engagement ring bargain hunting?
February 26, 2016 9:58 AM   Subscribe

We're hunting for an engagement ring. My girlfriend really likes something like this or this -- an emerald stone held in place by a silver band that curves around the stone. Would it make sense to buy the ring and stone separately and have Gemvara fit the stone?

My girlfriend has proposed buying the ring without the stone and buying the stone separately, perhaps using the stone from this necklace. Would this work? It seems like a much cheaper way to get the result we want. Or is it difficult to fit a stone and the ring together if not bought together?

We're also prepared to think outside the box. My girlfriend really likes the look of the Gemvara rings and would like an emerald, but it doesn't need to be a natural emerald. Are there other good alternatives? Is Gemvara a good place to get a ring?

I'm feeling a little out of my depth, so any advice would be greatly appreciated. We'd like something preferably under $1000.
posted by crazy with stars to Shopping (16 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You have to make sure the ring can accommodate the depth, girdle and crown height of the Zales stone. It shouldn't be a problem, but with a setting like that I'd suspect you have to be careful.

I don't have any experience with Gemvara, but you'd either have to ship them the Zales piece or have a local jeweller remove the stone, which will cost you a bit for the labour. If I were you, I'd just go to a local (non-chain) jeweller and tell them what you want. They should have books of ring settings and findings which should likely produce something like the ring you want. Then they can worry about getting in a stone that fits.
posted by sardonyx at 10:50 AM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

We wanted an inexpensive ring from a local shop, and I learned a lot just from calling around and naming our budget ($1000). One salesperson sighed and said "You know, we do offer financing," so we crossed them off the list. If a place was evasive and suggested we just come in and see, no really just come look at the selection, they were eliminated, too. Etc.

We ultimately found a great ring within budget at a local shop--just on the outskirts of town in a non-affluent area, there was a delightful mom-n-pop place that seemed very happy with our budget and gave us no crap. It is absolutely possible to get a custom ring made at a local shop with your budget. The risks of ordering from vendors online were too much, in my opinion.
posted by witchen at 10:56 AM on February 26, 2016 [3 favorites]

BTW the style search word you're looking for is "bypass" ring.
posted by sardonyx at 10:58 AM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

Once upon a time (1971), I went to Tilden-Thurber which was, at that time, an established, full-service jeweler in Providence. I was looking for an engagement ring featuring a sapphire. After discussion, we chose a stone, a dollar amount for a couple of side diamonds, and a setting. In a week or two, I got engaged. This is the sort of thing a real jeweler, as compared to a mere retailer of jeweler, does all the time. I should say the ring cost $500 back then.

It seems a bit odd to me to go to the jeweler with a stone already purchased unless you have story to explain it (It was my grandmother's...), but my guess is they will work with you anyway, though perhaps not as cheerfully.
posted by SemiSalt at 11:02 AM on February 26, 2016 [1 favorite]

One last comment: I'm not seeing a 6.5mm faceted round in stock at the moment, but if you're looking for good prices on gemstones, I'd suggest giving Alpha Imports a call. I've written about my (positive) experience buying from them before--I tend to use them as a baseline for how much stones could/should cost and how much of a premium above that cost I'd be willing to pay. For an emerald, especially as it's an engagement ring, I'd look for AAA quality to avoid the worst of the cloudiness and inclusions.
posted by sardonyx at 11:07 AM on February 26, 2016

My engagement ring is very similar and we had a local jeweler make it along with my wedding ring so the latter could cozy right up next to it without any weird gaps. Here's a blurry picture. Congratulations!
posted by carmicha at 11:10 AM on February 26, 2016

Response by poster: Thanks all. To ask a follow-up, is there a better place to get a bypass ring online than Gemvara? Or is buying online risky and it makes more sense to buy locally?

We don't really care about it being custom-made: mostly we care about price and getting what we actually want.
posted by crazy with stars at 11:33 AM on February 26, 2016

Agreed, a local jeweler should be able to do this for you. I was also interested in something similar, and the jeweler we used talked to me about my typical activities, explained that some settings are more fragile and therefore it's more likely for a stone to be lost, and helped us design something sturdier that still fits my preferred aesthetic. My husband and I absolutely love what the jeweler came up with and get lots of compliments. All to say, it might be worth working with someone in person instead of an online company so you can get what you really want! Just be upfront about your budget - a good jeweler will be happy to work within your parameters. Like carmicha, our jeweler made our wedding rings as well, including shaping mine so the engagement ring and wedding ring would fit together smoothly.

posted by bananacabana at 11:34 AM on February 26, 2016

I'd also give Etsy a quick look. Check if a shop has similar stuff they may offer custom orders, too. Sometimes they're able to swap out a stone for you that's different from what's on the listing. Also, regardless of where you go, if you plan on having a wedding band eventually - I'd try to get one made at the same time. Bypass rings won't fit great with a standard band and you can one that's fit perfectly it will look great!
posted by Crystalinne at 12:16 PM on February 26, 2016

You can also look at tension settings. If you're open to material alternatives (titanium etc.) That may also help keep prices within budget. I have bought rings online from Etsy successfully and am happy with them.

Just note that if you go with a ring that isn't gold that sizing is really important as you may not be able to resize.
posted by MandaSayGrr at 12:36 PM on February 26, 2016

We don't really care about it being custom-made: mostly we care about price and getting what we actually want.

One aspect of having a ring custom-made is that it's a lovely and memorable bonding experience: one of the first official "we're affianced" activities. You engage with the jeweler about three-four times: for the initial consult, to look at alternate concept drawings, to check out the wax mold of your choice, and then to pick up the ring. It's exciting and builds momentum. In addition to the wedding ring fit, as others have said, it's not especially expensive and it ensures you'll get something both unique and tailored to your taste.
posted by carmicha at 12:48 PM on February 26, 2016

I have a lab-created emerald and love it - mine didn't come from here, but I've seen their stones in person and they are lovely. They also have a huge selection of empty settings. I've bought other jewelry supplies from them and have always been happy.
posted by ersatzkat at 1:25 PM on February 26, 2016

Alternatives to emerald are chrome diopside, tsavorite (a type of garnet) and helenite (which is a type of obsidian made from volcanic rock taken from Mount St Helens in Washington).

All these stones have more fire than emerald. I have some helenite jewellery and every time I wear it people comment on it, it's really beautiful.

I also agree with everyone who's said buy the stone of your choice and then go to a local jeweller to have the ring custom-made.
posted by essexjan at 1:48 PM on February 26, 2016 [2 favorites]

We recently did this with Kay Jewelers, of all places, and I was blown-away impressed with their customer service. My husband bought a halo setting without a stone, then got the dimensions from Kay of an appropriate stone. We then found a sapphire on etsy that matched the dimensions, brought it to Kay and had it mounted. It's totally gorgeous, and going with an outside stone did not invalidate the insurance type thing we got along with the setting (6 month checkups, free resizing, replacement of missing side diamonds).
posted by pintapicasso at 2:58 PM on February 26, 2016

And by the way, we went to kays because the local Jewelers were not psyched to sell us a setting without a big honking diamond - nor did they want to mount an outside stone, nor did they want our business in sourcing a non-diamond, which is why we went with etsy and Kay Jewelers.
posted by pintapicasso at 3:00 PM on February 26, 2016

I just stumbled across this:

Contact them and see if they will set an emerald in this design for you, or if not. I happen to know they have set gemstones before.
posted by ohsnapdragon at 8:44 AM on March 4, 2016

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