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Where to shop for a good-valued engagement ring?
August 7, 2007 12:22 PM   Subscribe

Need help shopping for engagement ring

I'm thinking of proposing in the next month or so, and I need help shopping for an engagement ring. My mom says she can give me the diamond that my dad gave her, so the diamond is already there, I'd just need to buy a setting.

My girlfriend and I have looked at some rings, and she's mentioned interest in a setting such as the: Platinum Intertwined Pavé Diamond Setting (BlueNile.com)
I was wondering if I could find a similar setting at a (hopefully) discounted price at any other vendors, since I'm a struggling college student.

She isn't very concerned about the price of the ring or the quality or type or whatnot, I just want to get her something nice, which will still let us have money left over, you know, for the REAL important things: houses, kids, food, etc.
posted by macsigler to Human Relations (26 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
Go to an independent jeweler rather than a chain. I bought my ring at a store in downtown Minneapolis. It is a lovely ring and I got a great deal on it. My feeling is that an independent jeweler will be more knowledgable about providing a good setting for the diamond and will also be much more willing to give you a good price.

White gold is a less costly alternative to platinum. The trend is to go more and more expensive in engagement rings; the wise thing to do is to buy the nicest ring you can afford without going into debt.
posted by spacewaitress at 12:32 PM on August 7, 2007


1500 dollars for a setting is a great deal especially since she wants small diamonds along the band. You're not going to get much less than that.

However, since I have no idea where you are living, do the following : find a list of local jewlers (not Zales or any such place in a mall - if you go to those stores you will get an inferior product and pay way too much). Print out a copy of the setting you want from blue nile. Go to the local jewelers and ask them if they can cut you a deal that is cheaper than Blue Nile's price. Blue Nile is, from my understanding, the best online retailer in engagement jewelry. There is going to be an added price of getting your stone attached to the setting and don't forget about sales tax and all that.

The problem is that your girlfriend wants platinum which is expensive. See if she is able to get white gold which has a similar shine as platinum but is less expensive. However, be warned that there are some people who are allergic to gold jewelry (I am one of those people) and so platinum or another inert metal is the only metal they can wear for extended periods.

Also, you really need to get over the "saving money for kids" while you're in college. 1500 for a ring with a stone for a girl you haven't even kissed yet is a pretty amazing deal.
posted by Stynxno at 12:40 PM on August 7, 2007


My opinion, having spent way too long studying Blue Nile's balance sheet, annual reports, and business model, is that it's going to be very difficult to get any brick-and-mortar store to undercut Blue Nile's price on anything.
posted by ikkyu2 at 12:56 PM on August 7, 2007


You may want to consider finding a local jeweler or one on the internet that will custom-make one like that for you. A few of my guy friends have gone that route since it ended up being cheaper than a pre-designed ring. Plus everyone always seems to be more wowed when they hear that so-and-so's fiance designed the ring himself for some reason. Blue Nile is pretty darn inexpensive though, so it may be your best bet after all.

If she isn't concerned about platinum (which it sounds like she might not be), then white gold is a good alternative.

In the end, the several hundred dollars that you might save in going elsewhere won't really make a major impact in those things you mentioned (house, kids, food), just so you know. Whatever savings you glean would probably be the equivalent to a month of groceries, or a month of daycare, or half a monthly mortgage payment (depending on where you live).



(on preview of your last question: what canine epigram said. DUDE! Please do not proceed. You two are not ready for marriage, seriously. SERIOUSLY. On second preview, where the hell did canine epigram's comment go? Not cool.)
posted by ml98tu at 1:08 PM on August 7, 2007


you might be able to find a jeweler who has an apprentice, and agree to let the apprentice make the ring for a reduced price.

that said, you might be better off going for a simple solitaire in white gold (always classy) and giving her the ring of her dreams for the 5th anniversary.
posted by thinkingwoman at 1:14 PM on August 7, 2007


Ask your question at http://www.pricescope.com/idealbb/. The folks who hang out over there know engagement rings and settings very, very well. I'm sure people will have ideas for custom design, and will point you to where to buy settings to set an heirloom diamond in.
posted by saffron at 1:16 PM on August 7, 2007


To answer the actual question:

I had a ring made for my now wife of 5 years at a Jewelry store that specialized in old rings. They had a catalog they picked settings from and let me look through it to pick one. The catalog actually had the prices in them too, and for a 24kt gold filigree setting it was only a couple hundred bucks, leaving me with lots of money to spend on a decent sized stone. I would suggest finding a similar store instead of one of the big box places.

The other question:

You may want to revisit the "pushing things a little fast" remark you made. This is a very big decision.
posted by Big_B at 1:25 PM on August 7, 2007


Hahaha, it's funny that you all remember my last question. :P
We've talked things out since then, and things are great now. We've both expressed our love for each other and have talked about marriage, and things are okay. The relationship isn't what I'm worried about now, it's just getting her something nice and starting a family while at the same time not being buried under mounds of debt. :) (On a side note, I foresee much ramen noodle- and potato-eating in my future, haha)

She really isn't concerned that much with the diamonds (she said she didn't even really need a diamond ring, but I told her it's traditional and that she deserved it, and she seemed OK with that. So whether it's pave or not shouldn't matter. I think she likes the shape more than anything, the intertwined/spiral thing.

To be honest, she didn't seem too concerned with the material. I said that I heard platinum was harder than gold, so it wouldn't scratch, but I don't really know if it's that big of a deal. Should I just go for white gold instead?

Oh and for extra information I live by Hamilton, MT (the biggest city nearby is Missoula, MT, which is accessible).
posted by macsigler at 1:35 PM on August 7, 2007


Whoa. He asked for jewelry advice, not life coaching.

I'd agree that a solitaire white gold setting would be a great ring to start with. You can't go wrong with the style, and you might even be able to have the original solitaire setting melted into the new ring should you have a new design made later on down the road.

I'm quite confident you can have a 14k white gold solitaire ring made for under $350.

A couple of jewelers to see:
http://www.winkjones.com/store/rings.php

http://www.engagementringsdirect.com/

Check out this article for advice on resetting an heirloom diamond:
http://jewelry.about.com/od/antiquejewelry/a/reset_diamonds.htm
posted by saffron at 1:40 PM on August 7, 2007


macsigler:

if she doesn't want diamonds along the band, then just get a solitaire white gold setting. The solitaire platinum setting costs 500 at blue nile. You can get a white gold setup for cheaper.

In the 1500 setting you linked too, the diamonds are what made it expensive. If you don't have diamonds in the setting, the cheaper it'll be.
posted by Stynxno at 1:57 PM on August 7, 2007


So should I just go for white gold over platinum, then?
Also, I just want to be sure, CAN I buy just the setting on these online stores, or do I have to buy a diamond with it? Should I just try to find a local jeweller or keep looking?

Other settings that looks nice and are cheaper than $1500:

http://www.jamesallen.com/products/item_57-1849.asp
http://www.engagement-ring-mountings.com/ring_settings_info_1427.htm

Still haven't looked much into white gold. Awaiting all your opinions. :)
posted by macsigler at 1:59 PM on August 7, 2007


[a bunch of comments removed - if you're not addressing this question but want to talk about SOME OTHER question, please feel free to take it to metatalk.]
posted by jessamyn at 2:00 PM on August 7, 2007


White Gold is the way to go. I tried on lots of wedding sets when we were looking, and found platinum to be too heavy for my hands. White gold, which lots of people in my family have, is perfectly pretty. Unless she's allergic, there is really no reason other than preference to go w/ platinum over white gold.
posted by Medieval Maven at 2:06 PM on August 7, 2007


macsigler:first, verify that your girlfriend is not allergic to gold (side note: it's not the gold that a person it's allergic to, it's the metal that is bonded with the gold to make it strong). In the first setting you linked, there were tiny diamonds along the side of the band and a place for the main diamond. The setting doesn't not consist of the main diamond but it does consist of the little diamonds.

People are mentioning white Gold because white Gold has a similar look to platninum but is much cheaper. Platnium rings are going to be the most expensive standard thing you can get.

It sounds like you don't know a lot about engagement rings. No matter what you buy online, you are still going to need a jeweler to take your mother's diamond and attach it to the new ring. I would go to a local indepedent jeweler, explain to them the situation, and they will provide you not only with a good price (print out various settings that you like at blue nile and bring them with) but also will hold your hand through the process of getting your girlfriend a great engagement ring.
posted by Stynxno at 2:12 PM on August 7, 2007


I tried on many settings similar to the ones you are posting. You would do well to go try these on in person. The asymmetrical look is really pretty on the internet but sometimes looks downright fugly on your hand. Sometimes those "arms" from asymmetrical settings tend to be larger than you expected and unwieldy on your hand. The ring I had been pining over for years? Turns out I hated it in person. Also, with those sorts of rings, you need to look into a matching band, one that nestles in with the engagement ring. Some of these rings have a matching band option, but it will probably be more expensive than a plain band. She could just wear the rings on separate hands though.

White gold is fine, particularly if you are on a budget. Some people can't tell the difference between it and platinum while it's on your hand. You do have to get it re-rhodiumed (re-plated) every so often though.

Check out saffron's recommendation of pricescope (http://www.pricescope.com/idealbb/). My fiance spent a significant amount of time on there and it played a major role in his research and decision-making process.
posted by ml98tu at 2:17 PM on August 7, 2007


Okay, I think I'll look to see if places have that intertwining/spiral solitaire-style of ring in white gold. I don't know of any local jewelry places in Hamilton or Missoula, MT off the top of my head, but I guess I can look and see what they have, or keep searching the internet for info.
posted by macsigler at 2:34 PM on August 7, 2007


There are lots of inexpensive engagement rings on eBay.

They are usually being sold at a fraction of their value because the sellers hastily bought them when they probably shouldn't have rushed the relationship, and the poor guy just wants to get the thing away from himself because it reminds him of the deep and tragic mistake he made.
posted by Dave Faris at 2:34 PM on August 7, 2007 [23 favorites]


Congrats. And Blue Nile is great to deal with. My fiance bought nearly the exact same ring from Blue Nile last year!

Would it help to keep the pave on the sides but to straighten the band? And, personally, I love the diamonds on the side, tiny though they are. The add the sparkle. Also, something that might keep the price down (but that I can't tell from your link) is if you eliminated the stones all around the band, and keep it to five or so stones on each side. The jewelers my fiance visited in person said that many women don't like full pave because it rubs against the other fingers in a less than pleasant way.

Go with white gold. My ring is white gold, my mom's is white gold, my gramma's is white gold, my great gramma's was white gold. Get a higher quality white gold. And I've never re-plated my white gold jewelry, though I have one in expensive ring that isn't quite as silver anymore. My mom has never replated her ring, nor has my grandmother, and they still look good. Also, I work a very very physically demanding job (lifting, wiring, hammering, smashing, etc.) and I wear my ring every night. No problems thus far. The band is a little scratched up on the bottom, but no worse than what I'd expect from daily wear and tear.

Could you take a picture to a jeweler (not the mall) and say, "I want something pretty like this and not too expensively?" See what they have. They might have something similar but just different enough to cut the price down to 800 bucks. Especially if you have your mom's diamond, you could get the price of the setting down.

Keep us posted! I'd love to see what you get.
posted by santojulieta at 4:01 PM on August 7, 2007


I think you should get the simplest, least expensive setting you can. It sounds like it's not that important to her, so save your money for what really matters to both of you. Using a stone that has been in your family is going to make this ring extra-special already. After you give it to her, tell her that in a few years when you're not struggling college students, you'll want her to pick out a setting she really loves.

(I'm speaking as a recently-married woman whose husband spent too much money and too many months shopping for a beautiful ring that I'd really prefer not to wear everyday. I love him more than words can say but... he didn't need to do that. And you don't either.)
posted by beandip at 4:44 PM on August 7, 2007 [1 favorite]


Would it help to keep the pave on the sides but to straighten the band?

I think the spiral/intertwined design is more appealing to her than the pave. It's what made her pick the ring in the first place. She says it's "part traditional, part wacky like [she is]."
posted by macsigler at 5:26 PM on August 7, 2007


Independent jeweler here (I do my own work). Here's my thoughts: that's a nice style, but it can be problematic in certain cases. What does she do for a living? Once mounted, the center stone will sit high (and if the stone is near or over a carat, it will sit very high). If she has a job that requires extensive use of her hands (going in and out of filing cabinets, taking care of patients, etc) then it will get knocked around a bit. Repairing pave work is expensive. Also, that setting is four prong for the center stone. If she's hard on her jewelry, consider replacing the head with a six-prong head.

Next, consider the wedding band. That engagement ring will require a specific, matching band to fit comfortably and attractively next to it. I would go to a store that carries that style engagement and band and have her try both of them on together. She may love the look of the one ring, but not care for the look if two rings are next to one another in that style.

Last, about the metal. If she has no history of nickel allergy, then white gold is a good, less expensive alternative. I would absolutely make sure that the ring is rhodium-plated. This will have two benefits: it will guard against any metal sensitivity, and it will ensure tha the ring stays "white." After all, white gold is really just yellow gold that has white metal mixed into it. The yellow gold does eventually migrate to the surface over time, casing the ring to yellow as it ages.

Please don't try to talk an independent jeweler down in price by quoting Blue Nile. If an independent jeweler works for a long time with you to educate you and help you to decide what you want, then it's not very nice to place absolutely no value on that service. It's okay to say that you're a struggling student and ask for the best possible price, and a good jeweler will give that to you. To be honest, everyone in the business pays about the same price for diamonds - don't believe it if you get a line like "we have our own cutters" etc. It's bull. The industry is extremely competitive, and unless you are buying a custom piece, they're all probably getting that setting from the same two or three vendors.

Ah, and avoid the mall stores at all costs.

Congratulations, and good luck!
posted by Flakypastry at 6:15 PM on August 7, 2007


oh the diamond is roughly .6 carat, if I recall correctly. Round cut.

And to be honest, I have no idea how wedding bands work. Do most people just put them together, like a pair, when they're married?

Now I need to find jewelry places near Hamilton or Missoula....hmmm....
posted by macsigler at 7:20 PM on August 7, 2007


One thing about newer white gold is that it may become yellowish over time - if that is an issue go with more expensive platinum....or with an older white gold ring which may have some platinum in it.
posted by terrortubby at 4:57 AM on August 8, 2007


Usually it goes like this: a woman will wear the engagement ring on her left hand before the wedding. Rings are exchanged (although in LDS weddings this isn't part of the ceremony and can be done at the reception) at the wedding, and the woman wears her wedding band and engagement ring together on her left hand. This is why there are so many sets with bands and engagement rings that fit together. Some styles of engagement rings don't really work with a band next to them, so some move the engagement ring to their right hand and wear the band on the left. Some don't have wedding bands at all, and continue wearing the engagement ring alone after the wedding. Given that a wedding band exchange isn't a part of the ceremony, it might not be so important to her to have a wedding band at all (it wasn't for one lds friend of mine).
posted by saffron at 5:46 AM on August 8, 2007


As saffron said, there really are no "rules" for wedding bands. That said, most women do want to wear a wedding band in addition to an engagement ring. Because the engagement setting you're thinking of buying has a non-linear profile, a traditional wedding band will not fit nicely up against it. Most vendors who offer that style of semi-mount also make a matching wedding band that is designed to snug right into the engagement mounting. When worn together, they appear to be one larger ring rather than two. That's why I suggested above that your fiance try on the bands together to see if she likes the look before taking the plunge. You would be surprised how different the look may be.

If she decides to go with the matching band, I would suggest that you have the rings soft-soldered together after the ceremony. Meaning, have the jeweler solder the engagment and wedding bands together with soft solder (low melting point - makes it easy to decouple if necessary). This will cut down on the wear to both bands from rubbing together, thus dramatically increasing the life of the rings. As noted above, pave repair is very expensive. Please shop carefully for a jeweler for this job, and make sure that they use soft solder. Also, make sure that the bands are re-rhodium plated afterwards, as the plating will have burned off in the soldering process.

For the stone size (0.6 carats) in question, the ring will not sit ridiculously high. Four prongs are also fine for that size, unless she is hard on her jewelry, in which case 6 prongs are better. Think of the prongs like legs on a stool - the fewer legs that you have, the more important each one is to stability. If you have 6 prongs and bend/break one, then 5 others will still be there doing the job. The fewer prongs, the less stability in the case of ring injury.
posted by Flakypastry at 6:39 AM on August 8, 2007


Well, I think I'll just hold off for now on buying the nice ring for now, maybe for a later anniversary or something. I'll use my mother's old engagement ring, it'll have the whole "tradition" factor for it, too.

Oh, we got engaged tonight, by the way. Stayed up all night. Soooooo tired. :P

She's an aggressive kisser, too. :)
posted by macsigler at 11:32 PM on August 9, 2007


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