How to Buy an Engagement Ring

Buying a diamond ring is one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make, so get the most bling for your buck.

You will need

  • Input from the bride and loved ones
  • Knowledge of the four Cu2019s: carat
  • color
  • clarity
  • and cut
  • A grading report
  • Negotiating skills
  • Membership in a warehouse store

Step 1 Suss out her taste Casually comment on someone else’s engagement ring; that should prompt her to describe what she likes. Or ask her loved ones for advice.

Step 2 Consider her personality Take into account her personality and the jewelry she already owns. Does she like modern jewelry, or does she prefer antique and estate pieces? Does she like showy baubles or simple stuff? Is she a traditionalist, or does she strive to be unique?

Step 3 Pick a shape Pick a shape. Choices include round, square, radiant, emerald, pear, marquise, princess, cushion, Asscher, and heart-shaped. The princess and radiant cuts are more forgiving of flaws than the emerald and the Asscher.

Step 4 Think about carat size Think about the size of the diamond you want—or, more to the point, the size she finds acceptable! Diamonds are measured in carats, one carat being about the size of a green pea.

Step 5 Consider color Consider color. Color is graded from D (colorless) to Z, with colorless being the most valuable. Diamonds graded N and below are noticeably yellow.

Step 6 Decide on clarity Decide on the level of clarity you are willing to pay for. The choices range from FL (flawless) to I3 (included). Almost all diamonds have flaws, or inclusions; the trick is to find one whose flaws are least visible to the naked eye.

Step 7 Choose your cut ‘Cut’ refers to the reflective quality of the diamond. Cut grades range from ‘ideal,’ assigned to diamonds that reflect the most light, to ‘fair and poor,’ for diamonds that reflect only a small proportion of light.

Step 8 Consider the setting Consider the setting, which determines the center stone’s height. Choices include prong, bezel, channel, pavé, cluster, and flush. A cluster setting, with many small diamonds around the main stone, can result in a tall ring; a flush setting provides a more understated look.

Step 9 Pick a band Choose which metal you want for the band. Platinum is the most expensive but also the most popular because of its durability. Other choices include white gold, yellow gold, titanium, and palladium.

Step 10 Get a grading report Before buying a ring, ask the jeweler for the grading report—a certificate filed by an independent gemological lab that confirms the carats, color, clarity, and cut. If the jeweler says he can’t or won’t get one, walk away.

Step 11 Haggle Don’t be afraid to haggle: You’re expected to negotiate when buying an engagement ring. Most jewelry stores mark up their diamonds by a whopping 100 percent, so there’s plenty of wiggle room—especially if the salesperson’s choice is between a small commission and none at all.