Engagement Ring Buying Tips

Score the perfect engagement ring with this timely advice from Boston-area jewelers. By Alex Stoller

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Platinum ring with cushion-cut diamond, starting at $5,000, Royal Jewelers / Courtesy photo

Ready to propose? We asked Boston-area jewelers for tips on purchasing the perfect engagement ring for your beloved. Consider them the new rules for ring buying.

Be a Spy
Before stepping foot in a store, get a feel for the kind of jewelry your loved one likes. “We have guys who take pictures of what they see on their girlfriend’s dressing tables,” says Megan Flynn of M. Flynn. To speed up the process, ask questions. “Clients will ask sisters or brothers or moms what his girlfriend really likes—but asking your girlfriend directly is most effective.” And, make sure you know the right ring size by polling close family and friends, or by borrowing one of her sparklers for your appointment.

Shop in Silence
It’s OK to go into a jewelry boutique and simply look at the different stones and ring styles, says Flynn. There is no need to talk to anyone—rather, take some time to figure out a price range and to get an idea of what the process will look like. Watch other ring buyers to see how they interact with the store’s consultants.

Have a Budget
The “three-month salary” rule (in other words, spending one-fourth of your annual pay on a ring) doesn’t necessarily apply anymore, says Flynn. Instead, settle on a budget you are comfortable with. Even a general price range helps to make the search process more efficient, says Paula Leed of Royal Jewelers.

Prioritize the Cs
Carat (a diamond’s weight), color (the diamond’s hue), cut (the angles and proportions of the stone), and clarity (imperfections, or lack thereof) make up the infamous four Cs. Learn these characteristics, then decide which one(s) matter the most to you and your loved one to help guide the stone hunt, says Brian Walker of Shreve, Crump & Low.

Seek Sparkle
Diamonds are eye-catching and attention-grabbing. When they hit the light at the right angle, they sparkle—that’s the “WOW factor” according to Leed. “When it’s on his or her finger, it’s either beautiful or it’s not,” she says. “You’ll know when you see the right one.”

Know Your Metals
A diamond alone doesn’t make a ring—the metal setting is just as important. Traditional options include yellow gold, rose gold, white gold, and platinum. And it’s not just an aesthetic choice—each metal has different attributes, Flynn and Leed say. Platinum, for example, is stronger than gold, so if the ring recipient is very active or hard on his or her jewelry, it may be your best bet. Platinum also makes diamonds look whiter, Flynn adds.

Think Outside the (Ring) Box
If you can’t find the perfect ring, consider a custom piece. There’s something special about designing your own bauble and knowing no one else has it, Walker says. And it’s not just princess-cut solitaires anymore—people are looking for cocktail-esque stunners using gemstones instead of (or in addition to) diamonds, and opting for sparklers that feature fun and unique shapes and stone configurations, Flynn says.

Give it Time
Know that some jewelers will let you leave the store with the ring that day, while others can might need weeks to set the stones and perfect the piece. Don’t rush the process—enjoy the ride.