getting engaged

The Engagement Ring Guide – Part 2

The perfect engagement ring will make your big moment shine even brighter. Use this guide as you start your quest to buy the right engagement ring for your future bride.

You’ve decided to pop the question — the question, the one that will change everything. But before you can start planning your happily-ever-after with your future bride, you have a little shopping to do.

It’s natural to feel overwhelmed by how much you need to learn when you set out to buy a diamond engagement ring. Technical information about the 4Cs, conflicting information about how much you need to spend, and hundreds of different styles and options can quickly confuse you.

Use this guide as your starting point to orient yourself to the vast world of diamond engagement rings. We’ll help you understand where to start, and what to consider, before you make your final decision.

Style before science

Buying a diamond engagement ring is nothing like any other purchase you’ve made. There are countless variables that affect beauty, quality and cost. It’s not like buying a car, where you get virtually the same thing every time, with a few options or add-ons. Every diamond is unique, and the ring in which the diamond is set presents countless options as well.

Many people focus first on diamond quality — the “grade” of a diamond based on the 4Cs of color, clarity, carat weight and cut — before they shop for style. The 4Cs were originally conceived as an educational tool to convey why a diamond cost so much. They’re valuable for understanding tradeoffs when buying a diamond within your budget.

But once your fiancée puts the ring on her finger, she isn’t going to go around showing people her “E color, VS1 clarity, 1.2-ct., thick-girdle” diamond ring. She’s going to show off her beautifully designed and brilliantly sparkling engagement ring.

That’s why we recommend focusing first on finding the perfect style for your fiancée — and then finding the right diamond to fit that style. Consider the following options when considering the right engagement ring style.


Diamonds and Gemstones

  • A Diamond Solitaire Is your fiancée interested in a simple and elegant diamond solitaire — a single diamond showcased in a metal band?
  • A Ring with Side Diamonds or Colored GemstonesWould she like an engagement ring with side diamonds or side color gemstones for added dazzle or color?
  •  A Halo RingShe might want a halo ring, which has one center diamond surrounded by smaller diamonds.
  • A Diamond Engagement BandDoes she want a diamond engagement band instead of a ring with larger center stones?
  • Color Gemstones or Color DiamondsDo you think your fiancée-to-be would prefer color gemstones or color diamonds instead of white diamonds in her engagement ring?

Shapes

If you decide to go with a center-stone diamond or a ring with side stones, you’ll have a lot of choices when it comes to choosing the shape of your diamonds or gemstones. Your choices include:

  • Round
  • Princess
  • Emerald
  • Marquise
  • Oval
  • Pear
  • Heart

Metals

What metal color and type best fits your fiancée’s style and taste? Do you think she would prefer:

  • PlatinumThe hard, modern look of platinum?
  • White GoldThe softer and contemporary look of white gold?
  • Yellow GoldThe classic yet fashionable look of yellow gold?
  • Rose GoldThe unique and romantic look of rose gold?

Settings

What diamond or gemstone setting is right for your bride-to-be’s engagement ring? Do you think she’d like:

  • ProngThe clean and classic look of a prong setting?
  • ChannelThe extra flash and flair of a channel setting?
  • PavéThe glamorous look of a pavé setting?
  • BezelThe contemporary, striking look of a bezel setting?

Styles

There are as many engagement ring styles as there are personalities in the world. How do you find the one that’s right for your bride-to-be? Start by narrowing down what her personality and style call for:

  • Modern & Classic
  • Vintage-Inspired
  • Clean & Minimalist
  • Glamorous & Ornate
  • Traditional & Understated
  • Dramatic & Unique

The Quest for Quality

Once you’ve narrowed down your style choices, it’s time to start thinking about getting the best quality for your budget.

In the world of engagement rings (and all jewelry, really), quality equals beauty. The higher quality a diamond is, the more beautiful — and the more expensive — it will be. That’s the general rule, anyway. The reality is that you can get a beautiful diamond engagement ring by making simple tradeoffs. We judge diamond quality by the 4Cs:

  • ColorA diamond’s quality is based in part on how white it is. A D grade is the whitest; a Z grade is perfectly yellow. Color changes between D and H are virtually indistinguishable with the naked eye.
  • ClarityThis “C” measures how many internal blemishes, or “inclusions,” a diamond has. While clarity affects a diamond’s perceived quality and price, most inclusions don’t really affect a how a diamond takes in and returns light, which makes it look like it’s lit from within.
  • Carat weightThis “C” is pretty easy to understand: the bigger the diamond, the more expensive it is. However, size alone doesn’t always equal beauty.
  • CutThe way a diamond is cut and proportioned affects how the light shines through it. Well-cut diamonds tend to be more expensive, but they also have more play of light and dazzle, so you can compromise on other “Cs” and still get a gorgeous diamond.

Have your jeweler show you the diamond through a loupe or gemological microscope, and pay attention to how precisely the diamond’s angles are cut, whether there are glaringly visible inclusions and other visual variables that affect a diamond’s beauty. Then, compare how the diamond shines compared to diamonds graded at higher and lower quality. Stand across the room to test the how it looks. Ultimately, you want to choose your diamond based on its beauty.


Finding the right jeweler for your engagement ring purchase

You can spend weeks educating yourself about diamonds, but ultimately getting the best quality and value when buying an engagement ring comes down to trust. When shopping for an engagement ring, look for a jeweler who will:

  1. Express interest in your fiancée-to-be’s unique personality and style, and emphasize what she wants.
  2. Show you the diamond through a gemological microscope or loupe to educate you about cut.
  3. Help you quickly narrow down your options for style.
  4. Focus on helping you find the right style and quality for the price — the best value you can get.

Now that you have the lay of the land: go have fun! This is a chance for you to spend some time thinking about the woman who will be your wife, and the ring you choose should celebrate her personality and spirit with a unique and special symbol of your love. Best of luck!

Just Engaged? Your First Wedding Planning To-Dos

Once the initial shock of being engaged wears off (and you take a second to peel your eyes away from that sparkly ring on your finger!), you’ll need to make a lot of decisions. Here are the 11 most important things you need to do to really kick off your wedding planning.

FAVORITE

Newly engaged couple holding hands

PHOTO BY JOSE VILLA

Set a Timetable

The minute you get engaged, everyone will be asking for your wedding date. But in reality, you won’t be able to set an exact date until other major decisions—like choosing (and booking) your venue—are made. So first, focus on determining a range of dates that’ll work for you. The average engagement lasts 14 months, but also think about what season you’d prefer, any major holidays or family events you’d like to avoid conflicting with, and how long you predict you’ll need to plan.

Dream Up Your Style and Pick a Location

Before you try on a single gown, book a band or sample a bite of cake, look at the big picture and imagine what kind of style and vibe you want to set for your wedding—and where you want to hold it. Close your eyes and picture your fantasy wedding. What do you see? Is it a candlelit ceremony in a mansion? Are you walking barefoot on a beach in the tropics? Or maybe it’s in your hometown’s botanical garden. While you’re picturing your perfect wedding, here are some key questions to consider: Big (everyone you know) or small (just close friends and family)? Outdoors or in? Home (one of your hometowns or your current city) or away (a destination wedding)? Modern, classic, romantic, vintage, rustic or all-out glam? Fancy, casual or somewhere in between? To help you get a better idea of what you want (and what you don’t want), spend some time gathering inspiration. Check out magazines, books and real wedding photos online, but don’t limit yourself to the obvious sources. Something as unlikely as a wallpaper pattern, a scene from a favorite movie, or a family heirloom can spark your creativity. Bottom line: Always keep your eyes open for inspiration.


Set Your Budget

Sit down with your families and figure out how much everyone is contributing. This number will affect every decision and purchase you make, so be sure to work out your budget before you start planning. It can be an uncomfortable conversation, but it’s better to get it out of the way now.

Draft a Guest List

As you begin to build your guest list, you’ll need to consider a number of factors. If you have a particular ceremony or reception site in mind, for instance, you’re going to be limited by how many people it can accommodate (you can’t squeeze 300 people into a lighthouse). Would you rather have quality one-on-one time with each guest or throw a once-in-a-lifetime party for all your friends and family? If mom and dad won’t budge about inviting throngs of friends and family, you’ll have to hear them out—especially if they’re footing a major part of the bill. Keep in mind that more guests means higher prices, as catering costs are generally calculated on a per-head basis. So, in addition to location, your budget will have a big influence on the size of your guest list.

Register (Before Your Engagement Party!)

Worried that you’ll look gift-grabby if youregister ? Don’t! With all the engagement parties, bridal showers and well-wishing relatives in your future, everyone will appreciate your foresight. And although gifts are optional for engagement parties, some of your guests may want to give you something to commemorate the occasion, so register for at least a few items beforehand so they don’t have to ask (or guess) what you’d like. One thing to note: Don’t include registry information in your engagement party invitations or in any other formal manner. Stick to using word of mouth or links on your wedding website .

Insure Your Engagement Ring

No matter how careful you are, the peace of mind that engagement ring insurancewill give you and your fiance is worth it. There are two basic ways to do it: As an extension of your renter’s or homeowner’s policy (which would reimburse you for a set amount of cash if you lose the ring), or through a company that specializes in jewelry insurance (which might offer more coverage than a standard homeowner’s policy by replacing a lost or stolen ring).

Choose Your Wedding Party

Now it’s your turn to propose to your bridesmaids and groomsmen . Remember, the earlier you ask, the sooner you can enlist their help. And keep in mind that your wedding party is agreeing to spend their hard-earned money and donate their precious time—be considerate and kind by informing everyone about all your plans, showing them a good time and making sure they know how much you appreciate them.

Consider a Consultant

If you’re a super-busy couple, have demanding jobs or have big (read: complicated) dreams for your wedding weekend, then you should hire a full-time wedding planner to help you prepare your entire event, from the announcement to the honeymoon. You can also hire a part-time consultant to devise a wedding blueprint—including budget, schedule, and lists of good vendor and site choices—before you launch solo into the preparations. Another option is a day-of coordinator, who will make sure everything goes smoothly on your wedding day.

Book a Venue (and Set Your Date)

Your reception venue will become the backdrop for virtually all your photos and can influence everything from heavy hitters like your budget and guest list to smaller details like your menu (if you choose a venue with in-house catering). Ensure that you get the look, price and extras you want by scouring local listings, shopping around, scheduling visits and booking early. Bonus: By signing your venue contract, you will officially have your wedding date (congrats!)!

Hire Priority Vendors

If you just can’t imagine getting married without a certain local band playing at the reception or a photographer whose work you love, act fast. Many topwedding photographers and other in-demand vendors are hired more than a year in advance, and once they’re booked, they’re gone. Translation: Figure out what your highest wedding priorities are, whether it’s world-class catering or exquisite flowers, and snap up the vendors whose work you love.

Shop Dresses!

Begin your search by browsing dress photos online (and saving your favorites — you’ll want to take them with you to your appointments). Then, learn the lingo before setting foot in a dress salon. Read up on silhouettes, necklines, trains and hues that might flatter you. The season will also affect your choice. Getting married in the sweltering summer? Go with lightweight fabrics such as chiffon, linen or organza. Having a winter wedding? Brocade, faux fur and velvet will keep you warm. Satin, shantung, silk and tulle are perfect year-round.

Originally posted https://www.theknot.com/content/engagement-ring-shopping-tips