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If you have found this guide, you are probably about to buy an engagement ring online and want to make sure you are educated enough not to get screwed.
Please stop worrying.
I’ve got your back.
This is the best guide out there for learning everything you need to know about buying an engagement ring online.
I guarantee that if you follow my advice you will not get scammed, you will not overpay, and you will be smarter about engagement rings. Shazaam!
I even list all my favorite rings, jewelers, and diamond specs so if you still can’t make up your mind, you can just follow my favs and know you will be ok (I have great taste 🙂 ).
So if you are feeling like this about engagement ring shopping…
…stop worrying. You are in the best possible place.
Grab a snack and get comfy. By the time you are done reading this guide you will know everything from the 4C’s of diamonds to how to get the best “bang for your buck” engagement ring! Or at the very least I can help you look super smart to your friends. 🙂
The Big Picture
I would like to start things off with the big picture checklist so you don’t get lost in the sheer awesomeness of this post. This is where this guide is going (in depth) and the general order of events you will need to get ‘er done when it comes to buying your engagement ring.
- Decide whether and how much to involve your other half.
- Figure how much to spend on an engagement ring.
- Pick your jeweler.
- Decide your level of customization.
- Decide your engagement ring style.
- Decide your diamond (this section gets pretty in depth as I am sure you can imagine. It is pretty much a diamond buying guide).
- Buy it! Annnnd get the right ring size in the process with my ring size guide.
- Get engagement ring insurance.
Before we get started with all those “guts” of the post, I’m going to take some time to talk about who I am and why I think buying your engagement ring online is better than buying it in the store. Bear with me. It is all worth it!
Who Am I?
Ok, so if I was in your shoes I would be wondering how the heck I have any authority or knowledge on this subject.
I certainly wouldn’t want to be reading advice from some other poor soul who was in the same boat trying to buy an engagement ring and now put up a site after doing a little bit of research online. That is not me.
I am an everyday, modern girl that happens to have spent time as a jewelry salesperson in a local, upscale jewelry store in New York.
I have received specialized training in engagement rings, diamonds, and even gemstones. I have sold hundreds of engagement rings to scared people that turned into happy and satisfied clients.
In my time as a salesperson, I was quickly blown away with how little my clients knew upon starting their engagement ring shopping journey and how much they would rely on me to tell them what they were buying.As a jewelry salesperson, I was blown away by how little people knew about engagement rings… Click To Tweet
They were also always so nervous when they sat down on the other side of that jewelry counter.
I LOVED working with people to calm their nerves and educate them on the buying experience, all while helping them find the perfect engagement ring for their significant other.
However, the part of the job that I hated was the salesy, commission based “you have to make the sale” mentality of the business. You have all walked into a store and felt the pushy sales people come at you.
Trust me, it is not fun to be the sales person being pushed to act that way.
So, I started a website about weddings (which you are now on), and I figured I would share some of my knowledge with you!
Rest assured, I know what I am talking about when it comes to engagement rings.
Buying Online Vs. In Store
Are you still having a self inflicted debate about whether you should buy your engagement ring online versus go into a store? I highly recommend you buy your engagement ring online. This is coming from someone who used to sell them in a store.I highly recommend you buy your engagement ring online. Click To Tweet
Here is why.
Concerns About Buying Engagement Rings Online – And Why They Shouldn’t Be Concerns
Aren’t I more likely to get scammed?
No. Maybe if you go to a small sketchy website. But there are enough reputable online jewelers now that this is not an issue. You just have to know the right places to go.
If you are buying your engagement ring from the right place, the jeweler has a reputation to uphold and wants to keep that reputation in tact.
In addition, when it comes to diamonds, you will want to get a diamond that has a GIA or AGS certification (keep reading for more info on this). These standards ensure that a gemologist trained by one of these highly regarded institutes has graded the diamond and you can trust the specs you are seeing. More on that later.
What if the ring gets lost or stolen in the mail?
A reputable online jeweler will insure your purchase when it is being shipped and use a highly respected shipping carrier like FedEx or UPS. If your ring gets lost or stolen, it will suck, but it won’t cost you anything.
This is too important. I need to see it before I buy it.
Luckily, some sites have figured out this was a large hurdle they needed to overcome. Enter the virtual loupe that James Allen now boasts.
On this particular website, you can inspect the actual diamonds that you will be purchasing, as well as rings, and spin them around in a 360 viewer with 15x or greater magnification.
It is just as good as inspecting a diamond under a loupe in the store without the pushy salespeople staring at you.
What if something happens to the ring after I buy it?
Most, if not all, of the top online engagement ring websites offer lifetime guarantees for any manufacturing defects for the ring.
Some sites also offer lifetime complimentary cleaning and inspection services for your ring every 6 months. They may also include prong tightening, re-polishing, rhodium plating, or cleaning.
In addition, reputable online jewelers will also offer to resize the ring at no cost in case your detective work at obtaining the ring size from your significant other doesn’t turn out quite right. I have put a nice ring size guide towards the end of this post, so stay tuned!
Speaking from experience, all of these services are comparable and sometimes more then many brick and mortar jewelry stores offer their clients.
Other Reasons to Buy Your Engagement Ring Online
Since engagement ring websites don’t have to worry about a physical location, they do not have nearly as much overhead. They also have a much bigger client base buying their products. As a result, they can get away with charging a lot less for their diamonds and their jewelry. You can save anywhere from 30% to 50% by buying your engagement ring online vs. in a store.You can save anywhere from 30% to 50% by buying your engagement ring online vs. in a store. Click To Tweet
Online engagement ring stores are able to hold a much larger inventory than their brick and mortar counterparts. A bigger selection is always a better thing for a customer.
This is because you are way less likely to have to compromise to get EXACTLY what you want.
This is especially true when it comes to diamonds.With an online engagement ring, you are way more likely to get your ideal diamond. Click To Tweet
Take this example. After doing their 4 Cs research (more on this is coming below), many clients think they have found the holy grail of diamond buying and go into the stores thinking they are going to get a G or H color, SI1 or VS2 clarity, .91 carat, and a very good or excellent cut diamond.
Yeah, good luck.
Do you know how many others think they are going to get the exact same thing? That is because if you do any research online, you know this is a great “bang for your buck” diamond.
The chances of getting a diamond with every single one of those specs in a brick and mortar store is very, very low because as soon as they get something close in their inventory, they are snatched up.
What ends up happening is you either have to pay more money to go up in one of the categories, or get less quality to go down in one of the categories.
In other words, you have to compromise.
With the bigger selection that online jewelry stores have to offer, they have TONS of diamonds will all the specs you want. You are way more likely to get your ideal diamond and way less likely to have to compromise.
I know I have already talked about this, so I won’t keep harping on it, but this is so important.
No pushy salespeople around means less stress. Less stress means a better experience for you.
It means you can take your time to look at your leisure and make a thoughtful decision.
Don’t get stuck buying something just because you are pressured and overwhelmed. I also know from first hand experience that “sales tactics” are used to get you to buy certain things from the store’s inventory.
Don’t let this be you.
It’s Way Easier
At the end of the day, would you rather trek from store to store, or would you rather browse and make this decision from the comfort of your own home? Enough said.
Decide Involvement of Your Other Half
It has become increasingly popular to actually include the person you are proposing to in the decision making process of buying an engagement ring.
In 2015, 47% of those proposing selected the ring by themselves and 46% of couples made the decision together. The remaining 7% actually let the recipient of the ring make the decision themselves.
In addition, nearly 1/3 of brides being proposed to helped decide the budget of their engagement ring in 2013.
Allowing your love to be involved in the engagement ring shopping process may not seem traditional, but it is something to consider, especially considering it is a big purchasing decision AND it is a ring she will be wearing for the rest of her life.46% of couples select engagement rings together. Click To Tweet
There are many online jewelers that also allow the ring recipient to browse and “hint” at the rings they like by sharing them or adding them to a wish list.
Maybe you can allow her to be involved in picking the ring style, but then you take it from there with the diamond and final touches? Or maybe you can talk about what you are both comfortable spending, but make all of the actual ring selections yourself?
Or…just keep it traditional and totally make it a surprise!
In the end, it is up to you.
Figure Out How Much To Spend On An Engagement Ring
There is an old adage that you should buy an engagement ring based on 2 months worth of your salary.
Don’t listen to this.
It originally came from a campaign of DeBeers commercials back it the 1980s and 1990s. In case you are not aware, DeBeers is a diamond company. Think they have your best interest at heart?
Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule about how much to spend on an engagement ring. I really wish I could help you more with this. It all comes down to being smart about what you can afford.
Ashley’s Advice On Engagement Ring Budget
Try to avoid putting yourself in loads of debt right before you are 1. about to pay for a wedding (the average cost of a wedding in 2015 was $30,000) and 2. about to enter a marriage where your debt also becomes the debt of the very person you are buying the ring for.
Try your hardest to save up as much as you can. If you do need to finance your ring (many online jewelers will help with this), my recommendation is to figure out what you can afford to pay back and be debt free within 6-12 months.
Average Engagement Ring Spending
At this point, you may not even know what kind of money people are spending on engagement rings. If you are just looking for some average numbers to know what you are getting into, here you go.
According to the Newlywed Report run by Wedding Wire, the average amount spent on an engagement ring in 2015 was $5,000. The Knot also ran a Real Weddings Study in 2015 and found the average cost of an engagement ring to be $5,871.83% of women and 75% of men feel that you should spend $5,000 or less on an engagement ring. Click To Tweet
In a 2015 study done by Brilliant Earth, 83% of women and 75% of men felt that you should spend $5,000 or less on an engagement ring.
Some Ways to Make Buying an Engagement Ring More Affordable
Ashley’s Recommendations to Help With Budget
Try to get the most “bang for your buck.” I will mention this phrase time and time again throughout this post, because this is how I would buy an engagement ring. In the world of diamond buying, there are ways you can actually spend less money, but not sacrifice the way your beautiful ring looks.
One way to do this is with the clarity of the diamond. Another big way to do this is to buy a carat weight that is just below a landmark size – for example, 0.90 carat instead of 1.0 carat. I will explain more on these things later in the 4 Cs section.
Use an interest free option. Many, many jewelers offer a financing option that allows you to pay it off interest free if you do it within a specified time period. I highly recommend this as long as you can pay it off in the time period! If you go over the allotted time period, then the interest rates that kick in are much higher then normal.
Less Traditional Options
Use a colored gemstone instead of diamond. Some gemstones are less expensive then a diamond. They may also hold sentimental value for one reason or another, usually because they represent a special birthstone.
Note: I do not recommend this approach unless you have some indication it will be ok with your soon to be fiance. If they are someone that wants the traditional diamond, wait until you can afford it.
Also, the most popular gemstones can be just as expensive as diamonds if you are getting a good quality (sapphires, rubies, and emeralds are usually the most expensive gemstones).
Use smaller diamonds in a cluster instead of 1 larger diamond. The value of a diamond is based on many factors, but at the end of a day, a 1 carat diamond is A LOT more expensive than 1 carat worth of many smaller diamonds.
While this is not as traditional, it can be a way to cut costs on your engagement ring.
Pick Your Jeweler
In the vastness of the world wide web, it can be difficult to know which online jewelry stores you can trust for your engagement ring purchase. I am constantly searching the web for the best of the best in engagement rings. Here are my top choices.
Best Overall: James Allen
Best for Designer Rings: Whiteflash
Best for Custom Rings: Brian Gavin Diamonds
Best for Fancy Colored Diamonds: Leibish & Co.
Ashley’s Favorite Online Jeweler
James Allen. Honestly, James Allen is in a league all on its own. It’s diamond inventory and virtual listing model rivals Blue Nile in terms of selection. However, James Allen highly differentiates itself from Blue Nile with its online user experience and even it’s beautiful in person presentation.
Their cutting edge technology allows you to see the diamond you will actually be purchasing with their innovative 360 viewer. You can spin the diamond around and inspect it for yourself, all from home! Many of the other online jewelry stores, including Blue Nile, show you a sample photo of a diamond, but not the one you will be purchasing.
You will see me recommend James Allen a lot, and it is because after lots of research I honestly believe they are the best. They are the online jeweler I would buy my own engagement ring from if I were in your shoes!
Decide Level of Customization
When it comes to customization you can break down your choices into 3 simple options.
Already fully designed. This is the easiest option because the ring has already been put together for you. All you usually have to do is pick the ring you want and choose the ring size. Everything else has already been picked out for you, including the center diamond in the ring, so it is truly an all in one solution.
Pick setting and diamond separately. This is the most popular option because it allows you a little more customization in your final engagement ring, but is less stressful then a fully customized ring. You pick your engagement ring setting, which is the metal part of the ring and already includes all of the side diamonds.
Once you pick the setting design you like and the type of metal you want the setting to come in, then you get to pick your center diamond with the exact specifications you want.
Every diamond is truly unique, so there is something very special about getting to pick that special gem just for your sweetie.
If you already have a center diamond that has been passed down to you, you can also reset that into a ring setting of your choosing.
Fully customized. This option can be the most difficult, but obviously allows you the most freedom to get exactly what you want out of a ring. You can design a setting completely from scratch AND pick out your center diamond.
For this option, you will want to work with a jeweler that works regularly with custom pieces and knows how to take your vision and make it a reality. As far as online jewelers go, Brian Gavin is a great choice for custom pieces.
Ashley’s Favorite Level of Customization
Option #2 – Pick the setting and diamond separately. I think this option is the best of both worlds and gives you the ability to have an engagement ring that is uniquely yours but with less stress. The experience of picking out the ring style, the metal type, and the center diamond is still enough customization to allow you to have a truly specialty piece that no one else in the world can possibly have.
Decide Engagement Ring Style
This is where the real decision making begins. I will admit, there are a lot of engagement ring settings to choose from. I think this is one of the hardest parts, especially if you are nervous about getting something your significant other will like.
Some people really try to take a lot of time to learn all the different engagement ring setting and style names. At the end of the day, I don’t think you need to know all the technical jargon to get something your girl will like.
Ashley’s Advice on Engagement Ring Styles
Just start browsing the engagement ring styles of the jeweler you have chosen to work with. Follow your intuition – you know your significant other better then just about anyone else out there. You don’t need to know the technical aspects of rings to know whether your girl will like something dainty vs. thick, or simple vs. flashy. Follow your instincts.
Engagement Ring Styles Applied to Girl’s Styles
Still, if you want to have an idea of what you are looking at, here is how I would classify some of the different engagement ring settings in a way that you can apply to your girl’s style.
Solitaire: Classic, traditional, and simple. Solitaire rings have been around a long time and will continue to be “in” for, well, forever. There is a reason they tend to be one of the most popular types of rings year after year – it emphasizes the center diamond.
Pave: Dainty, pretty, elegant. The sparkle of a pave ring is all about the diamonds since you can see very little of the metal. The effect is one continuous line of sparkle.
Channel: Practical, secure, and classic. Channel settings give you more sparkle than a solitaire, but less then a pave setting because you can see the metal of the ring more on either side of the diamonds. Although you may get less sparkle then pave, you get diamonds that are more secure in their metal “channel.”
Tension or Bezel: Modern, eclectic, contemporary. Instead of using prongs to hold the center diamond, a tension setting holds the diamond securely between strips of metal. A bezel setting completely surrounds the diamond with metal all the way around. The end result is a very contemporary look for your ring.
Halo: Stylish, glamorous, and dazzling. Halo engagement rings are very trendy and in these days, and for good reason. The smaller diamonds surrounding the large central diamond like a “halo” makes that center diamond look bigger and really gives you a lot of sparkle, increasing the bang for your buck. I could be biased (I have a halo ring), but I LOVE this look.
Vintage: Romantic, timeless, and intricate. Vintage engagement rings usually involve milgrain (metal beading) and filigree work or intricate styles in the ring. These rings take their inspiration from another time and are very romantic in their very nature of timeless beauty.
Expert tip: You can mix and match some of the styles above if you think your girl falls into more than one category. For example, I like things that are traditional, pretty, and stylish, yet subtle. Cue, my favorite ring style of plain sides like a solitaire ring, with a pave set of diamonds in a halo to make the center diamond pop and look bigger in a stylish, yet subtle and pretty way. I have included a picture of my engagement ring below so you can check it out. 🙂
Ashley’s Favorite Engagement Ring Styles
Non-designer: 18K White Gold Pave Halo Engagement Ring
They are elegant, stylish, traditional, and pretty all at the same time! 🙂
Not sure about white engagement ring metal type to choose?
The most popular is white gold.
White metals will make diamonds shine whiter and brighter than yellow or rose gold and have become the most popular choice for engagement rings (although rose gold rings have definitely been trending lately!). 14K white gold is the least expensive of the white metal types typically used for engagement rings.
However, one could argue there are many benefits to spending more money for platinum.
Honestly, it usually comes down to whether you would rather spend more of your budget on your ring metal or your center diamond (or if you have enough room in your budget to splurge on both!).
The most popular metal for engagement rings. White gold is actually yellow gold that has been combined with copper, nickel, and zinc. It is also covered with a rhodium plating to give it its final really white appearance as well as make it harder and tougher. 14k is 58.3% pure gold and 18k is 75% pure gold.
Pros of White Gold:
- Chances are pretty high that your girl will love it – it is the most popular engagement ring metal type.
- Durable – It won’t tarnish or rust.
- Complements Diamonds – The white metal complements diamonds REALLY well. It makes them look whiter and brighter, and enhances their brilliance and sparkle.
- Cost Effective – White gold can be 1/4 the price of platinum when looking at platinum vs white gold
Cons of White Gold:
- Rhodium Wears Off – Over time the rhodium plating on the ring will fade and it will yellow. This is an easy fix – you just have to get it re-rhodium plated. Depending on the oils in your hands, the frequency you clean/polish the ring, and your overall wear and tear on the ring, this can be needed anywhere from 1 year to 5 years down the road. It is generally around $30-$50. However, some jewelers will include this maintenance with the purchase of the ring and it is free for life! (I know James Allen does this)
- Scratches – Anything harder then white gold will make it scratch – and white gold will lose metal over time every time it gets scratched off. However, out of the 3 gold options, it is the least susceptible due to the protection it receives from its rhodium plating.
- Allergies – Some people have allergies to the alloys the gold is mixed with – if this is a problem, it is usually the nickel (10% of people are allergic to nickel).
Yellow Gold is considered to be the more traditional choice and was only recently surpassed by white gold in its popularity. Yellow gold is still mixed with other alloys like white gold is, but the alloys are usually silver and copper. The percentages of pure gold, however, are the same.
Pros of Yellow Gold:
- No Re-Rhodium Plating Needed – Unlike white gold, yellow gold rings will not need to be rhodium plated.
- Complements More Yellow Diamonds – If you wanted to save a bit of money on the diamond and get a lower color, you could get away with this a little easier with yellow gold. You could get a diamond color below H, and it will actually look whiter then it really is in comparison to the yellow of the gold.
- Durable – Same as white gold.
- Cost Effective – Same as white gold.
Cons of Yellow Gold:
- Makes White Diamonds Look Yellow – If you get a diamond that is already very white, the yellow gold will actually make it look more yellow then it really is. I wouldn’t pair a diamond from D to H with yellow gold.
- Scratches – Yellow gold is actually more susceptible to scratches than white gold because there is no rhodium plating for protection.
- Allergies – Same as white gold.
Platinum is the second most popular metal for engagement rings. In the US, platinum is required to be at least 95% pure platinum. It is usually mixed with iridium, ruthenium, or cobalt to give it some extra strength so it does not bend too easily.
Upon purchase, platinum vs white gold will look exactly the same (although platinum will be heavier). But normal everyday wear and tear will affect the rings differently and they will look different over time.
Pros of Platinum:
- Durable – Even more so than gold. No tarnish, but also more resistant to chemicals.
- Strong – Platinum is much stronger than gold. This means the prongs holding your diamonds are less likely to break, bend, or be damaged.
- No Metal Lost – When platinum gets scratched, it actually doesn’t lose metal like gold does. Instead, the metal just gets displaced on the ring, so it is still there, it has just moved. This movement of the metal causes platinum rings to develop a patina over time and they will lose their shine. However, this can easily be buffed out and will look just like new, with no metal lost!
- No Allergies – Platinum is hypoallergenic.
- Hefty Feeling – Most people that go with platinum like this quality. Platinum is much heavier than gold, and many like this solid feeling that gives more substance to their engagement ring.
- No Re-Rhodium Plating Needed – Same as yellow gold.
- Complements Diamonds – Same as white gold.
Cons of Platinum:
- Price – When looking at platinum vs gold, platinum is more rare than gold, but there is also 95% pure platinum in a ring vs the 58% to 75% of pure gold that is in a gold ring. Therefore, it is more expensive than gold used in engagement rings.
- Scratches – Platinum will actually scratch easier than gold. However, as explained above, you will not lose metal like you will with gold.
Last but not least we have rose gold rings. Rose gold is considered to be the current trendy and stylish choice. It is a great choice if you want an option that is unique and modern. Like white gold, rose gold starts as yellow gold and is usually mixed with copper and silver or zinc. The pure gold percentages are the same as white and yellow gold.
Pros of Rose Gold:
- Unique – For the girl that just wants something different, rose gold rings are a great choice!
- No Re-Rhodium Plating Needed – Same as yellow gold and platinum.
- Durable – Same as white and yellow gold.
- Cost Effective – Same as white and yellow gold.
Cons of Rose Gold:
- Possible Fashion Fad? – Rose gold is very cutting edge at the moment. The jury is still out on whether this trend will last long term.
- Scratches – Same as yellow gold and actually the most susceptible to scratches out of the 3 gold metals.
Ashley’s Advice on Engagement Ring Metal Type
Here is my advice on metal type. After you pick your ring style, check out center diamonds before you make a final decision on which metal you want to go with. Once you start to see the prices of the diamonds and see what you can get for your money, it will make the decision on which metal to go with easier.
In my opinion, I suggest prioritizing the center diamond over the metal type if you have to choose between the two for your budget. However, this is your personal decision!
As far as metal color goes, take a look at what the majority of her other jewelry is. If it is ALL yellow gold, then stick with that. However, the large majority of girls want white gold or platinum in today’s market. I wouldn’t go with a rose gold ring unless she has specifically mentioned she wants it. Rose gold is a beautiful choice, but it is a bit “trendy” and could possibly be a fad.
Ashley’s Favorite Metal Type
White gold or platinum, depending on what my budget would allow after I had picked my center diamond.
A Few More Pieces of Advice About Engagement Ring Style
Does your girl work with her hands a lot? Try not to go for a ring that sits too high off her finger. You will be able to see this by looking at the side profile.
Think you want a designer ring? I wouldn’t worry too much about this unless your significant other has specifically mentioned a particular designer she wants or tends to wear ONLY designer with all of her clothing. If this is the case, here are the ones I consider the ones to check out: Tacori, Simon G, and Verragio. Whiteflash is a very reputable jeweler that carries all three. James Allen also carries Verragio.
Did you decide to go fully custom? For this, I recommend working with Brian Gavin Diamonds. They are the best online jeweler for ring customization and will walk you through the whole process.
Decide on your Engagement Ring Diamond
OK, so you know your budget, you have picked your engagement ring setting, and now it is all about that center diamond. Here we go with the diamond buying guide!
I think this is the part that tends to cause the most anxiety for a lot of engagement ring shoppers. I am guessing this comes from the fear of the unknown and the bad rap the jewelry industry has for their diamond markups and their reputation for telling shoppers only what benefits their own interests for a sale.
Buying your engagement ring online really takes a lot of these issues about markups away. Plus, I am going to walk you through how to pick that beautiful gem, so don’t worry if you have no idea what any of this stuff means. I told you, I have your back!
What are Diamond Certifications?
Ever hear the acronyms GIA, AGS, or EGL? These refer to the gemological institutes that give diamonds their grading for things like “the 4 C’s” of diamonds.
Most people have the misconception that EGL diamonds are simply cheaper then GIA diamonds.
This is simply not true.
The truth is, you would be comparing apples to oranges if you try to compare 2 different diamonds with EGL vs GIA certifications.
Using different diamond certifications is one of the biggest ways that jewelry stores “scam” innocent shoppers.
Let me explain.
GIA and AGS are the golden standard when it comes to diamond certifications. They have a strict grading system for the “4 C’s” that you can trust. On the other hand, EGL is not nearly as strict. In fact, comparisons done of GIA vs EGL certified diamonds have discovered that when graded by EGL the same diamond might be 2-3 whole grades higher per category then when graded by GIA!
What does this mean?
An EGL diamond will look better in its certification grading then it is in reality because EGL is so lax with its grading system.
If you are comparing 2 different diamonds of EGL vs GIA with the exact same 4 Cs specifications (which is what usually happens), EGL will almost always cost less (giving the false appearance that it is cheaper), but in reality, you will be getting a lower diamond quality because it’s gradings were inflated.
As a result, some jewelers love to use EGL diamonds because they can sell them at what looks like a much lower price for the same grading specifications. An unknowing shopper thinks they are getting a great deal on a diamond, when in reality, the diamond just looks higher quality on paper then it really is.
If you were to actually compare the exact same diamond with GIA vs EGL certifications (which usually wouldn’t happen in reality), GIA will actually be less expensive! This is because it will grade the diamond for what it really is, which would be something like a F I1. EGL will grade it at something like D VS2, so they will be able to charge more for the same diamond! (If you don’t know what those letters and numbers mean, don’t worry, I am explaining all the 4 C’s of diamonds in the next section.)If you were to compare the exact same diamond with GIA vs EGL, GIA will be less expensive! Click To Tweet
Well, that stinks.
But it happens EVERYDAY.
Ashley’s Favorite Diamond Certifications
Get a diamond that has been certified by GIA or AGS. There are others out there as well, but I would stick with these 2 because they are ones I know you can trust.
The 4 C’s of Diamonds – I Know Carat is the Size, Right?
Yes and no. Technically carat is the weight. And yes, diamond size the way you are thinking of it can be totally different then weight. But let me back up and start from the beginning.
Diamond Cut – The Most Important C
If you remember nothing else in this entire guide, please remember this:
The cut is the most important “C” for diamonds!
Many people think that cut refers to the diamond’s shape (heart, oval, round, etc). I don’t blame them, many of the diagrams you see out there make it look that way. However, the cut of the diamond really refers to the proportions of the diamond’s angles and facets, along with its symmetry and polish.
Why is this so important?
The cut determines the sparkle of the diamond!
Why? The sparkle of a diamond is basically a result of light going into it, bouncing around the facets within the diamond, and coming back up through the top. Facets are all the polished surfaces inside the diamond to help with this light reflection.
If a diamond is cut too shallow, the light will leak out the bottom. If a diamond is cut too deep, the light will leak out the sides.The cut determines the sparkle of the diamond. It is the most important C! Click To Tweet
A diamond that has been cut in the optimum way will provide maximum light return out of the top of the diamond, giving the diamond the most brilliance. In addition, the cut can single handedly improve the other “C’s” of a diamond, making it appear whiter, hiding some of its potential inclusions, and making it appear bigger then it really is. Pretty cool, huh?
Cut is also 1 of 2 “C’s” that is determined manually by a diamond cutter, the other being carat. More on this later.Cut improves every other C of a diamond, even making it appear whiter & bigger! Click To Tweet
The final overall cut grade for GIA can result in 1 of 5 potential diamond ratings with Excellent being the best and Poor being the worst.
AGS grades cut on a scale from 0 to 10. 0 is the best and is called “ideal.” 10 is the worst and is called “poor.”
Ashley’s Favorite Cut Grading
0 – Ideal, 1 – Excellent, or 2 – Very Good for AGS.
Excellent or Very Good for GIA.
I place a lot of importance and emphasis on the cut of the diamond.
Diamond color is a grading of how white the diamond appears. It is graded from D to Z and is typically graded by flipping the diamond upside down so that the table is face down.
D, E, and F diamonds are usually considered to be “colorless,” which means they are the whitest diamonds. G, H, I, and J are “near colorless.” K, L, and M are “faint yellow.” N, O, P, Q, and R are “very light yellow.” And finally S, T, U, V, W, X, Y, and Z are “light yellow.” Here is a diamond color chart that helps show the diamond colors.
Once you get to Z+, then the diamonds start to be considered fancy colored diamonds and have their own grading scales depending on the color. Fancy color diamonds come in a variety of colors such as yellows, browns, reds, pinks, greens, and blues.
Fancy brown, fancy yellow, and fancy pink diamonds are the most popular. You may have heard the term “chocolate diamonds” or “champagne diamonds.” These are fancy brown diamonds.
Why does diamond color start with a D?
What happened to A through C? Historically, there were many different grading systems used for diamonds and many started with A. However, there were so many systems that trying to compare them was confusing and inconsistent.
GIA changed all of that when it developed its diamond grading system in the 1940s and 1950s. At the time, GIA wanted to differentiate itself from all of the existing systems out there. So, they decided to start with a new different letter – D. Now, the GIA diamond color grading system is the most widely adopted and commonly known.
Even AGS, who actually uses a number scale for color, must tell consumers how their numbers align with the GIA standard of letters. Otherwise, no one would understand their scale!
Ashley’s Favorite Color Grading
G or H. At this grade, the diamond is near colorless and is still very white and bright. In addition, the side diamonds used by most ring manufacturers are G-H in color, so your center diamond will pair with any ring setting beautifully. Lastly, this is a “bang for your buck” choice. You will receive a beautiful, near colorless diamond, but will be spending less then you would on a D, E, or F color diamond.
Sitting on the other side of the counter, I would say that only a handful of people could usually even see the difference in the color between an E and a G colored diamond, especially when looking from the top of the diamond (it is easier to see the color difference from the bottom).
One of the really cool things about a diamond is it is the most concentrated form of pure carbon in the natural world. Diamonds are formed by the carbon being exposed to tremendous heat and pressure deep in the earth.
As a result of this natural process, diamonds are bound to have “birthmarks;” internal and external characteristics of inclusions (internal) or blemishes (external) in the diamond. You may hear these characteristics be referred to by a number of names depending on their nature: birthmarks, inclusions, blemishes, crystals, feathers, clouds, etc.
The grading of diamond clarity is evaluated by determining the number, size, nature, and position of these characteristics. Diamond graders also take into account how these inclusions and blemishes affect the diamond’s overall appearance.
A diamond’s clarity can be rated on a scale from Flawless to Included. Here is a diamond clarity chart to illustrate the clarity ratings.
- Flawless (F): The closest to truly “flawless” that a diamond can get. A skilled grader cannot see any inclusions or blemishes under 10x magnification.
- Nothing can be seen by the naked eye.
- Internally Flawless (IF): No inclusions are visible, but some blemishes (external only) may be visible under 10x magnification.
- Nothing can be seen by the naked eye.
- Very Very Slightly Included (VVS1 and VVS2): This diamond will have very minute inclusions (internal) that are still very difficult for a skilled grader to see under 10x magnification.
- Nothing can be seen by the naked eye.
- Very Slightly Included (VS1 or VS2): Minor inclusions are present and range from difficult to possibly easy for a skilled grader to notice under 10x magnification.
- Nothing can be seen by the naked eye.
- Slightly Included (SI1 or SI2): The inclusions present in an SI diamond are fairly easy to see under 10x magnification.
- These inclusions may or may not be noticeable to the naked eye.
- Included (I1, I2, or I3): These inclusions are very obvious under 10x magnification, even to the lay observer.
- The inclusions can sometimes be seen to the naked eye, and the transparency and brilliance of the diamond may possibly be affected.
Ashley’s Favorite Clarity Grading
SI1 or VS2. Once again, I am all about getting the most “bang for your buck” when it comes to diamonds. That is why I like diamonds right on the edge of where you can possibly see some inclusions to the naked eye. If you get a VS2, in terms of clarity it should look exactly the same to your naked eye as an F (Flawless) diamond. The difference is when you look under magnification. Personally, I think “Why pay more money for something that looks the same to me?” But everyone is different!
If you decide to go with an SI1, you will want to look at the diamond to see if you see any inclusions, or if they bother you for that matter. At this grade, they should not have any affect on the diamond’s brilliance, but it is possible they will be visible.
Carat vs Cut
Ok, so back to my original statement that the carat is weight and NOT necessarily size. You can actually compare it to people. Yes, a person’s weight is correlated with how big they look. But a person that is 200 pounds and 5’3″ is going to proportionally look much different from someone who is 200 pounds and 6’0″. It is exactly the same with diamonds.
The diamond carat is the other characteristic that is created manually by a diamond cutter. Here is where it gets interesting. Diamond cutters want to get paid more money (don’t we all?). Unfortunately, this often comes at the sacrifice of diamond quality.
Many people that are shopping for diamonds put the most emphasis on carat. They want to have a big diamond. Consequently, diamond weight ends up being the main deciding factor in the pricing of a diamond. Because of this, over 90% of diamonds are cut to maximize weight instead of or at the expense of optical performance.
If you remember my “cut” section from above, you know that cut is the most important “C” and effects the diamond’s sparkle. Therefore, when you sacrifice cut in order to get more carat weight, you lose sparkle and beauty. It is that simple.
Carat Weight and Diamond Pricing
I have mentioned a time or two in this post something I like to call carat weight landmarks. I want to take a second to tell you what I mean by that.
Let’s say for argument’s sake that you are holding all aspects of a diamond completely equal except the carat weight. One would think that if you went from a 1 carat diamond to a 2 carat diamond, you could essentially just double the price of the diamond, right?
Diamond prices do not rise in a linear fashion. They actually rise exponentially with their carat weight. So going from a 1 carat to a 2 carat could actually be 4x the price!
The largest diamond price increases occur at the half and full carat landmarks. This is also why there is a much bigger selection of 1 carat diamonds out there than 0.95 carats – diamond cutters will get paid A LOT more to just hit that carat mark.
So how does knowing this help you? To get the most diamond value out of your purchase, go just below those half or full carat landmarks to save some money while still getting a diamond of very similar size!
Ashley’s Favorite Carat Weight
However big I could get within my budget while keeping the cut an Ideal, Excellent, or Very Good; the color a G or H; the clarity a VS2 or SI1; having a GIA or AGS cert; and having a round shaped diamond.
Yeah, I want as big as I can get, but I want it to actually look big, sparkly, and beautiful; not just have a higher carat weight and actually look smaller or dull.
If I were looking to be close to a landmark size – like a 1 carat – I would go slightly below that to save some money and get the most “bang for my buck.”
Do you know what the most sparkly diamond shape is? That would also be the most popular diamond shape – a round brilliant diamond. Round diamonds account for more than 70% of the total volume of diamonds sold.
Why is it the most sparkly?
It all comes back to cut again. A round brilliant diamond is cut to the optimum proportions to bounce back light and give you the most sparkle out of any other shape.
If you want the traditional diamond that will give the most sparkle and will most likely hold its value over the long term – stick with a round.
However, if your girl is into the unique, there are other diamond shapes out there that you may want to consider.
Asscher Cut. A square diamond that is cut using a step-cut process similar to an Emerald cut diamond. It has cut corners, which gives it an octagonal appearance. Asscher cut diamonds are actually the 5th most popular diamond shape. Tip: You will want to bump up your clarity grading for Asscher diamonds as they are very clear and will show inclusions more obviously.
Cushion Cut. Cushion cut diamonds are named so because of their “cushion” like appearance in being roundish oval in shape. Behind the Princess cut diamond, they are currently the 3rd most popular shape. They are considered to be a more antique shape with a romantic appeal, largely because they are a derivative of the Old Mine Cut popular in the late 19th century, designed to catch beauty of candlelight. Like the round diamond, cushion cut diamonds have 58 facets.
Emerald Cut. A rectangular diamond that is step-cut like the Asscher. It is the 4th most popular shape in today’s diamond market. Once again, you will want to be sure that you have a higher clarity for an Emerald cut diamond.
Heart Diamonds. Heart Shaped diamonds are, well, shaped like a heart. Tips: 1. You will want to pay close attention to the diamond symmetry, since you will want the 2 halves of the heart to be as identical as possible. 2. Typically, you will want to be sure to stay above at least 1/2 a carat for a Heart Shaped diamond, and probably even higher. This is because Heart Shaped diamonds may appear smaller, especially once set into a ring.
Princess Cut. The 2nd most popular shape behind the traditional Round diamond, and for good reason. They are cut and designed to still offer amazing brilliance and sparkle, but with the uniqueness of a square shape. Tip: You will want to ensure your ring setting protects the corners of a Princess cut diamond since they are susceptible to chipping.
Radiant Cut. The Radiant cut diamond combines the Round diamond and the Emerald diamond, making it the optimum in non-traditional, yet still brilliant shapes. This diamond is all about its uniqueness.
Marquise, Oval, and Pear Diamonds. All of these shapes are cut using a similar process to that of a Round diamond, but they are all elongated. The Marquise diamond became very popular in the 1980s. It is shaped similar to a boat, with 2 pointed ends. An Oval diamond is very similar to that of a Round diamond, it is just…oval. Pear diamonds have one rounded end, and one pointed end so that they are pear shaped. Tip: Due to their elongated shapes, these diamonds can be more likely to show color or clarity imperfections than round diamonds.
Conflict Free Diamonds
Ever heard the term “blood diamond?” Maybe you saw the movie staring Leo? Anyways, blood diamonds, also known as conflict diamonds, are diamonds that have been mined in a war zone and then sold to finance an insurgency, an invading army’s war efforts, or a warlord’s activity. AKA. Not good. Blood diamonds became especially prevalent during the 1990s with the civil wars taking place in Africa.
Once this negative consequence of diamond trading became more prevalent, the diamond industry, along with a coalition of governments and non-governmental organizations, put their heads together and established what is known as the Kimberley Process. This was developed to create “conflict free diamonds” so the public would know that they were not contributing to these war efforts when purchasing their precious stones.
Due to the Kimberley Process and large efforts to eliminate trade in conflict diamonds, 99% of today’s diamonds are conflict free. All of the diamond jewelers that I recommend on this site deal exclusively in conflict free diamonds.
Ashley’s Favorite Overall Diamond Specifications
How to measure ring size
Don’t fret! There are a number solutions for how to measure ring size. Just don’t forget the correct engagement ring finger is the left ring finger.
Use a ring sizer – no secret
If there is no secret involved in buying the engagement ring, then you will want to go straight to the source and get a true ring size from the person who will be wearing the ring. This is the most accurate method.
There is a ring sizer you can get here.
Use a ring sizer – secret
If you want to keep the ring a secret, then you will need to be a bit more sneaky. In order to get the most accurate engagement ring size, I still recommend that you try to use a ring sizer.
Here is what I recommend: tell your significant other that the ring sizer came in the mail as a promo from a jewelry store for free. Put it on yourself for fun and then say something like “hey, let’s compare sizes” playfully. Be sure it is the correct finger! Make a mental note of the size, and for added emphasis, throw the sizer away right in front of her.
Use an old ring
There are other ways to get a ring size. The one I see suggested the most often is to sneak away another ring that she may already own.
However, I would recommend to stay away from this method if possible. It is highly unlikely she wears the ring on the same finger she would wear her engagement ring. Every finger is a different size! Even the same finger on the other hand would be a different size.
If this is the method that you still want to use, pay attention for awhile and see which fingers and hands she wears her rings on.
Once you have the ring (after you have secretly sniped it somehow) use an engagement ring size chart online to see what the size of that ring is. It is best to get a ring that she wears on the left hand if possible.
Once you have that, use my handy dandy engagement ring size chart for women below. It shows how to determine ring size for the left ring finger when you have a ring from a different finger.
Note: I cannot guarantee this engagement ring size chart will be perfectly accurate since everyone has different hands. However, it is better than just using the same ring size that you swiped as many other sites suggest.
Whatever you do, please don’t skip this step! I cannot stress the importance of this enough. Engagement rings are a significant investment.
At the same time they are small (easy to lose) and they are worn everyday on a person’s hand (think of the amount it will get banged up!).
You will want to insure your engagement ring with an insurance company that will cover loss, theft, or damage and will allow you to use whatever jeweler you want.
Ashley’s Favorite Engagement Ring Insurance
Jeweler’s Mutual. They have great engagement ring insurance coverage (I mean, they specialize in jewelry). They will even cover it if you straight up lose your whole ring – you would get a new ring to replace it of equal quality!
They are also very affordable. Last I checked, the premiums were about $10 per $1000 in the value of your engagement ring per year. So if your engagement ring cost you $5000, you would pay $50 per year for your jewelry insurance. Not bad for piece of mind in case you lose it, right?
If I helped you at all, can you take a pic of your awesome ring and stick it in the comments below? I would absolutely LOVE to see all the beautiful rings that you guys get and hear about your engagement ring buying experience. You are all rock stars!
Have a question? Feel free to shoot me an email any time at [email protected] I would be happy to help!