The young couples guide to buying engagement rings.
Most young couples buy based off size and shine, the style of the ring, and what looks nice on the old lady’s finger.
And if that’s how you want to do it, great, I’m happy for you.
But the truth is, most rings bought around and below the $4000.00 mark may be of lower quality. Here’s why: at this price, the diamonds are designed to look better than they really are. They may be sold as a 1-carat, but the cut may make the diamond look larger than it really is. The clarity or the colour may not be the best. Of course you can get other stones or smaller diamonds, but then you’re left with a small centre stone. And most young couples would rather have something bigger than something of quality. It’s not that everything below 4k is bad quality, it’s the way that things are packaged. The band quality, however, is usually pretty consistent. If you want to buy a ring while looking only for size and shine, than almost any large retail store will work for you. But if you want to know the real-deal about engagement rings – what to look for, how to buy them, even how to get inspirations from your significant other, then read on because I lay absolutely everything out. The good, the bad, and the ugly.
Now you might be thinking, why would a jeweller do this? Because I’ve been in the ring making business for over a decade, and to me, buying an engagement ring should be a very special moment for every couple, doesn’t matter if they’re spending $500 or $50,000. And making a good decision usually makes for a great experience. Each couple you talk to have their own take on things. Some like buying from large retailers, others only work with independent jewellers, and some prefer buying online.
We gathered all these perspectives, added a few things on how to buy quality, a dash of how to work together as a couple, and voila.
The following covers, in great detail:
- How to gather the exact inspirations your significant other wants in a ring.
- 4C’s of diamonds, size and shine – what to look for in diamonds.
- How to approach jewellers to get exactly what you want.
And the best part of all is it’s free. You can read it here or you can leave your name and email so I can personally send you a PDF copy (that way you don’t have to delete your search history later). What you won’t receive is a sales pitch, or high-pressure sales tactics, or constant discount offers. That’s the beauty of the guide – now you can make a decision without feeling trapped. Go ahead, read on or type in your name and email, and give me the pleasure of knowing my experience was put to good use.
Your friend at the bench,
Master Craftsman & Director of happy young couples at Seth Tobin Jewellers
- 1 The young couples guide to buying engagement rings.
- 1.1 Find out what she wants first (even if it’s a surprise).
- 1.2 Choosing the ring.
- 1.2.1 What about moissanite gemstones?
- 1.2.2 What types of metals are available for the band?
- 1.2.3 What type of ring settings are there?
- 1.2.4 Ring proportions
- 1.2.5 So what about the 4C’s?
- 18.104.22.168 Diamond cut.
- 22.214.171.124 Diamond clarity.
- 126.96.36.199 Diamond colour.
- 188.8.131.52 Diamond carat weight.
- 1.2.6 A word of caution.
- 1.2.7 Diamond grading reports.
- 1.2.8 What about protection plans?
- 1.2.9 So do I go with ready-to-wear or custom?
- 1.3 Buying the ring.
- 1.4 A word from Seth Tobin Jewellers
Find out what she wants first (even if it’s a surprise).
Sometimes the biggest shock for young couples is that it’s okay to spend any amount on your ring – as long as you guys match up on your values. Let me explain. Some couples would rather spend a few hundred on a cheap ring and put all their money towards getting ahead. Others would rather pay for a nice vacation. Some women want something gorgeous. Which leads me to my next point…
Get clear on your expectations.
What are her expectations? Is the ring just a “symbol”? Is she interested in buying cheap now and upgrading later? Does she want something shiny right now? These things should be found out. If you’re stumped on how to do this, don’t worry, later I’ll show you ways to find out what she wants – questions that have worked for other young couples. The other big thing to consider is if the ring is a statement purchase. Whether we like it or not, humans are social creatures. If the husband’s you hang out with all bought their fiance’s $5000.00 rings, how will your woman feel about her’s?
The point is, although advertiser’s make popping the question seem like a surprise, most couples work as a team. And knowing the value she puts on the ring puts you ahead of the game.
Ok so how do you find out about the ring? Simple. By asking. Feel free to use this word-for-word script (it’s worked for other young couples):
“I love you and I’m excited about our future together. I know we’ve talked about marriage, and there’s something else I want to be open with you about – the ring. Maybe you’ve thought about it as well, cuz I definitely have. What kind of ring do you have in mind? The band? I’d love to know what you think.”
You’ll notice that this question:
- Makes her know we’re in this together (less stress).
- Is friendly and open.
- Doesn’t bring up any concerns about the budget.
Any question is better than no question at all.
The biggest thing is just to ask. The reason behind why the ring is a “surprise” in pop culture is so men would end up buying a more expensive ring. Turns out women tend to be the more rational one’s when it comes to buying an engagement ring. So don’t fall for the pop culture trap.
Yes the date of the proposal can be a surprise – but don’t be a romantic – getting married is one of the biggest decisions in life.
Ask your fiancée to send you what she likes.
Have her message you photos, or share a Pinterest board. I’m sure she’s already saved a few Instagram photos as well.
Now that we have the inspirations, it’s time to know the important stuff about rings so that we make a good decision.
Choosing the ring.
What about moissanite gemstones?
Moissanite is a diamond substitute, it’s hardness is 9.25 on the Mohs scale. A natural diamond is a 10. As a result, moissanite can scratch over time whereas a diamond will not. Most of the time people buy moissanite when they want a large looking diamond but simply do not have the budget to afford one. A 1-carat diamond can be $10,000 vs $850 for a 1-carat moissanite.
What types of metals are available for the band?
Most young couples will go with gold – either white, yellow or rose and there’s also silver and platinum.
What type of ring settings are there?
In short, several. Here are a few.
You may want to think about ring proportions and the size of your lover’s finger. Some people say that if the finger is slender and long, you’ll want a narrow band with a wide stone to make it look in proportion. The opposite may be true for broad fingers. But it comes down to personal preference.
So what about the 4C’s?
The 4C’s is a good start for selecting diamonds, but it’s not the end-all-be-all that most jewellers make it out to be. If you haven’t heard of the 4C’s before, basically you have 4 characteristics that make up the overall value of the diamond – the cut, the clarity, the colour, and the carat weight. Each characteristic has its own scale to go by.
The cut is the most important C because it determines how shiny the diamond is. Most people think that the cut is the shape (diamond, oval, heart, solitaire etc) but the cut is all about how well a diamond interacts with light to produce shine and brilliance. This is due to the geometry and proportions of the diamond. 3 things that are looked for in a diamond cut that give it that shine we all love are the:
- Brightness – how light reflects the diamond.
- Fire – how effectively white light hits the diamond and scatters into all the colours of the rainbow.
- Scintillation – the amount of sparkle a diamond produces, and how well the diamond creates light and dark areas on the inside.
Grades range from Excellent (the best) to poor (the worst), with most jewellers carrying cuts above good or very good.
This cut has optimal fire and brilliance because it’s using all of the light to reflect back to your eye.
When you look down at a very good cut, you’ll see light and dark spots. But from the sides it will sparkle.
A good cut is well, just good.
A fair cut won’t reflect light so the sparkle is significantly lower.
A poor cut is dull to the human eye.
Diamonds are formed deep within the earth, then put under intense heat and pressure. As a result, the diamonds form imperfections called inclusions (inside of the diamond) and blemishes (exterior of the diamond). So when we talk about the clarity, we’re talking about the absence of these birthmarks. There are 11 grades. Most reputable jewellers will not carry anything below SI2. It’s important to keep in mind what the naked eye can or cannot see when dealing with clarity. For example, just because Flawless is the best grade, other grades may be just fine because the human eye will not be able to tell the difference.
No blemishes or inclusions are seen under 10X magnification.
Internally flawless (IF).
No inclusions but blemishes are seen under 10X magnification.
Very very slightly included (VVS1 and VVS2).
Inclusions are present but very difficult to see under 10X magnification.
Very slightly included (VS1 and VS2).
Inclusions are present and range from easy to difficult to see under 10X magnification.
Slightly included (SI1 and SI2).
Inclusions are noticeable under 10X magnification.
Included (I1, I2 and I3).
Inclusions are obvious under 10X magnification.
The more colour a diamond has the less its value. Most couples go with something colourless or near colourless to the eye. Most reputable jewellers will not carry anything below J grade.
Diamond carat weight.
For carat weight, of course, the heavier it is, the more its value. There are price per carat increases at 0.50, 0.70, 1.00, 1.50, 2.00 respectively. The prices are less under and between those amounts (for example 0.86 carat). Often when people know this they still want the pedigree of a certain size but sometimes they see value in going slightly less in weight.
A word of caution.
The 4C’s isn’t the end-all-be-all. Most professional couples still care mostly about size and shine. But if you’re looking for value, then you need the right scale to determine that value.
Diamond grading reports.
This ensures that you get what you pay for. You should always get a report with your diamond, included in the price. If the jeweller buys a diamond that comes with a certificate, then the client gets the original certificate as it is part of the documentation. The jeweller keeps a record of the serial number for their records and in case the client misplaces their information. With the serial number, all original information can be retrieved. Also the serial number is laser engraved on the diamond so it can be read under magnification. The most common report is the GIA. There are other reputable reports but they’re much less common.
What about protection plans?
A reputable jeweller should not be selling a protection plan on top of the ring. Instead, they should be offering you a lifetime warranty, where you can get one free sizing, unlimited cleanings and inspections, and free repairs for any defects. If there are any wear and tear or abusive damages, the repairs should be done at wholesale cost determined by the jeweller.
So do I go with ready-to-wear or custom?
Ultimately it depends on you. If you bought wholesale diamonds than yes, the custom route is for you. But if your significant other gave you inspiration photos and you find something exactly the same or very similar, then go for ready-to-wear.
If you do go down the custom route, then there are 3 things you should be looking for:
- Look for someone who gives you options for the band and the centre stone, while giving you the pros and cons for each. You’ll also want to work with someone who takes a down payment for your ring, that way you know they are serious about your project and won’t just put it on the backburner. Horror stories of bad timing do happen.
- Once the jeweller and you are clear on the vision, he or she should create you a model, either a digital one or 3-D. Both are great because it’ll show you exactly what you’re getting.
- Be sure to make sure your jeweller does absolutely everything in-house. Why? Because the jeweller is the one you shared your vision with. If he gives it off to someone else, it’s very possible that the vision will go into a different direction.
So far we’ve covered how to find the ring of your lovers dreams, and how to choose the ring. Now for the final step, we’ll teach you how to buy the ring and what to look for in a jeweller.
Buying the ring.
The biggest turn off most young couples have with large retail stores is that things can get salesy, real quickly. And most people don’t want that with such a meaningful purchase. But there are ways to still buy from large retailers and potentially avoid the slimy sales feel! The second biggest turn off that young couples have is that large retailers tend to sell rings that appear too good to be true. For example, a 1-carat ring at an extremely low price. What most people don’t realise is that yes the diamond may weigh 1 carat, but the other characteristics that determine the value, such as the colour cut and clarity, are very poor. That’s why the 4C’s come in handy.
So if you believe the large retail option is for you and you want to avoid the slimy sales feel, then find a store that will allow you to work with more than one salesperson. This will make sure that you’re not just another commission to them. Also, ask the salesperson what their favourite rings are. More often than not, they will have great taste in rings, so that should help you bring the conversation back to your vision instead of on sales. If they try to upsell you, ask why. If they can give you the reason why and it makes sense, such as more value or a better cut, than great. If not, then you know this is just a sales game for them and you won’t get a quality experience.
The biggest misconception with independent jewellers is that the prices will be way higher. Now if you’re used to seeing junk diamonds advertised at low prices because of the poor quality, then yes, you get what you pay for. But independent jewellers, pound for pound, should be similar in pricing with online and large retail. With any reputable jeweller, you can show them the wholesale diamonds or the rings you’re looking at elsewhere and they should be able to show you something at the same price point. The only thing that will be different in pricing is custom work, and that comes down to the jeweller’s expertise. A jeweller that has earned his stripes and is a true craftsman may not negotiate in prices for custom work. But other, not-as-experienced jewellers who are less confident may have room to give. It just depends what type of ring you want on your lover’s finger!
Purchasing jewellery online is for that type of person who may not like working with someone personally, or if your significant other is set on a particular look and you’ve found exactly that.
The biggest word of caution in buying online is, you get what you pay for. You don’t get to look at the diamond, you don’t get to try the ring on, and you don’t know if the pictures you’re seeing have been enhanced to hide flaws and make them look better than they truly are. So make sure you check the return policies and the reputability.
So if you’re debating on large retail or independent jewellers, or you’re set on one or the other, the best thing to do is book 3-5 appointments with several jewellers so you can pick the one that best fits you. You might find that one place is too high end, one place is too salesy and the one in the middle is just right. You may like the high end feel. It’s all up to you, but I suggest you try different ones so you know for sure. At the end of the day, making your ring is a collaboration.
How should I approach each jeweller?
Have your budget in mind. If you feel like you have to hide your budget, you’re in the wrong place. A quality jeweller will respect your budget and will show you how to get the most at your price. The other important thing you should have for your jeweller is the inspiration images or ideas from your significant other. If you send them in before your appointment, your jeweller can get a head start and show you rings that are aligned with your vision.
From the jewellers perspective, all they’re trying to do is figure out where you’re coming from. Have you done your research? Are you willing to learn? Have you bought into the large retail advertising and believe that you should be getting large diamonds for next to nothing? Once they figure out where you’re coming from, they can help you out in the best way possible.
Now that you’ve completed the mini journey on purchasing an engagement ring, now’s the time to go get the ring of her dreams! Remember, start with what your significant other wants, then learn how to buy rings, and finally go to the place that aligns with your values.
A word from Seth Tobin Jewellers
If you end up wanting to work with an independent jeweller, I would be thrilled to get the chance to know you and understand your vision. I’ve been making power couples happy with their rings for over a quarter century. Every ring that I create is a story embedded in my mind. I think in rings, metals and stones. We offer free protection plans for all our clients which includes one free sizing, unlimited cleanings, free repairs and wholesale prices for any serious damages. We’re family owned and operated, with no “sales staff”. If you want to work with a true craftsman than come into the store and introduce yourself. Show us your inspirations and let’s make this the best engagement ring possible.
Master Craftsman & Director of happy young couples at Seth Tobin Jewellers
P.S Want an engagement ring checklist? Leave your contact info below and I’ll personally send one over.