THE ULTIMATE GUIDE TO ENGAGEMENT RING SHOPPING
As a lover of love and a wedding planner, I wholeheartedly believe that when you know you’ve found the one, you just know.
It disheartens me to hear that those electrifying eternal love feelings are sometimes dampened by the overwhelming prospect of engagement ring shopping.
Which is why I’ve created the ultimate helpful guide to engagement ring shopping.
The Ultimate Guide to Engagement Ring Shopping
Before you begin your bejeweled search, there are three different retailer avenues that one can explore.
National Jewelry Retailer
Major national retailers like Kay, Jared to Tiffany & Co. and Cartier will carry their signature engagement ring styles and a breadth of options at various price points.
You can walk out with a ring same-day or order one with a very short turnaround time. You can even order a ring online although this is not advised.
Select retailers offer financing options.
There are no deals to be found when buying a “brand name” ring. Corporate retailers focus on profit margins, covering rent for expensive retail spaces on iconic streets and exorbitant marketing expenses.
Big box retailers typically have fluorescent lighting everywhere to cleverly hide a diamond’s flaws and true color.
Local Independent Jewelry Store
Established local jewelers often offer higher quality gems at a lower price than a national retailer. If you are seeking a classic style with a high quality stone over a brand name, a local jeweler is a smart option.
Depending on the business, sometimes there is room to negotiate on the price of a ring.
Depending on their pre-existing inventory and where the jeweler sources their gems, it may take a few days to a few weeks to order and prepare the desired gem(s) and setting.
Custom Jewelry Designer
If you or your fiance-to-be has their heart set on an avant garde, vintage or a unique design seen on Pinterest or Instagram, a custom jeweler will use their artistry and expertise to create your dream ring.
A custom jeweler offers well priced gems, comparable to a local independent jeweler.
A custom jewelry designer can skillfully fashion the look you are wanting within your budget.
8 out of 10 times the design meeting is attended by the couple. Designing a custom ring with your fiance-to-be is a memorable experience as you work on it together. Oftentimes it’s the first real major decision you’ll make together and it’s an enjoyable, memorable and interactive process.
As custom jewelry designers are making a one-of-a-kind ring, the entire process from start to finish can take anywhere from two weeks to four weeks.
An engagement ring is one of the most significant investments a person will make in a lifetime. According to The Knot, “the national average cost of an engagement ring is $6,000, with one third spending between $1,000 - $4,000”.
The old rule that you should spend three months' salary on an engagement ring has been unceremoniously thrown out. The smart new age approach is to acquire a ring that you can appreciate now and upgrade as your budget permits. Diamonds are forever but that doesn’t mean you have to have the same diamond forever.
We sat down with expert custom jewelry designer Matt Hall, owner of Victory Rings in Houston to have a dazzling conversation about engagement rings.
Can you describe what a custom jewelry experience is like?
“The first meeting involves diamond education that goes deeper than the 4 C’s (cut, clarity, carat and color). I dive into depth, proportions, class of the stone and how to determine all these qualities.”
Matt advises his clients to look at the diamond you’re looking to buy loose (just the gem without a setting, held with pliers). “To see the true color of a stone from the bottom, look at it against a white background in natural lighting. With education, you’ll understand that you can achieve the look you desire and stay well within your budget.”
After an educational foundation, Matt presents an array of stones. Matt elaborated that 99% of the time, a couple comes in with inspiration seen on social media and asks “can you do this?”. With his years of expertise, the answer is always a confident “yes”.
Once the design direction is decided, they create a 3D image followed by a wax-carved ring. Immediately after the wax design is approved, the casting process begins (molten gold is poured into a wax mold of the ring band). Matt shared that they source their gems with renowned dealers in the New York Diamond District and in Canada.
While a custom jeweler can work fast, a typical turnaround time can range from two weeks to a month from start to finish.
What are the biggest mistakes people make when buying an engagement ring?
“The biggest mistake I see people make is to spend too much money on a ring. It shocks people when I say diamonds are a waste of money – you can’t eat them, drive them and they don’t provide shelter.”
Matt elaborated that some men feel pressure to buy their fiance-to-be a ring based on social media, pressure to keep up with the Joneses or other frivolous expectations.
Your jewelry budget should also include a wedding band and any smaller wedding day gifts (typically earrings or a necklace). Planning to purchase these items with the same jeweler is a smart approach if you want to negotiate on price.
What are the best tips you can give for someone thinking about popping the question?
#1. Educate yourself before making a purchase.
#2. Stick to a budget and don’t fall into the trap of peer pressure. Remember, you always have the option to upgrade the ring as you become more established in your career or as a milestone anniversary present.
#3. Give yourself anywhere from two weeks to a month for a ring to be prepared if you want to purchase from a local jeweler or a custom jewelry designer. Thinking about proposing during the holidays or peak engagement times? It’s wise to give yourself an extra buffer.
No matter what route you decide to take when hand picking an engagement ring, it’s important to delight in every step of the journey.
For additional engagement ring guidance, local Houston jewelry recommendations or proposal ideas, contact us. We would be humbled and honored to be a part of your love story.