Before proposing marriage, most men have an idea of how they plan to proceed: a romantic setting, a simple question, and hopefully, a positive response; most have no idea how to buy an engagement ring. They picture the engagement ring: a stunning piece of jewelry that lets her know how much they care and sweeps her off her feet. Where this idealistic fantasy breaks down, however, is that many men don't know that buying an engagement ring is a far more involved process than going to a jeweler with a hefty wallet. Knowing how to buy an engagement ring makes the process far simpler.
How to Buy an Engagement Ring: Education
The first step toward buying a quality engagement ring is education. All rings look lovely in the store, but by knowing basic quality standards as well as the bride's expectations, you guarantee that the ring you buy is a good deal. Once you know how to buy an engagement ring, you can make your purchase with confidence.
Because an engagement ring is both a financial and emotional investment, it is important to know what makes a quality ring. Before visiting a jeweler to buy an engagement ring, learn about the four C's of diamond quality: cut, carat, clarity, and color. Know basic setting and metal choices, as well as different diamond shapes. Understand the differences between treated, synthetic, and imitation diamonds. While this may seem like a lot of information, it prepares you for a successful shopping trip: the jeweler will undoubtedly be showing you many rings in a short time, and they will describe each one with different diamond terminology. By learning that terminology beforehand, you can focus on the purchase without being lost in the mumbo-jumbo.
Even more important than knowing how to judge a quality ring is knowing what means quality to your prospective bride. Most women have definite preferences for diamond shape, metal choice, and general ring appearance. The best way to discover these preferences is to ask, but if you prefer a more subtle approach, spend several hours window shopping before venturing to the jeweler for a serious purchase. It is also possible to ask her close friends and family about her preferences if they can be trusted with the impending secret.
One essential piece of information is the bride's ring size, which can be discovered in several ways. Close friends may know her size - again, if they can keep the secret. If she already wears a variety of rings on her left hand, choose one she wears frequently (it is likely quite comfortable) and try it on your own fingers, usually your pinkie, for a fair approximation of her size. If possible, take the ring to the jeweler with you so they can properly measure it - this may not be feasible, however, because it would be exceedingly difficult to explain if she discovers the ruse.
Many people set a ring budget before becoming educated, but that can be a serious error. Only after investigating quality as well as the bride's preferences can you truly appreciate the investment you are about to make. There is no set price tag for an engagement ring - the "two month equivalent" standard is a guideline established by the diamond industry itself. The budget should actually reflect how much the couple can afford. Always consider the bride as part of this decision: if she prides herself on keeping debts low and credit cards paid off, she may not appreciate even the most beautiful ring that requires payments or loans.
Choose a Jeweler
Once a budget is set, it is time to choose a jeweler. This will be the person or store who cares for the ring long after the proposal, and it is vital to choose a reputable merchant with adequate repair and warranty policies. Knowing the bride's preferences also helps when choosing a jeweler: not all jewelers will be able to accommodate very specific tastes. Be sure to shop around and compare similar rings at different jewelers to estimate price differences, and if the jeweler refuses to or cannot answer any of your educated questions about the ring's quality, it is best to move on.
Alone or Together
Some men will shop for an engagement ring alone, keeping the surprise until they pop the question. Other couples purchase the ring together either before or after the proposal. Both methods are equally acceptable and have good and bad points.
By purchasing the ring without the bride present, you guarantee that her generally sensible tastes are not overwhelmed by a cunning sales pitch, and you have the opportunity to demonstrate your sensitivity in selecting the perfect ring to match her preferences. Alone, however, you run the risk of choosing the wrong ring: wrong metal, wrong shape, wrong size, wrong setting, and so forth. If the bride accompanies you, you forfeit the element of surprise, losing forever the tender moment of seeing the look in her eyes as she sees the ring for the first time. You guarantee, however, that the ring you purchase is precisely the one she would choose - she is there, so she does choose it.
The last decision to make when purchasing an engagement ring is how to pay for it. If the ring is a surprise, be sure to conceal the method of payment: a large cash withdrawal or sudden large jewelry store purchase on a joint credit card is a blatant giveaway. Instead, use a card she does not monitor or gradually build up a cash reserve over several weeks before the purchase. Many jewelry stores offer financing, but always thoroughly investigate their terms, interest rates, and penalties before choosing this option. If the bride is aware of the purchase and you have agreed on a budget, payment is much simpler and needn't be subversive.Buying an engagement ring is one of the most nerve-wracking shopping experiences you will have, far outweighing birthday gifts, day-after-Thanksgiving sales, and last minute holiday shopping. By educating yourself, establishing a budget, investigating reputable jewelers, choosing to shop alone or together, and choosing the best payment method, you are putting as much care into actually buying the ring as you are deciding to give it to the love of your life. That quality pays off with a better investment, financially and emotionally, and will hopefully lead to many happy anniversaries.