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Hamilton Jewelers Guide to Engagement Ring Shopping

You’ve found the one, and you owe cupid a huge favor.  Maybe you’ve even planned the proposal and asked her father for his blessing.  No matter what your circumstances, buying an engagement ring can be a daunting and overwhelming task.   Here are some pointers to get you started in the right direction - - some practical, some romantic, and some steeped in history & tradition.  We should know a thing or two….we’ve been helping happy couples for over 100 years.


Five quick facts about engagement ring shopping:

  1. Most men shop 1 – 3 months prior to their (planned) date of proposal.
  2. It is most common to buy the engagement ring first, then the bride’s wedding band, then the groom’s ring.
  3. Most couples prefer wedding bangs that match the metal of the engagement ring and complement the style and design.  There are no hard and fast rules, but this is the norm.
  4. Unlike other wedding day purchases, the rings are a lifelong investment and should be viewed as such.  (i.e., budget, research, etc)
  5. Good internet resources for unbiased and knowledgeable information are: and



The Top 5 Things to know before you start this amazing adventure:

1. WHAT IS YOUR BUDGET?   You don’t need the exact number, but have a range in mind, be it monthly payments on an installment program, financing the entire purchase, or any combination of either.  You may be pleasantly surprised that financing offers now allow you to find the perfect ring for less than you may have imagined.  In the end, try to purchase the nicest ring that you can afford and be sure you’re comfortable with the payment or expense; being uneasy about debt is not something you want on your mind right now.

2.  WHAT IS HER STYLE/TASTE?  What kind of jewelry does she already wear? Is she more classic or modern? Feminine or sophisticated?  Do her pieces tend to be more delicate or chunky? Simple or ornate?  Observe her demeanor, her body language, her dress, and any references she makes about jewelry, fashion and style.  She will be wearing this ring 24/7 every day of her life. It will need to go with everything from jeans to evening wear and everything in between. Penchant in design is often reflected in other tastes a woman has. If she prefers clean, modern lines in furniture, for example, it's likely she'll react well to the same aesthetic in her engagement ring.

3WHAT SETTING IS BEST? While there are an unending variety of patterns, details and metal choices, there are four basic types you are likely to encounter:


Solitaire - A single stone. Still the most popular choice in engagement rings. The head secures the diamond. Prongs allow the diamond to catch the most light. A four-prong-setting typically shows more of the diamond.Sidestone - Diamonds or other gemstones, flank the main stone for additional sparkle or color. Popular sidestone settings include 'channel', which protects stones by keeping them flush, and 'bar-channel', which allows more light to enter the sidestones.

Sidestone - Diamonds or other gemstones, flank the main stone for additional sparkle or color. Popular sidestone settings include 'channel', which protects stones by keeping them flush, and 'bar-channel', which allows more light to enter the sidestones.

 Three Stone – Best described as ‘One diamond for the past, one for the present, and one for the future.’ Typically, the center diamond is larger than the two side stones.  The gemstones are most often all diamonds, but other gemstones can be used as well, such as a diamond flanked by 2 sapphires, etc.

Vintage inspired – This includes ‘halo’ settings that feature a center diamond with pavé diamonds surrounding it.  Designs that are vintage or estate inspired often have delicate engraving and filigree details to further enhance the ring.


4.  YES, THE 4 C’S ARE REALLY IMPORTANT.  You don’t need to obtain a gemology degree, but you should have a basic understanding of what contributes to a diamonds value and appearance.   And as fundamental as it sounds, there IS a fifth “C”….Confidence in your jeweler.  Ask for referrals - - be sure you’re buying from a reputable jeweler who is a member of either the Gemological Institute of America (GIA) or the American Gem Society (AGS). 


The concept here is straightforward: Carat refers to the weight of a diamond. The heavier the stone, the more you’re going to pay. However, there’s no need to focus solely up on the carat weight number. Through proper mounting and shaping, a master jeweler can make a diamond appear larger than its carat weight might suggest, while also bringing out its maximum brilliance.


Evaluators of diamonds base part of the price on luster and sheen. These relate to the clarity of the stone. You can spend less on a very large but cloudy diamond for example, than on a small but transparent and shiny one. Diamonds are the most durable compounds on earth and the amount of pressure it takes to cut one is immense. Inclusions (an industry term) form and as a result, there are grades to rate specific diamonds for clarity. The important thing to bear in mind, however, is that the less flaws visible to the naked eye, the more expensive the stone.


A good cut predisposes the amount of light that can enter into the stone, refract and emit that brilliant quality that people love in a diamond. Cut doesn’t refer to the shape of the diamond, but rather the angles and proportions of the stone. While nature determines the other three C’s, the diamond’s cut is determined by a cutter. A well cut diamond reflects light from one facet to another and projects the light through the top of the stone…giving a diamond its sparkle. Diamonds that are cut too deep or too shallow leak light through the bottom or the side of the stone, resulting in a lackluster appearance.   Out of all the four C’s, cut is the most important. Even if you have the perfect color, clarity, and carat, if the cut isn’t right, the diamond won’t have that fiery brilliance that your fiancé will be proud to show the world.


To the surprise of many people, diamonds come in a variety of colors. Diamond color is graded on a scale that ranges from D (colorless) to Z (light yellow). Truly colorless diamonds are the most rare and most exquisite.


5.  ARE YOU GOING IN SOLO OR WITH YOUR SOON-TO-BE-BRIDE?  This is a big decision…..the surprise proposal vs. the ‘let’s-shop-together’ option.  There truly is no right answer here.  If you feel confident in your reconnaissance mission to understand her taste and style, you’ve done your homework on what to look for….then, by all means, sky-write the proposal and be bold.  Think of the story that she will tell forever - - - not only did you surprise her, but you nailed it with the perfect ring.  That’s a keeper.





How to approach the day of wedding ring shopping!

It’s always best to approach engagement ring shopping day as you would any other important aspect for your wedding:  bring as much information as you can about what is important to you and a list of questions.  If you’re sure about what style you like, then it’s always helpful to bring photos.  However, if you’re unsure and want to see options, then simply arrive open-minded and ready to voice your opinion.  It’s important to be specific and tell your jeweler exactly what you do and don’t like about a particular ring; is it too modern, too feminine, too bold, etc.  That will help considerably in narrowing down your choices.  Some of the basic things that you should know are things like:  will you and your groom be seeking matching bands?  If so, that changes options a good amount, so that will be key to point out immediately.  It’s also important to let the jeweler know if there are any activities, personal or career-wise, that will affect wear and tear on the ring. 


When is the best time to shop for great service and attention?

We absolutely recommend that you make an appointment as you would for gowns, cakes, etc.  The more time that you allow for the process, the happier that you will be with the outcome.  Your jeweler wants to be certain that you select a ring that you will treasure for a lifetime, so it’s important that there is lots of time to review options with you.  Unlike any other jewelry item, this ring is intended to be worn constantly and forever…..for that type of commitment, you need time!  Bottom line:  we suggest an appointment at a time that is best for YOU.



What are the basic rules of buying fine jewelry and engagement rings in particular?

Here’s the best news:  there are no rules!  You can mix metals, opt for non-matching bands, select a colored gemstone, design your own ring, plan to wear your wedding ring on your right hand, and so on.  This is up to your imagination and your individual style and taste.  Don’t feel rushed or pressured to adopt any custom or tradition if it doesn’t meet your belief system or lifestyle - - - the most important thing is to find a ring that best reflects YOU and your very unique and special relationship.


Most important tip:

Be sure you are working with a trusted and reputable jeweler.  Ask questions and be certain that you feel completely comfortable with the entire process.  A respectable jeweler will always take time to answer your questions and address any concerns.  Jewelry can be customized to fit a variety of lifestyles, budgets, and circumstances.  Be sure you get exactly what you want!

Hamilton Jewelers,
















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