Tag Archives: engagement ring

The Ultimate Guide to Buying the Perfect Engagement Ring

Buying an engagement ring can be an overwhelming task. There’s a lot of pressure on this purchase. It’s a symbol of your love for your girlfriend, and it’s a token of your willingness to take the relationship to the next level. Plus, it doesn’t help that your fiance will be showing off the ring to her friends and family.

For many men, the purchase of their lady’s engagement ring will be their first experience in the the wild world of jewelry. When they walk into a jewelry store they’re inundated with terms and concepts that they’ve never heard before. Tiffany setting? Inclusions? Eternity band? What the wha?

Never fear. We’ve put together the ultimate guide to help you purchase an engagement ring that your girlfriend will flip over. Let’s get started.

Establish Your Budget

First thing you’ll need to do before you step into a jewelry store is establish a budget. It will help the jeweler show you options that are in your price range. Keep in mind that like buying a car, the price of an engagement ring can often be negotiated.

You may have heard that a man is supposed to spend 2 months salary on an engagement ring. This is crap. Hoping to cash in on retuning GI’s itch to get hitched, this “rule” was invented whole cloth as part of a crafty ad campaign by the DeBeers company during the 1940’s. But there’s nothing romantic about going into major debt. Buy the nicest ring that you can afford. In the end, it’s not the amount of money you spend on an engagement ring that matters, but rather the thought that goes into purchasing it. Many women would rather start your life together debt-free or use the money for a sweet honeymoon than have you blow all your savings on some rock.

If you want to propose, don’t delay because you can’t afford a better ring. The ring is supposed to be a symbol of your love, and what does it say about your love that you’re willing to postpone your marriage to buy a better rock? A humble ring will be a memory of that hard-scrabble time when you two were young. You can always get her a nicer ring  for an anniversary present somewhere down the line.

Make It a Surprise

The jeweler I talked to noted that he’s been seeing more and more men coming in with their girlfriends to pick out a ring. While letting your wife-to-be pick out the ring she wants will ensure that the ring fits and that she likes it, you’re denying yourself a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show how  thoughtful and romantic you are. Imagine the look of surprise your girlfriend will have when 1) you propose to her, 2) the ring fits, and 3) the ring you picked is exactly what she wanted.

If you can successfully pull off this trifecta of surprises, you will be the subject of envious conversations among your girlfriend’s social circle, your future mother-in-law will say you’re a catch, and men around you will silently acknowledge your achievement. Making the engagement ring a surprise will take some work, but it’s well worth the investment.

This is not to say that surprising her is the only way to go. Some women will insist that they go along with you to pick out the ring. If you’re like me, your wife will already have the engagement ring she wants in her possession. It was an heirloom from her great-grandmother. I just had to pick the ring up from her mom’s house. Just do what you and your girlfriend think is best.

Find Out Her Ring Size

This where a lot of men screw up in the purchasing process. They’ll have the perfect ring picked out, but they get the wrong size ring for their girlfriend’s finger. When they get down on one knee and attempt to slide the ring on their lady’s finger, it doesn’t fit and awkwardness ensues.

If you get the wrong size ring, all isn’t lost. You’ll just have to take the ring back to the jeweler and fork over some more money to get it properly fitted. But it’s best to avoid the cost and the potential embarrassment at proposing time by making sure the ring you pick is the right size.

The best way to get your girlfriend’s ring size is to get a ring that she isn’t wearing and bring it to the jeweler to be measured. If you want to maintain the surprise factor, you’ll have to be sneaky about this. Swipe a ring from her jewelry box while she’s getting ready in the bathroom or recruit one of her friends to pocket a ring while she’s over her house. Try to swipe a ring that you don’t see her wearing very much; she’ll be less likely to notice its absence.

Research Her Style

You want to pick a ring that fits your woman’s unique style and preferences. Getting a ring that she’s over the moon for will score you romance points that will last a lifetime.

Again, because of the clandestine nature of the engagement proposal, you’re going to have to harness your inner James Bond for this style reconnaissance. When you’re with your girlfriend, take note of the type of jewelry she wears. Does she wear a lot of gold? Maybe she’s a silver or platinum woman. Perhaps there’s a particular stone she wears a lot, like her birthstone, that she’d like more than a diamond. Does she like simple, understated pieces? Or does she favor the big, glitzy variety? Think about her personality; is she an outgoing girl who you know is going to want to show off her ring to everyone she meets? Then go for something big and sparkly. Is she an earthy woman, who doesn’t wear much jewelry at all? Look for rings that are simple, yet beautiful.

Another way to get a feel for her engagement ring preferences is to take her right into a jewelry store. The key to this is to go under another pretext. Tell her you need to go to the mall to look for some new shoes and that you’d like her to come along. When you’re walking to the department store, go past a Helzberg Jewelry store and say, “Hey, I want to stop and look at some watches.” While you’re busy pretending to be interested in the Omegas, dimes to donuts your gal will be looking at the rings. Look at what she’s gazing at. Make a mental note of it. Say something casual like, “That’s a nice one,” and gage her reaction. Go back to looking at watches. Leave. Mission accomplished.

Pick The Engagement Ring Band

You have a variety of metals to choose from for the engagement ring’s band. The most common include yellow gold, rose gold, white gold, platinum, and silver. You can even do a mix of different types of metals.

Each metal has their advantage and disadvantages. For example, platinum is an extremely durable metal and will last a long time. However, it dulls much more quickly than gold, and it’s harder to bring back the initial luster it once had.

Gold, on the other hand, is  shinier than platinum, and because it’s a soft metal, it’s easier to buff and polish it to get back the ring’s original luster. Gold’s advantage over platinum is also its weakness. Because it’s a soft metal, gold wears down faster. In about 15 to 20 years, the engagement ring may have to be reshanked because it’s worn too thin.

While you may be interested in the durability of the engagement ring band, your future wife  is probably more interested in the way it looks. Right now, silver-looking engagement rings are the most popular. If your lady is a woman who stays on top of the latest fashion trends, go with a platinum or white gold band.

If she’s more of a classic type of gal, go with the traditional yellow gold band.

Selecting a Quality Diamond: The Four C’s

So you’ve selected a band. We now move to the focal point of most engagement rings: the diamond. For many men, purchasing a diamond can seem like a daunting task, but with a bit of knowledge, you can walk  out of a jewelry store with a stone your fiancee will be dying to show off to her friends.

When selecting a diamond, you’ll want to take into account the “4 C’s:” cut, color, clarity, and carat weight. All four of these factors determine the quality and cost of the diamond.

Cut. Cut doesn’t refer to the shape of the diamond, but rather the angles and proportions of the stone. While nature determines the other three C’s, the diamond’s cut is determined by a cutter. A well cut diamond reflects light from one facet to another and projects the light through the top of the stone. This is what gives a diamond its sparkle. Diamonds that are cut too deep or too shallow leak light through the bottom or the side of the stone, resulting in a lackluster appearance.

Out of all the four C’s, cut is the most important. Even if you have the perfect color, clarity, and carat, if the cut isn’t right, the diamond won’t have that fiery brilliance that your fiancé will show off to her friends.

Color. To many men’s surprise, diamonds come in a variety of colors. Diamond color is graded on a scale that ranges from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow). Truly colorless diamonds are the most rare and most expensive. White color diamonds are the most popular. But when it gets down to it, diamond color is all about preference. Look back at your notes from your ring reconnaissance to see what your lady prefers.

Clarity. The fewer imperfections a diamond has, the more clear, and consequently, more expensive it is. When the jeweler starts discussing the clarity of the diamond, he or she will probably mention the diamond’s “inclusions.” Inclusions are other minerals or tiny fractures in the diamond. The fewer inclusions the better.

Like color, clarity is measured on a scale. SI1 and SI2 are slightly included but you won’t be able to see the imperfection with the naked eye. Try to find a diamond in this range.

When looking at a diamond, avoid stones with inclusions on the top and in the middle, as this can impact the dispersion of light, making it less brilliant.

Carat Weight. Carat refers to the weight of a diamond. The heavier the stone, the more you’re going to pay. However, there’s no need to get to caught up on the carat weight. Through proper mounting and shaping, a master jeweler can make a diamond appear larger than its carat weight might suggest.

Selecting the Diamond Shape

In addition to the four C’s, you’ll also want to take into consideration a diamond’s shape. The shape of the diamond is all a matter of your girlfriend’s preference.  Below, we list a few of the possible shapes you can get a diamond in:

Round

round.jpg

A round diamond is the classic and timeless diamond shape.

Princess

princess.jpg

The Princess is a square diamond and is the most popular shape for engagement rings right now.

Pear

pear.jpg

Oval

oval.jpg

Heart

heart.jpg

Choose the Setting

A ring’s “setting” refers to the way in which the diamond is placed on the the ring. Like everything else with an engagement ring, which setting you pick depends a lot on your girlfriend’s preferences. You can actually create combinations of different settings if you want. Here’s a quick primer on the different types of settings, so you’re not completely clueless when you walk into the jewelry store.

Tiffany setting

tiffannysetting.jpg

Introduced by the jewelry company that bears the name. It’s a timeless and classic look.

Eternity band

eternityband.jpg

Instead of a single diamond, an eternity band has diamonds that go all around the ring.

Bezel setting

bezelsetting.jpg

A metal rim that encircles the sides of the stone and extends slightly above it. The rim can stretch around the diamond’s entire circumference or around only a portion of it. A bezel setting holds a diamond securely, and the low, protective profile it creates makes a bezel setting a good choice for women with active lifestyles.

Channel setting

channelsetting.jpg

In a channel setting, the diamond or diamonds are placed into a metal channel. It can be used as an accent to a main diamond that’s set on a prong.

Pave’ (pronounced Pa Vay)

pavesetting.jpg

This setting consists of lots of diamonds placed close together.

 

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.