Know what she likes
I know it sounds painful, but take her ring shopping and pay attention. You don’t have to tell her you’re going either, you can just wander through the mall and she will probably want to stop at a jewelry store. If you want it to be a surprise don’t mention engagement rings, but encourage her to take a closer look at rings she likes. Make mental notes on what styles she prefers so you know you’ll pick something she’s into. Does she like big stones? Organic designs? Lots of little stones? Does she like Diamonds or would she rather have something colorful? What’s her favorite stone?
If taking her ring shopping will be too obvious, solicit one of her friends to go shopping with her and hit up a jewelry store. Have her friend take notes for you. The bottom line is, she is going to love whatever ring you get her, but you’ll score big bonus points if you can pick a ring that fits her style.
Here’s how I did my Research: I was out with my wife and her mom and we stopped in an antique shop. They started looking at jewelry and I just hung in the background and paid attention to the rings she was commenting on.
Know your budget
Traditionally a guy was supposed to spend one to three months salary on a ring, but this standard is being increasingly ignored. Even though a big rock might be exactly what she wants, your bride-to-be might not want you to spend that much on a ring anyway. Think about being a bit more frugal when it comes to the ring and save some of that money for a nice post-engagement getaway. Some quality time together should be more important than an overly glitzy ring anyway, right?
Even if you think you’ve found exactly the right ring right away, I would recommend shopping around. You never know what you’ll find at the next jewelery store. A good rule of thumb is to visit at least three different jewelers. Compare styles and prices, and then pull the trigger if there’s one ring that stands out. If not, keep looking. Odds are, the girl of your dreams wasn’t easy to find either!
Know those 4 C’s
If you decide to go with a diamond, you’ll want to do some research and learn the 4 C’s: color, clarity, cut, and carat (established by the Gemological Institute of America or GIA).
- Color typically ranges from clear to light yellow on a scale from D to Z, the less color the more valuable
- Clarity refers to imperfections that can be seen in the stone under magnification (referred to as “inclusions” and “blemishes”), flawless diamonds are very rare.
- Cut refers to a diamond’s facets and their relative placement, number and shape, and these facets reflecting light is what makes a diamond sparkle.
- Carat is a size measurement of a diamond based on overall weight usually ranging from around .2 carats up to the Great Star of Africa at 530.2 carats (cut).
These four factors will dictate the value of the diamond, and if you’re willing to compromise on one or more of these characteristics you’re likely to find some great deals.