Jewelry Guide

A complete guide to buying the ideal engagement ring

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How to choose engagement ring

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Shopping together for the engagement ring, as many modern couples now do, takes a lot of the guesswork out of it as you won’t have to worry about whether or not she will like what you pick out. So if your girlfriend insists on being a part of this process, embrace it.  


If you want to take the traditional route and surprise her, this puts a lot more pressure on you. On average, young men spend about 3 months researching before they buy the ring. Most girls love this and it is a moment that they may have been waiting for a long time. The surprise of the proposal followed by a ring that not only fits but is what she has always wanted will be one that you both remember for ever.

When choosing the ring, there are lots of things to take into account such as her lifestyle and her fashion sense. This will be a piece of jewelry that she will be wearing every day of her life as your partner and it needs to be durable as well as stylish.

Pretty daunting, put like that.  

However, this is not as difficult as it seems. All it requires is some know-how and a bit of common sense and buying the perfect ring becomes a science. Let’s break this process down. 

How Much Should I Spend?

This is one of the most important steps but is often overlooked. Without a budget in place, it is very easy to go over what you are willing to pay for your engagement ring. The average price of a diamond engagement ring is approximately $2500 although it seems that most couples go well over the $5000 mark.

There are also lots of myths surrounding how much you should pay for your ring. An unofficial rule that originated from an ad campaign by luxury jeweler’s De Beers, states that an engagement ring should cost upwards of two months’ salary.

This, of course, is nonsense.

It does not matter how much you pay for a ring, as this isn’t necessarily connected to how beautiful your ring will be.. There is really no reason to get into debt over a piece of jewelry.  By establishing a budget, it will help you to know what you are looking for and make it easier for your jeweler to help you find items within the price range. 

Related Article: Why you should buy your engagement ring online.

Online or Physical Stores?

There are benefits to both buying online and at physical stores. The most obvious benefit of buying at brick and mortar stores is that you will be able to see and try on the ring before you buy it. If you buy the ring from your local jeweler, you can easily take the ring for its periodic check-up and repairing the ring, if necessary can be easier.

However, shopping online offers you endless options, highly competitive prices and the ability to easily compare different styles and prices to cherry pick the best one for you.

Shopping online has changed the nature of jewelry shopping and allows you to save upwards of 20% on your diamond. Not only are the options endless, but you are also able to mix and match the 4Cs to ensure that you find the perfect stone for your allotted price.

Online stores also have very competitive prices and most have excellent after sales services, such as resizing and returns.

We suggest combining the benefits of physical stores and online stores when picking out your ring. You can begin by checking out the rings at your local jeweler and seeing the rings on display in person. You can then take your search online and look for rings similar to the ones you liked, comparing quality and prices.


Selecting Your Diamond

Setting of the engagement ring

Diamond engagement ring

Diamonds are the number one choice for engagement rings and there is no indication that this will change in the future. Over 80% of couples choose a ring with a diamond as its main stone. 

Having said that, an increasing number of modern couples are opting for unique gemstone choices for their rings. There is a trend towards color and non-conventional choices. You don’t have to limit yourself to just diamonds as there is a world of gemstones to choose from.

If you opt for a diamond, picking out the stone is the next big step. For in-depth information on this process, check out our article on how to choose your diamond.

When selecting a diamond, the main factors to be critical about are the 4 C’s of diamonds. The 4 C’s stand for cut, color, clarity and carat weight. If you have an understanding of this and play around with the combinations, you will be able to choose your stone wisely and for the best value.  

It’s also really important that you see the diamond clearly before you purchase it. Some online stores only offer sample photos and a grading report, but you cannot go by a grading report alone when choosing a diamond. Different diamonds with similar grading reports can look very different. What’s important is that the diamond is eye-clean and contains no unsightly tints.

Finding Out the Right Ring Size

rings on finger

There are few things worse than pulling off the perfect surprise proposal, only to find that the ring does not fit. 

If this happens, of course, all you have to do is to send the ring back to the store to be resized. Apart from some ring settings like eternity and tension which need to be completely re-crafted if they do not fit, retailers like James Allen and Blue Nile, offer free resizing for several months after the purchase. At the time of purchase, check what the re-sizing conditions are to avoid potential issues down the line.

However, to avoid going through this trouble and potential embarrassment, here are a few tricks to getting her ring size perfectly.

  1. Order a ring size guide for free from one of the reputable online jewelry stores (James Allen ring size wizard) or download the ring size guide online. 
  2. Wear a ring that fits her finger perfectly and make a mark at the point where it stops on your finger. Wrap a piece of thread around your finger at that point, then fold the thread in half to find the diameter. Use the ring size guide to then find the accurate size. You can also outline the inner circle of the ring on paper and use this to measure the diameter. 
  3. Bring a ring that you know fits her perfectly, to the store so that it can be measured.

If none of the above tips are possible, remember that it is always easier to size down the ring than to go the other way. So buying a ring that may be a bit larger is always better than going for one that you think may be small.

Customize Your Ring

This sounds like an expensive option and most people tend to disregard this advice. 

There are different ways to have your ring created from scratch, including working with a designer or using the Design Your Own Ring features offered on sites like James Allen. Many couples opt to go down this route as it allows for a more personal ring. The cost varies depending on the method you choose for customization.

Buying a loose stone can be cheaper and you may have more options. You can then pick a setting to suit your stone.

Shape of the Stone

famous diamond cuts Princess, Cushion, Heart, Pear, Marquise, Radiant, Asscher cut, Emerald, Oval

All popular diamond cuts

Diamonds come in 10 popular shapes. While many people confuse the terms diamond cut with diamond shape, note that these are two completely different things. The shape refers to the geometric form of the diamond, while the cut refers to the symmetry, proportion and facets of the shape. 

Choosing the right diamond cut can be difficult as you will have to take several things into account, such as the shape of her hands and her personal taste. The most popular cut for diamonds is the round brilliant, with over 70% of engagement rings sold sporting this shape. The second most popular is the princess cut which is square. These are classic, brilliant cuts that are very versatile, and go well with any outfit or hand shape. Lately, the cushion cut has been increasing in popularity as vintage designs come back into vogue.

All the other diamond cuts are somewhat non-traditional, so if your lady likes to stand out or be different, maybe one of these cuts may be the way to go.

Choosing Your Ring Setting and Style

Now you’ve picked your diamond, it’s important to choose the right setting that features your diamond to maximum advantage. The setting refers to the way the stone is held securely in place on the ring, while the style refers to the overall appearance of the ring.

Some popular settings include prong, bezel, halo, pave and channel. Each of these have their pros and cons. The solitaire is the quintessential engagement ring and the one that comes to mind when we say the words diamond ring.

prong setting cushion shape engagement ring

Solitaire diamond ring. See it here.

To choose the right ring for your loved one, think about her style. If she has minimalist tastes, a solitaire style might suit her. However, if you think she would like something more dramatic and flashy, consider halo, split shank or three stone rings.

vintage inspired engagement ring

Gorgeous rose gold vintage design. See it here.

Some ring styles are very contemporary in appearance whereas others have beautiful vintage styles.

Confused by all these settings? Have a quick read of our guide to engagement ring settings and styles


Type of Metal

how to choose metal for engagement ring

gold engagement ring

Traditionally, yellow gold has been the classic choice for engagement and wedding bands, however silver-hued metals such as white gold and platinum are more popular. Rose gold is also a popular metal choice, as it has a beautiful feminine look to it. Combine rose gold with a stone such as morganite for an exquisite and unique ring.

Platinum is a great option for engagement rings as it is highly durable and has a beautiful luster. However, platinum is considerably more costly than white gold.

The color of the metal you choose affects the appearance of the chosen gemstone so ensuring that they complement each other is vital. Silver-hued metals are perfect paired with colorless diamonds and tend to enhance the sparkle and brilliance of the stone. If the diamond has warm yellow tints, yellow or rose gold will pair well.

If you prefer, you can even combine a variety of metals by purchasing a two- or even three-toned ring, the advantage of which is that the ring would complement any outfit your future wife wears. Mixing metals is also highly in vogue at the moment.

When choosing a metal, the two main considerations are durability and appearance. For example, while platinum is a very hard metal and lasts for a long time, it tends to lose its lustre after a while, whereas gold has better shine but can be soft and wears down more easily. As looks may take priority over durability, it is best to go with what appearance you think she would like.


Check out how to choose the right metal for your engagement ring.


Where to Shop for Your Ring

Whether you buy your diamond online or in store, make sure you check the after sales policies and services. Also, ensure that you receive a grading report from an independent lab such as Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or American Gem Society (AGS) which will vouch for the authenticity of the diamond.

If shopping online, make sure you check that there are HD images and videos of the actual diamond, so you can cherry pick for a diamond without visible inclusions.

For online shopping, James Allen offers very competitive prices without needing to compromise on the quality. They provide high quality videos and images of their diamonds, so you get to really inspect the item properly. You can also design your own ring. They also offer excellent customer service and assistance in choosing your item, as well as very good warranty and returns policies.

If you’re looking for colored diamond studs, Leibish are the undisputed best and have great variety and exceptional quality. Their customer service is great and they provide assistance throughout the process of purchasing your jewelry.

For an overall comparison of the leading online engagement ring retailers, check out Pros and Cons of Engagement Ring Retailers.

The most important thing in your engagement ring buying saga is to make sure that you are armed with information. This will help you on your quest for the ideal ring and the perfect proposal.

Jewelry Guide