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Engagement Rings Buying Guide

How to pick the perfect engagement ring and save $1000s!

Hey guys, choosing your engagement ring is one of the biggest decisions of your life! It definitely pays to make an informed decision because this ring will last a lifetime. I created this guide to cover every factor that you need to know about while you are looking at engagement rings. If you follow this guide, you will end up with a beautiful ring with a beautiful diamond that will impress people for years!

Please, bookmark this page if you will need to read this guide again.   —>Click here to bookmark this site!

Ready? Let’s begin:

The most important factor: where you buy your ring!

My top recommended places to get engagement rings are James Allen and Blue Nile. I recommend buying online (see why in the online vs offline section ) and out of all of the online diamond ring stores, James Allen and Blue Nile are the best that I have come across.

Here’s why they’re great stores for engagement rings:

  • James Allen has a real picture of every diamond in stock, along with a virtual loupe so you can see it under magnification on their website.
  • Blue Nile has an enormous selection to choose from (over 70,000 diamonds in stock!.
  • They also have diamond grading reports for all of their diamonds, so you can judge its quality.
  • They both have A+ ratings from the Better Business Bureau (BBB). Also, they received a 5-star rating at iVouch.com and an outstanding rating at Bizrate.com
  • Which store is better? Both James Allen and Blue Nile are top-quality online engagement ring stores. If I had to choose one, I would go with James Allen because they have real pictures of all their diamonds, but you really can’t go wrong with either one.
James Allen engagement rings
Click here to start making your engagement ring at James Allen!
Blue Nile engagement rings
Click here to start making your engagement ring at Blue Nile!

Engagement Ring Guide Contents

Topic #1: Diamond specifications: how to pick an awesome diamond (4 C’s and more).
Topic #2: Buying engagement rings online vs. offline
Topic #3: Make sure you can see a picture of your diamond.
Topic #4: Diamond Certificates
Topic #5: Choosing your setting
Topic #6: Important Terms for engagement rings
Topic #7: The Engagement Ring Finder!

Topic #1: Diamond specifications: how to pick an awesome diamond (4 C’s and more).

Here’s how to select an awesome looking diamond, and save money at the same time. Follow these guidelines for diamond characteristics and you’ll avoid paying extra for features you won’t even notice.

Let’s start with the Four C’s. The 4 C’s stands for cut, clarity, color and carat, and they describe the diamond’s basic characteristics. You’ll find these characteristics on the diamond grading report, detailed in Topic 4.

Here are the guidelines for the Four C’s. Follow these guidelines and you’ll get the best diamond for your money:

  • Cut: This is the most important of the Four C’s. Make sure your diamond’s cut is graded “TrueHearts (or Hearts and Arrows),” “Ideal,” or “Premium.” Note: TrueHearts/Hearts and Arrows diamonds are the top 1% (or less) of diamonds that are cut so perfectly with great internal symmetry that they can receive the name TrueHearts/Hearts and Arrows. They’re awesome diamonds!
  • Clarity: The clarity should F, IF, VVS1, VVS2, VS1, or VS2. Here’s a money-saving tip: Don’t spend the extra money for a super-clear diamond (like a IF or VVS1). The most important thing is that the diamond is eye-clean (no matter what the rating is), so judge it for yourself. Inspect the picture of the diamond to see if you can see any inclusions.
  • Color: The color can be D, E, F, G, H, or I.  Here’s another big money-saving tip: don’t spend the extra money on a D color diamond. The difference is barely visible, but they cost a lot more!
  • Carat: This one is pretty simple: buy the biggest carat that you can, according to your budget! However, I have a money-saving tip for this one too:  Diamonds with a carat just under these round weights (sometimes called magic weights) are usually sold at a discount: .5 ct, .75 ct, .9 ct, 1 ct, 1.5 ct, 2 ct, and so on. Diamonds that are slightly less than these carat weights are usually less expensive.

Here are some more optional criteria if you want to go more in-depth with your diamond.  These aren’t huge factors and the 4 C’s above should be enough to select a great diamond. However, here they are:

  • Polish: This should be Excellent, Ideal, or Very Good.
  • Symmetry: This should also be Excellent, Ideal, or Very Good.
  • Table: Don’t go above 64%.
  • Depth: Don’t go above 64%.

If you’re ready to start choosing your diamond and making your ring, click here to start now!

By the way, are you looking for a fancy cut diamond, such as a princess cut or an emerald cut? We have separate guides for these cuts- see them here:

Topic #2: Buying online vs. offline

Here’s a concern that many people have: should I buy my ring online or offline? Many people feel like buying from a brick-and-mortar store is a more trustworthy and safer option than buying online. However, once you make a true comparison between buying online (from a trusted store) and buying offline, the online option starts to stand out as the best way to purchase your engagement ring.

Here’s the rundown:

-Brick-and-mortar stores use tricks to make their diamonds look better. One thing they do is they put their diamonds under perfect light that makes them look a lot better then they do in regular lighting conditions. Basically, their diamonds look better in the store than they do anywhere else.

-The number one advantage to buying in a brick-and-mortar store is that you can see the diamond in person. However, since they use special lighting that makes their diamonds look better, is it really a good thing that you can see the diamonds in their store?  Really, looking at diamonds in physical stores is misleading because of this reason.

-I recommend James Allen because they have real pictures of every diamond that they sell. This eliminates the problem with not being able to see which diamond you’re buying online. Also, their pictures don’t have any kind of misleading lighting, and they have a virtual loupe that allows you to see their diamonds under magnification.

-One of the biggest problems with buying in a physical store is the pushy salespeople. Being rushed to make a purchase is neither comfortable nor a good way to get a great quality engagement ring without getting ripped off.

-Brick-and-mortar stores are also notorious for charging way too much for their diamonds. If you compare two diamonds with the exact same characteristics, but one being sold online and one sold in a physical store, the one sold online can easily go for $1,000 less, or even more.

-What about safety? A lot of people aren’t sure if buying engagement rings online is safe. This is definitely understandable, since it’s a big purchase. However, this factor depends on the store where you buy your ring. Almost all online stores are safe to buy from today, but still it might pay to be a little cautious. Make sure you buy from a trusted online store! You should have seen above that I recommend James Allen and Blue Nile. They have an A+ ratings from the BBB, and are trusted diamond ring sellers.

Topic #3: Make sure you can see a picture of your diamond.

Like I mentioned above in the online vs. offline section, one of the biggest problems with most online stores is that you can’t see pictures of the diamonds they sell. However, James Allen has real pictures of every diamond that they carry. Not only that, they have a virtual loupe so you can see their diamonds under magnification, too.

Topic #4: Diamond Certificates

Diamond certificates are reports (also called diamond grading reports) from a lab that specializes in inspecting and evaluating the characteristics of diamonds.

Diamond sellers send off their diamonds to a lab that grades diamonds for their characteristics and flaws (which are covered in section 1). The lab sends the diamond back along with a document stating what they found about the diamond.

One thing to keep in mind is that dealers can charge more if a diamond receives a higher grade on a critical characteristic, such as clarity, and that some labs are more liberal with their grading than others. So, a diamond might receive a VS2 rating from one lab, and a SI1 from another. The dealer will only show you the certificate from the lab that gave the diamond a VS2 rating, because VS2 is better than SI1 and they can charge more for that rating.

What you need to know is which labs tend to be stricter with their gradings, and which labs tend to give out better grades for diamonds which might not necessarily deserve them. Basically, certificates from some labs are more trustworthy than others.

The best labs are the GIA (Gemological Institute of America) and the AGS (American Gem Society). Reports coming from these labs are very trustworthy and contain accurate information about a diamond.

Some other common labs that you might see a report from are the IGI (International Gemological Institute) and EGL (European Gemological Laboratory). Their reports aren’t as accurate as reports from the GIA or AGS, but they are still good. An IGI or EGL report doesn’t mean that you should disregard its grading, but just know that the diamond may have been graded a little more liberally than the GIA or AGS would have graded it.

If you see a report from any other lab, run the other way! I wouldn’t trust a report from any other lab.

In summary, stick to diamonds graded by the GIA or AGS if you can.

Topic #5: Choosing your setting

If you’re unsure about what kind of setting you should choose, then here are a few tips for picking a great setting that she’ll love:

  • Make sure you take note of her hints. She has probably dropped a few hints about engagement rings she likes while the two of you have been out shopping or walking past a ring store or something like that. Pay attention to the style of the rings that she says she likes, and try to get one with a similar look to it.
  • Look at the jewelry she already has. This is a good clue to the type of rings that she likes. Pay attention to the type of metal she prefers (yellow gold, white gold, or platinum) and the style of her jewelry (is it simple, antique-looking, modern-looking, or other?). Then try to find a setting that’s similar to the jewelry that she already has and likes.
  • Pay attention to the type of metal that she likes the most. Does she have more platinum, white gold, or yellow gold? Which one does she like the most? This will help you choose the metal for the setting- go with the one that she prefers.

What about the type of metal for your setting? Here’s what you need to know about the metal for your setting:

  • Platinum –More durable than gold and will last longer, good for people with sensitive skin, and it doesn’t fade or tarnish. However, platinum is the most expensive metal for setting.
  • White Gold – Resists scratches better than platinum. However, it will require re-plating after a long period of time will wear down after a long period of time.
  • Yellow Gold– Resists scratches better than platinum, rarely causes skin irritation, and does not require plating. However, it will wear down over a long period of time.

Ready? Click here to look at some great settings.

If you’re still not sure what ring setting to go with, check out Blue Nile’s  Top Ten Engagement Rings and Recently Purchased Engagement Rings. This is a great way to start thinking about which ring to choose.

Topic #6: Important Terms

The Four C’s:
Cut – The quality of the angles and proportions in the diamond. This is the most important of the 4 C’s because it tells you how brilliantly the diamond reflects light.

Clarity – This is the inclusions or flaws in the diamond.

Color – How colorless the diamond is. Most diamonds have a slight tint to them, and the less tint, the better.

Carat – The weight of the diamond. Higher carat means bigger diamond!

Diamond Grading Report (or lab report) - A document from a laboratory containing an assessment of the Four C’s of a diamond, along with a plotted diagram showing where the inclusions are.

Diamond Dossier – Same as a diamond grading report (see above) but without a plotted diagram showing the inclusions.

Fluorescence – Some diamonds have a natural fluorescence (usually blue) under ultraviolet light.  The fluorescence can range from very strong to none, and unless the fluorescence is very strong, it usually isn’t an issue to worry about.

Depth % - The ratio of the total depth of the diamond (the distance from top to bottom, or table to culet) to the diameter of the diamond.

Table % - The ratio of the diameter of the table (top face of the diamond) to the total diameter of the diamond.

Polish – The quality of the polish on the diamond. This does not make a huge difference in the quality of the diamond- if you buy a diamond with a lower polish grade you might feel like you need to clean the stone.

Symmetry – This measures how well the facets of the diamonds meet. Sometimes a diamond is purposely cut slightly asymmetrical in order to avoid inclusions or to achieve a certain carat weight (like 1.00 or 1.50 carats exactly).

Topic #7: The Engagement Ring Finder

Use this engagement ring finder to browse through some engagement rings, choose the one (or ones) that you like the best, and proceed!

SOLITAIRE

PAVE

CHANNEL SET

SIDESTONES

THREE STONES

GEMSTONE

CONTEMPORARY

WEDDING SETS

DANHOV

 

This is the end of the engagement rings guide…ready to start making your engagement ring?

James Allen engagement rings
Click here to start making your engagement ring at James Allen!
Blue Nile engagement rings
Click here to start making your engagement ring at Blue Nile!

Recommended Engagement Rings

Need some inspiration? Here are some of the most popular (and some of my favorite) rings:

solitaire engagement ring
Solitaire “Reverse Tapered” Engagement Ring

This is one of the most popular solitaire settings. It’s simple and it puts the diamond that you choose in a spotlight, allowing it to shine and command attention!

spiral tension engagement ring
Spiral Solitaire Engagement Ring
This ring puts the diamond right in the center and the setting spirals around it, making the diamond look like it’s floating inside the setting.
common prong engagement ring
“Common Prong” Ring with Sidestones
This ring has 18 diamond sidestone going down the band. It’s elegant, but not overly flashy, and very versatile.
princess sidestone engagement ring

Three Stone Princess Cut Engagement Ring
This is like the holy grail of princess cut engagement rings. It’s a three stone ring, but with all princess cut diamonds. Look closely, because the small pave diamonds are also princess cut!

pave ring
“French Cut” Pave Ring
This is a full pave ring, which means it has pave diamonds going ALL the way around the ring. This ring will definitely sparkle and shine from any angle.
half pave engagement ring
Pave Diamond Engagement Ring
This popular ring has 22 pave diamonds going halfway around the band. It’s simple but attention-getting and versatile.

References:
Topic 2: Tiffany
Topic 4: 1.AGS 2.GIA

2 Responses to “Engagement Ring Buying Guide”

  1. The Engagement Ring Guide Is Up! | Buy Diamond Rings on June 13th, 2010

    [...] Engagement Rings [...]

    Wikipedia entry on engagement rings

  2. Jackson on February 23rd, 2011

    Wow, I just realized how much more they charge at the mall jewelry stores and other physical stores in my area. I swear for the exact same ring with the exact same size diamond they are asking for like $3,000 more than from the James Allen site. Thank you for writing this guide, I think it’s going to save me some money!

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