This is probably the most hyped up part of getting engaged – the ringggggggg. Most people usually need some sort of help or inspiration to figure out exactly what kind of ring you want – I mean everyone knows that they want a big blingy diamond ring but most people are surprised to find out just how much variety there are to rings and ring design. Most people are also surprised to discover just how expensive diamonds are. So I wanted to provide a few tips and insights about finding your ring style, some things to consider when looking at rings, and just how much everything costs. [As a disclaimer, I’m on my third ring – I keep changing my mind on what I like so I’ve done a lot of research on rings through my process of changing mine! Don’t follow my lead, part of me really wishes I stuck with the first one.]
1. Cost of rings
So there are two separate components to every ring – (1) the diamond itself and (2) the setting. Both of these things are important to the cost and the design of the ring. Some jewelry stores or engagement ring sellers sell the rings as a whole, in other words, the diamond and settings are already paired together and you don’t get to choose what diamond to put in the setting. If you or your partner are looking at a place like that what I’m going to discuss might not be as relevant but I think it’s important to be aware of.
First let’s talk about the DIAMOND!!!! I don’t want to get super technical about this stuff but I just want to put it out there that it can get super technical. I do want to briefly mention the characteristics of a diamond that determine its cost – they’re commonly known the 4 “Cs” – cut, color, clarity, and carat weight.
The “cut” of the ring is what makes the diamond sparkle:
The “color” of the ring actually refers to the diamonds lack of color – the less color a diamond has, the higher quality it is:
The “clarity” of the ring references the amount of imperfections the diamond has – most all diamonds have some sort of internal imperfections – sometimes they look like little feathers or bubbles in the diamond. The less imperfections, the higher the quality.
Finally the “carat” weight – this is probably what everyone is the most familiar with. The larger the carat weight, the more expensive the diamond is.
You can play with these characteristics to perhaps achieve a bigger (i.e. higher carat weight) diamond without breaking the bank. One thing to keep in mind is that the diamonds are graded by human beings which means that you might see something different than they did. For example, the grader might have said that the color is a “G” but when you look at the diamond it might actually look like a “D” which is much, much more colorless! Another thing to keep in mind is that not all imperfections are the same, therefore not all diamonds with the same clarity grade look the same. As I mentioned above, there are imperfections that can look like little bubbles, some that look like feathers, etc. Not only are the types of imperfections are important but also where they are located within the diamond is also super important. Some imperfections can be seen with the naked eye – those are no good. But you might find that two diamonds with the same clarity grade look different to the naked eye because one diamond’s imperfections might be more concentrated on the face of the diamond where the other’s might be deeper in the diamond where you can’t see them. I mention these examples because I think some people get fixated on having high grades on all of the 4Cs – they want a big diamond that’s super clear, super shiny, with no imperfections. That’s totally fine if you have an unlimited budget, but if you don’t then just keep in mind that you can still get the size and look of the diamond you want if aren’t stuck on having the highest grade in each of the 4Cs!
A great way to get an idea of the cost of the actual diamonds are for the various sizes, cuts, imperfections and colors is to go on Shane Co.’s website and play with their “build your own engagement ring” tool. It’ll have you pick your setting first, which I’ll talk about next and then you’ll pick the diamond to fit in the setting.
The second major component of a ring is the setting – usually settings are less expensive than the diamonds but they can get quite expensive. One factor that play into the cost of the setting – the material: platinum tends to be more expensive than gold and I don’t exactly know why that is or if that means platinum is necessarily better quality, but it’s just something I’ve noticed. The most important cost factor is probably the amount of diamonds in the setting. For example, if you get a super blingy setting it will probably cost more.
will likely cost less than this setting:
which will likely cost less than this setting:
This might be obvious to some of you but I thought I’d point it out for people who are just starting to look at rings.
2. Ring design
The first thing you’ll probably find a preference for is the shape of the diamond.
Here’s a chart of all of the most common diamond shapes:
Round is obviously the most iconic, popular cut. The benefits to getting a round diamond is that it will look bigger than the other cuts with the same carat weight. This has to do with the fact that a “carat” is actually a measurement of weight not area or surface area or volume. You can actually line up ten 1-carat diamonds of different shapes or even the same shape and they might look like they are different sizes. Just like humans, all diamonds carry their weight differently and therefore certain cuts appear bigger than others when they are actually the same carat weight. I don’t want to get super technical about it but it’s just something to keep in mind when you’re deciding what shape you want. If you want to get super technical about it then just visit a jewelry store to nerd out with them – I did that when I was changing my ring and learned so much about why a 2 ct round diamond tends to look bigger than a 2 ct cushion cut for example.
As I mentioned above, play around with the Shane Co.’s “build your own engagement tool” to get an feel for all the different settings out there.
Always a popular choice is a diamond with some sort of halo. All “halo” means is that there is a ring of diamonds around the center stone:
Two of my closest friends have rings that look very similar to this and they are GORGEOUSSSSS!! One thing I want to note here is that not all halos are created equal!!! You have to pay attention to the size of the diamonds around the halo and how well your diamond will fit inside the halo. I love the look of the ring above because the diamond fits perfectly within the halo. Here are a few other examples:
This halo is a little chunkier – it kind of overpowers the diamond in my opinion but it’s still gorgeous!
Here’s a halo/diamond combo that I would say doesn’t work so well. Not only is it a round diamond with a cushion shaped halo, but it just doesn’t look like it fits well together. Like with make up, you want the diamond to enhance and complement the halo and bring out its best features, not overpower it or take away from the diamond’s beauty.
I would say from there most of the other settings are a variation of different types of halos – double halos, spiral halos, etc. – or if you don’t do a halo than the variation would come from different thickness or chunkiness of the bands. There are also split shank bands (which is what mine is, shown in the picture at the very top).
The main thing to think about with your setting is that you want to find something that enhances your diamond and one of the biggest factors in whether your setting in fact enhances your diamond is the chunkiness of the diamonds in the setting. Remember that about that when you are browsing around – bigger isn’t always better when it comes to diamonds in the setting.
Side view – One thing that I totally didn’t think about when looking on pinterest was the SIDE VIEW!!! Most ring pics are posted from the top view, and while that is an extremely important view you also want to have a great view from the side because that’s the view you’ll have of your ring majority of the time. If you go with no halo at all then you might find that the diamond itself sticks out a lot! Not only will it more easily get caught on things but it doesn’t have the most appealing look from this side. Compare the two following images to see what I mean:
So just keep in mind that the side view is also important when picking out your dream ring!
3. Ring inspo
This is probably a given but if you’re in need of inspiration or just enjoy looking at pretty rings, pinterest is a great place to start. It sucks that usually you can’t determine where the rings in the pins actually came from but at least you can perhaps see a trend in all of the rings that you are pinning. It is also a great place to direct your partner to look if they need ideas for what to get you.
Aside from the wedding instas I mentioned in my second post, there are a few specific ring instas I’d recommend you follow (I still like to look at them). I want to preface this by saying that most of the rings they post are pretty damn expensive but they’re still fun to look at and get ideas from:
4. Where to buy the ring – factors you probably didn’t even consider
Where you buy the ring is important – and by where I’m not referencing the designer of the ring or anything. What I’m focusing on is the store you buy it from and what attributes of the store are important. You can spend a ton of money on an engagement ring just for the name brand – just like with everything else in life. But unlike other things we buy, most rings aren’t branded in the sense that they don’t have their name stamped all over them. You won’t be walking around with your Tiffany’s box in your hand. You might post a picture with it but that’s about it and if you care about name brands then go for it. But what I want to emphasize is that you need to do your research about where you or your partner are buying your ring. These are the things you should research:
- Custom settings – Most big box stores will not let you design your own setting. That is the one thing I don’t like about Shane Co. All of their settings are pre-designed with the exception of a few where you can customize the type of “head” (where the diamond sits) with the type of band but that’s about it. If you truly want a perfect fit of a halo, for example, you’ll likely have to find a place that does custom settings so they can make a halo that fits your exact diamond. Again, not all diamonds are the same literal size – two different 1 ct cushion diamonds might have different dimensions because they might carry their weight differently. This means that it’s hard to find a halo that fits your diamond perfectly unless you go with a custom jeweler.
- Financing – perhaps you have the cash all lined up and you don’t care about this… that’s amazing, good for you!! If you do care – some places offer 0% financing for a period of 6 months to a year. This is an awesome way to get the ring you want and not have to break the bank immediately or put it on a credit card with a high interest rate. Take advantage of financing!!
- Turn around time – ask how long rings take to be shipped or designed. Usually they don’t carry a ton of inventory or perhaps they need to bring in a ring from a different store – you want to know how long it will take for your ring to get there!! Turn around time is something you need to build into your design time so you can have it in time for your proposal, duh! But on top of that the turn around time is important for maintenance purposes or sizing your ring. You or your partner might not know your size, nor will your partner want to ask you because it might give it away. So typically your ring will need to be sized after the proposal. You don’t want to have to ship your ring off to another state or whatever and get it back weeks later, that’s no fun at all. My rings have all been from Shane Co. where the turnaround time is 2-3 days and everything is done in house. I’ve heard that Tiffany requires you to ship the ring to New York and you don’t get it back for 2 weeks. Turnaround time is important!
- Return policy – what happens if you don’t like your ring?! That might happen and that’s ok – I’m all about honesty!!! Your partner should be aware of the return policy. If they know they’ve nailed it and there’s nothing to worry about then that’s great but if they’re unsure they should probably make sure that the store has a good return policy.
- Upgrade policy – this is my favorite thing about Shane Co. They have an AWESOME (and dangerous) upgrade policy, hence why I’m on my third ring, it’s so easy to change it there. If you want to exchange your diamond for another diamond, you get the full value of whatever you spent on your diamond as long as you spend at least $1 more on your next diamond. That seems like a silly policy but as I’ve mentioned before you might not necessarily want to go up in carat size but perhaps you upgrade the clarity or color. $1 to a couple hundred dollars more might make a difference!! In terms of exchanging your setting – if you want to get a new setting you have to spend double what you spent on your old setting to get full credit for it. So if you’re old setting cost $1500 you will need to spend $3000 to get the $1500 credit for your old setting meaning you would pay only $1500 out of pocket. However, you can buy other “metal” pieces to help this “double spend” requirement as well. When I went from my first to my second ring we helped meet the double requirement by purchasing Devin’s wedding bands! Perhaps your partner won’t want a good upgrade policy or you’ll be tempted to upgrade frequently like I am 🙂 but it’s definitely something your partner should keep in mind while shopping around.
5. Other Random Notes
- Placeholder ring: Let’s say your partner is really nervous about picking out the perfect ring, doesn’t want to deal with the hassle of picking out a ring or you really, really want to design your perfect ring – how do you handle that? Just have a conversation with your partner about it! One of my friend’s now-husband proposed with a placeholder ring and then afterwards they went together to pick out and design her permanent ring. This is such a great idea that probably saves stress, time and money.
My biggest advice in this post is to try and not get too caught up in this process. It is important to be aware of the world of diamonds/engagement rings, everything that goes into finding your favorite design, and what your partner will go through in purchasing your engagement ring but just remember what this is all for – committing to spend your life with each other. It takes a lot more time, money and thought than you initially expect so I hope all of this information is helpful. However, I promise when the moment comes and your partner proposes you will be ecstatic no matter what. The ring gets super hyped but at the end of the day it’s what the ring represents that matters the most.
Until next time…
Nicole Elizabeth Grigg