Everything You Need to Know About Picking Out an Engagement Ring

Everything you need to know about picking out an engagement ring

Despite objections from all of your guy friends, you've decided to take the plunge and get engaged but are drawing a blank on how to proceed on the whole “buy that one really expensive piece of jewelry that shows your eternal love and desire to spend your life next to her get it wrong and she'll judge you for years” purchase.  No pressure, because we've got your back when it comes to picking out the perfect ring in terms of cut, clarity, color and personal touch.

By Zac Heisey

It would be easy to let her pick out the engagement ring. But where's the surprise in that? Where is the hard work and commitment to finding her something she'll love that is supposed to make it all worth it? Isn't that part of it too? If you're the kind of guy who'd rather go at it alone, then there a few things you need to consider if you want to increase your chances of getting a ring that she'll love and continue to wear. All that is required is that you put some thought into the selection process do some research. Here's a brief guide to picking the perfect engagement ring.

Your Budget

The first logical step in the engagement ring buying process is to determine how much you want to spend and can spend on a ring. It is traditionally expected for men to spend the equivalent of one to two month's salary. But this figure is arbitrary. There is no set amount that you “should” spend. A better way of thinking about it is, How much money can you spend on a ring without getting yourself into financial trouble?

Spend as much as you can, but don't go overboard or feel pressured to spend more than you realistically should. It's simply not worth it.

The Technical Stuff

Cut (Shape and Setting). There are a lot of different shapes and settings of diamonds. A good cut will increase the stone's ability to sparkle with reflected/refracted light. So, whatever else you compromise on, do not compromise on the cut grade of your diamond. Go for the best quality grade you can afford. As far as shape, unless you have a particular one in mind that is of special personal significance, go for the “round brilliant” shape. It has been developed over decades to maximize a diamond's light reflection, and all other quality measures being equal, it will make a diamond sparkle more than other cuts. The round diamond is the most preferred by brides, but maybe yours would prefer something else. A good way to find out what her preference might is to look at her existing jewelry collection.

Diamond shape cuts

Clarity. Diamonds, and virtually all precious stones, have small impurities and imperfections inside them. These are known as inclusions and their prevalence determines the clarity of the stone. The bigger and more numerous the inclusions, the lower a diamond's clarity is said to be. The highest clarity grade is IF. After that, in descending order, are VVS1, VVS2, VS1, VS2, SI1, SI2, I1, I2 and I3. Any diamond graded I1 and below should be avoided completely, as these have imperfections that can be seen with the naked eye. When you get to the high end of the grading scale, however, the differences are minimal. You would have to be an expert using a jeweler's loupe to see them, and thus getting the highest grade stone might not be worth the extra cost. If you want a rule of thumb to follow, try to shoot for at least VS2 grade clarity.

Engagement ring clarity levels explained

Color. Most diamonds have a hint of coloration. Few are perfectly white. Color grades in diamonds range from D, being the best, perfect white, all the way down to Z. Going for a stone that falls anywhere between E and H in the color grading scale is good rule of thumb. A D grade can cost you a considerable amount more, and the difference will hardly be discernible. However, if you go lower than H, you will start to notice a clear hint of yellow in the stone.

What Does She Like?

Pay close attention to the kind of jewelry she already likes to wear, and more importantly, to the kind she doesn't like. This is probably one of the most important steps in the engagement ring buying process and might require a bit of subtle research on your part.

Find out what kind of metal she prefers and what color metal. Does the metal in her jewelry consist mostly of white gold or platinum? If so, you'll know to eliminate yellow gold rings. If it's the other way around, you'll know not to buy her a platinum or white gold ring.

Also pay attention to the style of jewelry she wears. Does she prefer simple and elegant, or does she go for more elaborate and fanciful items? Does she like contemporary designs or more classic ones? Judge her tastes according to the stuff she wears most often.

Keep on the Look-out for Hints. Women are not going to leave you clueless. They'll often point out their preferences to you when the opportunity arises. Take her shopping and see what items she seems interested in and the things she says to you about what she likes and doesn't, especially if she starts looking at the rings section. If her friend recently got engaged, ask her if she likes the friend's engagement ring or not, and ask her why. Does she like white diamonds or does she prefer colored ones? Or maybe she'd like a different kind of stone. Pay attention to any hints she might, and inevitably will, drop about her preferences.

Find Out Her Ring Size. This can be a tricky thing to do if you don't want her to know that you're shopping for an engagement ring. Does she have any jewelry that she wears on her ring finger? Try getting a friend of hers or a family member to borrow that ring long enough to get it sized.

Look at the Size of Her Hands. If she has smaller fingers, don't get her a wide, bold ring. Smaller hands are better suited for slender ring designs, as they make their fingers look longer.

Alternately, if she has long, slender fingers, a slim ring might get lost and end up making her hand look even longer. Long, slender fingers are best suited for bold ring designs. Ring size should be, more or less, indirectly proportional to hand size.

The Loose Diamond Approach

Some men opt to simply propose with a loose diamond. The benefit of this method is that you can both go shopping for a ring together that she's sure to love. At the same time you still get to surprise her with the diamond. It's a compromise between the two opposing approaches. Only try the loose diamond, however, if you are sure that you know exactly what kind of diamond she wants.

For some more great information on engagement ring shopping and their take on the subject check out Buying the Perfect Engagement Ring on Art of Manliness.

This guest post was written by Zac Heisey, an avid blogger and jewelry enthusiast living in San Diego, CA. Zac currently contributes articles for David and Sons Jewelers, a San Diego Engagement Ring company the specializes in custom diamond jewelry.