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The Gentleman’s Guide to Buying an Engagement Ring

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The perfect proposal is often a uniquely creative and multi-faceted affair – just like the diamond at the center of it all. But let’s get one thing straight: unlike getting a friendly waiter or jumbotron operator to assist in the moment itself, getting that diamond first isn’t always the most straightforward process – especially if you’re looking to get her something truly special. That’s why we enlisted the advice of our friends at Ritani – "the Warby Parker of diamonds" – to bring us up to speed on the easiest, most savvy way to cut through the noise and create the perfect engagement ring for your money. Here are their five crucial tips that we wish we’d known before we got down on one knee: 

What kind of ring does she really want? 

The proposal – and by extension, the ring itself – can be done in one of two ways: either by complete surprise, or you can bring her in on the process to make sure you really nail the trickier specifics around style and size. Now, we’d argue that no proposal should come off as a total surprise (let’s be honest, if she’s too surprised, it’s probably too soon), so just the right balance of shock and “aww, it’s perfect” is the target you should be aiming for.

To get there, kickstart the process by doing a little casual sleuthing around the kinds of rings she likes. Does she want a classic round or a retro-chic oval stone? Does she want a tall setting that ensures the stone is visible from across the room or an elegant low-profile band that fits her active lifestyle? Or maybe she loves that ornate vintage setting just like her grandmother once wore? But most importantly, always consider the stone – or stones. You might be surprised to hear that when it comes to diamonds, size actually isn't everything – but cut is. More on that in a moment. Ultimately, resist the temptation to buy what you want, and get her what she wants – even if it requires spoiling the surprise a little bit. 

Which diamond certifications actually matter? 

Right out of the gate, when selecting a diamond, it’s easy to get lost in the many different – and often subjective – diamond grading certifications, but Ritani cuts through the noise by only offering stones whose color, clarity, and cuts are graded and certified by the two most respected and consistently objective grading agencies: GIA (Gemological Science International), and AGS (American Gem Society). Spending your hard-earned money on a comparably graded product certified by a less trustworthy grading source could land you an inferior quality stone. "We find that EGL diamonds quality standards are not as rigid as GIA’s strict rules when it comes to grading color, clarity and cut," says Josh Marion, a Ritani expert. "For instance, a GIA certified diamond with a color grade of G might have a color grade of F or better on a EGL certificate." Now, you don’t need to be a professional bartender to know that it ain’t worth spending top-dollar for top-shelf if it’s not actually the best available.

What are the "Four Cs" and why are they important? 

With all this talk about grading, it’s time to dive into the "Four Cs" – four key stone characteristics you'll want to consider. These criteria ultimately form the basis for the grade (and thereby price) of every diamond: Carat (Weight), Color, Clarity, and Cut. 

Carat is simply the measure of how much a diamond weighs. It can also be related to the stone’s size or visual weight, but it’s worth mentioning that two diamonds with the same carat weight can be completely different sizes, due to their respective shapes, weight distribution, and cut quality. As mentioned earlier, though size is certainly important, it’s far from paramount – truly rare stones will exhibit equally rare degrees of the next three quality-related criteria.

When it comes to Color, a diamond’s grade is measuring how little color the stone is reflecting. This particular grading scale starts at "D" (absolutely no color, even under intense magnification), and runs down the alphabet to "Z," which might look yellow or even brownish to the naked eye.

Clarity differs slightly from Color in that it refers specifically to a diamond’s natural inclusions (tiny imperfections created when the diamond is formed), or lack thereof. While tiny marks within a diamond are natural, too many of them can make a stone less desirable – especially if they’re visible to the naked eye. Now, the official clarity rating terminology differs slightly depending on the certifying agency, but both GIA and AGS happen to agree upon the same criteria around the presence of those inclusions, and set their respective numeric scales accordingly: Flawless (F) or Internally Flawless (IF), Very Very Slightly Included (VVS), Very Slightly Included (VS), Slightly Included (SI), and Included (I).

The Cut of a diamond is all about the skill of the craftsman – or rather, the quality of the stone’s proportions and symmetry. A better cut will determine how much light a diamond captures and reflects, and thus yield more sparkle from every angle. Here, there are four grades to be aware of: Ideal, Very Good, Good, and Poor.

How long does it take to get a full-custom ring made?

Hopefully you’re not too rushed – taking your time and going through the process will give her a story that she’ll love to re-tell to her friends, but if you’ve selected your stone and desired to set, and are ready to pop the question (a Vegas wedding waits for no man!), rest easy knowing that even Ritani’s custom made-to-order rings can be ready to ship in the span of only three to five business days. Your ring will then be dispatched from New York City with all the care of a VIP shipment: fully insured FedEx Priority Next Day Air, and requiring a signature ensuring it gets directly to you as quickly and safely as possible. 

Should I get insurance? 

Absolutely, but once again, Ritani has your back – they work with several insurance partners who can set you up with a custom insurance and warranty plan for nearly everything Ritani sells. These special plans will insure your ring for its full appraised value, and come with a lifetime warranty for any and all manufacturing defects. If you encounter a structural defect in your ring, Ritani will repair or replace it at no cost to you. 

If you're at least thinking about popping the question – or maybe even considering upgrading the wife's rock – see how easy (and surprisingly affordable) it is to design a dream ring here.