I hear it every day:
“I don’t know anything about diamonds!”
“Be nice to me. I’m broke!”
“I don’t want to screw this up!”
You know she’s the one. You know you need to get her a ring. But you don’t know a thing about diamonds. The only thing you know is that you’re not Donald Trump. Don’t stay up late worrying that you’ll fall flat on your face and get the wrong ring. I’ve helped thousands of guys just like you find the perfect ring—without breaking the bank. Here are a few insider tips on how to get the best engagement ring for your budget.
Know What She Wants
Does she like white gold or yellow gold? Is she flashy or conservative? Fair-skinned or dark? Does she dress up or dress down for work and play? Trendy or classic? What kind of jewelry does she wear now? What price range do you want to stay in? What’s her ring size? Know the answers to every one of these questions. There’s also nothing wrong with talking to your beloved about exactly what she wants before you shop. She may surprise you. “I want a princess cut in white gold in a thin band with diamonds on the side.” Whew, that was helpful! At least you know she’ll say yes! Or she may say, “Whatever you get me will be fine.” Most of the time, she means it, but you should still do your research. Know the answer to every question I’ve asked about her, and you’ll get her a ring she’ll love.
Know Your Budget
You need to do an honest budget before you go out looking for a diamond. This will do two things: keep you from overspending, and teach you a skill that will be priceless in marriage. If you’ve never done a budget before, Dave Ramsey’s Total Money Makeover is required reading for you right now. Remember, most divorces are caused by disagreements over money. Talk to your future wife about the budget. Let her know how much you can spend. It doesn’t ruin a surprise; it sets a good foundation for communication in your marriage.
Know the Four C’s
The question I’m asked most often is: “Is this a good diamond?” Here’s the standard grading system for diamond quality, and it’s known as “The Four C’s” in jewelry lingo:
Carat Weight: A carat is a 20
of a gram. One hundred “points” equal a “carat,” just like a hundred pennies equal a dollar. Most stores post a weight range in each weight division. For example, a half-carat is 45-57 points. A three-quarter is 70-79 points. Here’s a secret to great value: If she has her heart set on a certain size, get her a ring with several diamonds that equal that size. For example, if she wants a one-carat ($3,500 to $10,000, depending on quality) and your budget is $2,000, get her a ring that has a half-carat in the middle and a quarter-carat on each side. That equals one carat. And it’s gorgeous. And she’ll still love it!
Clarity: Clarity is the measurement of how many inclusions and blemishes are in your diamond. Inclusions (on the inside) and blemishes (on the outside) are the particles your diamond picked up while it was being formed. Here are two secrets to great value: 1) Stay in the SI range for clarity. Any higher than that, and you can only see the difference with a microscope. Unless you’re proposing in a lab, she will never see the difference or care. If you go any lower than that, she may see inclusions with her naked eye. 2) If you can’t afford SI in the size you want, look for an I1 diamond with inclusions that can be hidden under prongs. You can even bezel-set a diamond to completely enclose any visible marks.
Color: Generally, this measures how much yellow, brown or gray is in the diamond. There are other fancy colors of diamonds, but they can cost millions of dollars, so don’t worry about that right now. Here’s a secret to great value: If she likes white gold, stay in the G-I range. Colorless diamonds tack on an extra 20 percent, at least. If she likes yellow gold, stay in the H-K range because the yellow will reflect into the diamond. If you set a D-G color diamond in a big yellow gold band, it will look like an H or I. I don’t want you to waste your money.
Cut: I don’t mean shape when I talk about cut. I mean the proportions of the diamond— are all the little angles and facets in the right place? This affects how well it sparkles in the light. If a diamond is cut too deep, it’s hard to set and doesn’t reflect light well. If it’s cut too shallow, it’s more prone to chipping and doesn’t reflect much light at all. Cut is up to 60 percent of a diamond’s value, and a well-cut diamond will sparkle like the sun. Here’s a secret to great value: For now, while you’re on a budget, stay away from “premium” cuts. That’s any diamond with a brand name attached to it. Yes, branded diamonds are beautiful, but they cost at least 25 percent more. Unless you really see a difference and can afford it, "ideal" cuts, "hearts and arrows" cuts, or any brand-name cut can wait until your 10th anniversary.
Okay, there are the four C’s. You now know how to find a good diamond. But what if your budget is less than $500, and you still can’t find anything you want? Get a sapphire engagement ring. Of course, you should talk to her about this first. Sapphires are the number two choice for brides, next to diamonds; they come in every color (not just blue), and they’re almost as durable, so she can wear it every day. Plus, if you get a lab-created sapphire, it’s incredibly inexpensive. Lab-created sapphires are the same as natural sapphires—they were just made in a test tube.
This is the basic information you need to get started. Remember, a diamond ring pales in comparison to a heart full of love.