Engagement Rings – An Engaging Proposition
An Engaging Proposition; And, of Course, the Ring to Go With It
Well, it’s that time of year again. Saturday, February 14 Valentine’s Day 2015. Local florists are stocking up on roses, towers of candy-filled heart boxes are teetering in drugstore aisles, and Cupid’s bow and arrow are at the ready. And inevitably, lots of lucky ladies will have their beloved slip a glittering diamond on their left hand this Valentine’s Day and pop that big question. But what about shopping for the engagement rings?
With all this emphasis on amour, the practical matter of finding the perfect engagement ring is often overlooked. Stereotypically, organizing weddings have long been the province of women, and the engagement process the domain of men. But locating that special token of love is not always an easy task.
Although buying one ring might pale in comparison with planning an entire wedding, at least women can rely on scads of bridal magazines and tips from Mom to figure out the dos and don’ts. Men, on the other hand, usually don’t sit down with Dad and have a man-to-man discussion about diamonds, or engagement rings.
There are no hard-and-fast rules when it comes to buying an engagement ring, and there are no Miss Manners or Martha Stewarts to help these mystified males. In fact, it seems like the male approach to finding the perfect diamond is as distinctive as a diamond itself.
Look at Derek Daniels, a research assistant at George Mason University and soon-to-be groom. He was so confident in his assessment of his girlfriend’s taste in jewelry, he bought her a 1/3-carat solitaire after only one visit to a jeweler in his hometown of Buffalo. He may not have consulted with his fiancee, Jennifer Gambino, on the style she preferred, but he did bring along his mother for the final purchase. “I know the kind of person she is. Simple taste, nothing too glitzy or fancy,” says Daniels, 23. “She was so surprised. I had never looked at rings with her before. I did the shopping all on my own.”
Daniels didn’t plunge into this situation completely clueless, however. “I did make sure she’d say yes,” he confided. And Gambino’s reaction? “I would assume she was pleased,” says Daniels. “She cried, and then she called everyone she knew. Then she cried some more.” Although Daniels’s modus operandi in the ring department was an undisputed romantic success, it is unusual, according to Sarah Walters, vice president of Tiffany and Co. “These days there is little surprise in getting an engagement ring,” says Walters. “A large number of women shop to determine what they like. After they determine style and size, the intended man usually will make the final decision.” “The days are gone when guys walk in and say, ‘That looks good, I’ll take it.’ They really shop around,” says David Boone, vice president of Boone and Sons.
According to several local jewelers, most men won’t ask their girlfriends their engagement rings preferences point-blank. Instead, they turn into would-be detectives. “The main thing I hear from guys who come in without the girl is, ‘We went to the mall and she sorta picked things she liked out of the window.’ The guys try to do it on the sly,” says Boone. “Women definitely know what they’re doing, though.”
For those first-time diamond buyers, Boone and Walters suggest a man find a jeweler he trusts and educate himself a little about diamonds before he actually purchases one. If a man is determined to pick out a engagement rings without any helpful hints from his future bride, Boone suggests he put all his money in a single diamond. The mounting can always be changed later, so if you are unsure of what your lady likes, it’s best to go with a classic, like a solitaire, he says.
Diamond engagement rings can range in price from a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands. Many jewelers, like Walters, suggest that buyers use the “two-month salary” guideline to determine what they can afford. According to this standard, someone making $ 20,000 per year would shell out roughly $ 3,300 for a ring. Boone, who says the average engagement rings in his District store sell for between $ 3,000 and $ 4,000, is wary of this principle. “I don’t say not to use it,” says Boone. “But God didn’t make up this two-month guideline — it’s not etched in stone. I say spend what you can afford.”
Some guys may think they’ve bypassed this whole nerve-racking process if they luck into a family heirloom. But David Koppelman, 25, says this is not always the case. Koppelman, an Arlington elementary school teacher, had his maternal grandmother’s diamond ring redesigned before presenting it to Katie Dellinger in August. “I went three or four times to the jeweler to get settings and to add diamonds,” says Koppelman. “So I still had to make visits even though I had the central stone.” But Koppelman didn’t mind the extra effort. “It’s a lifelong decision,” he says. “I wanted to make it as beautiful as possible.”
Buying a diamond isn’t just a romantic endeavor; it’s a financial investment as well. And many men, like Tom Gorman, 25, try to carefully balance practicality and passion. Gorman, who is currently completing payments for a one-carat oval diamond set in white-gold, did some pre-ring shopping with his fiancee, Tracey Tarkington. But to keep a little romance alive, he says, “she doesn’t know how much it cost, how much I’m paying or when she’s getting it.” So why all the pretense? It’s 2014, right?
Doesn’t a woman ever go into a store and simply buy the ring herself? Rarely. Call it archaic, but tradition seems to prevail in this area. “In all my years of business, there are maybe three that I remember,” says Boone of women buying their own engagement rings. “And those marriages didn’t last more than a year.”
And if your marriage proposal is rejected, your ego may be wounded, but at least your checkbook won’t be — many stores have a 30-day return policy for engagement rings. Of course, for the truly skittish, there’s always the rental route. According to Eric Diaz, manager of a Rent-a-Center in Boston, the demand for rented engagement rings at his store is so great, he had to reorder the case twice in three months. Weekly rentals start at $ 12.99 for a 1/6 carat diamond and can go up to $ 29.99 for two carats. Fifty two weeks later, the ring is yours. “Sometimes you get people who come in and don’t want their lady to know it’s a rental,” Diaz admits. “Some women say they don’t want it if it’s a rental, but others say if it’s the only way to get one, it’s okay with them.” Many women would agree with Tracey Tarkington, however: “I would be very upset — I’d lose it in a big way. . . . I think I like the traditional way of getting a ring much better.”
Before you buy a rock:
There are no set rules for buying a diamond engagement ring, but the American Gem Society, located in Las Vegas, offers first-time buyers suggestions for buying a diamond. Among them:
- Be confident in your jeweler. Make sure he or she will talk with you openly about what type of diamond you want, and the price you want to pay.
- Know the 4C’s — cut, color, clarity, carat-weight. They explain why diamonds that look identical can vary widely in value: * Cut. A well-cut diamond is better able to handle light and therefore has more brilliance and sparkle. The six most popular shapes are round, marquise, oval, pear, square and emerald. * Color. The less color a diamond has, the rarer it is. A colorless stone allows white light to pass through it, distributing rainbows of color. * Clarity. Most diamonds contain natural birthmarks called inclusions. The fewer the inclusions and blemishes, the more valuable the stone. * Carat-weight. The carat is the unit weight for diamonds. One carat is divided into 100 “points,” so a diamond with 75 points weighs .75 carats.
- Be aware that gradations within each of the 4 C’s make up an infinite number of combinations to determine a diamond’s value.
- The solitaire, or single-stone, ring is the best buy because almost all of the ring’s value is in one diamond.
- When buying other pieces of diamond jewelry, remember that the cost depends not only on the diamonds but also on the other materials and workmanship of the piece. From the gem society’s Ten Tips for Buying a Diamond.
For more information, call the American Gem Society, 800-341-6214.