Engagement rings are based on history and tradition. They are the symbol of your commitment and shouldn't just be thought of as just another piece of jewelry. The ring can be just about anything as long as it embraces your union and means something to the both of you.
1. DO consider all your options. You can buy a diamond engagement ring, a gemstone ring or make your own out of a piece of string. The point here is to remember the symbolism behind the ring and not get carried away by social pressure and status. The choices are endless—Princess Diana, who could have just about anything chose a sapphire engagement ring which Kate Middleton proudly wears today.
2. DO understand what you're buying. Educate yourself on precious metals and gemstone and diamond grades. Learn about stone shapes and settings and how to recognize quality, and understand the 4 Cs of diamonds. You don't need an extensive knowledge (you can learn all you need to know online) but make sure you understand what to look for and how to not get taken for a ride.
3. DO shop around. Buying an engagement ring today is easier than ever because of the internet. Reputable online jewelers will provide diamond grade certificates so you can compare apples to apples and get the best bling for your buck. They also offer great prices because they sell more volume than a local jewelry store.
4. DON'T feel pressured into buying a ring that's the latest style or trend. This is one piece of jewelry that will be worn daily for years to come and perhaps even passed down to future generations. Trends come and go but your engagement ring won't.
5. DO set an appropriate budget with a long term view. Many couples realize after the fact that they spent too much and didn't look at the big picture. A less expensive engagement ring can mean paying off their debts, or owning their first house that much sooner.
6. DO make a 'ring fund'. Set a realistic amount to save monthly way before you get engaged and put it in a separate account. Buying an engagement ring is no different than any other large purchase so planning for it is always a good idea.
7. DON'T spend beyond your means. The worst thing you could do is get yourselves into debt as you start your lives out together. Of course you need to buy an engagement ring of some sort but because she loves you, she'll appreciate that you didn't take a second mortgage on the house to put a massive rock on her finger.
8. DON'T feel pressured by a jeweler or salesperson into increasing your budget. Would you really expect a jeweler to advise you to spend less? "If he really loved her, he wouldn't mind parting with all his cash, right?" WRONG!
The old adage of spending between two and three month's salary when buying an engagement ring was started by the business savvy folks at DeBeers who also imprinted into our brains that an engagement ring should contain a diamond because "diamonds are forever". Of course they'd want to play on our emotions and drain us of our very last cent—they're a diamond company!
Marriage is a big step and you want to show everyone how serious and committed you both are—so save up, prioritize and make some sacrifices to be able to contribute to the 'ring fund'.
And, if for some odd reason your lady love asks you how much you spent (and she probably won't), go for one of these tried and true responses:
"Money doesn't matter as long as you're happy"
"I could never put a price on my love for you"
"Seeing the happiness in your eyes is worth all the money in the world"
One last thing to keep in mind when buying an engagement ring, she'll likely be wearing the ring for the rest of her life so make sure you put some thought into her personal sense of style.