Cushion cut or emerald? Baguettes or pavé setting? Figuring out what kind of engagement ring you want (not to mention where you and your fiancé should buy it) can seem daunting. Fear not! We're about to make it really easy—and fun!
1. Learn the lingo
Baguette: A rectangular diamond, usually set on either side of the central stone.
Carat: The unit by which gemstones are weighed. More carats mean a heftier price tag. Clarity: The clearer the stone, the more valuable it is.
Color: Diamonds come in a rainbow of colors, from canary yellow to pink to black, but colorless diamonds are the traditional favorite—and the more colorless they are, the more expensive they become. Color grades range from D (colorless) to Z (pale yellow). Insider's tip: Anything between D and J will look colorless to the untrained eye. Cut: The style used when shaping a stone. (This is different from the shape of the stone.) Cut grades range from excellent to poor. An excellent (or "premium") cut will cost you about 10 percent more, but it's well worth it. "If a lower- quality stone has a premium cut, the stone will pop like something much more expensive," says Russell Shor, senior industry analyst at the Gemological Institute of America.
Pavé: Tiny diamonds set very close together, so no metal is visible.
2. Look your budget in the eye
You probably have a rough sense of what he can afford, but it's important to have the conversation before anybody starts shopping. Heart set on a Kardashian-size boulder? Be prepared to wiggle on color and clarity, or go for a stone with a larger surface area (or "table") but less depth. Insider's tip: Consider a stone with a slightly smaller carat size—say, 1.9 instead of 2.0. The difference in cost is major, and you'll never miss that wee bit of carat.
3. The shopping question
Sixty-two percent of couples today shop for rings together, but if you'd rather he go solo, make sure your mom and best friends know what you want. Chances are, he'll ask for their help.
4. Go surfing
Whether you want to buy your ring online or just browse, the Web is full of great jewelry sites. Bluenile.com, kwiat.com, tiffany.com, zales.com, simongjewelry.com, forevermarkdiamond.com, and cartier.com are some of our favorites, because they let you combine different stones and settings to see what you like best.
5. Shop till you drop
Of course, shopping for rings in person is also really, really fun. In addition to being waited on like you're in a five-star hotel, you'll get to see exactly what the ring looks like on your finger—and he'll feel like a prince for making you so happy.
6. Big brand or local boutique?
Totally a matter of personal choice. Ask family and friends for recommendations—and check to make sure the store is accredited by Jewelers of America. Insider's tip: It's typically cheaper to forgo the preset ring. Buy a loose stone, and design your own setting.
7. Precious metals Platinum, white gold, or yellow gold?
Platinum is the most durable (and pricey); if you're debating color, really think about what other jewelry you wear.
8. Make it official
Before you buy, have your stone independently appraised and graded—you'll need this for insurance purposes. Most important of all? Once you've said yes and that little beauty's on your finger, enjoy it—it's your ring!
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