Never before have women had so much freedom of choice and taste when it comes to their bridal style — and that includes the ring. There are no rules anymore about what counts as an engagement ring, what it should look like, how much it should cost, or who should select it and pay for it. You want a colored stone? Emerald cut, cushion, pear? An asymmetrical setting? Do you want to make the decision as a couple or let your S.O. fly solo? It’s entirely up to you. That said, with all the options and variables to consider, choosing can be an overwhelming experience. Which is why when it finally comes time to pick out the one, knowing the tricks and tips for engagement ring shopping will make everything easier.
A ring represents a meaningful moment for you and your partner, and can be one of the biggest purchases you’ll make together (according to a study by The Knot, the average American couple spent $5,764 on the engagement ring in 2017), so make sure you do it right. Figure out your style preferences, then learn the basics, establish a budget, and do your research. Ring shopping should be exciting — but it will be way less stressful if you’re prepared going in.
For guidance, we turned to engagement ring expert Nicole Wegman of Ring Concierge. (If you don’t follow her on Instagram already, go do so now. Her feed is the stuff of diamond dreams — major eye candy whether you’re close to getting engaged or not.) Below, she shares her best tips to help you in your pursuit of the perfect ring.
Keep an open mind, and take your time.
Much like choosing a wedding dress, you don’t always know what type of engagement ring you’ll like until you see it in person and try it on — and you should never rush into a decision. According to Wegman, there are five key things to keep in mind when starting out in your search: “First, don't be surprised if what you thought you were going to love doesn't turn out to be your top choice once you try it on in person. Second, try on every shape, even if you think you will hate it. You never know what something will look like on your hand," she advises.
Her third tip? Trust your gut: "Don't try to convince yourself to love something! Listen to your intuition and pay attention to what your eye continues to return to," she says. "Fourth, don't get too caught up in the 4 Cs [cut, color, clarity, and carat] initially; just pay attention to what you like to see on your hand."
And lastly, know that the process is different for everyone: "So if you need a little extra time to make a decision, don't sweat it. Take your time!”
Choose whatever metal/shape/size suits your day-to-day life and style.
As long as you properly care for your ring, the metal tone can be whatever suits your taste. Except when it comes to white gold. “You will care for your ring the same way and avoid the same activities regardless of whether your ring is made of gold or platinum,” Wegman notes, then adds, “We always recommend Platinum over white gold as white gold has a rhodium finish that will wear off over time.” When it comes to selecting shape and size, just remember you’ll be wearing it every day. “There are no real rules about shape and carat size other than you should feel comfortable wearing your ring during your day to day.”
Your stone doesn’t have to be perfect.
Back to the 4 Cs — cut, carat, color, clarity: Which are most important? Which can you go lower on? “Whenever you are working within a budget, it's important to find a balance between the 4 C's,” Wegman explains. “We find that the first two things most people notice most about a diamond are size [carat] and color. Keep in mind, color is not an indicator of quality whatsoever, so if you are open to working a little lower here, you will see the price drop as long as the clarity is also a little lower. You'll find that a 1-carat can be the same price as a 2-carat with slightly lower grades. There are also certain diamonds that hide color and clarity very well, while others saturate color. Decide which 2 aspects are most important to you and prioritize them.”
Let your eyes be the judge.
Don’t make the mistake of going by the grade on paper when it comes to clarity. “When shopping for a diamond, working higher in clarity right out the gate is going to ensure your diamond is more expensive” says Wegman. “You can work as low in clarity as you can while never seeing inclusions to keep the price of a stone down. Clarity doesn't affect the actual sparkle of the stone so don't be afraid to work a little lower here.”
A thin setting will make your rock look bigger.
There are lots of trends in engagement rings, but there’s one that Wegman loves most right now, and for good reason: “Delicate settings! They let the diamond take center stage and allow you to stacking lots of wedding bands down the road.”
Be cautious and discerning when looking online for a ring.
You buy everything online, so why not an engagement ring? Buying a diamond is a big deal, and as we’ve established, much of it depends on how it looks in-person. “We never recommend purchasing a diamond off a website since most do not have diamonds experts first screen them in person,” Wegman warns. “Often they list the least expensive diamonds on the market to entice consumers. However, there are many more characteristics to consider aside from the 4 Cs, such as their measurements, make, and fluorescence).”
If you do decide to field the internet for options, Wegman recommends being judicious about the source and seeking out a personal interaction with a reputable expert. “There are so many factors to be well informed on when purchasing your stone, which is why you should always work closely with a diamond consultant. We work with more than half of our clients remotely."
Ignore those outdated rules about how much you should spend and who should pay.
You may have heard the old rule of thumb that the person proposing should spend three-months’ salary on the engagement ring. It's time to forget that archaic advice. “There are absolutely no rules about how much the ring should cost and who should pay,” Wegman assures. “As we move into a more modern way of dealing with engagement rings, everyone makes the process truly their own. Some of our clients share the expense, while others do not. Whatever makes you the most comfortable is what we recommend."
There are benefits to browsing for a ring with your partner.
Sure, a big, unexpected proposal is a romantic notion, but there’s something to be said for shopping for a ring together. “Shopping for a ring together can eliminate worry that what you purchase will not be what was desired,” Wegman points out. “We often have couples come in for the initial appointment to narrow down preferences together, but only one person will come back in later on to create the final ring secretly. We keep all of our clients' design preferences on file so that when it's time move forward, we can pick up from where we left off and keep the ring a surprise.”
So you received a ring you don’t like — now what?
Your partner pops the question — it’s a total surprise — but the ring is just wrong. Don’t panic! There’s a way to gracefully handle the situation and still end up with the band of your dreams. Wegman suggests you keep the stone, but reconsider the setting. “The least expensive part of the engagement ring is the setting,” she says, “so if your engagement ring isn't your style, look for a jeweler whose aesthetic you love and contact them about resetting your stone. Most jewelers will reset center stones.”
Get creative and make your ring personal and unique.
Even if you want something classic, there are so many little things you can do to make your ring more unique to you and your relationship. “We love antique diamonds, so if you're interested in this type of a stone, you're already guaranteeing that you won't be seeing many rings around like yours,” Wegman recommends. “Or, you can make a modern stone feel special by considering a 3-stone design with unique accent stones, such as epaulettes, bullets, pears or rounds. For something more subtle, consider setting your and your partner’s birthstones inside the band. This is a really sweet way to add some sentiment to any engagement ring.”
Consider family heirlooms.
Even if it’s just for the stone. “Family heirlooms are absolutely acceptable to use and often add a very special feel to the ring,” Wegman says. “But it's always important to get a second opinion on the stone to ensure it's something your partner would feel comfortable wearing. Often clients choose to use the antique diamond but have it set in one of our modern settings, making it more wearable.”
Have some fun with the wedding band.
The wedding band should look nice next to your engagement ring, but it’s also an opportunity to experiment and play. “We're living in a time where having only one wedding band is a thing of the past!” Wegman declares. “It's on-trend to stack many bands with your engagement ring, which will give each person the opportunity to add their own style and flair to their set. Depending on your mood, you could add a colorful band, while other days you may feel like being more traditional with all platinum. It's great to have options and everyone's style is different. We find that our clients love incorporating plain and delicate pave bands of various metal colors into their stack.”
There’s an art to the engagement ring selfie.
The proposal was magical and you love your new ring, so the obvious next step is to go on Instagram and show it off. Before you eagerly blast your friends’ feeds with some low-light photo of a blurry ring and chipped nail polish, Wegman has a few tips for how to best present your beautiful bling. (And literally no one knows how to take a ring selfie quite like her, so consider this gospel.) “For the best engagement ring selfie," she says, "make sure you have great lighting (natural light outdoors is the best), a well-manicured hand, a pretty sleeve and a unique backdrop.”