Buying an Engagement Ring from a Retail Store

Your First Visit

Visiting a jewelry store with the intention of purchasing a diamond ring for the first time can be a bit daunting.  Every case that surrounds you is filled priceless jewels, shining trinkets, and polished distractions.  Each salesperson is dressed for a formal dinner while you are in jeans and a T-shirt.  You haven’t seen prices like these since the first time you bought a car!  But fear not.

The truth of the matter is that your only after one of those jewels, that person behind the counter probably does not know as much about diamonds as you do (if you’ve done your homework), and you don’t have to pay for anything yet.  It’s only your first visit.  Below are some things to keep in mind the first time in a retail jewelry store.

  1. Let your first visit’s intention be to compare diamonds. Take this opportunity to browse through different kinds of diamonds to select what you want.  Look at the different colors of diamonds next to each other.  Examine different clarities.  What must you have and what can’t you live with?
  2. Use every resource of the jeweler. Ask to use their microscope and examine different diamonds.  If they have a catalog, request one.  Whatever opportunity they give you to learn more about the diamond you are after, use it.
  3. Do not let the jeweler fill your head with ideas about what makes a jewel great. If you have done your research, you know what makes a diamond extraordinary.  Remember, they are trying to sell you on something.  I once had a lady tell me that a certain diamond was great because you could “see right through it.”  It would have been great if I were looking for glass!
  4. Have enough time to visit several jewelers in one day. Many nationwide retailers have wonderful offers and services that are provided when you buy a ring from them.  See what different places have to offer.  Also, you may get more help from a second or third establishment than you will from your first.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Retail Shopping

Now that we are all connected by this wonderful web of knowledge called the internet, many are choosing to buy their diamond engagement rings online, but there is still a great deal to be said about walking into a store, looking someone in the eye, and passing the money across the counter.

For instance, as mentioned before, many nationwide retailers offers extras for costumers who purchase a ring from them.  The biggest extra being the lifetime warranty.  The program goes as follows:

  • Bring the ring or jewel in every “x” number of months for a checkup.
  • If anything is damaged the retailer fixes it for free.
  • If the diamond or jewel falls out of its setting and is lost, the retailer replaces it for free.

Another advantage is the free adjustment.  If at anytime the ring ring does not fit, the retailer will resize it for free.  The last advantage is security.  You know exactly who you are buying from, so if you think you have been defrauded or treated unfairly it is easier to track them down.

The disadvantage of walk-in retailers is the price.  The markup on diamond rings in most jewelry stores is outrageous!  I have seen a diamond ring on a reputable website be marked up 75% at a nationally known diamond retailer’s store.  A $1500 dollar ring can sometimes come very close to running $3000.

So, the decision is do you want to pay less for a quality diamond or do you want to pay top dollar and get a quality diamond and the bonuses that come from buying retail.

Ring Setting

There are typically two types of metal used for rings, gold and platinum.  Each has its advantages and disadvantages, so choose according to your desire and need.


The purity of gold is measured in karats, not carats which is a measurement of weight for diamonds.  A pure gold ring is a 24 karat ring.  Anything less than 24 karats is a mixture of gold and an alloy.  The table below shows a decrease is karats means a decrease in purity as well.

Karats Ratio % Gold
24 Karats pure gold 100%
18 Karats 18 parts gold, 6 parts alloy 75%
14 Karats 14 parts gold, 10 parts alloy 58.33%
10 Karats 10 parts gold, 14 parts alloy 41.66%

Remember when picking a ring that purity does not equal durability.  Gold is very pliable and can chip easily.  A ring that is not pure gold will be more resistant to damage.  A 24 karat gold ring may seem like a great idea, unless your future spouse does a great deal of hands on work.  Find a balance that suits you.  Gold comes in two flavors, white and yellow, and shines up nicely.


Platinum gives the ultimate answer to durability.  This metal is much stronger than gold and is more rare.  These features usually come with a heavy price tag as well.  Many people go for this kind of ring because of its popularity and rarity. It’s only disadvantages are that it is difficult to repair if something does go wrong, and it tends to dull over time.  It is also difficult to polish.

White Gold

Another alternative is white gold.  White gold is usually are mixture of gold with a white metal such as nickel.  Although nickel is not exclusively used to create white gold, it is the most prevalent. Typically, nickel will comprise 10% of the mixture with copper being thrown in to increase the flexibility of the band. White gold is a good alternative when one wants to have the look of platinum but only has the budget for gold.

Any of these choices are superb metals but the choice is as individual as the diamond you select to sit upon the ring.

The First Steps

Congratulations on starting a journey that many have traveled before you.  Searching for an engagement ring can be tedious but rewarding process.  By the end of your searching and shopping one hopes to have a ring that will symbolically express love and commitment to another.

A popular way guys tend to go about the hunt for a diamond ring is by searching, shrouded in secrecy.  I believe the whole idea is to shock the lady with a bright shiny stone in order to lure her during the brief second of ensuing insanity.  But, whatever the reason, please keep in mind a few things before you get to the counter or web page of a jeweler.

Ring Size

What is her ring size?  If you are not going the surprise route or if you fiancé was like mine and has already slipped you the “by the way my ring size is this” conversation, then this is a non-issue, but if you would like to keep everything a secret and your fiancé is not as forward, then you might have to do some spy work.  There are three ways of gaining the information you need.

The first, and most bold way, is to borrow a ring she does not wear to often.  Of course, the problem with this approach is that if she realizes that the ring is missing, your secrecy is lost.

A better way to go about getting her ring size is to take a small tapered candle and slide one of her rings over it while she is out.  Make sure that the ring leaves an imprint in the wax.  Next, measure the circumference of the candle at the imprint with a piece of string.  Extend the string and measure it with a ruler that has a millimeter scale.  The chart below will give you the ring size.

The third way is simply to ask a relative, friend, or roommate you can trust.

Ring Size Measurement (millimeters)
3 44.1
3.5 45.4
4 46.7
4.5 48
5 49.2
5.5 50.5
6 51.8
6.5 53.1
7 54.3
7.5 55.6
8 56.9
8.5 58.2
9 59.4
9.5 60.7
10 62
10.5 63.3
11 64.5
11.5 65.8
12 67.1
12.5 68.3
13 69.6

Jewelry Taste

Next, consider her tastes.  What type of jewelry does she normally wear?  What color is the jewelry? Does she tend to like jewelry that is oversized or barely noticeable?  Is it usually traditional or more edgy and modern?  Notice what she likes for a few days and what she likes to wear.  You will get a sense of the type of jewelry you are looking for.  Also, notice what she says about other people’s jewelry and rings.

Diamond Size

Last, how should the diamond look on her finger?  Will the diamond dwarf her finger or will her finger make the diamond seem like a spec?  These questions go right along with the question of her taste.  How large a stone are you willing to pay for and how much are you willing to pay.  After being informed about the other characteristics of a diamond, make that decision and stick with it.  The more money you save, the bigger diamond you will want to get, but you have to draw the line somewhere.

Buying an Engagement Ring Online

Shopping online is no special event now with the advent of multiple online stores across the internet.  Millions of people purchase items off the internet each day, even high ticket items such as diamonds.  Online diamond dealers go through great lengths to help you make informed decisions about your purchase and most will return your money if you are not satisfied with the final product.  Below are some helpful hints to remember while shopping for diamonds online.

  1. Take advantage of online education centers.  Most diamond websites have their own diamond education section to help the consumer pick a diamond.  You can usually find information that will be helpful in your search.
  2. Use price comparison features.  Many websites now have databases of there diamonds that can be displayed based on the parameters entered into their search engine.  Use these print outs to compare with other diamond retailers to get the best price.
  3. Make sure the website has a certificate for the diamond you want!!  It is imperative that you know exactly what you are buying.  The only way to know is to look to a reputable certifier, such as GIA or AGS.  Usually the certificate is listed right beside the diamond for public viewing.
  4. Optimize your purchasing parameters.  If you are strapped for cash, it is usually a good idea to play with the parameters on a diamond dealers search engine.  For example, perhaps you can get the clarity you want by sacrificing a little color, or maybe get a better cut by choosing a smaller carat size.
  5. One other piece of advice would be to look around retail stores (offline) to see what certain diamonds look like in real life.  Once you find a diamond you like in the store, you can usually go online and find the same diamond for much cheaper.  Look for a certificate that closely matches the diamond in the store and purchase it.

Advantages & Disadvantages of Online Shopping

Advantage one, two, and three: PRICE, PRICE, and did I mention PRICE!!  You can find great deals online.  Personally I will never buy another piece of jewelry for my wife from a store again.  I can get her a much better stone for the money online than from anywhere else.  I could rant for pages on the subject.  Know that prices online are better.

The second advantage for shopping online is the selection.  With many of the dealers online you can input exactly what you want and find several diamonds matching that description.  This cannot be done in a regular retail store.  It is just not feasible to keep such a selection in stock.  This advantage also gives way to easy price comparison.

The disadvantage to online shopping is not getting that warm fuzzy feeling of walking in a store and walking out immediately with the product.  With a walk-in store you can point to a building and say, “This is the place where _______.”  Fill in the blank.  It is the same problem with any online shopping.  Will the people deliver what I want?  Will I get ripped off?  The way to eliminate this fear is to find reputable dealers, and there are many out there.