Asking someone to marry you is one of the biggest decisions you can make. And while your significant other will say yes because they too want to spend the rest of their life with you, getting down on one knee with an amazing engagement ring isn’t a bad idea. But with hundreds — if not, thousands — of styles to choose from, walking into a jewelry store can feel like a trip down the rabbit hole.
To help simplify things, we asked Oded Edelman, CEO and co-founder of engagement ring website James Allen, his tips for picking out the right ring. Check out what he had to say.
1. Don’t expect you’re going to get everything
Unless you have a budget to pick up a ring of Kardashian proportions, don’t expect to get everything you want in your ring. Sad but true, all those flashy features can add up. Instead, Edelman implores you to do your research and create a list of non-negotiable. “Keep in mind that buying a diamond is about tradeoffs and priorities,” he said. Perhaps you want to prioritize size of the diamond over a flawless stone or vice versa. Know what matters to you and start from there.”
Whether the ring will be placed on your finger or charged to your card, window shopping is a great way to keep your priorities in check.
2. Do ask a retailer about its return policy
You might have spent weeks selecting the perfect ring for your prospective fiancé, but that doesn’t mean it’s the ring they’ll end up with. Things happen — perhaps the band’s too big or there’s a style he or she loves even more — so it’s important that you plan for these worst case scenarios before you even buy the ring. “Check out the retailer’s return policy as well as their resizing policy,” urged Edelman. “If you end up not being happy with it, or it’s not the right size you want to be sure that you have options.”
Hopefully, the ring you choose will be a hit, but finding a jeweler with a flexible return and resizing policy is a smart move.
3. Don’t buy an engagement ring without insurance
It doesn’t matter if you spent a couple thousand or close to a million dollars, insuring your engagement ring is mandatory. Not only can insurance protect the ring against theft or damage, it can help you learn more about the stone. “The grading on a certificate will help you understand the diamond’s characteristics, as evaluated by the laboratory,” Edelman said. But while Edelman tells us that there are three major grading laboratories — GIA, AGS, and IGI — what the diamond’s certificate says will only tell you so much about your ring.
“It’s important to note that a diamond’s certificate is not enough to really get a sense of what it will look like in person,” he said. “For any two diamonds with the exact same specs — i.e., same color grade and cut grade — they can look very different and their price can be very different.” James Allen’s signature technology allows you to get an up close and personal look at the diamond. But if you’re buying from a brick and mortar store, don’t be afraid to ask your jeweler tons of questions.
[Correction, 4/6/17: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated GIA, AGS, and IGI are diamond grades. It has been updated to reflect these are grading laboratories.]
4. Do ask for his or her ring size
We can’t think of anything more embarrassing than slipping that gorgeous — and expensive — ring on your partner’s finger just for it to immediately slip off. Save yourself from this jewelry faux pas and ask for their ring size. Whether you enlist her friends or family members or simply ask her yourself, we promise it’s well worth the conversation.
5. Don’t wait until the last minute
Choosing to spend the rest of your life with someone isn’t a haphazard decision. Your entire relationship — the good and the bad — has been leading up to this moment. So why shouldn’t you put time and effort into picking out the perfect ring? “Don’t wait until the last minute,” Edelman said. “The process of finding the right retailer, diamond, and ring design often takes a couple weeks — sometimes even longer.”
Planning on popping the question in a few months? There’s nothing wrong with starting your research now. You’ll thank us when it starts to get down to the wire.
6. Do what’s best for your budget
How much should you spend on an engagement ring? While there are tons of articles that’ll tell you to spend a couple months’ salary on the dazzler, Edelman argues it’s more important to do what’s best for your budget than to listen to some predetermined digit. “There’s no real answer to this one — it’s up to you,” Edelman admitted. “Couples today are considering their financial situation and what they can afford, and also where the ring fits in to a larger consideration of life-stage purchases, such as a house or a car.”
Chances are you and your significant other are well attuned to each others’ finances — and we can’t imagine they’d be upset you didn’t spend an extra thousand dollars on the ring while you’re paying off student loans. If you want to make sure you’re getting something they’ll love within your budget, have them pick out a couple options they like. The surprise will still be there and both parties will be happy. That sounds like a win-win to us.
7. Don’t underestimate the importance of the cut
Everyone knows the four Cs — cut, color, clarity, and carat — are of the utmost importance when ring shopping, but most jewelry novices might confuse the cut of the stone for its shape. Wrong.
“Cut literally refers to the way that the stone was cut, its dimensions, etc.,” Edelman said. “This affects how the light shines through it, which gives the diamond it’s sparkle and impacts whether it has that ‘WOW!'” According to James Allen’s website, proportion and angles are key. So before you slip the jeweler your credit card, ask them how the cut compares to a similar model. Trust us, they’ll know you mean business.
8. Do talk to your partner about rings
It’s very likely the engagement (as well as what lies in that velvet box) will be a complete surprise. Though you might want to woo your partner with your exceptional taste in fine jewelry, you should talk to them other about their ring taste. “It’s important to get on the same page with budget expectations, as well as the styles and even the metals that she likes,” Edelman said. “All of this information will help guide the person purchasing the ring to ensure they get it right.”
Getting proposed to should be one of the happiest days of your partner’s life, so you want her to actually love the ring you picked out instead of plastering a forced smile on their face. Before you make your final selection, offer to go window shopping. Trying to surprise them? Enlist one of their closest confidants — best friend, sister, or mother — for their expertise.
9. Don’t buy a ring unless you’ve seen a 360-degree version of it
With the rise of online retailers selling exquisite gems, selecting a ring from the comfort of your own couch is becoming increasingly popular. Actors Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher even purchased their wedding bands on Etsy, E! Online reports. But Edelman urges you to err on the side of caution. “Don’t buy a diamond unless you can see it in 360 degrees,” he said.
Sure, a ring may look great online, but this is one of the biggest purchases you’ll make, so it’s important you’re satisfied with all of it. Fortunately, James Allen has an impressive database where you can choose the exact stone that goes into the ring and receive a 360-degree view. If you’re not shopping on a site like James Allen, we recommend you go to a physical jeweler.
10. Do consider the classics
In 2017, what’s engagement ring-worthy isn’t so cut and dry. Now more than ever, people are pushing the envelope with unconventional settings, silhouettes, and stones; however, that doesn’t mean you should rule out those classic cuts. “A classic solitaire ring is a tried-and-true favorite across the country, and James Allen is no exception to that,” Edelman said.
Is it the most original option? Not necessarily. But if you’re going to wear a ring for the rest of your life, this style will transcend times and trends.
Taryn Brooke also contributed to this story
[Editor’s Note: This story was originally published April 5, 2017]