Engagement ring shopping can make anyone nervous. No matter how long you have been dating your significant other, selecting the perfect engagement ring isn’t easy, but there’s no reason to go through the process alone. To help with your nerves and uncertainty, the Lightner Museum is sharing our best engagement ring buying advice to help you select the perfect ring that will make it easy for your partner to say “yes!”
From the ring setting, diamond shape, and carat weights, we’re here to help make your engagement ring shopping an easier experience, and along the way, you’ll hear advice from real couples about what they learned from their own engagement ring shopping experiences!
(Click below to jump to each section.)
1. LEARN JEWELRY INDUSTRY LINGO BEFORE GOING TO A JEWELRY STORE
When you start your search for the perfect engagement ring, it’s a good idea to learn the lingo. This will help you ask the right questions and understand the information your jeweler is sharing with you.
Color, cut, clarity, and carat weight are known as “the 4Cs,” the universal grading scale for judging the quality and price of a diamond. This video from the Gemological Institute of America (G.I.A.), which created the 4Cs, goes into detail about color, clarity, cut, and carat weight, and how to choose a diamond.
- Color: Color refers to the hue of the diamond. Ranging from colorless to a light yellow color, most diamonds are colorless or near-colorless. The less color, the higher the grade of a diamond.
- Clarity: Nothing is perfect—even diamonds! Diamonds may have flaws (known as inclusions). Rings are graded on a G.I.A. scale, which grades them from flawless (FL) to Included (I).
- Cut: Graded from excellent to poor, the diamond cut is the amount of sparkle the ring gives off. Cut can also refer to the diamond shape, such as a square, pear-shaped, or round cut.
- Carat Weight: Carat weight is the measurement of the size of a diamond. The average size of a diamond is about one carat, which is about the size of an Advil tablet.
Lightner Museum bride Roshni Patel has firsthand experience with using the 4Cs.
“I helped my brother shop for his fiancée’s ring, and I [give] the biggest kudos to all the men out there. It’s such a tough process because there are so many options and it’s so easy to get confused! The biggest advice I can give is to really understand the 4Cs behind the diamond. Even more than that, try to understand the different angles and ratios to make sure that you’re really getting a good price for what you’re paying.”
Roshni also emphasized the importance of a budget when engagement ring shopping:
“Know what you’re willing to splurge on and what you’re willing to spend, at least enough to get by. This may depend on your partner’s preference for cut, size, etc. Upgrading on the clarity after a certain point will not result in any major benefit to the naked eye, but it will certainly eat up a lot of your budget, so it’s important to have priorities and stick to those. It’s easy to get swayed once you start shopping!”
Roshni’s own fiancé Sam went above and beyond when it came time for him to propose on a special trip to Havasu Falls.
“He made my ring! He bought all the equipment and learned how to make the stone and the band and worked with a jeweler along the way to help put it together.”
2. DETERMINE WHERE TO BUY AN ENGAGEMENT RING
When you’ve settled on the diamond shape and ring style, you need to decide on the best place to buy an engagement ring. Like other industries, there are many different options available and endless retailers when it comes to buying an engagement ring.
Engagement rings are sold at small locally-owned jewelry stores, designer retailers, and even big-box stores. Consider what is important to you when purchasing this large commitment item.
Orlando, Florida-based engagement ring designer Sandy Rubin says, “We are seeing an influx in a more remote approach to jewelry shopping. In-person appointments may now be held via video conferencing apps and we are relying more heavily on image sharing for diamonds, gemstones, and bespoke jewelry.”
Some couples opt to shop local rather than through large jewelry stores. Local shops are known to have better customer service, ring education, and better inventory options.
“Walk into a local jewelry store and you should have access to the deep knowledge base of your experienced gemologist and jewelry. You should be free to ask any and every question,” says Clay Nettles, owner of Nettles Fine Jewelry in St. Augustine, Florida.
Carlie Prince shared that her fiancé, Jack Parr, shopped at a local jeweler for her ring.
“Jack and I never went ring shopping together. He knew I loved an oval and that was the extent of it. The ring is gorgeous and I love it all the more knowing he took the time to pick something out all on his own!”
3. HAVE AN ENGAGEMENT RING BUDGET, BUT DON’T LET SOMEONE TELL YOU WANT TO SPEND!
When it comes to buying an engagement ring, the budget is very personal. Some people believe that the more you spend, the better the ring, but this is far from the truth when it comes to buying engagement rings and wedding bands.
An engagement ring should be a representation of your love. That’s hard to put a price on! Rubin’s tip: “Allow for this ring to be a representation of where you are today. It will travel with you throughout your lives together as a beautiful reminder of where you began.”
Bride Adrienne D’Angelo’s tip for an engagement ring budget is, “Shop within your means. Both of you should have an understanding of what the buyer is capable of and willing to spend. Make sure to have a mutual understanding. If you aren’t able to purchase the dream ring right now, that’s okay. You can always upgrade years later!”
4. CHOOSE AN ENGAGEMENT RING WITH SOME PERSONALITY
Engagement rings today aren’t one style fits all. Many people prefer colored gems over more traditional diamonds, or rose gold bands over white gold. We recommend purchasing a ring that speaks to your partner’s personality.
“People still want quality and longevity, but they are looking for different cuts or alternative gemstones. Right now is an exciting time to create a fully custom ring because of technology and style freedom. Look for an expert to guide you in the process of making your ring,” says Laurel Baker, jewelry designer and owner of Anchor Boutique in St. Augustine, Florida.
If your partner isn’t into following trends, choose a classic diamond engagement ring rather than a more trendy sapphire or ruby stone. If your fiancé loves to stand out, don’t be afraid to choose a bold color diamond that will be unique to them.
While the engagement ring you choose is something you and your partner will have for life, that doesn’t mean it always has to look the same. Diamonds might be forever, but the setting doesn’t have to be. On a big anniversary down the road, you can reset the stone to create a more classic setting that can be passed down to future generations.
Below are a few unique engagement ring designs from Laurel at Anchor Boutique:
5. ASK A FRIEND OR FAMILY MEMBER FOR HELP WITH ENGAGEMENT RING SHOPPING
When choosing an engagement ring, you don’t have to go it alone! Invite a mom, sister, or your spouse-to-be’s best friend into the conversation.
There might be a family ring they could offer, or someone else might have a better idea of what engagement ring style your partner would love to have, not to mention better knowledge of engagement ring shopping in general.
Not only will this help you select the perfect ring, but it also offers an opportunity for you to get closer to your significant other’s loved ones! (Can you say brownie points?!)
Bride Lindsey worked with her family to make sure that her now-husband Rory had an idea of what she liked before he went shopping.
“I went to Diamonds Direct and picked out what I liked with my cousin. They wrote down my likes on a card for Rory to have when he went shopping. It was a great experience!”
Lindsey adds, “With it being such a big purchase for something that will be worn your whole life, it is very acceptable for the girl to have some impact!” We love that Lindsay was proactive in making sure that she got a ring that she loved! As you can tell from the photo below, she has great taste!
CHOOSE YOUR ENGAGEMENT RING WITH LOVE IN MIND
At the end of the day, when you are shopping for the perfect engagement ring, you are purchasing the item with your significant other and your relationship specifically in mind. Your partner will love whatever ring you get them because you purchased it or custom-designed it out of love.
Buying an engagement ring is just the first overwhelming (but hugely enjoyable) experience you’ll have when it comes to planning your dream wedding. After the proposal, celebrate and then get right to work finding your dream venue.
Once your partner says “yes!” be sure to check out the Lightner Museum’s wedding planning guide!