Experts Want You To Know This Before Engagement Ring Shopping

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If you're in the market for an engagement ring, there's the regular due diligence to be done: studying up on carat weights, metals, and GIA certifications. However, engagement ring shopping is not just a by-the-numbers purchase. The most valuable information to have before investing in this expensive and sentimental piece of jewelry can actually come from those who have gone through the process before you. Arming yourself with a little advice before engagement ring shopping can ensure both you and your significant other love your band (and stone) of choice for years to come.

Women in fashion — along with their partners — are a key resource through this journey since they can speak to the experience from both the personal and professional sides of the lens. They know the trends, terms, and designers. But, sifting through options, avoiding bad advice (even the ones that come from loving family or friends), and navigating the financials were all part of their experiences too.

Below, five fashion industry women who've been there, done that, and decided what worked (or didn't) are sharing their most valuable engagement ring shopping advice. And, for the romantics out there, the personal stories behind their own precious designs, too.

Carolina O'Neill, Editorial Director At Michael Kors


The story behind the ring:

"David and I got engaged over Easter Weekend, so I've had my beautiful ring for about a month. When I first saw it, I couldn't believe the amount of thought he'd put into it. For the last six months he had secretly been working with my best friend to create a unique design he thought I would love. He, and she, know me well, because they nailed it. I always knew I wanted something modern yet timeless. Something completely unique that could stop people on the street, but still look elegant in 50 years. The Old European cut center stone gives the ring an heirloom quality, which is tempered by a modern-looking halo of eight elongated baguettes custom-cut to surround it. He kept the band thin and simple, and the setting very low. Just how I like it."

The Advice: Call in backup if you need it.

There are an overwhelming amount of engagement ring options on the market, but that doesn't mean you need to see them all to make a decision. As O’Neill says, calling in backup can prove helpful to narrow in on what fits you. “As an editor, you're constantly seeing new and exciting things which means you often find yourself changing your mind about what you like, or incapable of making a decision!”

Thanks to her fiancé, jeweler (Joey Hamra of Hamra Diamonds), and best friend, O'Neill says the ring that came to fruition ultimately cut through all the options and captured what she really loved. "Every time my friend casually worked ‘ring talk’ into our conversations, no doubt she was frustrated to hear new ideas and preferences every time. At the end of the day, I think the people you love can sometimes see you more clearly than you see yourself. In this case, they created something that was above and beyond any expectation I had, and absolutely perfect for me."

Connie Wang, Senior Features Writer At Refinery29


The story behind the ring:

"I've had my ring for three years. I'm not a big jewelry person, and I surprised myself by how much I loved this one particular ring from Margiela's fine jewelry collection. I saw it in some random art magazine I was flipping through at the dentist's office, and took a photo of it so I could send it to my partner. I also emailed him a link to the ring when it went on sale. It's a split sapphire that's surrounded by two crowns of diamonds; Like if Princess Diana's ring got chopped in half. I love it because it's slightly surreal, old-world but not your typical engagement ring, and doesn't scream 'ask me about my relationship status!' And as a supreme klutz, I also love that it lays flat against my finger like a smushed Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, and never gets caught on things."

The Advice: Don't feel obligated to spend your life savings

Naturally, a piece of fine jewelry carries a steeper price, but as Wang explains, that doesn’t mean spending beyond your means. “The worst advice is that a ring should be nauseatingly expensive, that it should hurt to buy, and be a financial burden,” she says. “The idea of wearing anything that cost as much as a quarter of someone's annual salary was frightening to me, especially since I'm pretty hard on my things. I may have only worn this ring for three years, but it's traveled with me to two dozen countries, three oceans, campsites, hiking trips, and have weathered a thousand laundry days, marathon dumpling-folding sessions, and one dip in a mud pit. My things have to be as hardy as I am!”

Ryan Norville, Brand Creative And Founder Of Oat Cinnamon


The story behind the ring:

"I've had my ring for about three years now. My husband proposed in the summer of 2016. My favorite thing about my ring is the thickness of the band. I hated the idea of it initially, but grew to love the character of it and how unique it felt. I did not pick out my ring, although I had given my husband a lot of ideas about what I wanted! He actually gifted me his late mother's engagement ring, and it makes it so much more meaningful to me than any ring I could have asked for."

The advice: The engagement is not only about the ring

“I had gotten engaged after a bunch of my other friends, so my ideas about engagement rings came solely from them, or pictures of giant rings on Pinterest,” says Norville. As she explains, the entire process of getting engaged can be bogged down with ideas perpetuated from outside parties (even well-intentioned ones) regarding what’s best, and the pressure to follow suit is real.

She advises fellow brides-to-be not to let the ring itself dictate the entire experience. “Marriage is not about rings, money, or the wedding. I think you should ultimately have something that makes you happy, and your partner comfortable. If that's a giant rock that's fine, but if it's a single solid band, that's more than okay, too.”

Ashleigh Hults, Founder And Creative Director Of Poolside


The story behind the ring:

"I love my ring. It was a surprise from my fiancé, but we communicated on the basics beforehand as part of the overall 'we love each other and want to be with each other for the rest of our lives' convo.

He knows that I wear mostly yellow gold, and that I like the opposite of what most people have. Given this, he picked something completely different from anyone I know, a Royal Asscher cut stone with smaller, trapezoid stones on each side. It's the exact ring that I would have picked for myself."

The advice: Embrace your own creativity

For those who prioritize originality, personalization, and being a part of the design process, Hults says lean into that. “I definitely endorse couples going to a designer to make exactly what they want and to choose a designer based on their aesthetic and professionalism,” she notes. However, she also adds that creative couples can find other ways to take the process into their own hands.

“Everyone says to go to the diamond district for the best deals, but if you are open to creative options like small specialty jewelry stores and estate sales, you may be a lot happier with the results,” she says. “I am a designer, so I love looking through designs, getting inspired and finding the most unique pieces. If you’re like me, you probably won't find your ring in the expected places.”

Gabrielle Sabharwal, Director Of Public Relations At Aritzia

Brian Dorsey Studios

The story behind the ring:

"We just celebrated our seven-month anniversary and were engaged for almost two years before our wedding this past October. But had the ring [pictured on the far right] since the summer before he proposed.

Sunil, my husband, picked out the ring all on his own which makes me very proud. Before he proposed, he asked me what kind of ring I would want. I came back to him with a lot of ideas, but could not find exactly what I was looking for. After searching, Sunil sent me a picture of my ring and I couldn’t believe it. It was perfect! He found exactly what I was looking for: antique setting, elongated shape, diamonds. It was me in a ring. He found it from Jewels by Grace online. It is a 1920’s dinner ring. I love the unique shape and design.

Since he was ordering it online, we agreed to try the ring on before, it is such a big investment after all! The ring was in the apartment for almost six months before he asked me. I wasn’t in a rush, so it wasn’t hard to wait and I actually enjoyed finding his hiding places and trying it on when he wasn’t home."

The advice: Try on, try on, try on

Never underestimate the power of the in-store try on. It can be very telling (and surprising) when deciding on a style of engagement ring. “What you think you may want, may not be what you want after you try it on,” says Sabharwal.

An in-person experience does not necessarily leaving with a ring in hand, but it's a way to get better acquainted with different designers or shapes. “Go shopping on your own,” adds Sabharwal, “it was actually really fun and too many opinions get in the way always."

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