Picking the perfect engagement ring is a scary task.
I mean to be honest, I spend hours picking out birthday cards, and the thought of choosing a multi-thousand dollar ring for someone else is daunting.
But nevertheless, when you meet that special lady who you want to share your life with it must be done.
So what’s a man to do?
Fear no more, for Little Bird is here. Little Bird is a premium Diamond Ring and Engagement Ring consultant service run by two amazing women Lia Wilson and Danielle Mainas. Their goal is to help guide guys from an inside perspective when going through this process.
They are the newest partners with Menprovement and were recently featured on The Menprovement Podcast, giving a step by step audio guide on engagements and picking the perfect ring. So if you want to hear that go here.
But because they’re awesome they created a visual guide on picking the perfect engagement ring and answered the most common questions you need to know when going through the process.
And if you still need help, no worries – Lia and Danielle are here for you. Head to LittleBidToldYou.com to get a free 30 minute consultation.
1) How much do I spend? Is that old 2 month’s salary calculation still true?
No. Do whatever feels comfortable. You can get an awesome ring on a budget. Consider a rose-cut diamond. Add a halo. Consider a sapphire. Consider an antique, but definitely have a jeweler double check that it is in good condition.
2) Should I always get a GIA report?
Yes, when you can. Don’t expect one for antiques or diamonds under $3k. GIA reports cost money and take time. Just so you know, AGS is also a legitimate and respected report. In general we recommend you avoid EGL or IGI reports. Or, you can call us here at Little Bird. We can help you read any report or advise you if the diamond you want to buy does not come with a report.
3) Local vs. online vs. independent artist?
They all have their advantages. Local jewelers are great because you can have a face-to-face meeting, see diamonds, look at settings, and develop a plan with the jeweler. Repairs, re-rhodium plating, and other general maintenance are also very straightforward with local jewelers.
Online hunting can be great if you are searching the world for a very particular style or you are shopping for the best deal on a diamond. If you use the internet wisely, you can search for all kinds of cool independent designers who you would never come across in a department store. You get to work with an artist, and you typically get a ring with an interesting story.
4) Ethical sourcing? Conflict free?
PLEASE speak up and ask for this. It’s the only way the industry will change. What country is your diamond coming from? What are the mining conditions in that country? We wrote more about this for a recent blog article. Click here for a more nuanced look at this global issue.
5) How much do you tell your jeweler about yourself and your intended?
Even if it feels weird, it’s worth the effort. Tell them everything; how you met, where your favorite clothing store is, where your dream vacation would be, if you or your sweetie play any sports. Tell the jeweler if your girlfriend is a klutz, if she likes banana-flavored chapstick, if you two go surfing, hang gliding, or mountain climbing. Are her hands usually warm or cold? The aim is to describe the environment this ring is going to be “living in” when it is on her hand, as well as who is attached to that hand.
6) Are you seeing any changing trends?
Always. Right now, the trend is toward non-traditional shapes, interesting styles from talented jewelers, or expressing your individual taste by adding a few unique touches to your ring. Classics will never die, but in a nutshell, people are happily paying less, and getting rings with more personality.
7) What are the most common mistakes people make?
Not exploring possibilities before making a purchase. Don’t buy the first or second ring that pops up when you do a Google search for “engagement ring”. Guys, don’t fall prey to the victim mentality that the diamond industry is out to get you. Every diamond is unique and it is up to you to educate yourself about them and which aspects of your future diamond are the most important to you. Based on that knowledge, you can be a savvy, empowered shopper. (At the end of this article we will discuss a few tips on how to navigate this decision-making process.)
8) Are diamonds really that common?
Lot’s of folks wonder whether diamonds prices are high because the supply is controlled. Here’s the deal: diamonds the size of grains of sand are common. Big, facetable, clear, pretty diamonds are quite rare and you have to move literally tons of dirt to dig them up–that is expensive. The price is controlled so that supplies will stay relatively constant. This is good news for you. It would feel really unfair if you had to pay 50 percent more than your buddy did last year for the same diamond just because a random mine in Australia didn’t find any good stuff for a few months. Right?
9) What metal do I choose?
It depends on your lifestyle and the design you choose for your ring. Choose platinum if she is really hard on jewelry, or you want a thin, delicate diamond accented band, or you have a solitaire in a tall setting balanced on top of the band. Choose 18k white gold if you are looking for a smooth shiny polish. (Note: 18k white gold is usually plated with rhodium to make it super white. You can easily get your ring re-plated every few years to re-up it’s shiny finish.) Choose 18k yellow gold if you are looking for an intense rich color that will make a white diamond really pop or a more yellow diamond look whiter. Choose rose gold if you are looking for a soft, romantic vibe AND you know that rose gold looks good with her skin tone. When in doubt, ask an expert. We can tell you in 3 minutes whether rose gold would work for your specific situation.
10) What do I do if I know she wouldn’t like a diamond?
By all means, don’t get a diamond! We also recommend sapphire (which comes in a variety of colors). Morganite and aquamarine are great if she can be very gentle on the ring. Or, avoid gems all together!
As promised, here is your VERY BASIC guide to understanding diamond grading. Keep in mind that this is NOT one-size-fits-all. Contact us with any and all questions you may have. We are available, and we coach gentlemen such as yourself through this process all the time.
Diamond colors are graded from D (colorless) all the way to Z (noticeably yellow). The sweet spot is F,G, H color. You won’t see the color (because you and your girlfriend are not trained gemologists), so there’s no point in paying for the rarest diamonds in the world. Unless you really want to — in which case, go for it.
There are 5 carats in a gram. A 1 carat round brilliant diamond is about 6.5 mm across. Buy whatever carat weight you want, but know that prices jump at each whole and half carat mark. For example, a 1 carat diamond should cost 1 percent more than a .99 carat diamond, right? Wrong. It costs a lot more. It’s about perceived size. The result of this pattern is that diamond cutters will try to hit that 1 carat, 2 carat or 3 carat mark if they think they can get away with it. They do this by tweaking the proportions of the cut, which can reduce the brightness of the diamond. How to avoid this problem? Pay special attention to the cut grade of your diamond.
The cut grade of a diamond refers to how perfectly the diamond conforms to the ideal faceting proportions, designed to take advantage of diamond’s unique refractive index and create maximum brilliance and fire. (Brilliance = brightness, Fire = rainbow sparkles.) The standard cut grades developed by GIA are Excellent, Very Good, Good, Fair, and Poor. Diamond connoisseurs pay close attention to the cut grade and so should you. A slightly smaller diamond with an Excellent cut grade will often have more visual presence than a larger diamond with a Good or Fair cut grade. Note: You may encounter retailers using other terms such as Ideal, Super Ideal, Perfect, or Signature Ideal. These are trade terms that are supposed to be code for “Excellent,” but the specific parameters that determine these terms are not as defined as they are at a GIA or AGS grading laboratory. If you have any questions about how this works, we can help. We recommend you start here.
The clarity grade refers to the amount and location of any tiny specks (called inclusions) in your diamond when viewed through a 10x microscope. They can range from black carbon spots to white clouds, feathers, tiny crystals, and much more. The grades go from IF (internally flawless), to VVS (very very slightly included), to VS (very slightly included), to SI (slightly included), to I (included). Keep in mind that every diamond is unique, these little birthmarks are natural, and they tell you clues about the geologic history of that diamond. Unless you have some particular reason to want an internally flawless diamond, just try to find a diamond where the inclusions don’t detract from the beauty of the stone. The sweet spot between beauty and value is the VS1,VS2, SI1 range, as long as the inclusions are not directly under the largest top facet of the diamond (referred to as the table). You are not likely to see VS inclusions with the naked eye, and the price is considerably less than a VVS diamond. Sometimes you can find a great deal on a surprisingly clear SI1, but it’s never a guarantee.
We hope this is helpful. If you need more personalized advice give us a ring–so to speak. We offer 30 minute complimentary consultations.
Danielle // Lia (LittleBirdToldYou.com)