• Shopping for a ring
    Because who doesn't like spending thousands of dollars on a symbol?
  • Shopping for a ring
    Because who doesn't like spending thousands of dollars on a symbol?
  • Shopping for a ring
    Because who doesn't like spending thousands of dollars on a symbol?

GtB’s Ring Guide: Helping you navigate your way through the engagement ring waters with as little stress and expense as possible.


  • Ahh yes.  The ring guide.  A necessary evil if you plan on getting married.  For guys, shopping for an engagement ring is something we’ve all, no doubt, dreamed of our entire lives.  Spending thousands of our hard-earned dollars on a tiny quantity of metal and gemstone is a common childhood dream of many a boy, as we all know.  In return, we will likely get a small token of appreciation that is nowhere near the monetary value of what we shell out for that tiny speck of a symbol.

    Okay, so I’m being a bit of a sarcastic jerk with that first paragraph, but don’t tell me the thought hasn’t crossed your mind.  But such is life and, thanks to that infamous De Beers marketing campaign of the 1930s, you’re probably not going to be able to avoid buying a rock of some sort.  So you might as well be informed, which is the purpose of our ring guide.  Except we’re trying to save you time and money, not necessarily what your future spouse would like to hear!

    Setting aside our personal feelings on the subject of engagement rings, it’s important to recognize what it means to your partner.  The right girl will love the ring no matter what you get her, but we’d be foolish not to acknowledge that the better the ring – the more proudly she’ll display it.

    But before you can do that, you’ve got to dial in your budget.  What I’m about to advocate likely seems counter-intuitive, but I’m of a financial background.  Of all the tips you will find in this engagement ring guide, this is the one in which I place the most importance.  Do not spend more than you can afford on the ring.  Do not accumulate debt.  Save up until you can afford the perfect ring.  I know you want to make her happy, but don’t abandon your usual common financial sense just because you’re shopping for an engagement ring.  Charge it to your rewards credit card and immediately pay it off.

    What you can afford is a relative phrase.  Conventional wisdom is 2-3 months of your salary, but that’s not practical for a lot of people given current economic conditions.  The best thing you can do is take a comprehensive look at your personal financial position and carve out a piece of the pie specifically for the ring.  If you don’t have that piece, create it.

    According to a recent study, the average price of these tiny symbols of fidelity is over $5,000.  This came as a bit of a surprise to me when I first starting reading various ring guides and scouring market prices.  This isn’t to say that you should spend above or below that amount, but rather to give you a rough estimate to start aiming for as you begin to save.

    Above all, remember what the ring symbolizes.  If you can’t afford a $5K ring don’t be ashamed.  If $500 is all you can afford, she’s not going to be shocked.  She knows where you work.  She’s not stupid.  She’s already figured out what she’s likely to be getting and in the unlikely event she is offended by your offering, congratulations – you’ve just identified a huge red flag.

  • Before we get started here, the values you will see on diamond reports will vary by institute.  For that purpose, it’s very important that you stick to GIA certified diamonds.  They are the bell-cow of diamond certification.  You can trust their ratings.  Other certifications are known to over-exaggerate their values relative to GIA to make their diamonds appear like better values.  So for our ring guide, we’ll rely on the GIA ratings.

    • Cut

      A diamond’s cut is actually the most important attribute for helping to make sure it sparkles.   This rating tells us how well the stone interacts with light.  I don’t care how clueless you are when it comes to women.  By now we should all have figured out that they’re fond of things that sparkle – particularly diamonds.  So don’t ignore the cut.  If you stumble across another ring guide that says differently – run.  That would be like buying a top-of-the-line home theater and ignoring the audio/video receiver.  Or, if you prefer a sports analogy, that would be akin to putting together a team full of all-time greats at WR with no one to throw them the ball.

      GIA has five different ratings for cut: Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor.  I would recommend Very Good to Excellent, with Good being acceptable if other attributes were positive and/or a strong deal came along.  It’s best to avoid Fair or Poor.  These cuts just won’t sparkle.  Go with a smaller rock that gives off a better sparkle and she’ll be happier.

    • Clarity

      The clarity of the diamond refers to the absence of inclusions and blemishes.  The GIA’s clarity scale ranges from flawless (FL) to included (I3).  Obviously, the closer to flawless you can get the better.  Unfortunately, the closer to flawless the more expensive things become.  Don’t worry, that’s what ring guides are for.

      With that said, you can cheat a little when it comes to clarity because there’s only so much that’s discernible by the human eye.  Your future fiancé will not be able to see inclusions in stones labeled FL, IF, or most likely VVS1 or VVS2.  It’s possible she will notice inclusions under 10X magnification for VS1 and VS2, but she’ll have to look hard for them.  My recommendation would be to look for diamonds between the FL and VS2 levels, but if you’re on a tight budget I wouldn’t feel bad about dropping down to SI1 if the other gem attributes are appeasing.

    • Color

      Unless you’ve stumbled onto a kindred spirit who just happens to operate outside the normal ebb and flow, your partner will likely have dreams of a colorless diamond.  Colorless, to most women, is where they want to be.  The further you get from colorless, the more yellow the stone will begin to look.  Keep in mind, I said “most women.”  Many are drawn towards fancy diamonds (blue, pink, brown, etc), but not enough to include in this engagement ring guide.

      As you probably guessed, colorless diamonds come at a premium.  Diamonds classified colorless by the GIA are covered by the categories D, E, and F.  There’s no getting around it – diamonds with these colors are going to cost you significantly more money, all else being equal.

      So with that in mind, and my predisposition for being financially responsible, I focused my search on the next category in the GIA subset – near colorless.  My ring guide is different in that regard.  Perhaps I’m crazy, but near colorless should be more than good enough for 99% of women.  Diamonds within these categories are given a letter rating of G, H, I, or J.  That would be my recommendation to my friends and family, so I don’t hesitate when recommending it to the strangers who are reading an random engagement ring guide on the net.

      That would be you.

      You’re going to save a ton of cash if you purchase a near colorless diamond.  What you choose to do with it is up to you (increase the other ring attributes, stow it away and put it towards the honeymoon, etc).  Also, it’s likely that your future spouse won’t be able to tell much of a difference between the colors unless she holds her ring directly up to another diamond.  To her, that G rated diamond will likely look plenty colorless.

      Even more, the setting can impact your ideal color choice.  Platinum bands are the most popular choice these days, so near colorless is a great choice.  However, there are those that still prefer yellow gold.  Yellow gold, according to some, will diminish the color of any diamond.  So there’s really no point in putting a D rated diamond in a yellow gold setting because the light that refracts through the diamond will have a yellow hue.  This is something you should keep in mind when you begin piecing together the pieces of your perfect ring.

    • Carat weight

      This one, really, should be pretty easy to figure out.  In fact, you might even be offended that I’m including it in the ring guide!

      The carat weight is probably what most guys think of when they start thinking about shopping for an engagement ring. The higher the carat, the bigger the diamond and the more expensive it will be.  This is because as diamonds increase in size, they become more rare.  So demand for these limited resources pushes the prices higher.

      Think supply and demand.  And I demand that we end this lesson on carat weight, but I’m pretty sure you’re good.

  • If you’re serious about money, do NOT go down to your local mall jewelry chain and buy a ring.  You might as well throw this ring guide, and your laptop too for that matter, in a fire if you’re planning on going that route.  You’re going to get much, much less for your money.  Beyond that, they will likely have a pretty small selection compared to online retailers.  With that said, they can help you get an idea for which color, clarity, cut, and carat sizes most appeal to you.  Head down to your local jewelers and check out the variety of options and start forming a visual image of what you’re looking for.  In this way, local jewelers can be very helpful.  So take advantage of their knowledge.  Heck, even pick out a stone and get their best price.  Get their ring guide, either formal or informal.  See how it aligns to mine, because you’ve certainly got nothing to lose by getting a second opinion.

    But don’t stop there.  Make sure you know what the GIA report says for every stone you look at.  This is immensely important because it will help you to be able to comparison shop.  Some jewelers won’t give you photocopies of their GIA reports, so write down the specifics and keep track of them yourself.  Remember what I said earlier in this ring guide?  GIA certifications are very important so don’t forget to keep track of these.

    Now go online and see how much further your money will go.  There are a couple of websites that I found to be very helpful.  In fact, I tracked down my stone through one of these sites (Pricescope).

    Bluenile is a site that has a stellar reputation in the online space.  Bluenile is a commercial site, so they sell diamonds and rings directly.  They have a strong reputation and solid prices.  Their ring guide, while placing an importance on the more expensive attributes, is reliable.  Customer service is top-notch.  You might not be able to find as much inventory on Bluenile, however, because they tend to be pretty picky with their inventory (which should give you peace of mind). A Bluenile diamond is likely a very good diamond. I would recommend Bluenile if you’re looking for a completely online experience. They can/will help you with every step of the process.

    Pricescope is a massive community that seeks to help prospective diamond buyers find the best bang for their buck, be it via online purchase or in person at a brick-and-mortar store.  Diamond dealers link their inventories to Pricescope’s inventory tool enabling you to quickly and easily find stones that fit your specific criteria.  I highly recommend you to check these guys out.  A lot of them are located in the New York diamond district, which is renowned for having some of the most competitive prices on diamonds.  You’ll be able to capitalize on those prices from the comfort of your own home.

    Finally, if you can pay with cash most jewelers will give you a noteworthy discount (2-3% savings on a few thousand dollars is nothing to sneeze at).

    One thing you’re going to want to be careful about, and probably goes without saying, is your browsing history.  If you want this ring guide, your shopping, and eventual purchase to be a surprise, you’ve got to be careful that she doesn’t stumble onto your history and figure the whole thing out.  While that certainly wouldn’t be the end of the world, it would ruin the surprise.  No one wants that, which probably includes her, so be careful.  Use your privacy mode.

  • Don’t have a lot of money?  No worries.  Our ring guide will help those in even the most dire of circumstances.  If you’re not in a position to be able to afford a diamond, or if you have ethical objections about the harvesting techniques associated with the diamond trade, you might be interested to know that there are increasingly viable alternative stones that are very attractive.

    The most widely known alternative is cubic zirconia.  They’re highly refractive to light, but in a different manner than diamonds.  This is, usually, what gives them away as being an alternative to real diamonds.  Another downside to CZ is their durability.  They’re not very hard and are susceptible to cracking.  Overall, CZ is a good option for people on a very tight budget, as you can get a loose CZ stone weighing more than 2 carats for less than $500.

    However, the stone I’d like to draw your attention to is called moissanite.  Moissanite, in my opinion, should eventually replace diamond as the stone of choice when shopping for an engagement ring.  That’s probably a pipe dream, but they really do provide a lot of positives.

    They’re only slightly less durable than diamonds in terms of hardness, but at a fraction of the cost.  Furthermore, moissanite stones are more refractive than diamonds, giving them incredible flashes of light (very sparkly) and they are almost always near colorless.  Overall, they deserve everyone’s consideration even if you’re predisposed towards diamonds.  A 1.5 carat moissanite stone can be had for less than $700, and will be almost indiscernible from a diamond worth 10x that amount.  I believe that most moissanite dealers will allow you to “test drive” their stones for a week or 2, so you can always place an order and see what it really looks like and return the stone if you’re not happy.

Think you have some tips on picking out engagement rings that I didn’t cover (entirely possible)? Let me hear from you! Either comment below or join the forum discussion here: http://groomedtobe.com/smf/index.php?topic=1857.0    Thanks!


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