Diamond engagement rings are different from most things we buy in our lifetime. Not only do they represent so much more than what they are but most of us never think about the actual process of buying one until we start looking for one.
We don't realize that we're actually buying two things that end up packaged together: The diamond AND the ring setting.
As you start your search for the perfect diamond ring you'll see that some jewelers sell rings that are pre-set, which means that you are buying both the setting and the stone as one unit. It's a package deal!
Other retailers will offer settings in different precious metals and an inventory of diamonds so that you can mix and match as you please. Some of the settings will have smaller diamonds encrusted or paved along the shank but these are considered part of the setting and not the center stone—that diamond is purchased separately so you can choose the shape, grade, size and quality that best suits your needs.
Pre-set rings are usually manufactured by very large companies and are sold to smaller jewelers that then sell them to you. Because the diamond is already set you have nothing to do but pay for it and take it home.
The upside is that all the decisions are already made for you and you get to see the actual finished product. The downside is that you don't get to choose the grade, shape, or quality of the diamond they used and some may not even come with a GIA or similar certificate, although many will.
In terms of price, they will often appear to be less expensive. That's not because they are pre-set. It's because the size and quality of the diamonds used are of moderate grade and the price reflects it. So it doesn't necessarily mean you are getting a better price, in fact often buying the same quality stone and setting separately can often result in more savings.
The biggest savings in pre-set diamond engagement rings (like the ones above from Reeds) comes when a retailer is having a seasonal sale or needs to clear inventory. That's when you are almost sure to get a better price than when buying the two separately.
The more common way to buy a diamond ring is to buy the setting and center stone and separately.
Regardless of your budget or the grade of diamond, this is the route that most of us take because it gives us the freedom to choose every aspect of our rings—the shape, the grade, the size and clarity.
The only downside is that you do have to do a little homework first.
So first things first... If you're in the market for a diamond ring then you really need to learn about diamonds, because the cost and value of the entire ring is mostly in the diamond.
One of the most important things we've outlined for any diamond purchase is that it should come with certification from an independent gemological institute such as the GIA.
The other thing we've stressed is that no two diamonds are alike even if they have identical grading. The point is, that like people each diamond has its own personality so you really need to see the actual stone to know whether it's the right one for you.
And, seeing the actual stone has always been the problem with buying diamonds and engagement rings online. People couldn't see the actual diamond they were buying so they opted to go to their local jewelry store instead and ended up paying more.
The issue with local jewelry stores is that they carry very little inventory as opposed to online stores that sell to the entire world. So not only do you get way less choice at your local jeweler but the same quality diamond will cost much more because they don't get the same volume discounts that the major online retailers do and the cost of running the stores (rent, staff, cleaning crews, taxes, etc) are all factored into the price of the diamond.
The same, but to a lesser extent, holds true for the setting. The more customers, the more variety of settings you can offer. The less overhead, the more savings you can provide. Be sure to read our pages on engagement and wedding ring settings to get an overview of what to look for and what's available.
If you've looked around our site, you'll notice that many of our diamond engagement rings and pictures come from JamesAllen.
We use their designs a lot because they exemplify everything that we talk about throughout this site and have solved the problem of not being able to see the actual stone online. Here's what we like about them...As an online store their diamonds are cheaper than your local jeweler and come with GIA Certification.
They have real pictures of the actual diamond and virtual loupe technology that lets you see all the inclusions and details within the stone. (They are the only retailer that we know of that has this.)
They have an extensive collection of beautiful settings that come in gold or platinum.
They have amazing HD imaging that gives you a 360 degree view of the ring. It's as close to buying a ring in person as possible with the convenience and cost savings of shopping online.
They have an A+ BBB rating, great customer service, return policy etc.
They managed to remove the normal barriers of buying such a precious and costly item from the comfort of your own home, and did a really good job of it!
Want to know more? Check out this video about buying loose diamonds from them on another one of our pages.
If you're looking for more ideas, be sure to checkout our section on beautiful engagement rings for more diamond and gemstone rings.
Diamond engagement rings are a North American tradition but only one of your options. Colored gemstones and birthstones (which have long been a tradition in Europe and on other continents) can be a great alternative and should also be considered when looking at bridal jewelry.