So you've made the decision to get engaged. Great! Now you're faced with buying an engagement ring that will be something that is exactly what she wants, and that you can afford.
Forget everything you've ever heard about formulas telling you how much you are supposed to spend on a ring. You know what you can afford and don't be bullied into something beyond your means. You need to figure out whether you are using money saved, if you're financing, or a combination of both. Either way, know what you are prepared to spend.
One of the most important elements in this process is knowing what your fiance-to-be's preference is when it comes to the ring and diamond shape. You may have ideas of your own and that's great, especially if they match hers. If they don't, wellllllllllll. Remember, while it is a gift from you, this will be her ring. Trust me on this, (more on this later).
Nowadays it's not uncommon for couples to shop together for their engagement ring especially early on in the process. Within that dynamic, budget issues are usually discussed between both of you...but not always. Make sure you're prepared to be asked (at the jewelry store you plan on visiting) questions about whether or not you want to discuss pricing issues as a couple or individually. This is the mark of a professional establishment.
On the subject of where to shop for a diamond, I will admit I am biased. I know the only way to determine which diamond to choose is with a side by side comparison between two very qualified and beautiful choices. By definition this eliminates internet shopping. Sorry, but I'm not a fan. The internet is great for a lot a things, however buying a diamond is not one of them.
Go see for yourself. Search for a quality and size, be as specific as you want. What you find will shock you! You will see a price variation of as much as 200% from the cheapest to the most expensive! If that doesn't make the hair on the back of your neck stand up, I don't know what will. The bottom line, the only way to accurately determine a diamonds beauty is to look at it with a trusted expert by your side!
So where do you go?
Ask around. Check reputations, longevity in the community, word of mouth. There's a lot of information available through social media.
Visit stores. I'm partial to independents but there are good chains out there. Measure a store by how you're treated. Were you treated in a welcoming way? Did they make you feel comfortable? Did they ask questions that helped them understand what you wanted? Did they assume to know what's best for you or did they ask? Did they show expertise without talking down to you? Did they make the process complicated or did they keep it simple? Ultimately, did you enjoy the experience and did you feel comfortable?
In today's world it's difficult for most jewelry store to stock a large selection of diamonds because the profit margins are not what they used to be. Many stores stock fundamentals, bread and butter cuts, sizes and qualities that cover many requests for the consumer that wants to make an immediate decision. If you fit that category, you're probably in luck!
When your tastes and needs are beyond that, you may need to be patient. Most jewelers work on a memorandum (consignment) basis with their diamond suppliers that allows them to get diamonds from a wide variety of resources for "calls". By that I mean that they will "qualify" you by asking a series of questions to determine exactly what type of diamond best suits your needs. This process will lead to a "call" to a memo diamond supplier for qualified diamonds that get shipped to the store for you to see. The advantages are obvious. You get to view diamonds that were specifically selected for you and fit your budget and criteria.
Two factors are critical here: Do you have time and the inclination to wait for a second appointment to see something that may be a better fit for you?Is the salesperson at the store asking the right questions to make sure you feel comfortable that they know precisely what you are looking for? If the salesperson hasn't inspired you, walk away. Personally, I'm an impulse buyer. I've bought most things from automobiles to sneakers, impulsively. However, on very important things, that I know little about, I do look for guidance from people that know. Friends, relatives, on-line research and salespeople will allow you to gain pertinent information from various sources to formulate an opinion.
In face to face situations, and being in sales myself, I will reward a talented salesperson that goes above and beyond my expectations with a sale, regardless of whether or not I think I could have gotten a lower price elsewhere. I want to make that very clear, I will stop the shopping process and commit to a purchase when I feel comfortable with the item and the salesperson. Don't let price be the sole factor, think in terms of value because you get what you pay for.
To be clear, I'm not recommending blinding buying anything. You should know what SHE wants, know what YOU can afford, and talk to someone that can help determine what the right combination is. With that information, a good jeweler can show you options that help you to make the right choice.
Good luck and happy shopping. And remember, my best marriage advice is: she's always right!