STEP 1: THE PREP
Preparing is a tricky balance between getting all of the information you need and keeping the surprise. We break down the key things to focus on and some strategies to figure it all out.
SET YOUR BUDGET
How much should you spend on a ring? You'll find a ton of different answers out there. "2 months salary." "The average amount spent on a ring is this many thousand." "X% of your savings". The real answer is you should spend what you can comfortably afford. Look at your current savings or what you will plan to save, and go from there. Do not listen to any made up rules, things that your family or friends tell you. It is an individual choice and should be am amount you can comfortably budget for.
LEARN THE BASICS
What is are the key factors when buying a ring? We think you should pay attention to 4 key elements: the diamond shape, the 4 C's, the setting type, and the setting material. We'll get into more detail and talk about what is important when we talk about the purchase, but here is a high level overview:
There are a number of diamond shapes, but some of the most common ones are: round, oval and cushion cut. There are many more, including: princess, emerald, radiant, asscher, marquise, pear and heart. Take a look and familiarize yourself with the many options, keep in mind that certain shapes may have more inventory (and thus better prices!)
The 4 C's
The 4 C's are: carat, cut, color, and clarity.
Carat: The weight of the diamond (the size). Generally you will see this in half carat sizes (e.g. 1 carat, 1.5 carat, 2 carat...)
Cut: How well the diamond is cut. If it is too shallow or two deep, it will not sparkle as brightly. This is typically categorized as: good, very good, ideal.
Color: Range of color from colorless to yellowish. This is categorized with a letter, D/E/F being colorless, G/H/I/J being near colorless, K/L/M being faint yellow, and N+ being shades of yellow
Clarity: This refers to how many inclusions or defects there are in the diamond. This is categorized with : FL (flawless), IF (internally flawless), VVS1 (very very slightly included 1), VVS2, VS1, VS2, SI1, SI2, I1
The Setting Type
There are several types of settings (this is the actual ring and any smaller diamonds that it may have) in addition to the central diamond that we were discussing above. There are a couple of main types to think about.
Solitaire: A plain metal band, with just the center diamond
Halo: A ring of smaller stones around the center diamond
Pave: Smaller stones along the entire band
Side stone: Two smaller stones on either side of the center stone
Three stone: Two larger diamonds on either side of the center stone
The Setting Material
There are four main kinds of metals that the band can be made out of: white gold, yellow gold, rose gold and platinum. There are pros and cons to each, platinum is more durable but scratches, gold is cheaper and more scratch resistant.
We will get into all of the pros and cons in Step 2: The Purchase.
GET PARTNER INPUT
How do you find out ring what your partner will like? There are a couple of different approaches to this. The approach you choose is a balance of getting exactly what your partner wants vs. having it be a total surprise.
The co-purchase: One option is to pick out the ring together. You and your partner can go to a jewelry store and look at all of the options. If you go down this route, we recommend going to a James Allen or Blue Nile showroom if there is one in your area. These showrooms do not sell jewelry and are simply there to help you find the styles your partner likes. If not, any big box jeweler will do. This is also a great opportunity to get your partner's ring size.
The total surprise: There are a lot of suggestions out there ranging from stealing your partner's rings to saying that you are buying for a family member, but these are painfully obvious. Instead, we would recommend working with your partner's friends to figure out this information. Ask one of your partner's friends to get the intel for you! They can find a way to bring up rings--and try to see if they can get a sense of the four key basics we discussed above & ring size! This is a much better plan than trying to make up a story!
The semi-surprise: Either visit a jewelry store to casually look or find an excuse to talk about it. For example, when you search for engagement rings once you're sure to get ads as you're watching Youtube videos or looking at Instagram! This is a great excuse to bring up the general factors. Get input on the four key basics we discussed above (the 4C's--mostly carat!, diamond shape, setting type, and the setting material), and their ring size! You can get a feel for preferences without it feeling like your partner has picked out the ring. We think this is a great option, because the ring itself and the entire proposal can still be a surprise, but you can be more confident that you're getting something that your partner likes!