted it to very much be a surprise when I popped the question (over 23!! years ago).  So I had the engagement ring put in the most very basic setting possible.  What matters is the stone.  Then my (now) wife and I went to a jeweler together to design the wedding band, re-set the engagement ring in a setting that interlocks with the wedding band, and pick out my wedding ring.  That way she could have a lot of involvement in the process but was still surprised when I proposed.


Specifically for the stone, look at sizes just under round numbers.  Market efficiency may have washed some of that advantage away, but getting a 0.98 carat ring used to be much less expensive than getting a 1.01 carat ring.

Regarding inclusions... different strokes for different folks.  I'm an engineer by training, so my mind gravitates toward a visually flawless diamond that's a little smaller.  But some girls want the "pop" of a big stone.  My wife used to practice as a physical therapist, but always wanted to wear her ring, so she was actually happier with a little bit smaller stone.

One advantage of doing some in-person shopping is learning how to use a loupe and what to look for.  Some stones have an AGS "map" that actually shows what inclusions are there and where they are.  If you have that, you can then use the loupe to look for them.  It takes a little practice, but is worth it in the long run.

Finally, insurance.  Once you buy the ring, you might want to consider scheduling it separately on either your homeowner's or renter's insurance policy.  Generally a jewelry rider provides for full coverage with no deductible for loss or theft of the individual item.  If you make a habit of buying jewelry for your SO over time, you will want to schedule out the individual valuable pieces.

HL2VCTRS

July 15th, 2018 at 7:30 AM ^

It’s way more fun if you read your 2nd and third sentences as though they about your wife rather than your jeweler. 

I second the insurance advice. Although when I bought mine, I couldn’t initially put it on my insurance because the ring wasn’t kept at my house (fiancé and I didn’t live together).  Other than lying, any way around that?

Jasper

July 15th, 2018 at 9:25 AM ^

Best post so far. (I'm serious.)

Show the lady this classic article from 1982(!) and measure her reaction:

https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1982/02/have-you-ever-tried-to-sell-a-diamond/304575/

Seriously -- if she's open to anything else (gemstone, maybe even titanium), you've got a keeper.

jeepnut

July 14th, 2018 at 10:18 PM ^

When I made the purchase back in 2009, I found a lot of good advice on the PriceScope forums. I used what I learned there to pick out what I felt was a very good diamond. 

I wound up purchasing a loose stone from Whiteflash and a setting from J Allen.  I then shipped the setting to Whiteflash to have them mount the stone. I felt it was better to ship the setting to the store I was spending more money at than vice versa.  The diamond absolutely sparkles compared to some others I’ve seen in person. I have to believe it’s due to a superior cut. Do your research. You can get a large diamond pretty easily, but I think almost more important than raw size, is the quality of the stone and the cut. 

Good luck and God’s blessings on you future marriage!

bronxblue

July 14th, 2018 at 10:32 PM ^

I'll be the old-timer I guess and say go to a jeweler (either with your significant other or not depending on whether she/he is in the loop) and talk about what you want to spend and what you are looking for.  Websites are great for stuff life wedding bands and the like, but unless your soon-to-be-fiancee has told you exactly what she/he wants, it can be hard to tell on a website what something will look like.  I will admit to surprising my now-wife with a ring (we had discussed marriage for a long time but she never cared about jewelry and I figured the one thing I could do would be to surprise her with something from the heart that I thought she'd life), but YMMV especially if your partner has a particular preference.

The one thing I would say is be sure what you want to spend and see what the differences in price actually equate to.  The whole 2 month salary line is total BS; depending on your income and your age, we could easily be talking tens of thousands of dollars, which can get you something pretty gaudy and impractical for everyday wear.

stephenrjking

July 15th, 2018 at 1:01 AM ^

Do people actually think 2 months salary is a good choice?

I suppose there might be some sweet spot where that is both financially practical and not absurd, but I can't think of any. A guy who is just getting started with a career making 30-40k isn't going to have the spare cash to be able to make that work. As you say, a man who already has a good income would wind up buying something that's way too much.

If someone can scrape that kind of money together, use a varying fraction for a ring and put the rest to something else. 

DP

July 14th, 2018 at 10:33 PM ^

If she likes vintage rings check out White House brothers. They hand mill the bands and they can look pretty sweet and unique, rather than every other girls ring.