Buying an engagement ring is a big financial decision for a HENRY [H.E.N.R.Y.™ = High Earner, Not Rich Yet].
So is getting married, obviously. But we assume you’ve done the legwork finding that right someone to spend your life with (can we get a “hooray” for no more dating apps, blind dates, or sneaky set-ups by your mom?!). What you may not have spent so much time researching is what ring to get them when you propose.
Don’t worry, we’ve done the hard work for you. Shopping for diamonds is really hard and boring (not) so you can thank us later.
Read our advice on how to buy an engagement ring before you hit the diamond district:
Remember the 4 C’s of Diamond Characteristics
Contrary to popular belief, bigger isn’t always better when it comes to diamonds. Sure, we’d all like to flash a huge rock on the ‘gram, but carat weight actually isn’t the best indicator of quality. A diamond’s cut and color are both more important.
Cut: The cut, or depth, of a diamond, is the most important factor affecting its appearance. If the cut is too shallow or too deep, it won’t reflect light as well as an “Ideal” cut diamond. To get the most for your money, aim to buy a stone with a cut grade of Very Good or above.
PRO TIP: A diamond’s shape (round, oval, princess, etc) affects its price, too. Round diamonds reflect light at best and tend to be the most sought-after stones, so they are usually more expensive than other shapes. If you’re on a tight budget, consider less common shapes like an oval or cushion.
Color: Also more important than size is the color of a diamond. The less color a diamond has, the more valuable it is. Look for diamonds with a grade G or above (D is the best, but extremely rare AKA expensive).
Carat: Ok, now you can worry about the size of the diamond. Carat doesn’t actually refer the diamond’s size—its a measure of the stone’s weight. The heavier the stone, the greater the value.
Consider a diamond’s cut and carat together. A diamond with a higher carat weight and a poor cut grade can actually appear smaller and less brilliant than a smaller carat with a higher cut grade.
PRO TIP: Buy a stone just shy of a round number. If you want a 2-carat diamond, look for stones that weigh in just under at 1.9. They’ll cost less without being noticeably smaller.
Clarity: Though this is generally the least important of the C’s, it’s not something to ignore, either. The clarity of a diamond refers to its imperfections (or lack thereof in the case of really high-quality diamonds). The best clarity grade is Flawless. Flawless diamonds are super rare and super expensive.
The good news? Most imperfections, more commonly called inclusions, are really hard to see with the naked eye. Diamonds with a VS1 grade or higher have imperfections that are only detectable by really sober people with microscopes.
Don’t Write Off Lab-created Diamonds Or Other Precious Stones
Pay attention, because this is important: an engagement isn’t worth going broke for. If you can spring for a spectacular diamond without sacrificing your overall financial progress, good for you, and we’re free anytime for a drink. But if you’re not quite there yet, you can still surprise your partner with a beautiful sparkler. Remember, there is a LOT more to pay for after engagement bliss wears off (Recent studies show raising one child in the US costs about a quarter of a million dollars, and that’s not including college tuition. Just sayin’.).
Lab-created diamonds, AKA moissanite stones, are almost as hard (read: scratch-proof) as diamonds. The look and sparkle of moissanite are very similar to a diamond, though you can see a difference with the naked eye.
Lab-created rocks have added perks for the socially conscious millennial, as well. Jewellers like Brilliant Earth and Vrai & Oro are designing a steady stream of beautiful engagement rings that are conflict-free, environmentally friendly, and far more affordable than natural diamonds.
Don’t forget about other precious gems, either. It’s a trend that’s catching on with H.E.N.R.Y.s™—more and more of our clients have been telling us they’d actually prefer a stone other than a diamond on an engagement ring! If your partner is a unique soul, they may fall in love with a non-traditional rock (see: Kate Middleton’s sapphire stunner or Jessica Simpson’s 5-carat ruby). Keep in mind, though, that some natural precious stones can be just as or more expensive than colorless diamonds. For example, natural, high-quality emeralds are exceedingly rare and are therefore often more expensive than diamonds. A lab-created emerald, however, can be just as beautiful and way less pricey.
Beware of Designer Diamond Mark-ups
Many of our clients tell us they’re only shopping at Cartier or Tiffany’s for their engagement jewelry. But before you hand over your money, do yourself a financial favor and check out other diamond dealers in your area. Designer retailers mark their jewelry up as much as 30–40%! The value of the diamond isn’t any higher, you’re simply paying for the name brand. And when you’re already dropping a considerable sum, is it really worth the extra cash to pay for a name?
Make Sure Your Diamond is GIA Certified (and Get That Sh*t Insured!!)
A GIA certification confirms that the diamond (or other precious stone) is what the seller claims it is. The certification can help you insure the stone and resell or exchange it should you ever want to.
And yes, you absolutely need to insure it. There’s nothing worse than watching an item you spent a small fortune on disappearing down a drain knowing it’s not insured. Or worse, losing it in the ocean. Not that we’ve ever done either of those things.
Got any other pro tips for purchasing an engagement ring? Share with us in comments! To read more financially savvy lifestyle articles like this, click here.