How to choose and Buy an Engagement Ring

The classic engagement ring with a 1 CT center round brilliant diamond

The classic engagement ring with a 1 CT center round brilliant diamond

The first step in our engagement process was to find and buy an engagement ring.

I went through many iterations of what I thought was a pretty engagement ring over the years, and as styles changed I came back to liking a very classic style. I was not sure what Steve was going to think of this since engagement rings are one of the most expensive parts of getting engaged and married. I did not know how much to spend on a ring and he did not either. This was a totally new process for both of us.

Later in the day after we got engaged, (realizing all the jewelry stores were closed that day already) we sat down at the computer together and looked at some jewelry web sites and some engagement rings online. Steve ended up at the same site I have seen every guy end up at: They must come up #1 in Google for the search on “engagement rings”. We didn’t find much selection there in the engagement ring and wedding ring sets that I liked but we did find a good description of the different diamond grades, the color, cut and carat weight values and a search option for the stones themselves.

The cost of a 1 carat (1ct) diamond stone can range from $5,000.00 to $10,000.00. That is a huge range in price! I am not sure if the difference in the diamonds was evident looking at them though because there were no pictures from that individual diamond stone search function on the site, just the grades and cost info. (I am pretty sure they all sparkle) Then we decided we would go to James and Williams Jewelers in Berwyn and Fay & Co in Naperville next weekend so we could look in person. (My parents got their rings at James and Williams in Berwynin 1965 and Steve’s parents have bought things at Fay & Co before so they were recommended) The budget part of this was tricky, Steve knew that he would most likley buy his ring, but since I wasn’t sure how much it would cost and they are soooo expensive I offered to help out a little with the cost too. Saving money on a diamond would be nice but since you wear it forever I wanted a nice one and was willing to help pay or contribute small stones I had in other rings. This whole next six months is going to be expensive and we do have to stay within budget.

I was pretty sure of what styles of engagement rings I thought were pretty, and it was a single round brilliant cut solitaire white gold ring with one baguette going down each side. I was hoping for around one carat in stone size but if we couldn’t afford it that was ok too. That style of ring is similar to my mom’s style except that now they do some interesting things with the designs of prongs and settings for the solitaire that jewelers did not have back then. I also knew that white gold shows off white diamonds better than yellow because it reflects white light into the stone. This makes it lighter and more brilliant. The site listed this white gold setting with one round diamond in the center and one baguette on each side in a set with a matching wedding ring for $1,800.00. We didn’t know if that is high or low, but it seemed a little higher than what we expected. I also think that the cost of gold going up latley has impacted the price of wedding rings just because the cost per ounce has risen.

The part of the engagement ring search that we did not know about was that Steve’s mom had some old engagement and wedding rings from her family that she wanted to see if we wanted to look at. This was really generous of her and we couldn’t possibly appreciate it more. What we did not know at the time was what they looked like, or if we could use a stone from one or if it would be an entire ring intact. Sometimes when vintage rings get passed around as heirlooms they get the stones taken out for new rings when people get married. It is a way to save a lot of money and stay within your budget.

This is not my ring but mine looks similar and does not have the rows of diamonds above and below the main stone.

We ended up visiting Steve’s parents on Tuesday three days after we got engaged. They had several vintage family rings but most had a few stones missing or were cocktail rings not designed for an engagement ring. (nothing would fit around it as a wedding band) We were wowwed by the rings in general and their antique filigree detail. It was also nice to hear some of the stories about the women who wore these rings and when they were from. It makes things so much more special.

Even though we could have passed on the vintage rings and gone and bought a new engagement ring or set at a store but I chose a vintage one. I really changed my view of what an engagement ring should look like when I saw his grandmother’s engagement ring. My ring is a three stone engagement ring from around 1900 that has some beautiful engraving detail on the sides and two small diamonds going down each side also. I love the detail in the setting and that it has been through 2 successful marriages already. I also like that the ring doesn’t have any conflict diamonds in it from Africa since we know that the diamonds came from an industrial diamond mine in the US that the family used to own.

Since then we have been to the two jewelers who were helpful but didn’t have much to say about my ring since they can’t sell me something since I already have one. One even went as far as saying it wasn’t worth much since it was a mine cut (European cut) diamond and those are not worth much anymore. Since then though I have learned that the diamond industry really began cutting diamonds the narrow long way that they do for efficiency of using every last bit of the stone and not loosing diamond in the carving. The ones that were mine cut or European cut have more colors and a larger space on top to reflect the light. They sparkle in a different and more elegant way I think.

Anyway I am not going to listen to anyone that tries to make me feel like the special ring that Steve gave me isn’t worthwhile because they can’t make a sale. I love it and it is part of what makes our relationship truly unique. If you have access to any family rings passed down from grandmothers or aunts, take a look at getting them refurbished and cleaned up to use. It is good to not have to buy a blood diamond and extra

This is just one example of a very pretty white gold vintage filligree engagement ring set you could find on ebay for a few hundred dollars.

special that you get to pass down a family heirloom. If you don’t have any family engagement rings to pass down, you can always check ebay and craigslist in your area to find people selling vintage rings they don’t want anymore. A lot of people also pick up great estate jewelry that is perfect for weddings and engagements. (and sometimes costs a lot less!) Plus I think the detail in the old rings is much prettier than what is available in jewelry stores today. Another benefit is that it helps you stay within your budget on the whole wedding. Not having to buy a new ring saves a lot of money, even if it is only the engagement ring.