How To Buy An Engagement Ring 2024
How To Buy An Engagement Ring 2024

How To Buy An Engagement Ring 2024

Figuring out how to buy an engagement ring is a momentous task in and of itself, because it precedes a proposal—arguably one of the most important moments in your life. (No pressure, right?) Whether you’re shopping together with your partner or want the ring to be a total surprise, this guide can help simplify your process, from picking the right diamond to figuring out insurance and warranties.

Fresh off the heels of my own engagement, I’m sharing my advice as well as pro tips from experts, including NYC-based jeweler and ADA Diamonds founder Lindsay Reinsmith and Forbes Vetted deputy editor Kari Molvar, who holds a certificate in jewelry essentials from the Gemological Institute of America. I also included a handful of favorite places to shop and a variety of ring styles to help you get started.

1. Set Your Budget And Stick To It

Although it’s tempting to browse rings without a budget in mind, like with any big purchase, it’s best to decide on a realistic budget before you start shopping. “Consider a price point you’re comfortable with,” says Reinsmith. “Try to identify what that number is, and make a commitment to yourself to not go over that number. There’s a tendency to move the goalpost because it’s such an emotional purchase but you shouldn’t go into debt for a special purchase like an engagement ring,” she says.

Now that lab-grown diamonds are widely available and an affordable alternative to mined stones, you’ll have a lot of choices, even if your budget is on the smaller side. “There are so many amazing options out there at any price point,” shares Reinsmith.

The Bottom Line: It’s crucial to set a realistic budget before shopping. Don’t let emotions sway you into spending more—you can absolutely find rings at every price.

2. Pick Your Ring Style And Setting

This is likely the most fun step, where you can get creative. Do you want a marquise diamond on an eternity band? A cathedral setting with a classic round cut? If you need help deciding between all the different settings, cuts and more, this section’s for you.

The Setting

The ring setting refers to everything surrounding the center stone: the prongs, gallery (the side profile of the head on a ring) and band. Not only does the setting dictate the way your ring looks and how your gemstone sits, but it’s also important structurally since the setting is what holds the center in place and protects it from damage. Here are some of the most popular setting options:

  • Solitare: A great option for minimalists, this simple setting features a center stone minus any side stones (just the band and diamond on top).
  • Eternity: True to its name, this setting features stones that wrap all the way around the band.
  • Halo And Hidden Halo: A halo setting displays small accent stones that surround the center stone, while a hidden halo also places these accent stones underneath the center stone for an even more radiant look.
  • Three Stone: This setting features two stones on either side of the center stone, which accentuates the beauty of the main gemstone.
  • Sidestone: Similar to three stone, a sidestone setting has two complementary diamonds placed on either side of the center stone.
  • Cathedral: This elegant setting features arches that extend from the band to the center stone. This creates a raised look for the center stone since it sits higher on the finger.

“It’s important to choose a setting style that’s congruent with your lifestyle,” shares Reinsmith. How often you plan on wearing your ring and your personal style are also important to consider. And, don’t let what you see on social media sway you. “Those dainty rings that look great on Instagram can be worn every day but they need to be removed all the time; super-delicate thin settings aren’t a great fit for everyday use.”

I chose a ring with a high set, meaning the diamond sits up high on my finger. This also means the diamond has a greater chance of being knocked out or damaged, so I frequently remove my ring to protect it. If you want a ring that’s better for everyday wear, consider a lower setting where the diamond sits more flush against your finger. For more in-depth advice, check out our guide to the best engagement ring styles.

The Cut Of The Center Stone

Diamonds and gemstones come in an array of shapes and cuts: round, oval, cushion, pear, princess, emerald, marquise and more. While most people go for a diamond as their center stone, you might be drawn to a colored gemstone like a sapphire or emerald. Consider your personal style, then work with your jeweler to find the best fit for you.

In terms of specific cuts, round and princess cut never really go out of style, but “oval is a really hot shape right now and has been for a few years,” shares Reinsmith. “Oval tends to look pretty large, as do pear-shapes. Asymmetrical shapes are definitely on trend right now, too.”

The Band Material

Similar to the setting and center stone, there’s a variety of metal types for your band. “Platinum has been the choice metal for years and is still our recommendation but yellow gold is definitely starting to eclipse it,” says Reinsmith. Platinum is the most durable but also the most expensive. “White gold is a less pricey alternative, though it won’t offer the same level of durability,” she says. You can also consider two-tone or mixed metal settings where the prongs and head are platinum but the band is yellow gold, for example. This option brings down the cost and also looks stylish.

3. Shop Online Or In-Person

No matter where you choose to shop, you’ll want to go with a reputable jeweler who’s knowledgable and trustworthy, and happy to answer any and all questions. Now that many jewelers sell directly to consumers online, you can easily compare prices and styles, and still receive a similar personalized experience as you would in-store: Many online retailers offer virtual consultations, where you can discuss different styles, your style preferences and more. We did all the research on the best places to buy engagement rings, carefully reviewing jewelers that scored highest on trustworthiness, quality designs and stunning stones. We also put together a guide to the best lab-grown diamonds, if you want to focus exclusively on this option.


Shop Engagement Rings for Women with Lab Grown Diamonds

We like that Vrai uses lab-grown diamonds from its own manufactory, which cuts out the middleman. You can choose from an array of styles, including this classic round shape set in 18-karat yellow gold.

4. Purchase Or Finance The Ring

Once you’ve picked out the ring you love best, it’s time to actually purchase it. Although you should always buy something you can afford, you can absolutely finance your ring if you prefer not to make one big payment. Just make sure your pay-off plan is in line with the budget you set. Most jewelers give you options to finance directly through them, or you can go through your credit card company (be mindful of the fees, though) or take out a personal loan.

Experts also recommend taking out ring insurance, at least for the first few years following an engagement, to protect against unexplained loss and theft. “I definitely recommend ring insurance,” advises Reinsmith. Another benefit to insurance is using it for repairs. “There’s no warranty that will fix your ring for free,” says Reinsmith. It’s best to have repairs available to you via insurance, so you don’t have to spend an excessive amount to fix something small, like a loose prong.

Your Guide To The 4 Cs Of Diamonds

All of these components together—known as the 4 C’s—dictate the overall price of a stone.

  • Cut: The quality of the diamond’s cut and overall make of it, including how well faceted and proportioned it is.
  • Color: Measured using a D to Z scale. D is 100% colorless, while Z is on the opposite end of the spectrum with a yellowish hue.
  • Clarity: Measure of imperfections, known as inclusions, of the stone and whether they’re visible to the naked eye, a.k.a. “eye-clean.”
  • Carat: How much the diamond weighs.

Since the average shopper is not a diamond expert, Reinsmith often helps simplify the process for buyers. “To an average person with no gemological training, clarity is something that, unless it’s a pretty drastic difference, is only going to be visible using magnification.” She also cleared up a common misconception about clearness and clarity: “Clearness and clarity are not the same thing, which is a big misunderstanding people have. They think haziness is tied to clarity. Clarity is quite literally the measure of imperfections and blemishes of the stone. A diamond would have to be pretty [low quality] for you to see imperfections.”

Finally, “when it comes to color, it’s very personal. We strongly encourage clients go look at diamonds in person as that’s the best way to decide whether color is important to you,” says Reinsmith.

Deciding On Lab Grown Vs. Natural Diamonds

Lab-grown diamonds have skyrocketed in popularity, which has left many people wondering what differences actually separate lab-grown from natural. The main difference between a lab-grown and natural diamond is their origin, but “chemically and optically they are the same,” says Reinsmith. Lab-grown diamonds are created in a lab (hence the name), while natural diamonds are mined from the Earth, and often require more energy and resources to acquire, which drives up the price.

In fact, lab diamonds tend to cost about a third less than natural stones, even if they that have same 4 C ratings. “A natural diamond might cost $20,000 but that same exact diamond grown in a lab would cost $5,000 or $6,000,” says Reinsmith.

The more affordable price often allows buyers to get a higher grade or larger carat stone without having to spend too much. “Another value people don’t realize in addition to the 4 C’s is the quality of the [lab-grown] material itself is superior in its purity, meaning the purity of the crystal and how pure carbon is it,” says Reinsmith. “Natural [diamonds] can be up to 2% carbon so there are [other substances] in the diamond like nitrogen. This can lead to material issues with fluorescents where the stone looks cloudy or milky.”

The Bottom Line: You can get a much higher quality lab-grown stone with a better cut, color, clarity and carat size for significantly less than what you would pay for the same diamond that’s mined naturally.

More Tips On Buying An Engagement Ring

  • I recommend doing research before you even enter a store to try rings on so you have a general idea of what you like in terms of different styles and carat sizes. A ring can end up looking different once it’s on your hand, so don’t be afraid to try on several different shapes to make sure what you choose is truly your favorite.
  • For those who don’t want to involve their partner in the process but still want them to have a final say in what the ring looks like, consider alternative options. “Something we offer is a proposal setting program. The purchaser can basically choose a temporary stone and put it in a temporary proposal setting. It’s still high-quality and made for you, but you propose with that and then you trade in that stone with no resetting fee,” shares Reinsmith.
  • To preserve the quality of your ring, treat it like what it is: a valuable, meaningful piece of fine jewelry. “If you’re the kind of person who’s forgetful or just want to wear it all the time, you have to be realistic about the ways you use your hands. You’d be shocked at how much pressure you put on a band from your own body weight,” says Reinsmith.
  • Avoid having too many cooks in the kitchen. “If you make an appointment at a local jewelry, people usually want to bring a parent or friend. In small quantities, that can be helpful. But we’ve seen the appointment get derailed once you bring in more people with you,” says Reinsmith.
  • Leave room in your budget for additional costs like tax and ring insurance, which can add up quickly for larger purchases.
  • An engagement ring is supposed to be forever and timeless, so be wary of trends. While trends are great for inspiration and helping you find styles you like, I caution against choosing something solely because it’s the most popular thing at the moment.

Why Trust Forbes Vetted

  • We have a large library of content that covers all of your fine jewelry needs whether you’re engagement ring shopping or looking for the best pair of diamond earrings.
  • Senior strategy editor Katie Simpson recently got engaged and relied on her experience ring shopping to create this guide.
  • We spoke with ADA Diamonds founder and COO Lindsay Reinsmith on all things engagement rings: tips for couples, what to look for in different settings and metal types, the best way to care for your ring and more. Her expert advice is woven throughout this piece.
  • Deputy editor and fashion expert Kari Molvar oversees all of our jewelry content by providing guidance on stories like the best places to buy diamonds and the best jewelry brands. She holds a certificate in jewelry essentials from the Gemological Institute of America.

How Much Should I Spend On An Engagement Ring?

Most people are familiar with the two-to-three month salary rule, meaning you spend anywhere from one to three month’s salary on an engagement ring. However, you certainly don’t need to abide by this rule; how much you decide to spend on an engagement ring is ultimately up to you and your partner. “It’s an emotional purchase that’s tied to an emotional moment but still approach it with rationality,” says Reinsmith. “It’s a beautiful symbol of your love and affection of each other but it’s not an investment and it’s not a place to park your money.” Decide on a number that makes the most sense for you and your partner financially and go from there.

What Is The Best Time To Buy An Engagement Ring?

The best time to buy an engagement ring is when you and your partner feel ready to take that next step, however there are certain times of the years when the sticker shock isn’t as severe. The holiday season is a really popular time for people to get engaged—which might be because of an abundance of holiday cheer—but is also likely due to lower prices. Between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day, many jewelers offer sales and promotions so if you’re shopping on a tight budget, this is likely the best time to buy.

More Wedding Jewelry Stories To Shop

Shopping for wedding jewelry doesn’t end with an engagement ring. Browse our guides to wedding bands below, plus our recommendations for the best ways to clean and travel with your most precious jewelry.

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