Engagement Ring Guardian Buying Guide

An engagement ring is displayed at a jewellery store 

Finding a dream engagement ring at the very best price needs understanding of cut, colour, clarity and carat.

Written By: Emma Lunn

It’s not just the festive season that’s almost upon us but the peak proposal season, too. Christmas Eve is the most popular day of the year for men to propose, with New Year’s Eve not far behind.

Argos typically sells almost 200% more diamond rings in the run-up to Christmas compared with Valentine’s Day, with sales reaching a high for the year on 24 December.

Jewellery buying manager, Alice Rigby said: “Despite the tradition of going on bended knee on 14 February, we see far more sales of diamond rings during the festive season. Many customers, men in particular, get panicked the closer it gets to Christmas. The more under pressure they are to find the perfect present, the more cash they will spend – and what better surprise on Christmas morning than to open a box containing a beautiful sparkling rock.”

But before men (we’ll stick with tradition for this article) get down on one knee, they need to figure out what kind of engagement ring they’ll be proffering and how much they have to spend.

Experts say those popping the question don’t necessarily need to spend more to get bigger diamonds or more impressive jewellery, they just need to know a few tricks of the trade.

How To Buy An Engagement Ring explains what kind of retailers men should approach, how to save thousands of pounds on diamonds, and how to get the exact diamond you want.

“Most men like to think they know their partner pretty well, but the reality is that guys often get it wrong when it comes to engagement rings,” says Smith, “The jewellery industry doesn’t offer a centralised place for impartial information, meaning that men end up repeating the same mistakes as millions before them. Buying an engagement ring has changed, and there are thousands to be saved if you know what to look for and where to find it.”

Before you start diamond shopping you need to understand the “4Cs”: cut, colour, clarity and carat.

Diamond ring with 0.45 carat main stone. £2,012.

Smith says this is most important. “Cut is the defining factor for how much a stone sparkles and a well-cut stone will look larger, hide flaws and be more brilliant than a poorly cut one,” he says. “Go for the very best you can afford.”

Diamond cut is normally ranked excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor. Some retailers will have their own “signature cut” grading level above excellent.

Colour

The colour of diamonds ranges from D to Z. D is fully colourless so the best and rarest, but only a diamond expert can tell the difference between a D and G colour diamond, so those on a tight budget should opt for a G or H.

Price difference: Assuming a 1 carat round diamond and a very good cut, a D colour diamond would cost about £5,400 to £9,400, while a H would be about £4,000 to £6,000.

Clarity
This refers to blemishes and inclusions and each diamond will have a clarity rating. FL is flawless (and expensive), IF is internally flawless, and there are then various grades of “inclusions” from VVSI (very very slightly included) to I3 (eye-visible inclusions).

“For the best deal, look at SI1 or SI2 (slightly included) diamonds. Your fiance isn’t going to study it under a magnifying glass and most inclusions will only be visible to experts,” says Dominguez.

Price difference: Assuming a 1 carat round diamond, G colour and very good cut, an SI2 would cost £3,000 to £6,200 while an IF would set you back £6,000 to £11,000.

Carat
Diamond ring with 0.32 carat stone. £1,110. There’s money to be saved by dipping below a round number. For example, opt for a 0.95 carat diamond rather than 1 carat. This is known as “buying shy”.

“Jewellers know that people are much more likely to buy a one carat diamond than a stone that comes in just under,” says Smith. “Nice round numbers are known as ‘magic numbers’, but by dipping just below them you can make big savings with very little noticeable difference to how big the stone looks.”

Price difference: Assuming G colour, very good cut and VS2 clarity, an exact 1 carat diamond would cost £4,400 to £5,700, while a 0.9 carat diamond would cost between £3,100 and £4,300.

Ring metal
As well as a diamond, ring-buyers also need to think about ring metal. Platinum tends to be most expensive but high quality white gold can give the same glamorous aesthetic more cheaply. Bear in mind that most people opt for the same ring metal for their wedding ring, so you might want to subtly find out your intended’s preferences.

So, now you know what you’re looking for, where should you buy it?

The experts agree that anyone buying an engagement ring should give high street jewellers a miss and go online instead.

As well as saving up to 80% of the cost of a diamond, shopping online at certain sites allows buyers to match up the exact combination of the 4Cs that they want.

“Online has completely changed the diamond industry, as people now have their pick from hundreds of thousands of diamonds and rings, rather than just the handful that their local jeweller stocks,” says Smith, “Going online gives guys access to the best choice and the best prices.”