Tag Archives: Diamonds

Five Alternatives to the Diamond Engagement Ring

1. Man-Made Diamonds

For the woman who doesn’t want a natural diamond, but doesn’t want to stray too far from modern tradition, man-made diamonds are an option.

While most people think of cubic zirconia when they think of synthetic diamonds, there are actually a couple different categories under this umbrella.

Cubic zirconia and similar materials like moissanite are considered diamond “simulants.” They look virtually identical to real diamonds to the naked eye, but are composed of a different substance.

The advantage of “CZ” (and other simulants) is that it’s significantly cheaper than real diamonds. But unless your lady is wholly on board with this option, I’d say it’s best to steer clear of it. Whenever people admire her “diamond,” she’ll be thinking to herself, “it’s fake,” which is a real romance killer.

Now the second choice in this category is much different – a more recently developed option I didn’t even know existed until I researched this article. These are “laboratory-created” or “cultured” diamonds. It’s not really accurate to call them “synthetic” because they’re created through an atom-by-atom crystal growth process that exactly duplicates the physical, chemical, and optical properties of naturally-mined diamonds. It’s impossible to tell the two apart unless one uses advanced spectroscopy. For all intents and purposes, a lab-created diamond is a diamond.

Because lab-created diamonds can be produced ad infinitum, their price is lower than natural, mined diamonds, though not by as much as you’d think; because De Beers has sensed that these lab-created diamonds may represent the wave of the future, they’ve already made moves to control the market and boost the price! They’re a good choice for a woman for whom “responsibly sourced” doesn’t go far enough, and who would like to further decrease her ecological footprint.

2. A Knot

ring

A perfect option for a woman with simple tastes. What better way to show a lady you’re looking forward to tying the knot with her?

knot

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3. A Meaningful Gemstone

opal

There is a world of beautiful gemstones out there beyond the diamond, and they each have a traditional meaning as well. So choosing a gemstone with a special significance to you and your girlfriend creates a unique ring with a built-in layer of meaning.

Here are the meanings of a few gemstones that may tie in particularly well with your unique relationship and the sentiment you wish to convey when you propose:

  • Agate: truth, protection, strength
  • Apatite: communication, and the blending of the old and the new
  • Aquamarine: courage to overcome fears, protection on journeys
  • Blue topaz: courage to overcome fears and obstacles — associated with fidelity, friendship, gentleness, and integrity
  • Garnet: passionate commitment and devotion
  • Onyx: thought to deflect the negativity of others — associated with determination and perseverance
  • Opal: love, passion, lightness, inspiration, creativity, and spontaneity
  • Pearl (pearls are organic rather than a gemstone): harmony, humility, purity, worth
  • Rose quartz: gentle love, peace, and calm — associated with the removal of negativity and the healing of emotional wounds
  • Ruby: friendship, fire, love, royalty, happiness, the opening of the heart
  • Turquoise: friendship — associated with nature (the blue sky and green earth)

Gemstones can of course be put in a variety of settings, and can be featured as a solitary stone or grouped with other gems. Here are two unique ideas we both especially like:

two

peapod

4. The Claddagh Ring

clad

The distinctive Claddagh ring is a traditional Irish ring that is rich in history and symbolism. Dated to Roman times, it is rooted in European “fede rings,” which took their name from the Italian phrase mani in fede (“hands [joined] in faith” or “hands [joined] in loyalty”). The ring features two hands, a heart, and a crown — symbolizing friendship, love, and loyalty, respectively.

The clasped hands represent the pledging of vows, and Claddagh rings were used as engagement and wedding rings during the Middle Ages and the Renaissance. They continue to be an appropriate choice for this purpose today – particularly for a lass with Irish heritage.

clad ruby

Traditionally, the ring is worn on the woman’s left hand with the point of the heart facing out when she is engaged, and then turned around to be facing her once she is married.

It’s also traditional for the expressions “This is my heart which I give to you crowned with my love,” and “Let love and friendship reign,” to be associated with the ring, so feel free to bust those out with gusto when you propose with a Claddagh. 

5. Family Heirloom

sap

Before you plunk down some serious cash for a diamond ring or any of these other alternatives, check with your relatives to see if there are any heirlooms waiting to be passed down. Not only does this option save you some serious cash, but pieces with history are much more meaningful and significant. Even a diamond engagement ring that’s been in the family for generations becomes a lot more special than one purchased at Jared. My mother-in-law gave me a diamond engagement ring that had belonged to her grandmother to give to Kate when I proposed. It fit perfectly, and she loved it and wouldn’t have wanted anything else.

 

How to finance an engagement ring

About 2 million Americans get married each year, according to the National Center for Health Statistics — and Valentine’s Day alone spurs an estimated 6 million couples to take their relationships to the next level. Regardless of when you plan on getting down on one knee, you’ve no doubt seen the diamond ring promotions aimed like Cupid’s arrow at your highly emotional state of mind. “Hey buddy, this platinum solitaire here will only set you back six months’ pay and we’re currently offering 0 percent financing for a year! Here’s where you sign ..”

Not so fast, Romeo. If you want her to marry you for richer and not poorer, you’ll study the fine print first to make sure that bauble on her finger doesn’t turn into a ball and chain on your newlywed finances. Couples say spending an average of $2,311 on an engagement ring is an appropriate amount, with some aiming as high as nearly $5,000 and others less than $1,000, American Express reports.

Before you buy an engagement ring, let’s take a closer look at jewelry store credit terms, return policies and some creative alternatives for cash-poor romantics.finance an engagement ring
Few favorable terms from jewelers
Chances are, you’ll shop locally for an engagement or wedding ring, but if shopping from the comfort of your couch is more your style, that can work, too. Shopping for jewelry online is becoming increasing popular, thanks to websites such as Blue Nile and Ice.com. The online jewelry sales market in the United States has seen 2.9 percent annual growth since 2008 according to a 2013 IBISWorld industry report and online transactions accounted for 9.8 percent of overall jewelry sales in 2013.

In addition to taking most major plastic, both brick-and-mortar and online jewelers offer dedicated private-label revolving credit cards. Unfortunately, their terms tend to make the majors look like a bargain. Although jewelry sales abound as Valentine’s Day approaches, regardless of when you buy it, you’ll generally realize savings through a jeweler’s card only if you pay off the ring before any 0 percent promotional period expires.

For example, as of February 2014, the Kay Jewelers card offers one year interest-free with 20 percent down on a $500 minimum purchase. Once the promotional period expires, the APR rises to 18-24.99 percent (17 percent in Arkansas) and no annual fee. The Zales credit card features four interest-free payment plans, depending on how much you want to finance and the amount of your minimum purchase. For example, interest is waived for 12 months if you spend at least $1,000 and put 15 percent down. Once that interest-free period is over, the APR range jumps from 23.73 percent to 28.99 percent.

And note the Zales promotional deals’ fine print: If you don’t pay up by the end of whichever interest-free promotional period you choose (or if you make a late payment), interest will be retroactively charged from the date of purchase.

If you are looking to shop from the comfort of your home, comparable offers are available with online jewelers, but again, read the fine print. Blue Nile offers a credit card with three financing options: standard minimum monthly payments with an APR of 26.99 percent, no interest if paid in full within a selected six or 12 month window and a 9.99 percent APR option if the purchase is paid off by the end of the selected term. However, to get that low 9.99 percent interest rate, your minimum spend has to be $2,000.

What if she says no?
A jeweler’s return policy is another important factor to consider before buying a ring.
The Federal Trade Commission recommends you read the jeweler’s return and refund policies carefully before you buy; ask for one if it’s not provided. When ordering online, keep printouts of the site’s return policy as well as details of the transaction in the event you’re not satisfied with your purchase.

Most major jewelers will refund or exchange a ring in unused condition for 30 days, and some refund or exchange as far out as 90 days. They may deduct shipping and handling from your refund and charge a restocking fee. Exceptions are usually made if you received the wrong item or it was damaged in shipment.

engagement rings financing

Regina Leadem, industry vice president of sales for GE Money Luxury Card, one of the major private-label credit card processors in the jewelry sector, says jewelry returns are rare and usually hassle-free.

“I would be shocked today if a merchant did not take back a piece of jewelry,” she says. “They’re in it for the long haul; their lifeblood is in these small customers. I really don’t know any merchant that would do that.”

But should you happen upon an uncooperative jeweler, don’t abandon hope: Your major credit card companies have your back, sort of.

Help with diamond refund
If you’re unhappy with the results trying to return your purchase, there is an additional line of defense you can turn to. Discover: MasterCard, American Express and Visa all have return assistance policies.

If you make your purchase with a MasterCard, you’ll have 60 days to request a refund of up to $250. Visa cardholders may also be eligible for a $250 refund, but will have 90 days to make a refund request. Discover cardholders may be eligible for a refund up to $500 of the purchase price, per the specific card’s policy.

However, keep in mind that refund assistance policies are limited and vary, so check with your card issuer for more specific guidelines.

If you are hesitant about your big purchase, avoid charging it to an American Express card if you can because there will be no turning to them if you do. AmEx’s return policy specifically states that jewelry is not eligible.

Share the love — try social financing
Can’t make the math work with traditional financing? You might want to consider looking into the world of peer-to-peer lending.
Sites such as Prosper.com and Zopa.com directly connect individual borrowers and investors without using a middleman. Those looking for a loan complete a profile using their basic information and loan desires, which are then posted for review by potential investors. Through Prosper, investors set the interest rates they would like lenders to pay, typically starting at 6.73 percent for the best borrowers but can reach up to 35.36 percent.
Peer-to-peer lending has the potential to be fairly user-friendly, just keep an eye on the interest rates offered by the assortment of lenders. This method can also help you avoid the awkwardness of borrowing from family and friends.