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How to Strike a Deal on an Engagement Ring This Holiday Season

By Erik Folgate

Men, Listen up.  Many men ask their significant other to marry them during the holiday season.  This means that numerous clueless men are looking for engagement rings as we speak.  I was like you about 3 years ago.  I was on a budget, but I wanted to get my girl a ring that she would be proud to show off to her friends.  I did a ton of research, and now I am going to pass off my wisdom to my fellow gender. 

1.  Stay out of the retail jewelry stores.  Men like convenience, so they are naturally attracted to the name-brand retail jewelry stores.  Let’s put it this way – The moment you step into that store, you are a minnow, and the salespeople are the sharks.  Believe me, you will be eaten alive, unless you really know what you are talking about.  My guess is that you won’t know what you’re talking about.  Again, stay away from the retail stores.  The mark-up on these rings are astronomical. 

2.  Know the four C’s.  Knowledge is power, and if you know something about diamonds, it will help you negotiate better.  The four C’s of a diamdon are as follows:  Cut, Clarity, Color, and Carat Weight.  Most of us are familiar with carat weight.  Basically, the bigger the diamond, the higher the carat weight.  Girls want two things in a diamond.  They want it to be big and sparkly.  Carat weight takes care of the “big” part, but the other three C’s affect the “sparkle” factor of the diamond.  The way that a diamond is cut affects the way that the diamond refracts light.  The clarity and the color of the diamond affect the cloudiness of the diamond.   Go here to study the charts for clarity and color. 

3.  Shop for diamonds online.  E-tailers have less overhead than brick-and-mortar retail stores, therefore they have lower prices.  There are many reputable online jewelers nowadays, so don’t feel weird about buying a diamond over the internet.  Browse sites like Amazon, Overstock, Blue Nile, Ice Store, and many others out there that sell engagement rings and individual diamonds. 

Okay, if you follow those three steps, then you are ready to start saving money on a ring.  My first rule for saving on a ring is figuring out your fiance’s preferences.  Find out whether she would rather have a really nice band, or a really nice diamond.  If you are on a budget, then you are going to have to sacrifice one of the two.  Personally, I think that you should focus on spending the majority on a nice diamond, because that is the most symbolic part of the ring.  You know the saying, “A diamond lasts forever”… and your marriaige will too if you follow this advice.  If you go with a nice diamond, then look for something in between the .75 ct and 1 ct range.  A .85 carat diamond looks about the same size as a 1 carat, but it is hundreds of dollars cheaper.  Also, you can shave even more money off the price tag by going with middle-of-the-road clarity and color.  Find a diamond with a color between the H,I,J,K or L range.  You will not be able to tell the difference in color from higher grades.  Then, find a diamond between VS1 – SI2 range of clarity.  These imperfections are not visible to the naked eye and they reduce the price of a diamond significantly.  If your woman want a pavet setting, then make sure you spend the majority of your money on the setting and get her a .40 - .50 ct diamond with the same color and clarity specifications.  The diamond always looks bigger in a setting with dozens of smaller diamonds.  Next, buy the diamond and the setting separately.  This is one of the few times that buying separately is better.  Find a diamond dealer or shop at the internet stores listed above.  The best part about buying the diamond separately is that you can customize what kind of diamond you want.  Jewelry stores give you limited choices in size, color, and clarity.  Lastly, negotiate your price.  You might not be able to do this with an internet store, but if you find a dealer, you can tell them your budget and see what they can do for you.  Don’t be bashful.  If you educate yourself first, then you’ll have more negotiating power. 

Erik Folgate
Erik and his wife, Lindzee, live in Orlando, Florida with a baby boy on the way. Erik works as an account manager for a marketing company, and considers counseling friends, family and the readers of Money Crashers his personal ministry to others. Erik became passionate about personal finance and helping others make wise financial decisions after racking up over $20k in credit card and student loan debt within the first two years of college.

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  • Harm

    Newlyweds-to-be of the world, unite! DON’T get engagement rings, and get plain wedding rings.
    Engagement rings are a really sucky deal, especially if you go for the jewellers ripoff guidelines
    of 3 mo. salary. Are they kidding? And on a personal finance blog, too, LoL. Skip the ring, put a
    few more mortgage payments in the bank….or a start on future kids education funds, or
    retirement….I hate bling of any sort, personally….especially if folks go into debt, which it’s hard
    not to do at that age, with that large and useless a purchase. Just my opinion, of course.

  • biz

    Just skip the ring. esp the diamond, and if you get one anyway and its from DeBeers, God will kill a kitten.

    Get a fake one to ‘show-off’ to friends and family.

  • http://theweightofmoney.com donna jean

    I must agree with skipping the ring. However, the partner insisted that he had to give me one, so we used a family ring instead of buying a new one. In our case, it was a ring my grandmother gave me years ago and he had it cleaned and resized so it fit perfectly. I love wearing it every day and I love that it didn’t cost anything.

    Oh, and for the wedding rings, we made our own titanium bands – they cost $14. :)

  • http://www.lazymanandmoney.com Lazy Man and Money

    The smartest thing I did was to go Price Scope. It’s a search engine for online diamonds and the prices are often 30-50% less than Amazon or Blue Nile. When I got it appraised the appraisor couldn’t believe the deal I got. He showed me his connection to the NY Wholesale Diamond Exchange (I think that what it was called) and found only one for the price that I got that was near the quality. He said this is the best price he could do with his license and being in the business for 20 years.

    The Price Scope forums are particularly helpful.

    If you can get away without getting a ring, it’s a good plan. My fiancee had been deprived of every luxury that her peers had growing up as her parents wasted lots of money never saving anything. It was my biggest opportunity to say, “I understand how that often made you feel second best growing up, so here’s a symbol that you will always be first best at least to me.”

  • http://www.erikfolgate.com erik.folgate

    I would feel really weird not buying my wife an engagement ring. I know that it is just a tradition, and jewelers have done a great job making us think that it is ESSENTIAL to buy your fiance an engagement ring, but I think most girls do want one. Unless my wife had insisted up and down not to get her one, then I would have probably done it. Girls like having that symbol that they are taken by the man they want to marry.

  • mjh

    “Girls like having that symbol that they are taken by the man they want to marry”

    and some girls really, really, don’t like it. Personally, I could only ever afford a really shitty ring, neither me nor my fiancee are all that materialistic and diamondy, we don’t like the idea of small African child slaves mining them for our gratification….

    so I got her this instead
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mojohealy/122899666/in/set-72057594134002886/
    it’s a pendant symbolising eternity and the comingling of lives, carved from native New Zealand jade and bought in the small town that we call our home.

    I had to put up with all the naysayers that said the diamond was the only way to go… all they were doing was showing their ignorance in mine and Jen’s personality. Do what’s right for you, and for her, and that might not always be an obscene diamond.

  • Jill

    @Eric…

    I think that you are dead on. If your future wife expresses that she really doesn’t believe in that tradition then it makes sense to honor the tradition and not get her one.

    For those who have comments expressing that it is basically pointless to get one, consider this:
    By your logic the wedding is pointless – and how many of you elected to do more than get the document at the courthouse?!?!

    Customs and traditions are important to varying degrees to different people. One has no right to make value judgments to others about how important they should be.

    Thanks for the great information Eric, Ill be sure to share this site with my fiance!

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