It’s the most wonderful time of the year—engagement season! If you’ve been shopping, dreaming, or even hint-dropping, we’ve got everything you need to know about finding the perfect ring.
What to know before buying an engagement ring | European jewelers | Chicago, Illinois

(photo credit: Mila Craila Photography; jewelry: European Jewelers)

This two-part blog series will first teach you everything you need to know about how diamonds are graded and priced and what you need to know (or find out) about your partner’s preferences before shopping. Our second installment will cover the logistics of finding a jeweler and purchasing and insuring your ring.

Read on to learn exactly what questions to ask before making one of the most significant purchases of your life.

Give Yourself Enough Time

It generally takes 2-8 weeks from purchase to delivery of your ring, so make sure you are planning ahead. Even if you aren’t having a ring custom-made, it generally needs to be sized and possibly engraved before you can take it home. If you want to buy a “bridal set” you can get a wedding band that is matched to the engagement ring, or you can buy a band independently.

Questions to answer before shopping:

  • Do I want to design a custom ring or do I want to pick out a ring that’s already been designed?
  • Do I want our initials, wedding date, or other meaningful words engraved in the band?
  • Do I want to buy a wedding band as part of a set now or on its own later?
Learn the 4 C’s + Shape

Here are the basics:

Cut– how the diamond interacts with light. This is basically a grade of how sparkly a diamond is.

Clarity– the number and type of imperfections. The higher the clarity grade, the fewer (and less noticeable) the blemishes.

Carat– how much the diamond weighs, which also determines the size of the diamond.

Color– the less color in the diamond the better. A colorless stone will appear completely clear while a more colored diamond will have shades of yellow.

Shape– the actual shape of the diamond—round, square, oval, marquise, pear, heart, etc. The shape is not the same as the cut, but the shape will affect the sparkle of the diamond as well.

Because all four characteristics determine the cost of a diamond, a 2-carat diamond with lots of inclusions (poor clarity) and a yellowish tint (poor color) could cost significantly less than a much smaller 1.25-carat diamond that is colorless and has very few inclusions.

Questions to answer before shopping:

  • Do I understand how the diamonds will be priced based on all four characteristics and not just carat weight?
  • What shape of diamond does my partner like?
Know Your Partner

Maybe ring shopping together isn’t your thing, but you still need to know what your significant other wants. This isn’t the time for an impulse buy! Take a peek at their Pinterest boards to see if they’ve dropped any hints there. Listen to the comments they make when they see other engagement rings. Ask what they like, or even more importantly, what they don’t like. With settings ranging from halo to solitaire to vintage to three-stone designs, the choices can feel overwhelming. Chances are your partner has at least some idea of what they do or don’t like.

Don’t forget to know their ring size! If you are completely clueless about sizing, ask their mom or best friend, or even borrow a ring they wear (make sure it’s worn on their ring finger) and trace it to get a general sizing to give the jeweler.

Other than sizing and style, you should have an idea about what is most important to your partner in a ring. Maybe they are all about the bling and want the biggest stone you can buy with your budget, regardless of the color or clarity. Perhaps they want something that is virtually flawless (excellent clarity) even if it means a smaller carat. Your partner may not want a diamond at all. Plenty of people prefer blue sapphires (hello, Kate Middleton’s gorgeous ring), emeralds, pearls, or colored diamonds, like yellow or chocolate. There is no “right answer” when it comes to engagement rings. This is all about finding something that complements your partner and fits their personality and style.

Questions to answer before shopping:

  • What size ring does my partner wear?
  • What style ring does my partner want? What style ring does my partner definitely not want?
  • What’s most important to them in a diamond: carat, color, cut, or clarity?
  • Does my partner want a diamond or a different gemstone?

Complete your engagement ring shopping education with Part Two, full of everything you need to know about finding your jeweler and insuring your big purchase.

Inspired by everything you’ve learned about engagement rings? Check out our fabulous jewelers to start shopping!

Engagement Rings | What to know before you buy a ring | Put a ring on it
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