Is buying an engagement ring on etsy a good idea?
August 11, 2011 7:15 PM   Subscribe

I'm planning to buy an engagement ring. Is it a bad idea to buy one from etsy?

My girlfriend and I have been talking about marriage a lot and we're now at the point where it's simply a matter of when. I'd like the answer to that question to be: soon.

With that in mind, I'm starting to look at engagement rings. I have found a really nice one on etsy -- decent price, one-of-a-kind, very much the type of thing she will like -- but the problem is that it is on etsy. (I won't link to the specific ring; GF knows I'm on MetaFilter and while I'm OK with her potentially seeing this question, I don't want her to see the ring until I actually put in on her finger; MeMail me if you'd like to get the link.)

Is buying an engagement ring on etsy a bad idea?

I can appreciate that there are some risks associated: I haven't seen the ring in person and I might not be able to return it if it's not what I was expecting (though, this particular seller appears to have a solid return policy). Are there any obvious risks that I'm overlooking?

The seller has 100% positive feedback from more than 500 previous customers, but she also hasn't replied to my email inquiring about getting the ring re-sized (it's only been 2 days, but still). Is this a good idea or should I be going with a larger, better established jewellery company?
posted by asnider to Shopping (34 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I honestly wouldn't have wanted a ring sight-unseen unless my future spouse REALLY grokked my personal style--and we've been together ten years now and I'd just say he's close. Close-ISH. Jewelry is intensely personal, more so than clothing.

We got engaged with a shitty gumball machine ring and then chose a "real ring" in tandem and I would honestly endorse that route. My now-husband found a ring that he was pretty sure I'd love and showed it to me and I did love it, but it could have gone another way pretty easily, so tread softly, is all I'd say.

I would give extra points to a man who sought out a ring from a small-scale craft jeweler a la Etsy though, so good for you if you understand that this is something your girl will appreciate.
posted by padraigin at 7:19 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Also: the stone is not a diamond, in case that is relevant.
posted by asnider at 7:22 PM on August 11, 2011

I don't have any serious concerns about buying jewelry on Etsy. I do have concerns about expecting someone else to wear something for, potentially, the next 50 years, that even you haven't seen in person.
posted by SMPA at 7:26 PM on August 11, 2011 [4 favorites]

Response by poster: And it turns out that the seller did reply to my question. I was just expecting to get an email notification and forgot to check my etsy mail (I'm not exactly a regular etsy user; my bad).
posted by asnider at 7:27 PM on August 11, 2011

What exactly are you worried about?

If its because of the expense be sure to pay with a credit card (or paypal funded with a credit card) and if you want to be really careful have it appraised by a local jeweler.

If you're worried about whether your GF will like it I think that's a whole different, and harder, question but no worse than from a bigger jeweler.
posted by SpaceWarp13 at 7:28 PM on August 11, 2011

My girlfriend and I are going to get engaged soon, and we nearly went the Etsy route. We ended up picking out rings (I wanted one too! How come only the ladies get to wear a symbol of their betrothal?) at a local lapidary instead, where we could see and hold the rings. If you're looking for a non-traditional engagement ring (hers is a beautiful piece of blue moonstone and mine is a huge raw citrine crystal set in silver) then I would highly recommend this route. The sort of rings that you'll find at a lapidary will be different than what a mainstream jewelery store will carry – less emphasis on gold and diamonds, for instance – and will be closer to what you see on Etsy. But you'll get to see the ring in person!
posted by Scientist at 7:29 PM on August 11, 2011

My now-husband, then-fiance bought my non-diamond ring on eBay, sight-unseen, and it turned out great.

Of course, he only payed like $150 for it, so no big loss if it wasn't what I wanted.
posted by muddgirl at 7:30 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

We bought our wedding rings on etsy. We mismeasured and the seller took them back and resized them for free and was incredibly kind and quick about it. They were the most expensive part of our wedding, but we love them and are very happy with them.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:31 PM on August 11, 2011

My fiance and I got my engagement ring from Etsy. It was custom-designed and I love it. It sounds like you are buying a ready to ship ring, so as long as you use Paypal (and receive it in under 45 days or file a claim) and be clear with the seller about the return policy, I don't think there should be a huge problem; you'll still get the chance to take a look and return it if necessary. I wouldn't be too concerned about the seller not replying to you so far; mine was really busy, being a jeweler and the only one in charge of replying to customer emails, so it is likely she is just hard at work.

If the seller and/or the ring turns out to be less than satisfactory, I would recommend visiting Pricescope (especially the colored stones forum) to see what their preferred vendors are. I felt more confident knowing that my etsy seller had lots of experience working with people on these forums and had a high reputation.
posted by elisse at 7:39 PM on August 11, 2011

Response by poster: What exactly are you worried about?

I'm mostly worried about the expense. I'm not paranoid about shopping online, but I think the only other time I've spent this much money online was when I bought my laptop, but Dell isn't exactly some random person.

I guess my concern is that it feels like buying such a pricey item from a person on etsy feelings like giving a lot of money to a stranger and hoping that they come by my house a few weeks later with a ring. Maybe I'm being irrational, but I guess that's my main concern.

I also do have a slight concern about buying a ring that I have never seen in person, but the type of rings that my girlfriend likes are really hard to find in mainstream stores (there is potential for luck at antique shops, but that's very hit and miss; doing it online allows me to track down exactly the type of ring that she will be happy with).

I do have concerns about expecting someone else to wear something for, potentially, the next 50 years, that even you haven't seen in person.

That's part of my concern, too, although it's not the main concern. Also, for what it's worth, she won't wear the engagement ring all the time. We've talked about this. She'll wear her wedding ring all the time (as will I), but she won't necessarily wear the engagement ring on a daily basis.
posted by asnider at 7:39 PM on August 11, 2011

we bought our wedding rings on etsy. we wanted custom rings and were waffling about the finish so the seller mocked up both finishes and took super high res pictures so we could make a more informed decision. they are awesome and exactly what we want.

like you, we looked for high feedback, lots of transactions, nothing shady on a google search, and prompt communication.

(soon to be) congratulations!
posted by nadawi at 7:43 PM on August 11, 2011

It depends on the girl, I think. My wife & I got engaged sans ring because we were broke, later I found an heirloom fake diamond thing she still wears. She was fine with that, some women would have been incredibly offended. Only you're qualified to make that judgement about your wife-to-be
posted by GilloD at 7:51 PM on August 11, 2011

My engagement ring was purchased on Etsy. I'm about 90% happy with it. Caveats are it was about $200 and we chose it together.
posted by asciident at 8:02 PM on August 11, 2011

My engagement ring was purchased on Etsy. I'm 100% happy with it, but then, I picked it out myself and asked the seller to swap out some stones on the ring that was actually advertised so it's totally customized to my wishes. We didn't spend a ton of money on my ring, but I have found Etsy overall to be a safe place to spend money. If you can, purchase with a credit card with a good customer service policy, like AmEx.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:20 PM on August 11, 2011

Not an etsy datapoint, but I bought an engagement ring for my fiancee sight unseen from a jeweler--it was custom made by an atelier in Germany based on a picture in their catalogue (which was of a platinum ring, and I had it made in yellow gold). The point being, you don't always get to see the exact ring even if you are buying from a brick and mortar establishment.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 8:30 PM on August 11, 2011

I've often bought items off of Etsy. Mind you, never bought something more than maybe a hundred dollars, but I've bought fairly pricey items from a number of different sellers.

Just remember that these sellers want to make money. They often have reputations to uphold, which those 500 reviews are the pillars of in this particular case. Many times, an Etsy seller has a larger and more professional looking website elsewhere, or sells their items through other online stores, in order to make a living.
posted by DisreputableDog at 8:34 PM on August 11, 2011

I wouldn't worry about not receiving the ring. However, I would have serious questions about the quality of the ring. I recently bought a cheaper than engagement ring from a person who had lots of 100% positive rating and it was poor quality.
posted by quodlibet at 8:46 PM on August 11, 2011

Talk with the seller. My husband (hi honey!) and I bought our wedding rings from a jewelry maker who we found through etsy and who does a lot of business there. By going to her non-etsy website we were able to see many hundreds of pictures of her work, learn a lot about her ethics with regard to the materials she uses, and communicate about what exactly we wanted. It was a really good experience and we would absolutely do it again.
posted by juliapangolin at 8:47 PM on August 11, 2011

Since you mentioned antiques, I'll just chime in and say that my fiance and I picked out my engagement ring together at an antique store and it was a really fun experience. I didn't have anything specific in mind but I loved the idea of a unique ring with personality, and I love older styles. Also the fact that we're always broke made the antique route very appealing. Anyhoo glad I did that and I love my ring!
posted by radioamy at 8:58 PM on August 11, 2011

My husband and I got engaged sans-ring, and we ended up picking out my engagement ring and our bands together. Since I don't like traditional diamond rings, I ended up doing a ton of research on "alternative" engagement rings. We found a seller on Etsy whose style we absolutely loved, and because he had so much positive feedback, we went with him. In case you're looking at the same seller, I won't mention the name of ours.

We are incredibly happy with my engagement ring and our bands. Overall, I'd say sizing is the most important issue. We bought a ring sizing tool on Amazon to figure out our sizes. Mine fit perfectly, but because my husband's band is so thick and wide, he had to send his back to the seller to get it sized up slightly. This was a super quick and easy process and the seller did it for free.

I wouldn't worry about getting ripped off -- just make sure there are plenty of pictures of the ring, some sort of return policy in place and that you know your girl's size. Also, make sure your girl wants (and is prepared to wear) a ring that isn't a diamond. This is an incredibly sensitive (and admittedly stupid) issue among women. I sport a chocolate diamond, and even though I'm enamored with it, the number one comment I get on my ring is that it's "interesting," as in, "Ooooooh, how... interesting." It's annoying, but I'd rather wear a ring that I actually like than a gaudy diamond.

Good luck, and congratulations! I'm a big proponent of the Etsy route.
posted by shiggins at 9:35 PM on August 11, 2011

Response by poster: Also, make sure your girl wants (and is prepared to wear) a ring that isn't a diamond.

She has specifically said that she doesn't want a diamond. I know what kind of stone she wants and so I'm confident about that aspect of it. That's partly why I'm looking online: non-diamond engagement rings seem nearly impossible to find in traditional jewellery stores.
posted by asnider at 9:41 PM on August 11, 2011

I'm not paranoid about shopping online, but I think the only other time I've spent this much money online was when I bought my laptop, but Dell isn't exactly some random person.

Think of it this way. Dell is not a random person. It's not a person at all. It's a huge corporation with a marketing machine that works specifically to engage your trust and a production machine that divides up the manufacturing and labor and a customer service machine that answers the phone and can give you limited information in response to an inquiry. Sure, there's a value to all this efficiency. I'm not going to buy my computer from a homegrown computer-crafter on Etsy.

But you're buying a highly personal item. And your Etsy seller is the actual human responsible for making the thing that you're buying...with whom you can arrange to speak personally. Sure, you run the risk of bad luck -- people are more variable than machines, and sometimes are unrealistic or kinda suck. But your Etsy seller has something very real to lose if you're unhappy, and has flexibility and discretion that Dell does not.
posted by desuetude at 10:01 PM on August 11, 2011

Seeing as you're a Canuck let me offer you a suggestion. Try the Shopping Channel. No, I'm not joking.

If you're uncomfortable dealing with a small individual (possibly one in a different country that will have to ship it across international borders and thereby catch the attention of Canada Customs who will then probably charge you a silly amount of duty), it makes sense to try picking a national corporation that has a very clear policy on shopping, returns, etc.

If you can't find what you want at Birks (which is where I'd likely start shopping), the Shopping Channel offers a real alternative. The return policy is really clear: 30 days full refund (minus the shipping charges), basically no questions asked. It's owned by Rogers, so you know it isn't a fly-by-night operation (even if Rogers is pictured in the dictionary under "evil corporate empire").

There are pictures of the pieces posted online, and often even video of the rings being modelled, so you can get a better idea of what you're buying.

Now as with any other store, it offers good quality lines, and lesser quality lines. Some of the lines that I'd be comfortable personally recommending are:

Generations 1912
--offers free repairs and sizing (as long as you pay to ship it to the manufacturer in New York -- the company pays to ship the pieces back)
--offers a variety of stones including Morganite, Kunzite, tourmalines, various varieties of garnets (demantoid, spessartite, tsavorite), chrome diopside, etc. The line seems to offer really, really nice sapphires (at least most of the blue ones seem pretty good, I haven't personally seen any of the pink or yellow or other coloured sapphires).
--offers antique and retro styles, with lots and lots of engraving and fine detailed work.

Premier Gems
--offers a variety of harder to find stones, including natural zircons, really fabulous aquamarines, kunzite, rhodalites, apatites, tourmalines, chrysoprase, etc.
--from a Canadian company (some are manufactured here, some overseas). Actually the company is Valitutti Jewellery and you can buy directly from it as well. I like Michael's website because I like listening to him talk about stones and he shows samples of the rough materials.
--offers some rings in 18K, as well as 14K
--offers a mix of modern and more traditional, elaborate styles
--I think this line also offers free or low-cost sizing

Himalayan Gems
--offers only Sterling Silver (no gold) but it's hand-made in Nepal for a Canadian company. Lovely, lovely workmanship.
--offers lots of cheaper, semi-precious stones including fabulous labradorite, lapis, chalcedony, rose quartz, tiger's eye, always really nice garnets, mookaite, amethyst, peridot, onyx, etc.

For the most part, rings are offered in sizes ranging from 6 to 10 so you've got the ability to buy something that is at least close to her correct size (although I'd suggest buying one size up if you go with the Himalayan option).

Now I understand wanting to have custom-made jewellery -- I just picked up a special order from a local goldsmith about a week ago, and I'm currently talking to a stone cutter about having some rough custom cut for me -- but I'm also a very cautious consumer who likes to know that I can trust a retailer to stand by a very forgiving returns policy, especially when I'm buying a gift for somebody, hence my suggestion.

Just as an aside I happened to be waiting for an appointment at a jewellery appraiser's. He has a very small location, so I could here at least some of what he was telling the customer before me. This customer had purchased an engagement ring from Costco (or maybe it was Sam's Club) and he was getting it appraised to make sure it wasn't a piece of glass. The appraiser said that for the most part the descriptions provided by those types of bulk stores were pretty accurate. He then added (completely without bidding) that the other place that seemed to give customers pretty good information about their purchases was the Shopping Channel. He also said that for the most part the prices paid by customers for Shopping Channel pieces was pretty much always fair in that the appraisals came back for an amount that was equal to or higher than the prices they paid.

Now just so you don't think I work for them, I've also seen some poor quality items: cheap stones, bad workmanship, poor design, etc. As I said, not everything offered is wonderful, and you do have to be careful when making your purchasing decisions.

But the big reason I'd suggest you look at TSC as an option is that you want a stone that isn't a diamond, you've probably got more options and more choice there than you would with any other retailer in the country, Birks and Tiffany's included.

Of course the other option if you still want a hand-made, custom crafted piece is to find a good, local jeweller. I can't recommend anybody out there personally, but it might be worth seeing if this jeweller or this one or this one can offer something similar (in style and price) to the online one.
posted by sardonyx at 11:52 PM on August 11, 2011 [1 favorite]

Datapoint: My husband and I bought my moissanite engagement ring from an Etsy vendor, and we had a great experience. When it a few months after purchase (due to my own carelessness and the ring's open design, the latter of which the jeweler warned us about and the former of which, well . . .), she repaired it for free with well-wishes for our wedding—customer service I'd be surprised to see from a big-name vendor. We even went back to her for my bridal jewelry.
posted by kwaller at 4:27 AM on August 12, 2011

if you do get one, make sure to take it to a jeweler, get it appraised, then insure it (put a rider on your renters/home owners insurance, or take out a new policy). I cannot emphasize this enough, get it insured... My wife of 5 years, lost her engagement ring 3 months into our engagement, it was a pure accident, but heartbreaking to her... USAA was nice to us and gave us the amount we insured it for and we actually got a bigger stone on the same setting.
posted by fozzie33 at 4:37 AM on August 12, 2011

I wanted to hop in and say that Mr. Stardust got my engagement and wedding ring from Etsy and I love them. It is also a non-diamond ring and I get compliments on it all the time. Also, they were able to do a bevel setting instead of prongs, which I hate because I always manage to catch my hair on them. I love that the rings are as unique as we are and that they have a great story behind them.

If you like, you can memail me and I'll tell you who we used.
posted by Kitty Stardust at 6:32 AM on August 12, 2011

How very clearly handmade is it? Here and there Etsy jewellery resellers are outed, and I always peek at the feedback; people tend to be very enthusiastic about what they received, a mass-market bit of jewellery at a big mark-up. Some examples.

You might blow a little time looking through jewellery supply company Rio Grande's catalogues to get a sense of price and what things are being mass-made in China. ("Gems & Findings" will show you stones and ring settings; "Finished Jewelry" will show you...yes.)

I so wish you had posted anonymously and linked to the ring/seller...!

If the photographs are very slick and professional, run them through TinEye.
posted by kmennie at 7:57 AM on August 12, 2011

Hmm I Dont see anything wrong with it. I would only do it though if you can get a full refund.

I proposed to my wife with a $150 ring from just metal and she loved it.
posted by majortom1981 at 7:57 AM on August 12, 2011

I bought my now-fiancee's ring on Etsy and we've been nothing but happy with it. It was a great deal and custom work, so there are none like it anywhere in the world. I didn't worry about her not liking it because I knew exactly what type of ring she wanted and I was free to design it from there.

I say GO FOR IT!
posted by InsanePenguin at 8:29 AM on August 12, 2011

Read the detailed feedback, ask about store policies in an email if they aren't specific enough, get the package insured when it is shipped, pay by credit card, and you should be fine working with a seller with that much feedback.
posted by oneirodynia at 9:12 AM on August 12, 2011

Another happy Etsy ring-wearer here. Wife bought my non-diamond engagement ring there, and it's the most perfect-for-me ring in the whole entire world. We then bought both of our wedding bands from other Etsy vendors, all with spectacular results. Seriously, couldn't be happier. In her case, the customized band we ordered wasn't quite what we had envisioned, and the seller was amazing about taking it back and making a new one quickly, at no extra cost (not even shipping!).
posted by spinturtle at 9:31 AM on August 12, 2011

Response by poster: I so wish you had posted anonymously and linked to the ring/seller...!

In retrospect, that may have been a good idea, but I wanted to be able to provide additional information and respond to the comments if necessary.

If the photographs are very slick and professional, run them through TinEye.

I'm assuming the goal here is to make sure that the photos aren't showing up anywhere else on the web and that, if the search returns 0 results, I can safely assume that it truly is a one-of-a-kind piece. Correct?
posted by asnider at 10:32 AM on August 12, 2011

if the search returns 0 results, I can safely assume that's not being sold by the gross on, and it's not being bought cheaply off eBay or and re-sold on Etsy at a mark-up. So, yes, a meaningful bit of reassurance that the seller is not a re-seller.
posted by kmennie at 6:56 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks for the help everyone. I ended up showing her the ring after all (just the pictures, not the actual product page) to make sure that she liked it and she did. So, I think that makes this situation resolved.
posted by asnider at 4:57 PM on September 19, 2011

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