Recently I was reflecting on my experience shopping for Lauren’s diamond engagement ring. (I proposed at Christmas, as many guys do, so I was shopping for the ring about this time of year.)
As a result, I decided to revive this important post on buying an engagement ring online. Doing what I should have done and learning how to buy a diamond online can save you a ton of money, and it doesn’t have to rob any of the romance. Here’s what I mean:
Buying My Wife’s Engagement Ring
two four years ago, I was shopping for my wife’s engagement ring.
I had decided how much I could spend and I knew exactly what style of ring to pick out—my only dilemma was where to buy it.
Obviously, I didn’t want to pay more than I had to, but with such a big-ticket item, I wanted to know I was purchasing the engagement ring from a retailer that would guide me through the process of selecting a diamond and would be there for me after the sale, as well. In the shopping process, I visited a big chain jeweler and also carefully considered whether to buy an engagement ring online.
I was almost ready to pull the trigger on a ring online. I had the ring designed. It was perfect. And it was a great deal.
Then, I chickened out. “But I can’t see it!” I thought.
Ultimately, I bought a ring from a national jewelry chain. I paid more, justifying the extra expense because I had a real salesperson to work with and because I could see what I was buying before it was shipped.
Unfortunately, I regret not buying the engagement ring online.
My wife’s ring was beautiful, but after a few months of wearing it she noticed the diamond was set too high and was catching on things now and then. We went back to the store to see if they could reset it only to hear the jeweler say “yeah, we get this all the time with this ring; there’s nothing we can do, but we could sell you a different setting.”
We were pissed!
Not only did they never mention this potential problem with this setting, they wouldn’t do anything to fix it. In fact, they had the nerve to try to sell us on dropping even more cash with them. Later, we found a local jeweler who reset the ring for less than the chain offered. Ultimately, the ring is even more beautiful, has a custom touch, and my wife finds it more wearable.
That’s a long story, but the moral is I should’ve bought the ring online! (Or, I at least should have bought the diamond online and then had a local jeweler create a custom setting.
Diamonds are so marked up in stores that you can save almost 50% buying online. Reputable online diamond jewelers will let you customize your engagement ring by style, setting, and all the four C’s so you get a ring that’s not only one of a kind but also in your budget. Best of all, they understand that buying a ring is difficult online, so they make returns and exchanges easy.
I ended up buying my wedding band with Blue Nile and exchanged it once—at no cost to me—for a different width. Super easy.
SHOULD YOU BUY YOUR ENGAGEMENT RING ONLINE?
Buying an engagement ring online will save you huge money. To ensure you get a good deal, just go with a trusted online jeweler.
Obviously, many people are skeptical about buying engagement rings online. They think: “I’m more likely to get a fake stone or get scammed online”, “it could get lost/stolen in the mail” or “for something so important, I need to see it before I buy it.”
These are all valid concerns, BUT, any reputable online jeweler has these covered. For example:
- Reputable jewelers have their reputation at stake. Ergo, you will get a real diamond with a gemologist’s certificate. This may not be the case on some sketchy Website or with an online auction. Wherever you buy your diamond (online or in a store), it’s a good idea to take the stone to an unaffiliated jeweler for an independent appraisal.
- Reputable jewelers will insure your shipment. When you ship diamonds, you send them via FedEx or UPS with tracking, insurance, and a required signature. In the rare event that your stone gets stolen, you won’t be out a penny.
- Reputable jewelers have no-questions-asked return policies. As I mentioned above, when I bought my wedding ring on Blue Nile, I returned the first one I got for a larger size. I didn’t pay anything except the difference in price for the rings…no return shipping. Nothing.
Tips to Help You Buy an Engagement Ring Online
OK, you’ve decided to save a ton of cash and buy online. What next? Basically, you want to do your homework. My focus here on Money Under 30 is to guide readers through large financial decisions — paying down debt, starting to invest, and making big purchases like a home and, yes, an engagement ring. As this is a particularly unique subject, I even created a small site devoted just to learning how to buy a diamond online.
1. Find a Reputable Online Jeweler
Preferably one that specialized in engagement rings, like James Allen, an online jeweler featuring quality engagement rings and over 25,000 photographed diamonds to choose from.
A Note About Buying Diamonds on eBay
Diamonds are a popular item on eBay and other online auction sites, and for the experienced buyer can get some really good deals. But you can also get ripped off. Before you buy a diamond in an online auction you should a) know a bit about diamonds so you know exactly what you’re getting and b) be familiar with online auctions, escrow payments, and recourse in case something goes wrong.
2. Pick Your Ring Style
If you haven’t figured out your girlfriend’s tastes already, it’s time for some detective work. Ask one of your girlfriend’s girlfriends for guidance if you trust her, or ask some general questions the next time you’re passing by the jewelry displays at the mall.
The reason? No two diamonds are the same, but you can narrow down your choices by determining what shape diamond to buy as well as what style ring. Does she want a solitaire (one stone) or multi-stone ring? Does she like round, pear, princess [square], or emerald diamonds? What style band does she want (yellow gold or white gold/platinum)?
Online Stone, Custom Setting
Girlfriend have something specific in mind? Or do you want to add a personal touch to your ring? You can still save big bucks by buying the diamond for your engagement ring online and having a local jeweler craft a setting to your custom specifications. James Allen, Blue Nile, and others sell loose diamonds, any of which jewelers can use to build the ring of your dreams. You’ll pay a bit more for the jeweler’s time designing and building the ring, but still save a bundle buying the loose diamond online.
3. Set a Budget!
There is some crazy debate in the comments of this post on how much you should spend on an engagement ring. Here are my two cents: Throw that old adage about “two month’s salary” out the window. Spend enough to show your future wife that you’re investing in her but do not spend more than you can afford. If you’re struggling to pay off credit card debt and want to marry a woman who is expecting a $20,000 ring, you can’t afford that shit and would be stupid to try. You get the drift. But I’m also not going to tell you to skip the ring or buy something fake. This tradition is in place for reason. A diamond ring is a symbol that you’re able to save and willing to sacrifice some coin for the woman you love. If you can have an honest conversation with your girlfriend and you’re both on the same page about skipping diamonds, that’s fine. Otherwise, expect to participate in this tradition.
Whatever your engagement ring budget, stick to it, and don’t use credit cards to “stretch” what you can afford. The engagement ring is only the first of many expenses coming your way when you get married. This is no time to go into more debt.
4. Choose a Size
When it comes to diamonds, size matters, but not as much as you might think.
A smaller diamond that is a higher-grade color, clarity, and cut will be more brilliant than a larger but duller stone. These “4 C’s of diamonds”—color, cut, clarity, and carat (size)—determine how much you’ll pay. Knowing your budget, it’s time to determine what’s most important to you.
I opted for a smaller diamond that was as high a grade as possible in cut and color. One last time, James Allen has a helpful search tool that lets you browse diamonds in your price range by size and other characteristics; it’s the best way to pick the perfect diamond.
Don’t get me wrong, when you buy an engagement ring, it’s a big decision and a big purchase. It’s easy to become paralyzed. But when you’ve set a budget you’re comfortable with and have a ring picked out that you like, pull the trigger.
Take advantage of online guarantees and return policies to check the ring out (leave enough time before you’re hoping to ask her in case you change your mind). Also, keep in mind that most return policies are long enough to take into account the slim possibility she’ll say no, so you can still get your cash back, if not your heart. But that’s not going to happen!