Buying an Engagement Ring

Buying an engagement ring can be an overwhelming task. There’s a lot of pressure on this purchase. It’s a symbol of your love for each other, and it’s a token of your willingness to take the relationship to the next level. Plus, it doesn’t help that your fiancee will be showing off the ring to friends and family.

For many men, the purchase of their lady’s engagement ring will be their first experience in the the world of jewelry. When they walk into a jewelry store they’re inundated with terms and concepts that they’ve never heard before. Tiffany setting? Inclusions? Eternity band? What the wha? 

For many women, “you pretty much know what you want” (often times there is no question about what you want!).  But perhaps you feel a little less than confident about your knowledge of diamonds.

Never fear. We’ve put together the ultimate guide to help you purchase an engagement ring that your girlfriend will flip over or that you, the recipient, will be proud to wear on that all important finger.  Let’s get started.

Establish Your Budget

First thing you’ll need to do before you step into a jewelry store is establish a budget. It will help the jeweler show you options that are in your price range.

You may have heard that a man is supposed to spend 2 months salary on an engagement ring. This is folklore. There’s nothing romantic about going into major debt.  Buy the nicest ring that you can afford. In the end, it’s not the amount of money you spend on an engagement ring that matters, but rather the thought that goes into purchasing it.  Many women would rather start your life together debt-free or use the money for a sweet honeymoon.

Guys!  Make It a Surprise (if you can!)

We’re seeing more and more men coming in with their girlfriends to pick out a ring. While letting your wife-to-be pick out the ring she wants will ensure that the ring fits and that she likes it, you’re denying yourself a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to show how thoughtful and romantic you are. Imagine the look of surprise your girlfriend will have when 1) you propose to her, 2) the ring fits, and 3) the ring you picked is exactly what she wanted.

If you can successfully pull off this trifecta of surprises, you will be the subject of envious conversations among your girlfriend’s social circle, your future mother-in-law will say you’re a catch, and men around you will silently acknowledge your achievement. Making the engagement ring a surprise will take some work, but it’s well worth the investment.

This is not to say that surprising her is the only way to go. Some women will insist that they go along with you to pick out the ring.  Just do what you and your girlfriend think is best.

Find Out Her Ring Size

This where a lot of men mess up in the purchasing process. They’ll have the perfect ring picked out, but they get the wrong size ring for their girlfriend’s finger. When they get down on one knee and attempt to slide the ring on their lady’s finger, it doesn’t fit and awkwardness ensues.

If you get the wrong size ring, all isn’t lost. You’ll just have to take the ring back to the jeweler to get it properly fitted.

The best way to get your girlfriend’s ring size is to get a ring that she isn’t wearing and bring it to the jeweler to be measured. If you want to maintain the surprise factor, you’ll have to be sneaky about this. Swipe a ring from her jewelry box while she’s getting ready in the bathroom or recruit one of her friends to pocket a ring while she’s over her house. Try to swipe a ring that you don’t see her wearing very much; she’ll be less likely to notice its absence. If she wears the ring on her right hand, chances are it will fit her left hand finger, which is generally slightly smaller if she is right handed.

Research Her Style

You want to pick a ring that fits your woman’s unique style and preferences. Getting a ring that she’s over the moon for will score you romance points that will last a lifetime.

When you’re with your girlfriend, take note of the type of jewelry she wears. Does she wear yellow gold? Maybe she’s a white gold or platinum woman.  Perhaps there’s a particular stone she wears a lot, like her birthstone, that she’d like more than a diamond. Does she like simple, understated pieces? Or does she favor the big, glitzy variety? Think about her personality; is she an outgoing girl who you know is going to want to show off her ring to everyone she meets? Then go for something big and sparkly. Is she an earthy woman, who doesn’t wear much jewelry at all?  Look for rings that are simple, yet beautiful.

Another way to get a feel for her engagement ring preferences is to take her right into a jewelry store. The key to this is to go under another pretext.  Tell her you need to look at watches.  While you’re busy pretending to be interested in the Omegas, chances are your gal will be looking at the rings.  Look at what she’s gazing at.  Make a mental note of it.  Say something casual like, “That’s a nice one,” and gauge her reaction. Go back to looking at watches.  Leave.  Mission accomplished.

Pick The Engagement Ring Band

You have a variety of metals to choose from for the engagement ring’s band. The most common include yellow gold, rose gold, white gold, platinum, and silver. You can even do a mix of different types of metals.

Each metal has their advantage and disadvantages. For example, platinum is an extremely durable metal and will last a long time.  However, it dulls and scratches much more easily than gold, and it’s harder to bring back the initial luster it once had.

Gold, on the other hand, is shinier than platinum, and because it’s a soft metal, it’s easier to buff and polish it to get back the ring’s original luster. Gold’s advantage over platinum is also its weakness. Because it’s a soft metal, gold wears down faster. In about 15 to 20 years, the engagement ring may have to be reshanked because it’s worn too thin.

While you may be interested in the durability of the engagement ring band, your future wife is probably more interested in the way it looks. Right now, silver-looking engagement rings are the most popular. If your lady is a woman who stays on top of the latest fashion trends, go with a platinum or white gold band.

If she’s more of a classic type of gal, go with the traditional yellow gold band.  Again, check her jewelry box.  What does she have the most of?

Selecting a Quality Diamond: The Four C’s

So you’ve selected a band. We now move to the focal point of most engagement rings:  the diamond.  For many people, purchasing a diamond can seem like a daunting task, but with a bit of knowledge, you can walk out of a jewelry store with a stone that you/she will be dying to show off.

When selecting a diamond, you’ll want to take into account the “4 C’s:” cut, color, clarity, and carat weight.  All four of these factors determine the quality and cost of the diamond.

Cut.  Cut doesn’t refer to the shape of the diamond, but rather the angles and proportions of the stone.  While nature determines the other three C’s, the diamond’s cut is determined by a cutter. A well cut diamond reflects light from one facet to another and projects the light through the top of the stone.  This is what gives a diamond its sparkle.  Diamonds that are cut too deep or too shallow leak light through the bottom or the side of the stone, resulting in a lackluster appearance.

Out of all the four C’s, cut is the most important. Even if you have the perfect color, clarity, and carat, if the cut isn’t right, the diamond won’t have that fiery brilliance.

Color.  Diamonds come in a variety of colors. Diamond color is graded on a scale that ranges from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow). Truly colorless diamonds are the most rare and most expensive. White color diamonds are the most popular.  But when it gets down to it, diamond color is all about preference.

Clarity. The fewer imperfections a diamond has, the more clear, and consequently, more expensive it is. When the jeweler starts discussing the clarity of the diamond, he or she will probably mention the diamond’s “inclusions.” Inclusions are other minerals or tiny fractures in the diamond.  The fewer inclusions the better.

Like color, clarity is measured on a scale. For example, SI1 and SI2 are slightly included but you won’t be able to see the imperfection with the naked eye.

When looking at a diamond, avoid stones with inclusions on the top and in the middle, as this can impact the dispersion of light, making it less brilliant.

Carat Weight. Carat refers to the weight of a diamond. The heavier the stone, the more you’re going to pay. However, there’s no need to get caught up on the carat weight. Through proper mounting and shaping, a master jeweler can make a diamond appear larger than its carat weight might suggest.

Selecting the Diamond Shape

In addition to the four C’s, you’ll also want to take into consideration a diamond’s shape. The shape of the diamond is all a matter of preference.  Below, we list a few of the possible shapes you can get a diamond in:


A round diamond is the classic and timeless diamond shape.







The Princess is a square diamond and is a very popular shape for engagement rings.




Choose the Setting

A ring’s “setting” or “mounting”  refers to the way in which the diamond is placed on the ring. Like everything else with an engagement ring, which setting you pick depends a lot on your/her preferences. You can actually create combinations of different settings if you want. Here’s a quick primer on the different types of settings, so you’re not completely clueless when you walk into the jewelry store.

Tiffany setting

Introduced by the jewelry company that bears the name. It’s a timeless and classic look.



Eternity band

pr set eternity band

Instead of a single diamond, an eternity band has diamonds that go all around the ring.


Bezel setting

A bezel is a metal rim that encircles the sides of the stone and extends slightly above it. The rim can stretch around the diamond’s entire circumference or around only a portion of it. A bezel setting holds a diamond securely, and the low, protective profile it creates makes a bezel  setting a good choice for women with active lifestyles.


Channel setting

In a channel setting, the diamond or diamonds are placed into a metal channel. It can be used as an accent to a main diamond that’s set on a prong.


Pave’ (pronounced Pa Vay)

This setting consists of lots of diamonds placed close together.


Insuring the Engagement Ring

An engagement ring is both a financial and sentimental investment. Because of this sizeable investment of money and emotion, it might be a good idea to insure your engagement ring in case it’s ever lost, stolen, or damaged. You have a few options when you insure an engagement ring:

Homeowner’s/Renter’s Insurance. Many homeowner’s/renter’s insurance policies allow you to add the value of expensive items, like jewelry, to your coverage. However, make sure to check the policy to see what is actually covered. Often homeowner’s/renter’s insurance will only cover an engagement ring if it was stolen or damaged by tornado or fires. If your wife loses her ring while cleaning the toilet, you’ll probably be out of luck with this option.

Actual Value Policies. An actual value insurance policy will pay you the value of the ring minus its depreciation from use.  So, say if the ring you bought cost $2,000 and your wife loses it five years after you tied the knot, the insurance company may only pay you $1,500, taking into account the five years of wear and tear on the ring. Because actual value insurance policies don’t pay back the full value of the ring, they’re the least expensive option.

Replacement Insurance Policies. This policy will refund to you the market value of the ring you bought. So if you bought an engagement ring with a gold band and a diamond that was cut perfectly and had impeccable clarity, the insurance company will pay you the current going price for a ring like that.  This could mean you’ll get more money than what you originally paid on the ring due to the appreciation of gold and diamond prices.

Your jeweler should be able to lead you to some reputable insurance companies.  Here at McCarty’s, we offer a free insurance appraisal with your purchase so that you have everything you need when you’re ready to insure.

OK, so now you’re informed, prepared and ready to make one of the most important purchases you’ll ever make.  And we’ll be there to help you every step of the way!