How To Buy An Engagement Ring

A woman's hands slipping on her engagement ring.
Worthy Staff

By Worthy Staff | Jan 31st, 2023

For almost anyone who gets engaged, a marriage proposal is one of the most important and memorable experiences of their lives. But the perfect proposal is incomplete without the perfect engagement ring. This can make buying an engagement ring both an incredibly exciting but also intimidating process.

There are several reasons why buying a ring can be so daunting. For one, the cost can be prohibitive for many young couples. The average one carat engagement ring costs around $5,000. But most couples spend more. Common wisdom suggests spending at least three months worth of your salary. Pressure to choose the perfect ring, fear of making the wrong choice, and the overwhelming volume of choices can all combine to make you want to put off buying an engagement ring indefinitely.

However, buying an engagement ring doesn’t have to be scary or overwhelming. Like many things in life, all it takes is the proper preparation. If you follow the right steps, you can skip most of the overwhelming aspects and focus on the fun part – surprising your partner with a once in a lifetime piece of jewelry.

Worthy has compiled the steps you should take in order to have a better experience buying an engagement ring. Follow these steps to find the perfect ring that your partner will love and cherish.

Step 1: Figure Out Your Engagement Ring Budget

For many people, buying an engagement ring is a large financial expenditure. Outside of your house and car, it may be one of your more expensive single purchases in a lifetime. For this reason, having a budget in mind – and generally sticking to it – is one of the most important things you can do.

But how can you figure out your budget? And do you really have to spend at least three times your monthly salary on an engagement ring? The first question is more complicated, but the answer to the second question is a hard “no”. You should spend as much or as little on an engagement ring as makes sense for you, your partner, and your personal situation.

Look At Your Overall Financial Picture

For starters, you need to look at your overall financial situation and determine what is feasible for you personally. For example, if you currently have a financial emergency fund, little debt, and significant retirement savings, you’re probably well positioned to spend a significant sum on an engagement ring. If the opposite situation applies to you, it’s not worth going deeper into debt for the sake of a piece of jewelry.

Know What Her Ideal Ring Costs

Just as importantly, it’s a good idea to understand your partner’s personal ring taste. What your partner actually wants in an engagement ring is not necessarily the largest and priciest diamond on the market. In fact, the average engagement ring diamond is only 1.5 carats in weight.

There are many different factors that go into a person’s fashion sense and understanding your partner’s personal desires will help you figure out how much you might actually need to spend on a ring. This is better than wildly overspending on something your partner doesn’t even want or like very much.

Financing an Engagement Ring

Finally, there may be different payment options and financing plans available for you. These can help bring your overall costs down. Speaking of financing your jewelry, engagement ring loans and financing rates can range on the lower end from 8% to as much as 36%!  So make sure to factor the cost of financing the ring into your budget.

Step 2: Determine What Your Partner Wants In A Ring

Remember, the whole point of buying an engagement ring is to give your partner the best present they will ever receive. For that, you need to have some understanding of what your partner actually wants. And there are two different ways to approach this.

Shop Together or Alone?

The first way is to have your partner completely involved in the process of picking out and buying an engagement ring. This is the easiest way to make sure she will love the ring you pick out. However, with this approach there is no element of surprise.

The other way is to leave your partner out of the process and try to deduce the kind of engagement ring they would want through other means. If you go this route, you will need to do some digging in order to figure out what kind of engagement ring will thrill them. But how do you do this?

Understanding Your Partner’s Style and Tastes

For starters, you should look at your partner’s overall style and fashion sense. Is she interested in classic and simple styles? Or is she modern and daring, complex and adventurous? Understanding her preferences here will help you determine if a classic ring or something more bold is right for her.

In addition to their overall fashion and style, look hard at her jewelry preferences. What kinds of jewelry do they wear on an everyday basis? Does she like simple and classic pieces? Or does she like daring jewelry that makes a statement?

More Clues to Her Ideal Engagement Ring

Sometimes, a partner might drop hints as to what kind of jewelry they like so look for these clues! For example, she may say something like, “I’ve always loved emerald cut diamonds.” Take notes when they drop these hints. Allow these hints to guide you when it’s time to make your decision.

You also don’t need to go this alone. You can ask your partner’s friends and family for their help. Their closest friends likely have great insight into your partner’s personal style. And they likely pick up on things you would miss. Not only can you talk to them, but you can even shop around at stores with them or browse online stores together to gain their insight.

Finally, you can always ask your partner for their engagement ring preferences. However, if you are hoping to surprise them with your proposal, the more time in advance you do this, the better. You can also have an open and honest conversation about your budget. This way they can be forthright about what their realistic preferences would be.

Step 3: Finding The Best Quality Diamond (Within Your Budget)

Now that you have completed steps one and two, your job is to find the best quality* diamond within your budget. When shopping, the best way to determine the true value of a diamond is to look at the famous “Four C’s” of diamond valuation. The four C’s consist of:


A well-cut diamond is what gives the gem its sparkle. It should have great symmetry and reflect light well. Diamonds today are cut to more exacting standards than ever before. The diamond you select should have a certificate from a gem lab with Very Good or Excellent cut, polish, and symmetry grades.


When dealing with traditional colorless or white diamonds, the less color in a diamond, the more the diamond will be worth. Evaluators grade these diamonds on a scale from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow or brown).


Clarity refers to how many inclusions or blemishes a diamond has. A diamond with fewer of these flaws will be worth more. They are graded on a scale from Flawless (no inclusions or blemishes visible under 10x magnification) to Included (inclusions or blemishes are visible to the naked eye).

Carat Weight

Finally, carats are how we measure diamonds in weight. The heavier (and generally therefore larger) the diamond, the more it will be worth. Balanced with the above Color, Cut and Clarity grades. 

Diamond Grading and Quality

It’s important not to focus just on diamond weight or size. Rather, make sure to look at a balance of all 4 c’s and insist on receiving a high-quality grading report with your diamond.

A trusted independent lab like the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) should inspect your diamond and issue  a grading report, ensuring you know exactly what you’re purchasing.

But make sure the grading lab is highly reputable and a trusted agency. There are labs of lesser quality out there, so it is important to do your research.

*Diamond Quality – If you or your partner aren’t a gemologist, a better or poorer quality diamond will probably look the same to you and will look just as beautiful when worn.

However, you are putting a significant amount of time and money toward finding the perfect ring. So, understanding the quality of the diamond your buying will give you some peace of mind.

And having this knowledge when you go to buy the ring will show the jeweler or diamond dealer that you know what you’re talking about. Therefore, you’re less likely to get taken advantage of.

A Note on Gemstone Engagement Rings

Traditionally, engagement rings are diamond rings. But there are many people who choose a non-traditional stone. This can be another gemstone, such as rubies, sapphires, or emeralds. Although diamonds are the most popular choice, budget constraints and your partner’s wishes may help influence you to pursue a gemstone engagement ring instead.

Sometimes a person will prefer gemstone engagement rings because they have some powerful symbolism or meaning. For example, a sapphire or emerald might be that person’s birthstone. Or maybe it has some special meaning to your particular love story. This can make the ring more sentimental or personal and, therefore, even more special.

Generally, the purer the color of the gemstone, the more valuable it will be and the higher the price. The color of the gem is the most important feature for determining its value. 

Step 4: Choosing A Setting

The engagement ring setting is the part of the ring that holds the diamond in place. There are many different types of settings to choose from. These include prong, bezel, and halo. And there are different factors in place when you decide which setting is right for your ring.

For starters, you should once again be taking your partner’s personal style into consideration. But there are other practical concerns. Sometimes the size or shape of the diamond will determine which type of setting will best fit the gem. For example, round diamonds often look best in a classic prong setting. But an oval or pear-shaped diamond might look better in a halo setting.

Larger stones may need larger and more powerful looking settings to compliment their larger size. Smaller stones may be overwhelmed by an elaborate setting and would rather need something small, classic, and simple.

The material of the wedding band is also important. The most common options are 14 karat or 18 karat yellow gold, white gold, rose gold alloy mixes, platinum, or palladium settings.  Again, this may come down to the personal preference of your partner and the overall look and feel of the setting and diamond.

Finally, you should take the durability of the setting into account. If your partner plans to wear the ring during everyday life, including during daily activities, sports or manual labor, a more durable and secure setting becomes more important.

Step 5: How To Get The Best Price for Your Ring

Engagement rings are a large purchase. And you are working within some kind of budget constraint. So you will always want to get the best price for your ring. But how can you do this? There are a number of steps you can take to get the best deal.

Shop Around

For starters, don’t purchase the engagement from the first place you look. You need to shop around. You can look at a variety of local jewelry stores, exchanges, and online jewelers to compare styles and prices. You may be able to negotiate down the price of a ring you love.

Also, choose a reputable jeweler. This will ensure you are buying a high quality ring and not being ripped off by the retailer. You can check their reputation online with review sites like Google or Facebook reviews. And for local stores, you can ask around and see what people in your area have to say about their experiences. 

Pre-Owned and Used Engagement Rings

There are also a number of pre-owned buying options. Buying a pre-owned engagement ring can save you money versus purchasing a new ring. In this case, both the setting and the diamond were previously owned. These rings are often less expensive then newly-made rings as you avoid the cost of the labor to create and set the ring.

However, if you choose this route,  make sure to thoroughly inspect the ring setting for any damage, wear or tear sustained by the previous owner and buy from a reputable jewelry retailer rather than a pawn shop or consignment store.

Recycled Diamonds

Another option is to purchase a recycled diamond in a new setting. Recycled diamonds are diamonds which are pre-owned but have been removed from their original setting and placed in a new one.

Choosing this route gives you more originality with your setting choice while cutting costs when it comes to the diamond. 

Worthy Staff

Worthy Staff

The Worthy Blog is a place for inspiration, insight, and advice for all things surrounding life's greatest transitions - divorce, losing a loved one, retirement, and so much more. You can find us on our blog, Instagram, and Facebook.


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