Congratulations! So, you have finally decided to take the plunge and propose to your girlfriend.
Now comes the hard bit – shopping for the engagement ring that will “wow” her and make her say “yes”. It can be a daunting task, balancing the reality of budget vs what you think she would like, and not to mention the plethora of technical diamond jargon you will encounter. So here are some tips which I hope will help you shop for the perfect engagement ring.
1. Know what ‘she’ wants. It’s her ring!
It is important that you have a clear understanding of what your girlfriend wants. It is her ring. She will be wearing it for life. So, what ‘you’ think she would like or what ‘you’ would like to get her is a recipe for your buying decision going horribly wrong. You should consider doing the following research:
- Does she want to play a role in selecting the engagement ring? If yes, then it is a process you should go through together.
- Has she been dropping hints as to what she would like? This could be leaving brochures/business cards of jewellers lying around; does she look at diamond rings in a jewellery shop when you go shopping together? Observe what kind of rings does she look at or try on.
- Has she clearly specified what she would like?
- Has she commented on an engagement ring that her friend has received?
2. Size or quality?
What is important for her – the size of the diamond or its quality? Do you want the biggest diamond for your money or of the best quality?
How important is it that the diamond is 1 carat or 1.50 carat and so on? A knowledgeable sales person will inform you that you can achieve a ‘1 carat look’ with a nice 0.80ct – 0.90ct diamond and save money in the process. Remember diamonds are cut for weight and there is a big price difference between a 1 carat and say, an 0.85 carat diamond which has been cut well and looks like a 1 carat in its sparkle.
Likewise, how important is it to get a high colour – like a D or an E? Remember, a high colour does not mean more sparkle. A high colour will add value to the diamond, so the higher the colour, the more valuable your diamond is. But I have seen lower grades of colour – like a G or an H which have amazing sparkle and hence are perfectly beautiful diamonds. And conversely, I have also seen a high colour stone such as an E colour but poorly cut and hence, looking dull and lifeless.
Most sales people are not qualified diamond graders and have a basic knowledge of the 4C’s that judge the value of a diamond. Their biggest tool of trade is to appeal to your emotional side. Which makes it imperative that you do adequate reading and shop around to get an idea of size, quality and value.
3. Have a budget
It is wise to work out your budget and stick to it because in due course you will have wedding and honeymoon expenses as well. To most women, more important than the size of the diamond is the fact that you have gone through the effort of choosing an engagement ring for her. And a genuine partner will value you sticking to your budget as well.
4. Bespoke or off the shelf?
What kind of ring design does she want? Or is it better that you propose with a loose diamond and go through the process of getting a jeweller to mount it into a ring together with her?
Would you like it to be bespoke and custom-made? Or can you find the ring of your choice ready-made? Unfortunately, I have not seen a jeweller who does not claim that their rings are “hand-made”, “bespoke”, “custom-made”. The truth is very few of them are truly manufacturing jewellers. The vast majority will get a cast or part of the ring as a cast and get a jeweller to complete the make. That is if they have not purchased it from a mass manufacturer in Hong Kong or Vietnam or some Asian country. Assuming the same size diamond and identical design, a cast ring will weigh less than a hand-made one.
If your ring is to be bespoke then you should carefully do research for manufacturing jewellers. And ask the salesperson where is their jewellery workshop? How many jewellers do they have on the bench? Will any part of the manufacturing process be outsourced?
5. Questions to ask the salesperson
By this stage, you (a) know what kind of an engagement ring your girlfriend wants; (b) have worked out your budget and (c) have done your research on which jewellers to go to. Here are some of the questions you might wish to ask the salesperson:
- What is the size, colour, clarity of the diamond in this ring?
- Does it have fluorescence? (for the uninitiated, it can be an intrinsic feature in some diamonds whereby in ultra violet light the diamond appears blue in colour. For example: in a disco. If it exists in slight levels it can actually enhance the look of the diamond, but in medium to stronger levels it will reduce the value of the diamond).
- Can you confirm that the diamond has been ethically sourced? (tip: research about the Kimberley Process)
- Is this diamond independently certified?
- Is this diamond fracture filled? (especially if the diamond appears to be too cheap when compared to others you may have seen of a similar size and quality as well – a big ‘no-no’ in spite of the attractive price. If it appears too good to be true, it often is!
- What are their after-sales services and warranties – especially if the diamond falls out of its setting without significant or heavy wear and tear (i.e. manufacturing issues with the ring)
- Can the ring be resized (not all of them can depending on the nature of the ring and the setting of the diamonds) and if yes, will they re-size it free of charge if it does not fit your girlfriend?
- What are the care instructions on how to clean and look after the ring?
- Will they give you a valuation for insurance purposes?
6. The price
By all means negotiate the best price. But be realistic. For example: don’t expect a retailer to give you a diamond ring at a price you could buy it online.
Instead, see what additional value the retailer can add within the price e.g. free resizing, free servicing, extended warranty, a guaranteed diamond buyback, etc.