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Diamond Ring Buying Guide: What You Need to Know

real diamond engagement ring

Buying a diamond engagement ring is something that a lot of couples in recent years like to do together. In 2021, 62% of couples now shop for their engagement ring together, and the number of women who buy their own engagement ring has grown to 14%.

Keeping this in mind, there is no set of rules when it comes to how to buy a diamond engagement ring. Even couples who prefer traditional diamond ring styles are modernizing their methods of shopping—more couples are buying a diamond ring online in recent years than ever.

When shopping online for engagement rings and wedding jewelry, it’s important to know how to buy a diamond ring without getting duped. There are a lot of misleading sellers—both online and in stores. Here’s our diamond ring buying guide, with tips and tricks on choosing a diamond ring, and saving money.

Tips on Buying a Diamond Engagement Ring

real diamond engagement ring in box

To help you gain a clear idea of what type of diamond ring is right for you, here are the first steps to buying a diamond engagement ring.

Talk About Your Budget

  1. Unique Mens Diamond Rings 3 Carat Diamond Eternity Band in 10k Gold

    Unique Mens Diamond Rings 3 Carat Diamond Eternity Band in 10k Gold

    Regular Price: $8,500.00

    Special Price $2,995.00

  2. Massive Round 5 Carat Diamond Engagement Ring and Wedding Band Set in 14k Gold
  3. 18k Gold Diamond and Sapphire Wedding Band for Men or Women by Luxurman

    18k Gold Diamond and Sapphire Wedding Band for Men or Women by Luxurman

    Regular Price: $6,500.00

    Special Price $1,995.00

How much should you spend on a diamond engagement ring? There is no set rule on a good cost for a diamond ring. In the 1930s, it was one month’s salary. This changed to two months’ salary in the 1980s, and then three in the 1990s.

Fun fact: the old engagement ring advice “spend three months of your salary on an engagement ring” is a completely arbitrary slogan. That’s right—it doesn’t come from any jewelry expert or relationship guru; this rule is really a sneaky advertisement from DeBeers, a company that was basically a diamond cartel that tricked buyers into ordering diamonds from them after the Great Depression.

You may wish to buy your diamond engagement ring for yourself; you may wish to split the cost of the engagement ring with your partner, or your partner may purchase it. It’s important to talk with your partner about how much should you spend on a diamond engagement ring, and if you want to shop together.

How Much Does the Average Engagement Ring Cost?

If you want a useful place to start, you can find out what the average diamond engagement ring cost is, for the current year. Currently, in 2021, the average cost of an engagement ring is between $4,770 – $5,580.

Average cost of engagement rings by region in the U.S.A.:

  • Mid-Atlantic: $7,500
  • New England: $6,900
  • Southwest: $5,600
  • West: $5,500
  • Southeast: $5,400
  • Midwest: $5,300.

To get the most bang for your buck, there are some tricks to save money on a diamond engagement ring that we’ll get to in our guide.

Choose a Style

real diamond engagement ring in a box

First of all, is a diamond engagement ring the best type of gemstone engagement ring? Although colored gemstone engagement rings are becoming more popular, it still falls behind diamonds. The most popular center stones are diamonds at 86%, followed by other precious stones at 10%, colored diamonds at 3%, and no center stone at 1%.

Why diamonds, you may ask? Well, nothing quite sparkles like them, and they’re the hardest material on Earth. There are many unique styles of settings and bands that complement diamonds in a dazzling way.

Different Styles of Diamond Engagement Rings

There are five main types of engagement ring style categories: diamond solitaire engagement rings, solitaire engagement rings with accent diamonds, three-diamond engagement rings, diamond cluster engagement rings, and diamond engagement bands.

  1. Diamond solitaire: The most classic style, the diamond solitaire ring features a single diamond with a prong setting on a simple band of precious metal.
    • Modern variations may have different setting styles, such as bezel or tension, but most don’t look too different from the original solitaire style.
    • This has been the most popular style of diamond engagement ring for decades, but today, only about 1/3 of engagement rings sold are solitaire diamond rings today.
  1. Solitaire with diamond accents: this is basically a solitaire diamond engagement ring that is embellished with smaller diamonds on its band. There are many variations of this type of engagement ring. 
  • This is the most popular version of solitaire diamond engagement rings.
  • In some styles, the center diamond is flanked by smaller diamonds of the same or similar shape.
  • Other styles feature clusters or short rows of melée diamonds on either side of the center. Small diamonds or colored gemstone melées can be set around the ring’s entire shank, or partway.
  1. Three-stone engagement rings: These rings first came out in 2000, and they were derived from the style of diamond rings for anniversaries. Now, three-diamond rings are more popular as engagement rings due to the rising popularity of colored gemstone diamond rings for anniversary jewelry gifts.
  • The meaning of a three-diamond ring is that the three diamonds represent the past, present, and future of a couple’s relationship.
  • This concept is popular with younger generations, making this a fairly popular choice amongst millennials.
  1. Diamond cluster rings: Engagement rings with diamond clusters are now more popular than three-diamond designs, and they are popular engagement rings for many different ages. 
    • Cluster diamond rings offer the eye-catching visual impact of large diamonds’ brilliance, spread across a cluster of smaller, more affordable diamonds.
  • These are one of the best diamond engagement ring styles for lower budgets. Many beautiful diamond cluster rings are available for cheaper prices (check out our affordable diamond engagement rings for sale).
  1. Diamond engagement bands: Band-type engagement ring designs usually have one or two rows of small diamonds across the top of the ring.
  • The eternity ring, which features a complete circle of diamonds, also fits in this category.
  • Band-style diamond engagement rings are one of the most popular choices for brides who are getting married a second or third time. This is because this design is quite different from the typical choice in a first marriage engagement ring. 
  1. Antique diamond engagement rings: Vintage and antique engagement rings are popular amongst younger generations who want to stand out with an older style.
  • These rings fit into the same main categories of engagement ring styles but have distinct design elements that are vintage-looking.
  • You can buy new antique-style engagement rings as well as second-hand ones.

Choose a Diamond Shape

Many buyers rate all four Cs of an individual diamond’s grade as pretty similar in importance. But when deciding on a diamond engagement ring, the diamonds’ cut, shape, and carat weight stand out.

Different Cut Shapes for Diamond Engagement Rings

There are many different cut shapes for diamonds. The round brilliant cut has been the most popular cut shape for a diamond engagement ring for over a century. About 50% of couples choose the round brilliant cut for an engagement ring.

In addition to the classic, here are the most popular diamond cut shapes in 2021.

  1. Pear shape diamond engagement rings
  2. Marquise shape diamond engagement rings
  3. Princess cut diamond engagement rings
  4. Emerald cut diamond engagement ring

A really popular style of diamond rings for round cut and princess cut diamonds are halo engagement rings, which feature a circle of diamonds around them. Cluster diamond engagement rings are popular with both round diamond shapes and princess-cut diamonds.

Learn the Basics of Diamonds

Once you know which of the different styles of diamond engagement rings you like that fits your budget, you’ll want to learn about the basics of diamond grades and care. Diamonds are graded based on the 4C’s: carat, cut, clarity, and color (Fancy colored diamonds are graded on a different color scale than white diamonds).

The grade of a diamond will affect its cost. Certain grades will increase the value of the diamonds in an engagement ring, but there isn’t always a visible difference between one grade and a higher grade, especially with clarity and color.

  • For example, the highest and most expensive clarity grade for diamonds is FL (flawless), meaning there are no imperfections in the stone.
  • The next five grades (IF, VVS1, VVS2, VS1, and VS2) have very very slight inclusions, or very slight inclusions—none of which are visible to the naked eye.
  • You can save money buying lower grades without affecting the appearance of the diamond ring.

It’s good to know the grading system for diamonds, so you can determine which grades you want to be high, and which grades matter less so you can cut costs. For more information, check out our diamond buying guide.

Choose a Metal

Most diamond engagement rings are set in precious metals—gold, platinum, and sterling silver. Precious metals are the best option because they are easier to resize if your finger width changes when you’re older, and they secure the stone well.

The prices of precious metals fluctuate daily. Sometimes, platinum is more expensive than gold, and other times, gold is more expensive than platinum.

Gold comes in three colors: white gold, rose gold, and yellow gold. You can choose your color of gold of our engagement rings at ItsHot.com. Unlike many sellers, we don’t charge more for white gold. For more tips on choosing a metal for your diamond engagement ring, check out our metals buying guide.

Choose a Setting

diamond engagement ring

To pick the best setting for an engagement ring, consider lifestyle habits and working conditions. You want your engagement ring to suit your lifestyle so that it matches your outfits every day, and can withstand your usual physical activities.

Best Diamond Ring Settings for Active Lifestyles

For active/outdoorsy lifestyles, look for a lower profile setting. Look for simpler or less ornate mountings to keep the diamond secure.

  • Low-profile settings are less likely to get knocked around or caught on things.
  • The best ring settings for active lifestyles are:

If your job requires you to use your hands a lot or be outdoors often, or if your hobbies include physical activity, it can make things easier to choose an engagement ring for active lifestyles that has a solid setting and a design that won’t catch on things.

That said, there are many types of engagement rings suitable for active lifestyles that use firm settings. You can choose many elaborate designs in the metal. For more durable engagement ring styles, opt for platinum, 18K gold or 14K gold over sterling silver.

Best Diamond Ring Settings for Lavish Lifestyles

  1. For a less demanding job, to provide a more glamorous look, consider statement settings with a higher profile for the diamond.

There are many jobs that don’t require a lot of physical exertion. In some jobs, such as retail management, entrepreneurial business, hospitality, marketing and advertising, law, etc, it can be beneficial to have a more glamorous-looking ring that shows off your success. You have a lot of freedom to choose unique diamond engagement ring designs and designer diamond rings.

Even if you prefer a sturdy setting, there are extravagant designs with prong settings and bevel combinations so you get the best of both worlds.

Know the Size

If you’re buying an engagement ring for your partner and don’t know what size to get, find one of the rings they already own.

  • Or, trace the inside circle on a piece of paper, or press the ring into clay or a bar of soap to make an impression.
  • Another way to do this is to put the ring on one of your own fingers as far as you can comfortably. Draw a line where it stops. A jeweler can measure the circumference to estimate what size engagement ring to get.

How to Estimate Someone’s Ring Size

If you don’t have another ring to go by, you can follow the steps of how to estimate ring size:

  1. The average women’s ring size in the U.S. is 6 (based on a female who is 5'4" tall and weighs 140 lbs.)
  2. If she’s more slender or has thin fingers, you can guess that her ring size is probably in the 4.5 to 5.5 range.
  3. If she is taller, heavier, or has a larger bone size in her hands, you can estimate her ring size as in the 6.5 to 7.5 range.

The average men’s ring size typically ranges from 8 to 14. Sizes 8 – 12 are among the most commonly purchased. The average ring size for men is 10.

  • For more help figuring out the right engagement ring size, you can find our ring size chart and guide on how to find your ring size.

It's always better to buy a ring a bit bigger than you think she'll need: sizing a ring down is much easier than sizing a ring up.

What if the engagement ring doesn’t fit?

If the ring doesn’t fit, it may not feel like it’s the “right ring,” but resizing it should help. You’ll have to send the ring in for resizing. This can take anywhere from a few days to weeks—it depends on the style of your setting. This is why getting gold or platinum is a much better choice than something like stainless steel, which is really difficult to resize.

engagement ring

Figure Out What’s Most Important 

Not everyone values the same components of an engagement ring equally. You want to know what to look for when buying a diamond ring.

Do you care more about the diamonds or the design? Do you want fancy-colored diamonds, black diamonds, or brilliant white diamonds? Do you want something unique, or traditional?

To save money, figure out what you want to prioritize in your diamond engagement ring. While it’s a matter of personal preference, here are the current statistics on what most people feel is the most important part of an engagement ring:

  1. Overall design of the ring – rated number 1 by 86.2% of brides
  2. Price of the ring – rated number 1 by 62.7% of brides
  3. Color of the diamonds – rated number 1 by 58.5% of brides
  4. Sentimental meaning of the ring – rated number 1 by 58.3% of brides
  5. Size of the diamond – rated number 1 by 47.7% of brides

When it comes to how big the diamond in an engagement ring should be, the average carat weight of an engagement ring is 1.0ct in the U.S. and 0.5ct in Europe.

  • Roughly 50% of engagement rings are between 1 and 2 carats in total, although 25% are more than 2 carats in size.

The average price people spend on diamond engagement rings is between $4,770 – $5,580 in the United States.

  • About 90% of couples exchange one engagement ring, while 7% of couples report exchanging two rings, and 4% don’t exchange engagement rings at all.
  • Some people prefer only getting wedding band sets over engagement rings.

The most popular metals are white gold (overwhelmingly popular, with 70%), rose gold, platinum and titanium (which is more popular for men’s wedding bands).

Where to Buy a Diamond Ring

real diamond engagement rings

Where is the best place to buy a diamond engagement ring? Market trends in jewelry shopping are changing. More women are buying their own jewelry online, and more men are shopping for jewelry online as well.

When it comes to buying diamond engagement rings, the vast majority of people still prefer to buy from Bricks & Mortar stores—most of which buy their engagement ring from a large chain jeweler and a slightly smaller percentage buying from a local or independent jeweler.

That said, chain jewelers make a huge profit on engagement rings, so they’re not the best place to buy diamond rings. Furthermore, their customer service has a very mixed background, which is why some people avoid buying from chain jewelers like the plague.

About 11% of people purchased their engagement ring online, but this number is growing. Buying a diamond ring online is the best way to save money and reduce the up-charge on your jewelry. Here’s our guide to the best (and worst) places to buy an engagement ring.

Brick-and-Mortar Stores

The most popular place people buy diamond engagement rings is in brick-and-mortar stores. A brick-and-mortar store is a traditional street-side store building that offers products or services to customers in a face-to-face way. These stores may or may not also have a website, that may or may not offer an opportunity to purchase things from their inventory.

Some people still prefer to buy their jewelry from a physical store, while others prefer shopping for jewelry deals online.

Pros of Buying from Brick-and-Mortar Stores

  • You can look at the jewelry in-person
  • You can try on the jewelry
  • Often have more credit plans for financing large purchases
  • Form a relationship with jewelers to come back for maintenance/advice
  • Good for instant purchases—no shipping or waiting
  • Easy to ask workers questions and get recommendations
  • Easy to figure out sizing and necklace length
  • Support local businesses and brands

There’s something a bit more magical about buying jewelry in a physical store. You can get a much better idea of what jewelry looks like in-person than online. Even when sellers negotiate prices in-stores, they might not be giving you a great deal.

Because diamond jewelry, gold, sterling silver, and rings require maintenance, it’s good to establish that relationship in-person, so you can return for questions or annual jewelry cleaning.

Cons of Buying from Brick-and-Mortar Stores

rea -diamond engagement jing with cookies

  • Not all jewelry sellers are knowledgeable about jewelry
  • Workers may prioritize making a sale over educating you on their jewelry
  • Often have fewer sales than online jewelry stores
  • Might not have a large clearance selection, if at all
  • Can be harder to compare prices and search for jewelry

While physical jewelry stores offer many benefits and provide jewelry without a wait or shipping cost, not every jewelry store is equal when it comes to the helpfulness of employees.

The problem is that it can be hard to find employees who prioritize customer needs over making sales. They might not show you the cheapest diamond jewelry options, but rather the latest products, or the biggest brands.

Furthermore, good online stores have detailed search filters to help you sort jewelry products by carat weight, price, size, and material. It can be harder to find a selection of jewelry that fits your exact preferences in a big jewelry store. Even if the worker directs you to some diamond rings that suit your preferences, they might be forgetting about other products in their inventory that you could find online.

What to Look For in a Brick-and-Mortar Jewelry Store

The best jewelry stores will have employees who are knowledgeable about their products and value your budget, style preferences, and criteria for selecting jewelry, and they will help direct you towards those products.

The best jewelry stores will also have a website to help you search their inventory on your mobile device while you’re in-store, or they can search it for you through their online database.

  1. Be wary of employees who push certain products regardless of your preferences and budget.
  2. Be wary of stores that lower prices right before you buy it.
  3. Don’t always trust appraisals that come from stores—they might over-appraise their jewelry to make it seem like a good deal when selling their products.

A store’s reputation says a lot about its customer service. However, some stores might have a good reputation, but they’ve been bought out by another company that might try to cut costs or over-promote products, without adjusting prices for market variations.

It’s a good idea to do your research on any store before buying jewelry, even if you’re in a rush or excited to make a purchase immediately.

In case you’re wondering, what is the best place to buy a diamond engagement ring in NYC? Definitely, ItsHot, since we’re located right in New York’s Diamond District and have incredible selections of affordable diamond engagement rings. Fortunately, even if you’re not living in New York City, you can access our huge inventory online! Take a peep at our virtual ItsHot store tour if you’re curious.

Online Jewelry Stores

Not all online jewelry stores are created equal. Some have far better deals and quality engagement rings than others. Here’s our guide on how to buy a diamond ring online.

Manufacturer vs Middleman Online Retail Jewelry

There are two main types of stores you’ll come across when shopping online for deals on engagement rings. The most common one is the middleman retail store.

  1. Online middleman retail stores differ from wholesale or manufacturer retail jewelry by having a “middle-man” from whom they purchase their jewelry inventory. This means that you’re the second buyer—the store had to purchase the diamond rings that it’s selling to you.
  1. Buying jewelry from the manufacturer means that the store is selling the jewelry that is manufactured. Did you know that you can buy jewelry from the manufacturer even if you’re not a retailer?

Buying diamond engagement rings from the manufacturer is a great way to buy quality diamond rings cheaply. Jewelry manufacturers produce their jewelry themselves and offer it directly to customers, or they sell it wholesale to other retailers.

Buying from a store that is also the manufacturer has the following pros:

  1. It costs much less than jewelry from other retail stores because the seller doesn’t have to profit an additional amount on top of what they paid.
  2. The seller knows every detail about their jewelry, so they can answer specific questions in regards to the quality and specifications of diamonds and metals.
  3. They have expertise in jewelry. They’re likely to keep up with market trends and prices because they make their own and have an insider look into the industry.

Buying from a middle-man online retail jewelry store offers these pros:

  1. They may offer a greater number of different brands. Since their inventory isn’t made by them, they can buy and offer numerous brands that a manufacturer might not take interest in.
  2. You can support local online retail businesses. If you want to help out local businesses, you’re helping them profit, which may help give back to the local community.

Overall, you’ll get a much better deal and shopping experience if you choose a reputable manufacturer to buy your diamond engagement ring from online.

What to Look For in an Online Jewelry Store

The best online stores to buy diamond engagement rings will have a customer-centered approach. Here at ItsHot, we provide a good example of what an online jewelry store that sells engagement rings should look like.

  • We manufacture the majority of the jewelry items that we sell, operating a storefront out of New York City, right in the jewelry district.
  • We also supply our inventory in a successful online platform that we continually update.
  • We sell our jewelry both direct-to-consumer and wholesale to jewelry stores while offering the highest quality, the best selection, and prices in the diamond jewelry industry.
  • By buying from us you are buying directly from the manufacturer without the middle man.

In terms of customer service, we provide the following:

  • 1-year warranty with 30-day money-back returns
  • 24-hour customer service with live chat features, as well as other means to contact us
  • Consistent updates on designs and styles of diamond engagement rings
  • Real customer reviews, questions, and answers

We specialize in the manufacturing and wholesaling of high-end, fine diamond jewelry and diamond watches. We offer a full selection of diamond wedding rings for men and women in different settings. We sell real diamond engagement rings in a variety of precious metals including 10K, 14K, and 18K white gold, yellow gold, and pink gold (also known as rose gold or red gold), in addition to sterling silver and platinum.

Tips On Choosing a Jewelry Vendor

real diamond engagement jing on hand

To choose the best diamond engagement ring for the best price online, here are some tips for choosing a vendor. Knowing what questions to ask a jeweler about your engagement ring is a good way to ensure you’re buying quality diamond jewelry. Some websites don’t provide enough information, but asking the seller questions can assure that you’re buying the product you want.

  1. Look for a grading certificate on the diamonds you’re interested in, or ask for one if you can’t find it.
  2. Look at the seller’s reviews. There shouldn’t be 5-star reviews on every product—this is suspicious, especially if the seller has new products. There also shouldn’t be a lack of reviews whatsoever, or reviews that are lumped together so that you can’t find a review for a specific product.
  3. Look if the seller sells natural diamonds, lab-grown diamonds, or synthetic diamonds. They should make a clear distinction between real diamonds vs diamond simulant engagement rings.
  4. Look for warranties and a return policy. The seller should be up-front with you and these policies should be listed on the website or in the store.
  5. Look for how long they’ve been in business or what their qualifications are.
  6. Check if they’re a manufacturer or if they only resell diamond rings. Some places offer both, and some only offer one or the other.

Here at ItsHot, we have over 20 years of professional service manufacturing jewelry. We offer custom diamond rings—as well as wholesale diamonds and engagement ring settings. We’re located in NYC, but we aim to provide an online shopping experience that’s just as good as in-store.

We were recently awarded the 2020 WeddingCouple’s Choice Award, an accolade honoring the top wedding professionals for quality, service, responsiveness, and professionalism reviewed by couples on WeddingWire. Establishing this trust with buyers is the most important thing to us.

For the best deals on diamond rings, check out our website.

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