Ladies…cover your eyes and ears. This one isn’t for you!
OK guys. Now that we’re alone I want to FIRST give you a big congrats for not only taking this step, but for researching how to find the perfect engagement ring BEFORE you buy. This is most likely one of the most important investments you’ll make (after a house or your future kids’ college tuition), so you want to make sure you’ve got all your bases covered. Why? Because chances are the love of your life has been dreaming about this piece of jewelry for as long as she can remember (and you probably have to, in one way or another!). And if she hasn’t and insists on NOT wearing an engagement ring, well stop reading now and thank your lucky stars. Just kidding (kind of).
For those of you with future fiancée’s like me, I DID dream of the perfect engagement ring and proposal since way before my first kiss playing spin the bottle, so let me tell you: It’s a big deal! But, I’m here to hopefully help take some of the pressure off.
I should also preface this guide by saying that all couples have their own style of communicating, and this can apply to proposals and engagement rings as well. For example, I’ll tell you that when it came to buying my engagement ring, not all of the steps below happened. My husband had my mom take me out to try on engagement rings “for fun,” and he chose my engagement ring based on what I loved during that trip. While I didn’t know WHEN the proposal was going to happen, I knew it was on the horizon since we had talked about it, so I was very into the idea of having a role in picking out my own engagement ring. But that’s just me! This is not traditional at all, but it’s what worked for us. So, before you start any of the steps below, just make sure you both are on the same page when it comes to ring shopping.
So whether you’re looking for the engagement ring to be a complete surprise or you’re going to be doing some (or all) of the planning for it together, this guide will hopefully help you get an idea of what works for you (and how to do it). And if you have any questions after reading this, don’t hesitate to ask them in the comments section below. OK, let’s go!
Step 1: Figure Out Your Budget
The first thing you should know is that the old rule of “you should spend 2 or 3 months salary on an engagement ring” is long gone. The truth is you should spend what you can afford and feel comfortable with. For some that might actually mean spending 6 weeks of their income. Others might plan on dipping into their savings because they really want to buy that $12,000 ring. Or you might find the perfect ring for less than $500 or not think twice about dropping more than $20,000. The bottom line is you need to look at your bank account and spend what seems right for you and your lifestyle.
TIP: You might also consider using a ring or diamond that has been passed down from your relative or hers…in which case, we love that idea AND it will potentially save you a ton of money).
Step 2: Stalk Pinterest…and Her Friends
Chances are your girlfriend has a Pinterest account. If you’re like “WTF is Pinterest?” go here and setup an account, then search for your girlfriend using her email or name. She may or may not have a wedding board (don’t get freaked out…we all do it), and it may or may not be secret. If it is, you’ll want to then reach out to her closest friend(s) to see if they can see it or if they know what kind of style jewelry she loves. Remind them that this is all on the DL, obvs. Another thing you’ll want to notice is if most of her jewelry (and in particular her rings) is gold or silver. Platinum and white gold engagement rings are the most popular these days, but gold is still a definite option for many women (rose gold and yellow gold are even becoming trendy again!)
Step 3: Narrow Down Her Style
Hopefully you were able to gather some good intel from her friends, her Pinterest board, and her jewelry box. If not, there’s no need to get nervous. Trust your judgement when it comes to picking out an engagement ring she’ll love, and go with your gut. Has she talked about how much she likes sapphires more than diamonds before? Or do you know that she’s a big fan of vintage? Any subtle clues will help lead the way. But first, you’ll want to read up on not only things like diamond cut, color, clarity, and carat (the 4 c’s), but various setting styles, and how much you can expect to pay. Or you might want to think about going in a completely different direction and opting for a gemstone, instead. The guides below will definitely help you out and offer some food for thought.
- How to Buy an Engagement Ring (lots of info on cuts and styles, here)
- A Guide to Diamond Carats and Prices
- How to Pick Out a Diamond
- Everything You Need to Know About Emerald Cut Diamonds
- Why We Love Ruby Engagement Rings
- Learn About Morganite Engagement Rings
- What’s Your Perfect Vintage Engagement Ring Style?
Step 4: Find Out Her Ring Size
One of the trickiest parts of buying an engagement ring is figuring out your girlfriend’s ring size (Heck. Even I just learned how to measure my ring size). So, here’s what I recommend: Notice which ring (if any) she wears on her ring finger. If she does wear a ring, take a piece of paper and pencil or pen when she’s in the shower and trace the circumference of the inside AND outside of the ring. You’ll be able to take that trace to a jeweler and they’ll be able to get a pretty good idea of her size. If she doesn’t wear any rings, this is where it can get trickier. Some say to ask her friends, but I personally don’t go around asking my friends what their ring sizes are. One way you can get her friends to help out is if one of them is already engaged or married, see if they can get her to try on their ring. If it’s too small or too big or just the right size you can get a general idea of what might fit your girlfriend. Just know that it’s much easier to size down then size up, so you’re better off going with an engagement ring size that is bigger rather than smaller.
Step 5: Start Shopping
Now, this is where some of you guys might differ (as I talked about in the intro). Some couples choose to go shopping for an engagement ring together (in which case Steps 1-4 won’t apply to you), and for others this might be done exclusively by one partner (or both if you’re doing a joint proposal!). Regardless of who’s doing the shopping, it always helps to know where to start.
While there are so many great online options for buying an engagement ring, I think it helps to go to a jeweler in person, first, to talk about your budget, what style you’re looking for, etc. I would definitely suggest asking family and friends for recommendations for jewelers they love (for instance, my fiancé bought my engagement ring from a jeweler my father has known since high school).
TIP: Now might also be a good time to ask your future Father in Law for his daughter’s hand in marriage if you’re going the traditional route!
With or without a recommendation from family and friends, a good way to start looking for reliable jewelers is by finding one that is affiliated with a professional trade association, such as Jewelers of America (JA), or members of the Gemological Institute of America (GIA). You can find JA members in your area here. While stores like Tiffany and Cartier are always great choices, you can often find similar diamond quality and settings at lower prices from local, privately-owned jewelers as well.
Even if you think you’ve found the perfect ring, try giving yourself a few days (or weeks) to think about it. Go around to various jewelers and compare prices (see our Diamond Buying Guides, above) and settings. I would also go online to stores like Brilliant Earth (which specializes in conflict-free diamonds. Note that they also have brick and mortar stores in San Francisco and Los Angeles) and Hearts on Fire to see if anything sparks your interest. If you’re interested in buying a vintage ring, you’re also going to have a much broader selection online at stores such as Trumpet & Horn, Lang Antiques, and 1st Dibs among others (we love these vintage engagement rings here). Many online stores have no hassle return policies, so you’re not stuck with something if you don’t love it.
Step 6: Decide (and Buy!)
Deeeeep breaths. This (might) hurt. Once you find the engagement ring you love you’ll want to buy it in time for your wedding proposal. Keep in mind that it can take 6-8 weeks in some cases to receive your engagement ring, so plan accordingly. Once you buy the ring you’ll want to make sure to get a detailed receipt from the jeweler (listing the cut, clarity, carats, etc.), as well as a diamond grading report from an independent gemological association like GIA (vintage rings or rings under 1 carat may not have this available). Some jewelers are also able to provide you with an appraisal for your ring for insurance purposes…which leads me to my next point!
Step 7: Get it Insured!
I seriously can’t stress this enough. As soon as you buy the engagement ring you should get it insured (especially if you’re going to be traveling with it for the proposal). There are two ways you can do this. If you have homeowners or renters insurance, call your insurance company and have them add a jewelry rider to your policy. Or you can call a jewelry insurance company (like Jewelers Mutual) and get a separate policy. You’ll definitely need to show proof of purchase, and if the ring is worth more than $5,000 you’ll need to show that appraisal, too.
Step 8: Plan the perfect moment
We’ll leave this for another story… 🙂
Now that we’ve walked you through the first steps for buying an engagement ring…you have to let us know how it turns out! And again, if you have any questions don’t hesitate to ask them, below.