Ask the Expert

Five Tips for Finding Your Bride the Perfect Engagement Ring

Are you ready to pop the question? Kelly Mitchell, owner of Kelly Mitchell Fine Jewelry & Gifts, gives us everything you need to know before buying the ring.

1. Know what she wants.
Do some reconnaissance on the kind of ring she really wants. Such as: What shape does she like? The two most common shapes requested are rounds and squares. The star of today is the cushion cut—a rounded square. Also: What size does she want? Is one carat a winner or is she expecting two, three, or more carats? Think about what color is satisfactory. Does it need to be collection color or is a bit of color okay? Clarity choices: Is she expecting a flawless diamond or is a slight inclusion acceptable? If she doesn’t know, I would recommend the following starting point for most first marriages: Look at a 1.0- to 1.5-carat cushion cut in G to H color with clarity of SI1. In all cases, I highly recommend a GIA certified diamond. Your insurance company will thank you.

2. Get real with a budget.
How much are you willing to spend? The age-old adage of spending three months’ salary is passé–just establish your number.

3. Make some informed trade-offs.
Most of the time, the budget is a little less than the actual cost of your dream diamond. The reality is that with a few informed trade-offs, you can get really close to the dream and not overshoot the budget. For example, if size is the most important factor, the color and clarity are your working variables. Drop to an I color in SI2 and you can usually hit your mark. If quality of the stone is paramount, drop the size a bit and consider adjusting the cut to an elongated shape to increase the appearance of size. The best way to make these trade-offs is to see several of these choices in front of you to make an informed decision.

4. Buy up.
So far we’ve talked about the center diamond, which is the most important part of a purchase decision. However, the mounting is a different story. You can choose from a variety of metals (platinum, white gold, yellow gold, etc.) and setting options (halo, prong, bezel, and more). These add character to the center stone. But if I had to choose between a more expensive mounting or a better center diamond, I would choose to buy up on the diamond. Increase the size by a quarter point, come back down on the color scale by a letter or two, and increase the clarity. This is the real investment.

5. Make the presentation unforgettable.
A proposal doesn’t have to be grand, but it does need to be special.

Illustration by Carrie & Seash.

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