Women’s Engagement Ring Buying Guide

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Ritani has created a comprehensive 7 step buying guide to help you find the perfect engagement ring.

Finding the right engagement ring is far different than shopping for any other gift you’ve ever purchased. If you have no idea what words like clarity, marquise, and facet mean, then this engagement ring buying guide is for you. You’ll be an engagement ring expert in no time. Let’s get started!

1. The Budget

How To Decide On A Budget

You may have heard that you are supposed to spend 3 months’ salary on an engagement ring. Fortunately, this rule is just a myth and doesn’t need to be followed. Spending 3 months’ salary on an engagement ring is unrealistic and financially unwise for most people – let’s say you make $50,000 a year, then you would be expected to pay $12,500 on your engagement ring. That’s a pretty large chunk of your salary, especially when you have rent, car payments, and other finances to consider.

People often ask us, “How much should I spend on an engagement ring?” The correct answer is whatever you’re comfortable with. You don’t have to spend tens of thousands of dollars to get a beautiful engagement ring! In fact, the average amount spent on an engagement ring between 2016-2019 was $7,692. A good jeweler will help you find the best engagement ring within your budget.

In order to determine your budget, you’ll need to prioritize which aspects of your engagement ring are the most important:

  • The diamond’s quality
  • The diamond’s size
  • The setting style & metal

For example, if you’re working with a tight budget, you may want to get a simple solitaire setting so you can spend more on your center stone. You should also make sure to read up on how to save for an engagement ring.

2. The Ring Style

How To Determine Her Style Of Ring

It’s easiest to start your engagement ring search by determining what style of ring your future fiancée will love. There are a few easy ways to do this. One option is to look at her jewelry collection. What type of rings does she wear the most? What color metals and gemstones does she incorporate into her jewelry collection?

You can also take her shopping for jewelry. Take note of what pieces she is drawn most to in the store. Another option is to ask her friends and family what type of ring she would like. It’s possible she has already discussed styles she likes, or you could get her friends and family to subtly find out what she likes for you. They also may know of an existing Pinterest board that she has.

Modern or Vintage?

Both modern and vintage engagement rings are popular and loved by brides-to-be. Modern and vintage engagement rings are easy to distinguish. Modern engagement rings are often minimalistic and feature clean, simple lines. Vintage engagement rings tend to be more ornate with lots of detailing.

vintage engagement ring

modern engagement ring

Vintage engagement ring (top) verses a modern engagement ring (bottom)

To determine which style is best for her, look at her fashion choices. Does her wardrobe contain classic or thrifted pieces? If so, you may want to consider a vintage engagement ring. If her wardrobe contains trendy, fashion-forward clothing, you may want to consider a modern engagement ring. You can also examine how she decorates her living space. Is her artwork and furniture style modern or classical? This will give you a good indication of what style she prefers.

Get Educated: Diamonds, Settings & Precious Metals

Select A High Quality Diamond: Know the 4 Cs

Researching the 4 Cs will help you make the most of your budget and help you understand exactly what you’re buying. You can learn more about the 4 Cs in depth here.

Diamond Cut

Cut refers to the quality of a diamond’s proportions and symmetry. The quality of a diamond’s cut will also indicate how much it will sparkle. Many jewelers and gemologists argue that Cut is the most important of the 4 C’s because it has a huge impact on the appearance of a diamond.
The best diamond cut is Ideal. An Ideal cut diamond will deliver maximum sparkle. However, this cut grade is the most expensive, which can make it unsuitable for some budgets. (Note: “Ideal” cut grades are only assigned to round cut diamonds.)
The second best cut grade is Very Good. A diamond with a Very Good cut grade provides lots of sparkle, but at a more affordable price.
The third best cut grade is Good. A diamond with a Good cut grade will create a good amount of sparkle at an affordable price. A person on a budget should opt for Very Good or Good cut diamonds as they are beautiful yet more affordable.
The final cut grade is Poor. Poor cut diamonds will not sparkle very much and feature poor symmetry. Ritani does not offer Poor cut diamonds.

Diamond Clarity

Clarity refers to a diamond’s natural inclusions, or lack thereof. Some inclusions are visible to the naked eye, which can result in a less beautiful diamond. The clarity grades are as follows:

  • FL (Flawless) – No surface imperfections or inclusions; the rarest of all diamonds. 
  • IF (Internally Flawless) – No visible inclusions, even under magnification.
  • VVS1 (Very Very Slightly Included 1) – No imperfections visible to the unaided eye. 
  • VVS2 (Very Very Slightly Included 2) – No imperfections visible to the unaided eye.
  • VS1 (Very Slightly Included 1) – You may be able to see a few tiny imperfections upon close inspection.
  • VS2 (Very Slightly Included 2) – You may be able to see a few more tiny imperfections upon close inspection. 
  • SI1 (Slightly Included 1) – Imperfections, though small, are likely to be visible with the unaided eye.  
  • SI2 (Slightly Included 2) – Imperfections, though small, are likely to be visible with the unaided eye. Ritani does not offer diamonds below SI2. 

If you are shopping for an engagement ring on a budget, we recommend a VS2 clarity grade. VS2 diamonds are more affordable yet still beautiful. They are generally eye clean. If you would like to be absolutely certain that your diamond displays clean and stunning brilliance, we recommend a clarity grade of VVS2 or higher for all diamond shapes. 

(Note: If you are shopping for a step cut diamond such as an emerald cut diamond or an asscher cut diamond, we recommend a clarity grade of VS2 or higher. Step cut diamonds have large, open tables, making inclusions obvious.)

Diamond Color

A diamond’s color grade actually measures how little color it reflects. The diamond color grading scale starts with “D” (completely colorless) and goes all the way down to “Z” (yellow or brownish). Ritani only carries D through L colored diamonds.

Colorless diamonds are grades D – F. Near-colorless diamonds are grades G – J. Faint yellow diamonds are grades K – L.

People often set out diamond shopping looking for a colorless (D – F) diamond. Unfortunately, colorless diamonds are the most expensive because they are the rarest. You can purchase a near-colorless diamond (G – J) for much less money and it will still face up as white.

If you are planning on getting a yellow gold or rose gold engagement ring setting, you can go down even lower on the color grade scale by choosing a J – L colored diamond. The pairing of a warm colored setting with a warm colored diamond will help save you money in the long run.

Diamond Carat

Carat is how much a diamond weighs. It is also roughly correlated to its size (how large it appears). The most common carat weight for an engagement ring is 1 carat. A 1 carat diamond can cost anywhere between $1,000 to $10,000. This wide price range is due to the varying cut, clarity, and color grades a diamond can have. Note that as diamond carat weight increases, so does the stone’s rarity, and therefore its price increases too. Because 2 carat diamonds are even more rare than 1 carat diamonds, they can cost anywhere between $5,000 to $50,000 dollars – again, this depends on the diamond’s quality. A 3 carat diamond can cost anywhere between $10,000 to $100,000 dollars depending on its quality.

We recommend buying shy of your intended carat weight to save money. This means that instead of purchasing a 1 carat diamond, look for .90 or .95 diamonds instead. This can save you hundreds of dollars in the long run! Plus, .90 carat diamond and a 1 carat diamond will appear to be the same size.

Research Diamonds Online

When shopping for a diamond, you should always view HD images and/or videos of the diamond before purchasing it. This will help you understand what you are buying and allow you to see where the diamond’s flaws, if any, are located. If an online vendor only has a 3D render of the diamond listed on their website, request to see real HD images of it. A respectable vendor will be happy to share the images with you.

It’s also important to view your prospective diamond’s official grading report from an accredited laboratory. The grading report will tell you all of the important details about your diamond. At Ritani, we only sell diamonds that are graded by either the GIA or AGS. Both of these laboratories are highly regarded within the industry as well as reliable.

Selecting A Diamond Shape

Shape, also called “cut” interchangeably, is the personality of the diamond. It has the biggest impact on the look of your engagement ring and should reflect the tastes of the wearer.

Here are the ten most common diamond shapes.

Round Diamonds

round diamond
Round cut diamonds are the most popular and the most sparkly. Because of this, they are the most expensive diamond shape.
Note: Any diamond that is NOT a round cut diamond is considered a fancy shape diamond.

Princess Diamonds

princess cut diamond
Princess cut diamonds are among the most popular diamond shapes. This modern diamond shape features clean lines and lots of sparkle. Princess cut diamonds tend to be more affordable because less raw diamond is wasted during the cutting process.

Cushion Diamonds

cushion cut diamond
Cushion cut diamonds feature a square shape with rounded edges. This diamond shape is perfect for someone seeking a vintage-inspired engagement ring.

Emerald Diamonds

Emerald diamond

This Art Deco diamond shape is perfect for a vintage engagement ring. These step cut diamonds don’t sparkle as much as other diamond shapes; instead they create a Hall of Mirrors effect.

Radiant Diamonds

radiant cut diamond
This elongated modern diamond shape is a great alternative to someone who admires emerald cut diamonds but wants more sparkle.

Oval Diamonds

oval cut diamond
This sparkly modern diamond shape is perfect for someone who is looking for a diamond that will create the illusion of longer fingers. Oval cut diamonds are increasing in popularity.

Pear Diamonds

pear cut diamond
This sparkly teardrop shaped diamond allows the wearer to create different looks by changing which way the point faces. Pear cut diamonds are also increasing in popularity.

Asscher Diamonds

Asscher cut diamond

This vintage diamond shape is similar to the emerald cut diamond in that it produces a Hall of Mirrors effect rather than lots of sparkle. Because of the way they are cut, Asscher shaped diamonds tend to look smaller than their carat weight indicates. This can make them less compatible with someone on a tight budget.

Marquise Diamonds

marquise cut diamond
This football-shaped diamond has the largest surface area of any other diamond shape, making it appear larger than its carat weight indicates. This unique, sparkly diamond shape is great for someone who is looking for a more affordable ring.

Heart Diamonds

heart cut diamond
This sparkly heart shape is perfect for the romantic, feminine bride. This love-inspired diamond is perfect for someone who is looking for a unique engagement ring.
Learn more about the different diamond shapes in-depth here.

Choosing The Right Setting

The ring setting is what secures the center diamond to the ring band. Choose a setting that will suit the wearer’s tastes and lifestyle.

Bezel Setting

bezel engagement ring setting

 

A bezel setting features a circle of precious metal that surrounds the diamond’s sides. A bezel setting is one of the most secure settings for your diamond. A diamond is less likely to be chipped or scratched in a bezel setting because less of it is exposed. However, this can make your diamond less sparkly. Bezel settings are a popular choice for those who live an active lifestyle because of how durable they are.

semi bezel engagement ring
Another form of the bezel setting is the semi-bezel setting. The semi-bezel setting features two metal “C”s cradling the sides of the diamond. This secures the diamond while also allowing additional light to enter it, thus creating more sparkle and brilliance than a regular bezel setting would allow.

Prong Setting

prong setting engagement ring

 

Prong settings are a very popular choice for engagement rings. They feature small tips of metal to hold the center diamond in place. The prongs raise the diamond up higher and allow lots of light to enter the diamond, creating maximum sparkle.

Halo Setting

halo engagement ring setting
Halo settings feature tiny diamonds circling around the centerstone. This makes the centerstone appear larger. A halo setting uses either prongs or a bezel to secure the center diamond.

Three Stone Setting

three stone engagement ring setting
Three stone settings feature two diamonds flanking the center diamond. Traditionally, three stone settings use three diamonds of the same shape, but some prefer to mix and match shapes.

Pear shaped diamond side stones

three stone engagement ring with pear shaped side stones

 

Pear shaped diamonds flank the center stone, with the pointy ends of the diamond facing away from the center stone. Their brilliant facet pattern creates lots of sparkle.

Baguette cut diamond side stones

three stone baguette side stone engagement ring

 

Baguette cut diamonds are step-cut diamonds. Like emerald cut or asscher cut diamonds, they are cut with an emphasis on clarity and symmetry. Baguette cut side stones are perfect for someone seeking a vintage-inspired engagement ring.

Half moon diamond side stones

three stone engagement ring with half moon diamonds
Half moon diamonds look like round or oval cut diamonds sliced in half. They feature brilliant facet patterns, creating lots of sparkle.

Trapezoid cut side stones

three stone engagement ring with trapezoid side stones
Trapezoid-shaped diamonds can feature step cut facet patterns or brilliant cut facet patterns. Typically, a step cut trapezoid diamond will flank a step cut center stone while a brilliant cut trapezoid diamond will flank a brilliant cut diamond.

Cathedral Setting

cathedral engagement ring setting
Cathedral settings feature a band that gradually rises upward to secure the center diamond. This adds structural stability and allows additional light to enter the diamond, resulting in greater sparkle.

Surprise Diamond Setting

surprise diamond engagement ring setting

Surprise diamond settings feature small accents of diamonds in unexpected places. This adds extra sparkle and increases the brilliance and artistry of the ring.  
Learn more about the various engagement ring settings here.

Selecting a Precious Metal

The precious metal you select for your engagement ring will affect the look and longevity of your ring.

Yellow Gold

yellow gold engagement ring
Yellow gold is a classic metal that provides a warm, rich glow. Ritani’s engagement ring collection only offers 18k yellow gold because it is more hypoallergenic and durable than other yellow golds. Yellow gold is even more hypoallergenic than rose gold and white gold. 18k yellow gold is durable, with an average lifespan of 20-30 years. 18k yellow gold is slightly more expensive than 14k yellow gold or white gold because it features a higher level of pure gold.

White Gold

white gold engagement ring
White gold is a classic, cooler-toned alternative to yellow gold. This popular metal closely resembles platinum, but will require replating over time. However, it is a more affordable choice than platinum and features a luster that platinum doesn’t have. White gold has an average lifespan of 7-12 years. It is not a wise metal choice for someone with sensitive skin because its nickel alloys can irritate your skin.

Platinum

platinum engagement ring
Platinum is heavier and longer-lasting than its white gold counterparts. However, platinum will retain its brilliance and never require replating over time. Although it is a more expensive precious metal, it has an average lifespan of 30-40 years and is a fantastic hypoallergenic option.

Sterling Silver

sterling silver engagement ring
Another classic metal is sterling silver. Although sterling silver is often overlooked because of its softness and malleability, it can still be used to create beautiful wedding bands and engagement rings. Most sterling silver rings are coated with rhodium to enhance strength and resist damage. Sterling silver has an average lifespan of 12-20 years.

Rose Gold

rose gold engagement ring
Although rose gold isn’t a new material in the fine jewelry world, it has recently increased in popularity. Rose gold gets its color from copper alloys, which can cause problems for sensitive skin. Rose gold has an average lifespan of 20-30 years.

Cobalt

cobalt ring

 

Cobalt is a popular metal for men’s wedding bands. This gray metal rivals platinum in its capacity to resist damage and wear – it is one of the most scratch-resistant metals available. It’s affordable, hypoallergenic, and has a lifespan of 30-40 years. 
You can learn more about precious metals in depth here.

4. How To Find Her Ring Size

A properly fitting ring is important for comfort and to prevent loss. There are several ways you can find your future wife’s ring size without ruining the surprise. 

  • Look through her jewelry box. Select a ring you have seen her wear in the past. Take the ring to a jeweler to get measured, or you can download a ring sizing chart for free. 
  • If you’re unable to take one of her rings without her noticing, trace the inner circle of the ring on a piece of paper. Or, slide the ring on your finger and mark where it stops.
  • Ask one of her close friends or family members if they know her ring size. They may know her exact size, or know her hand size well enough to make an educated guess. 
  • Ask her friends or family to take her shopping and try on some jewelry together, including some rings. They can attempt to get a hold of one ring that fits her and find out its size, whether from the price tag or from a sales associate. 

If you are unable to determine her ring size, the most common ring size for women is between a size 5 through 7. It’s usually better to purchase a ring in a larger size because it is easier for a jeweler to size a ring down than up.

5. How To Buy The Ring: The Purchase Process

Find a Reputable Jeweler

An engagement ring can be a big investment. You’ll want to make sure you choose a reputable jeweler in order to make an informed purchase. First, ensure the jeweler has credentials from a legitimate gemological lab like the GIA. It’s also important that their staff are properly trained in order to receive the best assistance. You can find a GIA certified jeweler here.

You’ll also want to make sure the jeweler’s diamonds come with legitimate certification, like from the GIA or AGS. These labs are considered the most reliable and highly respected, so you can be certain of your diamond’s features.

To find a quality jeweler, ask your friends and family for recommendations. It’s likely that someone you know has purchased an engagement ring from a local or online jeweler. You should also check online reviews that previous customers have written to be certain of a jeweler’s expertise.

Visit multiple jewelers before making a decision. You don’t have to buy an engagement ring from the first jeweler you visit; see what other jewelers in your area have to offer. While visiting jewelers, make sure you ask the following questions: 

  • Which lab grades your diamonds? 
  • What is your return policy? How many days do I have to return jewelry? Will I receive cash or store credit? A good jeweler will stand behind the quality of their jewelry and have a reasonable return policy. 
  • Does your jewelry come with a warranty? If so, what is it?

Shopping Online vs. In-Store

Engagement ring shoppers often contemplate whether or not they should purchase their ring online or in-store. There are both pros and cons to both buying options – decide for yourself which one is right for you.

Shopping Online vs. In-Store

Engagement ring shoppers often contemplate whether or not they should purchase their ring online or in-store. There are both pros and cons to both buying options – decide for yourself which one is right for you.

Shopping Online

One of the benefits to shopping for an engagement ring online is the massive selection that can’t be matched by brick and mortar jewelry stores. Online jewelers don’t have the same issues with space, security, and other overhead expenses that brick and mortar jewelers will face. This allows online jewelers to not only have a large inventory of diamonds and settings, but it also allows online jewelers to keep the prices down on their products. You can save thousands of dollars by shopping online for your engagement ring versus in-stores.
A disadvantage to shopping online is that you can’t see the engagement ring in person before making the purchase. Luckily, with Ritani you can create an engagement ring online and preview it in-stores for free.

Buying In-Store

The biggest advantage of buying your engagement ring in-stores is being able to see the diamond and/or engagement ring in person. Even though many online jewelers provide HD images and videos of their diamonds, there is added assurance of being able to see the diamond with your own eyes to check for flaws.

A disadvantage to buying an engagement ring in-stores is that you may be pressured by sales people to make a purchase. When you shop online, no one is hovering over your shoulder while you browse rings.

Authentications & Certifications

When purchasing a diamond, ensure that the diamond has a certification from a legitimate and reliable diamond grading lab such as the GIA or AGS. These third party labs create an unbiased report on your prospective diamond to list traits like cut, color, clarity, carat, and more. The GIA is considered an industry leader when it comes to grading diamonds. 

Before purchasing a diamond, view the diamond’s grading report. If it isn’t available online, request to see a copy of it to verify the diamond’s traits. Make sure that you also receive the official grading report when you purchase your diamond. While a grading certificate is not the same thing as an appraisal, it is necessary for insurance purposes, or if you ever wish to resell your diamond. Once you receive your grading report, store it in a safe place so you can locate it when necessary.

Insuring the Engagement Ring

It is likely that the engagement ring you purchase will come with great sentimental and monetary value. We highly recommend getting jewelry insurance in case of loss or theft so that you can be fully compensated for it if something were to happen to it. A good insurance policy will also cover damage and disappearance.
Jewelry insurance is affordable; you will typically pay 1-2% of the ring’s value each year to insure it. This means that if you purchase a $6,000 ring, you will pay about $60 – $120 per year to insure your ring. You can read more about jewelry insurance here.

6. What If You Get It Wrong?

Exchanging/Returning the Engagement Ring

When you purchase an engagement ring, make sure the jeweler has a reasonable return or exchange policy. If you order a custom engagement ring, make sure you understand the return policy – you may not be able to return a custom item. Fortunately, we accept returns on custom engagement rings at Ritani.
If you are returning an engagement ring that you purchased online, make sure that your shipment is insured in case something were to happen to it.

7. The Final Step: Proposing

Plan The Proposal

Your proposal will be one of the most memorable moments of you and your partner’s life. While there is no wrong way to propose, it’s important that you make it meaningful. The best way to propose will vary for every couple depending on different factors. Is it a surprise? Of course, you should always discuss your future together before proposing, but if you want the proposal to absolutely be a surprise, you will need to plan more carefully. Another important question to ask is whether or not she would prefer for the proposal to be in public or in private. Some people don’t like to feel like the center of attention or be put on the spot, so a proposal in the middle of Times Square wouldn’t be the best location for someone like this. Consider proposing in a place or on a date that has significance for the two of you. A place where you had your first date or shared your first kiss would make for a meaningful proposal.

If her family is traditional, you may want to ask her family for permission to marry her before proposing. This will save you from unnecessary drama and allow you to have a warmer welcome into the family.

Propose

It’s time to finally propose! Take a deep breath and relax. Whether you choose to propose in a quiet countryside or the heart of a busy city, it will be amazing no matter what. 

If you’re still looking for great proposal ideas, check out some of our customer’s proposal stories

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