How to Get a Good Deal on an Engagement Ring

Yes, I'm a woman, so I guess I shouldn't know as much about engagement ring prices as I do. But I got to pick out my own engagement ring, and I'm a bargain hunter, as you know. Here's what I learned during two crazy weeks of visiting jewelry stores almost every day in search of the perfect ring at the perfect price. These tips might give you some ideas for getting a deal of your own. (This article is written for women who are also picking out their own rings on a budget, but if you're the significant other planning to give the ring as a surprise, these tips will still help you.)

1. Don't buy diamonds. You have to be a bit untraditional to go this route. But remember, the finger you wear it on is just as important a symbol of your engagement as what the ring itself looks like. Diamonds are incredibly expensive--even the tiny ones. Compared to the cost of a diamond ring, you can probably afford pretty much anything you want if you choose a different stone. If even these options are too expensive, you can look at their lab-created counterparts (like lab-created rubies). If you want the look of diamonds, there's cubic zirconia and moissanite. If you don't want to go the fake route, there's rubies, sapphires, emeralds, aquamarine, you name it. However, if you want to use a nontraditional stone in your engagement ring, be aware that most of the rings jewelers sell with these stones do not look anything like engagement rings (you don't usually see a solitare emerald ring, for example) so if a certain design that mimics and engagement ring design is important to you, you may have to get a custom design. (Don't worry--custom jewelry is not inherently more expensive than pre-made jewelry.)

2. Shop around. Many stores inflate their prices like crazy and then put everything "on sale." This can make it hard to compare prices across stores. At every store where you find a ring you like, ask the sales person to give you their business card and write on the card the specifications of the ring you're interested in (metal type, the 4 Cs, and the actual price) so you can accurately compare prices when you get home. (As an added bonus, asking for a business card gives you a polite way to exit the store if you're not good at saying no.)

3. Don't obsess over color and clarity. Almost all diamond rings sold in the store are clear, sparkly, and beautiful. Only the occasional ring will have yellowy, dull stones. If you pick out one of these subpar rings, the jeweler will almost always tell you because they want you to buy something nicer (and more expensive). So it's not likely that you'll accidentally buy something subpar. No one who sees your ring will ask you what the clarity is, anyway, unless they're really rude. So as long as you can't see any imperfections with your naked eye, don't worry about it.

4. Don't buy on the spot. Always sleep on your decision so you don't get sucked into paying more than you planned.

5. Don't fall prey to high-pressure sales people. Certain stores are very high pressure and want you to make a decision immediately. Personally, I find this sales tactic rude and off-putting. If you really have the best quality stuff, don't you think I'll realize that and come back to you on my own?

6. Don't go shopping with your significant other--go with your mom. The sales people know your mom isn't going to buy your engagement ring, so when they see you shopping with her, they will know that you're just looking and not going to make a purchase. While you'll probably still get some sales pressure, it won't be nearly as bad as if your fiance is there. (If you're a man, this tip still applies--pretend like your mom is looking for a new ring that she's going to ask your dad to buy her for their anniversary.)

7. If you're on a budget, swallow your pride and say so. Why waste your time and the sales person's trying on rings you'll never own? Plus, you don't want to develop a taste for something you can't afford, as this can lead to dissatisfaction with what's available in your price range. No sales person is going to give you an inexpensive ring to try on unless you ask. And if you're too proud to ask for an inexpensive ring, say you're looking for something small and dainty, because smaller diamonds will usually be less expensive.

8. Consider Walmart. Seriously. They have a huge selection of diamond rings and you can order them in almost any size to be delivered in just a few days. (By contrast, many brick and mortar jewelry stores will expect you to wait 6 to 8 weeks for a special order ring if you wear a size that's too far outside the norm, and on top of that, the ring won't be returnable because you special ordered it.) The only catch is that most of these rings aren't available in the store, and there's no way to know if you'll really like a ring until you've seen it in person and on your finger. But as long as you can return the ring, why not give Walmart's online jewelry sales a try? Their prices are excellent and some of their diamonds are even certified.

9. Don't write off the importance of the experience. Shopping for an engagement ring should be a pleasant experience. It will become part of your engagement memories. So don't buy your ring from a place that makes you feel lousy.

10. Ask your friends if they have a hookup. You'd be surprised how many people "know a jeweler" once you mention that you're shopping for an engagement ring. Some of your friends may have had their rings custom made and gotten a deal that way, but you might not know unless you ask.

11. Look for jewelry stores that are going out of business. I can't promise that the economy will still be this bad by the time you read this post, but you never know when a jewelry store might be going out of business. Just be aware that some stores mark up their prices before they slash them for going out of business sales, so don't look at the percentage off you're getting, but at the quality of ring you're getting for the final price. In the case of going-out-of-business sales, it is true that there may only be one of the ring you're looking at, so the pressure to buy on the spot can be high. Also, any store that's going out of business will not offer a warranty or service plan on your ring, so your lifetime cost of owning the ring may be higher.

12. Consider the total package. Established jewelry stores will often provide a free lifetime warranty with their jewelry. You'll have to take the ring in every six months to get it examined, because if anything is going wrong with your ring, the jeweler wants to fix it before your diamond falls out. The six-month policy might be a pain, but these warranties will often replace any stones that fall out of your ring, fix loose or worn prongs, size your ring, and replate your white gold ring (which will eventually turn light yellow because it is coated with rhodium to give it that silvery color). Yes, all of this stuff will be included in the price of your ring. Just remember that any store can go out of business at any time, no matter how long it's been around.

13. Get a solitaire ring. You can get away with a lower total carat weight when you get a single stone than if you get a ring with three or more stones. 1/4 carat is an okay size when it's a single stone; when it's spread out, it looks kind of pathetic. Yes, most women want more than a quarter carat on their finger, and most men want to buy their women something impressive. But if you're on a budget, you might be able to make due with a quarter carat solitaire ring, whereas when you see a quarter carat three-stone ring, you'll think it was made for your baby niece.

14. Try wholesalers. Their prices can be lower. I shopped at one wholesale store and they offered full lifetime warranties with all their rings, the prices were great, and the staff was very friendly and low key. The store was located in a nice shopping center; there was nothing sketchy about it. Shopping wholesale doesn't have to mean going to a bad part of town and shopping in a dingy warehouse from a fly-by-night operator.

15. Try pawn shops. Personally, I wasn't comfortable with this option because I felt that I would have no way of knowing if I was buying a real diamond or getting taken for a ride. Also, I wanted a very specific style of ring that presented some sizing problems because I have very small fingers. But you can find plenty of stories of people who bought their rings at pawn shops and then had them appraised for much more than they paid.

16. Don't buy individual stones. These are for people who are obsessed with the 4 Cs. Yes, the diamonds are nicer, but they're also dramatically more expensive than the ones that are already set in the ring. Plus, it's often hard to tell what the actual ring will really look like when you're buying the stone and the ring separately.

17. Your ring is not an investment. Do you hope to one day sell your engagement ring to turn a profit? I doubt it. Then don't pay more for your ring or buy more expensive, higher-quality diamonds because you're thinking of it as an asset that will appreciate in value. It may very well appreciate, but if you don't sell it, you'll never benefit from that appreciation. At best, your possible children might benefit from it after you're gone, but you'd probably prefer that they hung onto your ring as a family heirloom, right?

18. Perseverance pays off. Yes, doing all this legwork is exhausting, but engagement rings are so expensive that putting in the effort can really slash what you pay or get you a great ring for a killer price. Also, the ring is just the first of many expenses you will incur in the process of getting married, so you don't want to blow your budget when you've hardly started. That being said, remember--if all goes well, you'll be wearing this ring for the rest of your life! You might as well love it (though for some of us, loving it includes loving the price tag).

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Related posts:

Getting Married: A Losing Financial Proposition?
What's the Real Purpose of Spending Money on a Wedding?
A Beautiful Wedding On A Budget
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Post by Amy Fontinelle

1 comment:

Monty said...

Really interesting article. Thanks for sharing!