One of the most important decisions you can possibly make is whom to marry. If you’ve already found your sweetheart, then congratulations! The next step, for many of us, is to get moving on making it official — without breaking the bank.
Buying the bride bling can be unnecessarily stressful, especially if it’s your first foray into buying diamonds. So after you’ve saved up some money, the next step is to educate yourself about how to get the best quality for your dollar. Here are five practical tips on how to save money on an engagement ring.
1. Are Diamonds Your Girl’s Best Friend?
If you can get away with it, go for a non-diamond center stone. This will save you money and ensure a very unique ring for your fiance. Believe it or not, other precious stones are becoming more popular as unconventional alternatives to white ice.
Two cases in point: billionaire Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, who could certainly afford a multi-carated diamond, opted for a ruby engagement ring for his bride Priscilla Chan. And Prince William proposed to Kate Middleton with his mother’s classic sapphire ring, surrounded by a halo of small diamonds, thus sparking a huge trend in sapphire engagement rings.
Granted, most women in the Western world today will expect a diamond engagement ring, but if your girlfriend is open to a different look, take this as a golden (or ruby?) opportunity to get a gorgeous ring without paying the premium cost of a diamond center stone.
2. Don’t Pay for Unnecessary Extras — Clarity & Color Parameters
Most people think that the better the clarity and color grading of a diamond, the more brilliant and valuable that diamond is. The truth is that higher clarity and color grades do increase the monetary value of the diamond, but they do NOT necessarily increase the overall look of the diamond.
Clarity describes the small imperfections inside the diamond. The better the clarity grade, the less imperfections there are. But there’s something else to consider that is equally important. Most of us don’t walk around with a jeweler’s loupe (magnifying glass), and so the level of clarity that is most practical is called “eye-clean.”
That means that your next-door neighbor admiring your ring on the street is not likely to see any imperfection with her naked eye. In order to achieve that level of eye-clean clarity, there is no reason to overpay for flawless clarity. In other words, you can get away with a lower clarity grade while not sacrificing the clean look of the diamond.
The best a diamond can be is completely colorless. “D” is the highest color grade there is, denoting a perfectly colorless diamond, with every subsequent letter going closer to the color yellow. But just like buying an internally flawless (perfect clarity) diamond would be a waste of money, so too is it a waste of money to buy a “D” colored diamond.
Instead, by considering the diamond’s shape and the ring’s setting (yellow gold vs. white gold/platinum). You can save big bucks by going down the color scale but not sacrificing the overall color experience of the diamond.
3. How to get the Biggest Carat Size within Your Budget
Another common mistake that first-time diamond shoppers make is to get stuck in the numbers game of carat size. The diamond industry knows that and benefits from this thinking by setting the biggest price jumps at even carat intervals (ie, 0.50ct, 1.00ct, 1.50ct, etc). It’s as if the diamond industry is telling us, “you want to be able to say you have a one carat diamond? Pay for it!”
A cheaper and more intelligent approach is to get a ring that looks like it’s one carat but is actually just under one carat. The difference between a 0.95 carat diamond and a 1 carat diamond is barely noticeable to your naked eye, but is highly noticeable to your wallet!
Figure out how small you can go while ensuring the center stone still stays in the general vicinity of carat size that your future fiance has in mind.
4. Optical Illusion: Use the Ring Setting to Make the Diamond Look Bigger
While the solitaire setting will always be classic and elegant, there are ways to make the diamond look bigger. Consider setting the center stone with smaller accent side-stones or in the middle of a halo of smaller diamonds — a circle of diamonds that encircles the center stone. The size of the smaller accent diamonds will make the relative size of the center stone seem much larger than it actually is.
Another trick we’ve been seeing more of lately, is to buy a less common shape, like an oval, pear, or marquise, and setting it on its side. By setting any of these shapes sideways, the diamond appears much longer than it actually is. In addition to making the diamond look bigger, these non-conventional settings also make the ring truly unique — a nice side benefit if you’re looking for something more custom-made.
5. Buy Online
And finally, you don’t need to leave home to shop for the diamond. One of the most significant ways to save money when buying a diamond engagement ring is to do it online. The quality, selection, and cost available at e-retailers today simply cannot be matched by mom-and-pop jewelry stores or big name chain franchises.
In a brick-and-mortar store you are limited to the store’s small inventory and high costs, due to substantially higher overhead charges — like employee salaries, rent, insurance, utilities, etc.
Now it’s becoming increasingly easier and smarter to make diamond purchases online with virtual loupes that allow you to see magnified pictures of the diamonds. This breakthrough in diamond shopping technology is really a vast improvement over the old way of making a decision solely based on the diamond’s certification grading.
Figure out your budget, diamond shape, and style of setting, and then use these five tips to get the best possible deal. Ultimately, the more you educate yourself, the more money you will be able to save — and thus make this potentially frustrating purchase into an enjoyable one.
Ira Weissman is a diamond industry veteran with a decade of experience at one of the world’s largest diamond polishers. He has traveled the world buying and selling diamonds and now dedicates his time to helping consumers make the most of their diamond buying decisions.