Engagement Rings for Dummies

Unlike most women my age, I knew nothing about jewelry. So my fiancé, who was equally clueless, did not get any hints from me when it came to buying an engagement ring.

After getting engaged,  he told me how google became his bestfriend and how he poured thru numerous jewelry sites and had several consultations with married/engaged friends while he was figuring out what ring to get me.  He proudly related how he shaved off a significant amount because of some tips he had learned (he knows I inherited my dad’s kuripot genes and would not get offended by his tipid methods).

Sharing with you some things I learned about what to consider when buying an engagement ring:

 Setting a budget:

I heard early on that the proper etiquette for your ring budget is to allot 3 months worth of your salary. Personally, I think you should buy whatever ring that you could comfortably afford without selling your body in Quezon Ave. Buying an engagement ring isn’t the end- all and be-all afterall. You still have to plan a wedding (which I found out later on is also ridiculously expensive). And even if you’re lucky enough to have wealthy parents who will gladly shoulder all wedding-related expenses, you still need to plan for a future (I don’t think any decent mom and dad would allow you to mooch off them forever).

But then again, in my opinion, if you are going to spend on something, the engagement ring should be on your priority list. . Flowers wilt. Food can be eaten. But diamonds are forever. Naks. Seriously, consider it an investment that you can pass on to your children.

Where to buy:

Presuming you’re not planning to buy your ring overseas, you have a multitude of options within the Philippines:

Designer rings.  Thanks to the Ayalas, Cartier and Harry Winston are just a mall away. I think you can also find select designs from various designers in jewelry stores inside Metro Manila’s 5-star hotels. The pros of buying designer jewelry are; the extra “wow” factor you get from your future fiance, as well as family and friends when they find out where your ring came from and the assurance that they only carry the best stones in the most exquisite settings.

The down side? The exorbitant amount that you have to pay just to get that “wow factor”. In my very, humble stingy opinion, it really isn’t worth it. If you forego the designer label, you can probably get a diamond that’s triple the size for the same amount. Plus, unless your fiancée plans to carry the box around her neck, chances are, very few people in your life will know that it’s a designer ring. But then again, maybe I’m being entirely practical because right now I can’t afford it. Please remind me of this blog when I become the next Oprah and I deck myself out from head to toe in Tiffany  😛

Regular Jewelry Shops. My fiancé bought my ring in Karat World, a popular jewelry shop with several branches in different malls.  A ring in Karat world is much, much less expensive than a designer ring. But you still have to pay a premium,  because unlike your mom’s go-to jewelry lady, the shop would need to pay an overhead for rent, electricity, employees etc. My college friend convinced my fiancé to go through this route because you’re assured of the authenticity of the information that they give you.  For clueless people like us who don’t know how to discern a real diamond from a fake one, this kind of assurance was much needed. They even have this machine that lights up whenever you place a real diamond in it. Plus, they give you an authenticity card that lists down the qualities of your stone just so you know it’s legit.  Pretty cool.

Bridal Fairs. This is another avenue worth exploring if you want to save a few bucks. Bridal fairs give pretty fantastic discounts especially when you give a downpayment on the spot. My brother claims they saved 50% on their wedding rings because they chose to book during the bridal fair. Be prepared to fight your way through a throng of competitive brides and pushy suppliers however. Bridal fairs have the same vibe as bazaars in Greenhills two weeks before Christmas. Plus, it would help if you research about the jewelers first before you part with your hard-earned money. They usually come up with a list of suppliers on their website months before the actual event, so you have plenty of time to do your due diligence.

Individual Jewelers/Alaheras. In the Philippines, every mommy, tita or friend has a go-to jeweler. I’m sure you know the ones that I’m talking about. They  make it a point to make housecalls  every so often to tempt mom with trinkets, and mom ends up buying a bunch and hiding it from  dad (Tee-hee, I think I’m speaking from my own personal experience). The great thing about getting it from a jeweler is that they are more willing to give great terms because they’ve formed a relationship with their suki. Plus, most of the time, you can get it for cheaper because they don’t have a store to maintain. You need to have good jewelry-know-how however, in order to ensure that you’re getting your money’s worth. And sometimes, because these “alaheras” are also resellers of other “alaheras”,  there’s very little price difference as opposed to buying it in a store.

Ring Size:

I think a lot of guys have gotten creative when it comes to getting the right ring size of their girlfriends. My bestfriend’s former fiancé (now her husband) asked for my help with this. After getting her sister in on the scheme, we stole an heirloom ring that she only wears during special occasions. It was with him for a couple of weeks, and I was super scared she was gonna start looking for it. Luckily, she didn’t. And because I was practically a mainstay at their house, I was able to breeze in her room and return it without anybody knowing any better.

My fiancé, on the other hand, while we were in some bazaar, insisted that he wanted to buy me accessories. He was pointing out a black butterfly ring with adjustable “straps”. He fixed it for me so it would fit.  He was banking on me being a spaz and forgetting all about it.  Sure enough, I left it in his house the same day we bought it so he was able to give it to the jeweler.

It might be worth it to go through the trouble of getting your girlfriend’s exact ring size instead of just estimating it. Not only does it kinda ruin the moment when you try to slip a too-tight ring on her finger,  but I also heard that some jewelers charge extra for resizing.

Just a tip though, it’s also a good idea to make it a tad bit (emphasis on the tad bit, you don’t want it to fall off) bigger than her actual ring size. Unfortunately, most of us will get bigger especially when we start getting babies. And nothing will make us  feel more forlorn than not having our engagement ring fit when we’re fat and hormonal.

Setting:

The setting is the actual band that carries your engagement stone. Here are certain things to consider when choosing a setting:

Metal used. The most common is gold, in various colors and carats. The most popular are yellow gold, white gold & rose gold. Some people even use a combination of all three.  The actual color of the gold will depend on the other metals mixed in with it. For instance, white gold is a combination of gold, silver, palladium and rhodium, while yellow gold has copper and zinc.

Yellow gold (left most), white gold (middle), rose gold engagement rings. Picture courtesy of http://www.mazaldiamond.com

If gold is a bit too common for you, you can invest in a platinum or titanium ring. Both are more expensive than your usual bands because they’re supposedly “purer” and more durable.

Platinum looks pretty much like white gold maybe just a shinier and heavier.  According to diamondsourceva.com, although platinum is much more durable than gold, minor scatches are more visible for these bands. Rings made of this particular metal would also take longer to resize.

Platinum engagement ring from mcdiamonds.com

Titanium on the other hand has a grayish hue and is said to be lighter than gold. Jewelers claim that it’s also hypoallergenic and will not cause any kind of reaction to any type of skin. The downside for using titanium is that it’s much harder to work with, so you can’t have intricate or uber complicated designs in your setting.

titanium engagement ring from tirings.com

Purity. For gold, karat refers to the purity, or how much actual gold is in your band. Most engagement bands come in 9, 14 and 18k. The higher the karat, the purer your band. According to a very knowledgeable friend, don’t get an engagement band that is more than 18k.  Apparently, the higher the gold density, the softer it is. And since engagement rings are worn everyday, it will come out more durable if you have more metals mixed in it.

For platinum, purity ranges from Pt 1000 to Pt 850. Anything Pt 950 above is considered high-grade. The purity of platinum is usually stamped in the band so you can easily tell what grade it is.

As for titanium, the ones that usually work well for jewelry are Ti-6/6/2 (extra hard titanium) and CP-4.

Width of the band.  Regardless of what metal you choose, thinner bands are usually the best especially when you want to highlight your main stone or make it look bigger.  Thicker bands however,  are usually sturdier. So I guess it’s just a matter of finding the right balance depending on the type of ring that you choose.

Band design Although plain bands are more common and considered much more elegant, you can play around with the design of the band to give it a bit more character. You can get something more intricate like the eternity band or you can even have little gem stones to compliment your main stone. A word of caution when picking your bedazzled ones though,  make sure you get a sturdy setting.  As mentioned earlier, engagement rings are worn everyday, and  I’ve heard of friends losing a diamond or two because it got dislodged when they were going about their usual routine.

an eternity ring has diamonds studded all around the band. Photo courtesy of 2diamonds.com

The gem stone.

The traditional stone for engagement rings (even wedding rings come to think of it) are diamonds. Some people opt for something unique however and choose different gems such as their birthstones or a gem in their favorite color. While I think this is a marvelous idea, my party pooper friend rained on my parade and told me that it won’t match all of my outfits if I get a stone that isn’t  a diamond. Might be worth exploring however especially since most, if not all of these gems are less expensive than diamonds.

If you still want diamonds, here are some options that you need to consider:

Cut. Clarity and Color from ygraph.com

Cut: Honestly, before I got engaged, I couldn’t tell the difference among the different diamond cuts. I would just pretend to nod knowledgeably whenever my friends discussed why they prefer certain cuts to the other. But it’s pretty easy to research. The cut refers to the shape of the diamond. In the Philippines, the most readily available ones are round, princess, heart and emerald. You can also opt for the radiant, pillow/cushion, pear or ascher. Among all the cuts, the princess, round and radiant have the most facets so it’s extra sparkly. The emerald has the least, but it’s the most elegant.

Carat: For diamonds, carat is spelled with a c and refers to how heavy or how large the stone is. Please don’t cheat and count the other stones surrounding the band. Usually, the main stone is well, the main attraction, and each diamond is weighed separately. I think the standard size for most engagement rings in the Philippines is 1 carat. Although I heard in the States, it’s 1.46 (Wooooow). My fiancé gave me a pretty nifty tipid tip. Apparently you can shave off thousands and thousands (even a hundred thousand at times) if you get a diamond that is just a few points smaller. For instance, a 1.43 carat ring will look practically the same as  a 1.5 carat. But the price difference can amount to a downpayment of a modest car. Pretty significant savings if you ask me!

Clarity. Clarity refers to the how flawless your diamond is and whether it has blemishes (surface level impurities such as cracks from cutting etc) or inclusions (internal flaws/minerals found inside the stone). This ranges from F to I3.From what I understand of diamond-speak, clarity also dictates how sparkly your diamond is. The more flaws, the less sparkle.  As a rule of thumb, diamonds graded until SI don’t really show visible signs of imperfections. You have to get one of those cool magnifying glasses to see them.

Color. Color refers to how white the diamond is. Think of it like teeth. The whiter your teeth are, the better. The more yellow or brown, the less attractive. 😛 (Except ofcourse if you actually wanna go for colored diamonds a la Paris Hilton).  Diamond colors range from D to X. Decent ones are up to the J-M range, although you could already see a hint of yellow in these. Nifty tip: According to diamondbuyingguide.com, If you opt for a white gold or platinum band, it might be best to invest in whiter diamonds because tinges of yellow are more visible for these types of settings.

Hope reading all this information was worth your time. Please check  pictures and links for extra information. Happy engagement ring hunting ! 🙂

I may not know anything about engagement rings but I instantly knew mine was perfect

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