Buying an Engagement Ring at an Auction? Here’s What to Know

Engagement rings are not just a jewelry piece – the right engagement ring should symbolize a promise and an unmatched love for the special person in your life, should match the wearer’s expectations and should also be within your budget – that’s a lot to expect from one small piece of jewelry.

With that much weight entrusted upon it, it stands to reason that engagement rings should be chosen carefully and with a lot of thought.

How does that square with buying an engagement ring at an auction? Are auctions the right place to search for an engagement rings? And if you decide to search at an auction – how can you make sure that you’re getting the right ring for your loved one?

Here’s our guide to help you do just that.

Pros and cons of buying an engagement ring at an auction

Jewelry auctions, both online and traditional on-location auctions, offer a lot of benefits compared to shopping from a standard retailer. They do present some drawbacks too so here’s what you can generally expect:

Pros of getting your engagement ring from an auction:

Man shopping from a online jewelry auction
  • Items offered at auctions are sold at their market value price and not at their retail price. This allows you to save up to half or even more of the price which is great considering how expensive engagement rings can be. Alternatively, you can keep your budget and get something extra special for the same price.    
  • Auctions offer a great diversity of unique and fascinating ring designs that you wouldn’t be able to find at most retailers. Jewelry shops often have quite big catalogs too but they tend to streamline their stock to cover the standard range of customer expectations. So, if you’re looking for a standard solitaire pronged engagement ring, you can get that at any retailer, yes, but if you want something truly unique, an auction is your best bet.    
  • Engagement rings sold at auctions come with a lot of history. Some people want the engagement ring they are buying to be their own and not have any prior history. That’s understandable but it can also feel quite awesome to know that your engagement ring is not only gorgeous and has a diamond that’s twice as big as your budget could have afforded at a retailer but it also belonged to a previous couple that had a very romantic story, that lived together to a ripe old age, or that achieved some great things in their lifetime. An engagement ring with such a history can feel even more special than just a pretty new ring that you bought from a store.  
  • Shopping at a jewelry auction means that you won’t have a sales rep constantly running at your heels, trying to persuade you to buy any ring you look at for more than two seconds. Instead, at an auction, you look at what you want and you can more freely make your own choice.

Cons of getting your engagement ring from an auction:

  • If you haven’t shopped for engagement rings or for other high-end jewelry pieces before, chances are that there are a lot of details you’re unfamiliar with. Going to a retailer can save you a lot of research as you’ll have a consultant in front of you to consult with but at an auction, you’ll need to be relatively well-informed if you want to make the best possible choice.
    This doesn’t mean that you’ll need to be a professional jeweler or an expert but you’d do well to familiarize yourself with the engagement ring basics before you visit an online or offline auction.    
  • Auctions do involve a bit of luck too – maybe your ideal engagement ring will be displayed at the next online auction you can visit and you’ll be able to get it with a fairly low bid, or, maybe you won’t like any of the rings at the auction at all.  
  • Shopping at an auction takes more time than simply visiting a retailer and picking a ring. Auctions take a while even if you don’t factor in the research you’ll need to do ahead of time. However, given that engagement rings are a once-in-a-lifetime purchase, spending a bit more time on them is usually worth it.

Tips for buying your engagement ring at an auction

Round cut engagement ring in a red box
You may find unique engagement rings at auctions

So, you’ve decided to check an online auction or a nearby on-location auction for an engagement ring – what should you do to maximize your chances for finding the ideal ring? Here’s a quick guide:

  • Make sure that the auction you’re visiting is a reputable one. As with jewelry retailers, you want to go to adequate auctions organized by trustworthy auctioneers.    
  1. Do your research. You can start right now – there are lots of great and informative articles and guides you can look at that will teach you a lot of the vital parts and processes of engagement ring shopping. There are also lots of online ring catalogs you can browse through to discover new and fresh designs that’d appeal to you. It will be much easier to find the ring you’re looking for at an auction if you know what you’re looking for from the start. It will also be much easier to distinguish the good rings from the medium-quality ones, as well as to spot the good bargains.    
  • Visit the auction’s exhibit ahead of time. Most jewelry auctions hold auction exhibitions in the days or even weeks ahead of the auctions, allowing you to check out what they’ll be offering. This can help you do better and more focused research but it can also allow you to buy your favorite piece with no competition before the auction has even started. Most auction exhibitions allow sales if the auctioneer and the buyer reach an agreement before the auction. This usually results in a slightly higher price as the auctioneer wouldn’t sell if they expected to get a higher price at the auction, however, given how budget-friendly auctions are compared to retailers, it’s usually still more than worth it.  
  • Always ask for a gemological laboratory or institute certificate for the diamond or gemstone on your engagement ring. Most auctioneers will offer you a certificate from a reputable institute such as the GIA or the AGSL. Never buy anything from an auction without such a certificate or at least a trustworthy condition report.    
  • Keep in mind that most rings bought at an auction will require at least a bit of repair work and/or resizing before you can wear them. That’s normal, as long as the ring is still in an overall good condition and can last for decades with good maintenance. Ask the auctioneer for said repair and resizing services – they will either offer to provide those themselves or they’ll direct you to a jewelry professional that can do it.
  • Ask questions! Don’t just settle for a couple of pictures and a condition report – ask as many questions as you want. If you’re shopping at an online auction make sure that you’re getting the best possible videos and photos of the rings and ask about a possible return guarantee.  
  • Double-check everything you’re told or shown at an auction in real-time. We’re not saying that you should mistrust auctioneers but even if you’re justified to trust them on 100%, it’s still a good idea to proof and research everything you see and hear at the auction if nothing else than to gather additional information.

Should I buy my engagement ring at an auction?

This is completely up to you, but it does take some thinking about. If the recipient of the ring has a certain style or type of ring in mind, then a ring from an auction may not cut it. Make sure that the wearer likes the idea of an auctioned ring.

It might be a fun process to involve the other person when looking for the ring, but if you want a surprise proposal, then ensuring that you know the type of ring they’re like, including the colors and styles, will help you to find the right ring for that special someone in your life.

Dani Rhys

Dani Rhys has worked as a writer and editor for over 15 years in the jewelry niche. She holds a Masters degree in Linguistics and Education. She has always been interested in expression through fashion and accessories, and her extensive experience in the field has made her a respected voice in jewelry trends and education. As the chief editor of Jewelry Shopping Guide, she not only leads the content strategy but also shares her insights through engaging articles. Her passion for storytelling is reflected in every piece she curates, exploring the intricate relationship between jewelry and personal identity.

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