A Gentleman's Guide to Buying an Engagement Ring


If you have been following me on Instagram, you know I recently got married to my beautiful bride Jennifer, and one of my biggest parts of the whole process was, of course, the engagement ring. If pop-culture has taught us anything, it is that there set criteria for what is expected in an engagement ring. From spending a minimum of three months' salary to the expectation of surprising your would-be-bride out of the blue, there is a lot of misinformation that can create unnecessary pressure on what should be an exciting and fun experience. 

The first thing to get out of the way is worrying about the surprise factor, most couples know that there is an impending engagement, so discuss ring style and expectations with your partner ahead of time. If you are planning a surprise, you might just purchase a place holder ring and plan on designing or purchasing a ring of your fiancé's liking later. If you are buying a place holder ring, the average ring size for women is six while men average a size ten.

While every engagement is different and each couple has their own ideas of what they want in their ring, here are some of the basics you should know when you are shopping for an engagement ring. 


Budget:

Knowing what your fiancé-to-be's desires are in an engagement/wedding ring it will help you figure out the budget and what direction you should go in the process, be it buying a pre-designed ring, custom designing a ring, going with a big name brand, or sourcing stones yourself to get more bang for your buck. This is where it can get overwhelming, while the old rule-of-thumb was that a ring should cost an average of three months' salary, this is not only outdated, but it also doesn't reflect the reality of the market. Based on the "three-month-rule" the average engagement ring, based on the US median income, would cost $8,426, which would buy a very nice ring. But, according to a report in the New York Times the average American spends about two weeks' salary on an engagement ring roughly $1,900, so don't feel that there is a minimum or maximum budget you must meet. 

While I would stress that saving up and paying cash for your future partner's ring is ideal, nearly all jewelry stores offer payment plans that will allow you to finance a ring. Just make sure to read the terms and make sure that it is a good deal for you and that you are not overextending yourself.


Do you need to buy a name brand? 

Determining if the brand of the ring is important to your future fiancé is also an important factor when assessing your budget, a 1-carat solitaire from Tiffany & Co. costs $15,200 while a similar style 1-carat ring from a national chain like Kay Jewelers can be had for just $1,999. Obviously, there is a difference in the diamond color and clarity as well as the customer service experience, but a big part of the price of a Tiffany & Co. ring is the little blue box. 

Local jewelers, like my personal go-to David Gardner's, will likely be priced somewhere in between the major brands and the national chain stores, but offer more personalized customer service. Jennifer and I have used David Gardner's for several purchases, cleaning, appraisals, and they even do maintenance on my vintage watches. If a brand name isn't the deciding factor, I suggest starting local and find an established jeweler. 


Stones: 

The biggest cost factor for a ring is the gemstone(s), and outside of simply knowing the shape of stone your fiancé likes can get very confusing. Everyone has heard about the 4Cs of diamonds: cut, color, clarity, and carat weight. While most of us don't understand the difference between an FL and a VS2 grade diamond, focusing on some aspects of the 4Cs over others can drastically sway the cost of your diamond. Looking at stones in the lower end of the color and clarity scale can help you greatly increase your carat weight, this is especially true with brilliant-cut diamonds, and don't worry about inclusions you can't see with the naked eye. An L color VS2 diamond will be very hard to distinguish from a J color VVS2 diamond for the average person not looking at it through a jeweler loupe.

With diamonds, there is also the issue of lab-grown vs mined stones and the way they are advertised can be confusing. There are a number of reasons why a couple may choose a lab-grown diamond over a mined diamond, and the least of which is the price. Lab-grown diamonds are created through a process called high-temperature carbon growing and are advertised at being roughly 45% less expensive than natural diamonds. Lab-grown diamonds should not be confused with simulated diamonds like cubic zirconia as lab-grown diamonds have the same chemical composition as a natural diamond. Unforunently, they do not have the same resale value, not that you are planning on your future partner ever selling their ring, but natural diamonds do hold their value far better than synthetic. Some couples also choose lab-grown diamonds due to ethical concerns with the diamond mining process. 

Many couples are ditching the diamonds altogether, using alternative gemstones like white sapphire, morganite, or aquamarine allowing for a larger stone at a lower price point. But if you're set on a diamond ring, avoid shopping online for deals on diamonds as color and clarity can be hard to determine on a screen and there are a lot of unscrupulous sellers even on major sites that promise authentication. 


Heirloom Rings:

Sometimes a future groom will have a family ring passed down from a family member and many times while the sentiment is there the style of the ring might not be what your fiancé has in mind. After consulting with the family, redesigning the ring is a great way to preserve the legacy of a family heirloom while still creating the ideal ring for your fiancé. 

This was the case with Jennifer's ring, which I inherited from my Grandmother, the ring from the 1970s did have nine very nice diamonds in it, however, the style of the ring was dated. Working with our local jeweler, David Gardner's, we were able to redesign the ring utilizing the original diamonds and white gold and adding an additional ten diamonds to the design to create a unique ring with an amazing story. 

After getting some rough sketches of concepts for the ring, I signed off on the final design, the process took about eight weeks. The ring turned out amazing, but like anything custom, the price for creating a custom ring, even when you are supplying the diamonds, can cost thousands of dollars. 


Insurance: 

Depending on how much you do spend on the ring, insurance should be a consideration as the average homeowner's or renter's policies only cover up to $1,500 of jewelry. Plus a jewelry claim filed against a homeowner's policy could affect your coverage and rate for your entire policy. Most jewelry stores will have information or offer a policy at the time of purchase, but like with any insurance, the fine print is what matters. Expect to pay roughly 1-3 percent of the value of the item so a $5,000 ring may cost $50-$150 a year to insure.  


The number one thing that you have to remember when you are shopping for that special ring is to put your significant other's preferences first and try to accommodate them, remember they are going to be wearing the ring every day and you do want them to look at it, love it, and think of you.

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