The majority of men that I’ve helped find an engagement ring have been in love with “a wonderful woman who will love anything I get her.” They tell me “I know my girlfriend doesn’t have an opinion on her ring, she barely wears jewelry” and “I know she wants to be surprised.”
The truth is, most of these gentlemen are wearing rose-colored glasses. Yes, your lady might love anything you get her. But wouldn’t it be nice if there was a way to get the thing that she loves the most within your budget and not just something that she’ll love but only because you got it for her?
Some women dream about their engagement rings for years. They browse online and in stores. We ‘oooh’ and ‘ahhh’ over our friend’s rings. We have ideas and opinions, even if we never discuss them with our significant others. We pin countless images on Pinterest of rings that to most men appear interchangeable, but to us, they’re vastly different.
But although women have a good idea of what they like, most don’t actually know how much it costs to get what they want. We look at a picture of a ring we like but we don’t actually know how large the stones really are and how expensive a ring that achieves a similar look will be. Traditionally, it’s the guy that has to deal with the reality and complexities of choosing the right ring.
So, on one hand you have men wearing rose-colored glasses, and on the other hand you have women removed from the financial realities of diamond ring shopping. And, just to muddy the waters a bit more, let’s add our societal expectations that pressure men to magically come up with the perfect ‘symbol’ of their love by hunting down and buying the perfect ring. Not to mention this has to be done in secret, like a psychic, and somehow expect to have all this result in a perfect proposal.
AND if this was a Disney movie it would be. But, most of us are not lucky enough to live in a Disney movie, which means, sadly, that all of those expectations we have are not based in reality.
Men are not mind readers. And buying something for another person that is so personal like a ring, that they are expected to love and wear every day for the rest of their lives, without getting their specific input is unrealistic and unfair. Can you imagine if we treated other important things we buy this way? Car purchases? Home purchases? It’s just silly.
So here’s an idea – forget the surprise. An engagement ring doesn’t have to be a surprise (women know it’s going to be part of the eventual proposal). A proposal can still be special and perhaps even more wonderful without a surprise ring and, chances are, if your significant other has talked to you about rings she already knows she is probably going to get one. Surprise over.
If there is one thing I hope you can take away from all this it’s that love doesn’t need ‘symbols’ or quests; it needs communication and partnership. The engagement ring is a perfect opportunity for collaboration because it’s likely to be the first big purchase you’ll make together as a couple.
Start by reading the articles on diamond cut, diamond color, diamond clarity, diamond carat and diamond light performance together and make sure both of you are armed with basic diamond information. You can talk to and engage a diamond expert together. A good consultant will be able to help you discover your preferences, test your understanding, and make sure you’re spending your budget in the most effective way.
At the beginning of your search, you should absolutely check out your local stores so that you can get a sense of the quality of the diamonds they offer. But don’t be shocked that the jewelry store salespeople do not have, or will not share the same knowledge of diamond cut quality as you’ve gotten by spending 10 minutes online reading how to pick a diamond.
To make sure you properly educate yourself, choose a jewelry store that has a really good selection of settings in a variety of styles and make it clear to the salesperson that you are just starting your search. Tell them that you are interested in learning what are the differences between different color and clarity grades as well as trying on different styles of settings. Be open with them about your budget and tell them that it’s firm so they don’t try to sell you on diamonds and rings that are out of your budget.
The objective is to find out each of your personal preferences regarding diamond rings. Ask for the price of the diamonds and ask to see the certificates. You want to be comparing apples to apples so make sure the diamonds are GIA or AGSL graded. Ask each other point blank whether you prefer a smaller stone with higher color or larger stone with lower color.
Try on rings in all the different styles available so that she can find out what looks good on her finger. You might find that this is different to what she thinks looks good in pictures. Does she like side stones, a halo, or a simple solitaire? Modern, vintage or classic styles? Make notes, take pictures and pay attention to things she likes and doesn’t like.
Take this opportunity to ask questions. For example, you can you ask her: “do you want a fancier setting and smaller diamond, or a more basic setting and a larger stone?” You can also look at wedding sets to get an idea of whether the chosen engagement ring style will go well with a wedding band that she likes.
And here are some more tips for the guys. Make it romantic. Make a reservation at a nice restaurant for lunch or dinner before or after the appointments, and if it’s after, it’s a great time to discuss what each of you liked and disliked. Hint: Listen to what she has to say first!
You can also take your search online where there are a number of advantages over going to a store together. Shopping together online means that you can speak freely to each other about everything that you see and you can even do this in the comfort of your own living room, away from bright lights and pushy salespeople. Be honest about your budget and encourage each other to be honest about how you feel towards the different factors that affect diamond pricing.
As with most things we buy online, you will be able to get better pricing for an item of similar quality. You will also be able to access a greater selection of diamonds, higher cut quality diamonds, and a wider selection of jewelry designers. Shopping online also means that you can expand your search across the entire country (or world) if you are looking to purchase outside of your state.
Do what you can to make shopping online together fun and not too stressful. You can prepare by doing some research in advance and read the thoughtful online reviews of the different vendors. Here are a few of my favorite vendors that you should check out:
Make sure you pick vendors who carry diamonds of different shapes and cut quality and then just start browsing. Again, it’s always a good idea to surprise her with a romantic dinner or lunch at home as part of your online ring-browsing spree.
One of the challenges of browsing rings online is that it’s harder to judge a ring using a picture alone. Technology these days make this easier with some sites offering 360-degree videos and even being able to virtually view the ring on a finger. If you don’t feel comfortable buying a ring online, consider buying a loose diamond and finding a local jeweler to have it set in a ring you can try on in person.
Just don’t forget that setting quality is very important and the quality of a ring is hard to judge even in person. Take some time to investigate different jewelers and the quality of the settings they offer. I have written several articles, including Is your custom CAD work done by a CAD artist? and Casting Defects to Watch For that will help you pick a good jeweler.
Once you decide on a jeweler, have them measure your ring size and if you’ve decided to buy online then get that jeweler to send you a ring sizer. If you’re basing her ring size off a previous measurement, try to get a millimeter measurement for the inside diameter or circumference of the ring. Don’t just trust the alphabetical or number systems because despite there being international standards, you might find that a measurement from one jeweler is slightly different to another.
After you have done all this basic research you can both pat yourselves on the back for strengthening your communication skills on difficult topics with your future spouse. You will have the confidence in your proposal to know that your intended will love the ring you eventually buy, not just because you bought it for them, but also because it’s exactly what they wanted. She will have the peace of mind knowing that she will receive the ring of her dreams and not have to worry about whether or not she will like her engagement diamond ring.
Buying an engagement ring should be a fun and memorable experience and doing it together is a practical way to make sure this significant purchase goes smoothly. BEST of all, the proposal can still be a complete surprise. Date, time, location, all of that can still be decided! And no matter what you do, it WILL be special for one simple reason: it will be a ONCE in a lifetime event for you both.
Do you think that an engagement ring should be kept a surprise? We’d love to hear your thoughts!