Buying an engagement ring can be a pretty scary process, especially with the multitude of ring designs and types on the market. When visiting a jeweller to buy an engagement ring, two questions are always asked: "What kind of ring do you want?" and "What's your budget?" Getting an idea of both of these will give you a rough idea about whether the ring you're looking at is over-priced or a bargain.
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Work out what ring size you need. A sneaky way to do this is to get a ring belonging to your intended fiancée to use as a rough guide. A ring worn on the left third finger will be the most accurate since ring sizes vary depending on which finger the ring is worn on and which hand. It's easier for a jeweller to make a ring smaller than bigger, so bare this in mind.
Decide what material the band will be made from. Options include gold, white gold, platinum and palladium. Gold is the traditional choice for engagement rings and is the only golden coloured band as the others are silver in colour. White gold will need to be re-plated every ten years or so and platinum is the most expensive. Palladium has similar properties to platinum, but is as yet ungraded as a precious metal, thus it costs less.
Consider what kind of stone you would like. Diamonds are the most popular choice, but other options include rubies, emeralds and pearls.
Think about the number of stones your ring will have. One large stone is the most common design, but there are many others to choose from. One central stone flanked by two smaller stones or a cluster of smaller gems are also popular designs.
Choose the cut or shape of the stone you prefer. There are several standard cuts for gemstones. Brilliant is a multi-faceted round stone, which makes the gem appear bigger. Emerald cut is a rectangular stone which tends to be set vertically on a band. A princess cut stone is one that is square.
Work out a budget for the ring. Once you've looked around to decide on the design, you'll have a rough idea of costs for an engagement ring. Traditionally, a prospective groom is said to spend a month's wages on a ring, but this varies.
Shop around. With budget and design in mind, visit local jewellery shops and online stores to get the best deal you can. Agreeing provisionally to buy wedding bands from the jeweller can get you a discount on the engagement ring.
Buy the ring. Some jewellers offer a "lay away" system where you can pay weekly or monthly until you've paid off the value of the ring. This is increasingly rare these days as people tend to use their own credit cards to do the same thing. Other jewellers have "buy now, pay later" schemes, where interest is added on top of the ring amount. Financing in terms of loans is also available or you could open a savings account and put a set amount of your salary away each month until you've reached your target amount.
Tips and warnings
- The metal used for an engagement ring will dictate the metal used for the wedding band.
- The weight of a gem stone is measured in carats.
- Diamonds are graded by colour, carat, cut and clarity, with the most white and clear at the highest end of the price range.
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