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Help! I'm overwhelmed! (engagement ring shopping)

JackieBirdBurden

Rough_Rock
Joined
Dec 28, 2015
Messages
8
Hi!

I saw this board mentioned on another site as the go-to resource for diamond buying advice, so here I am! Apologies in advance for the long post...

I am planning to propose to my girlfriend of nearly five years in the next few months (March is my target). I have a pretty good idea of what she wants, which I'll detail here, and I have a total budget of $10K (with a buffer to 11K if I need it to get the perfect ring...but 11 is my absolute limit).

Here is what I know about what she wants (we've talked about it extensively and window-shopped, but we haven't gone out on a dedicated recon mission...I do plan to do that with her in the near future):

Round diamond, 1.1-1.2CT, with a thin platinum band
Simple setting with the least amount of metal visible (after she said this, we were looking at different settings online and she said 4-prong was the one she liked best...does that jibe with the earlier description?)

Beyond that, I'm all ears. I have done a fair amount of online research, but I haven't gone out and pounded the pavement yet. I want to do this the right way and not cut corners, but I confess I'm a little biased toward buying a stone online, with respect to both price and convenience.

Here are a few specific questions I have, but I am open to any and all advice:

1.) From my research, I'm thinking the priority of the "4 C's" is i.) size (since that is what she's specifically requested); ii.) Cut; iii.) Color; iv.) Clarity. Does this seem reasonable/appropriate? Should I be thinking about it differently? What exactly should I be looking for in each of those categories, given her preferences and my budget?

1.) I live in NYC. I have read horror stories about the Diamond District and feel like, if I'm overwhelmed now, my head may explode meandering down 47th Street. But if there are deals to be had there and a strategy someone can recommend, I'm open to it.

2.) James Allen is an online option I have seen recommended a few places. I see that they have a NY "office"—does anyone know if that's a showroom where I could go and look at stones? I realize I can probably just call them and find out. :lol:

3.) I have read and heard mixed reviews of Blue Nile. Apparently my GF has a fairly favorable impression of it, but I've read some cautionary tales. Is there a board consensus on Blue Nile?

4.) Tell me more about buying the stone separately and then having it set by a jeweler. About how much would I be looking at beyond the price of the stone? And about how long do I need to allow for that? Is everyone in agreement that this is the most cost-effective way of buying a ring? Is there anything else I need to be thinking about or aware of if I go this route? (I have been focused almost exclusively on the stone itself to this point.)

5.) Her mom has told her (and my GF has told me) that she "would like" (whatever that means...) for me to let her mom know what I'm thinking about getting so she can "run it by her jeweler." I am planning to speak to the GF's parents in person the last weekend in February (they live several hours away, and my GF will be out of town on a work trip then so she won't know I'm gone). Without getting more into interpersonal dynamics than diamond buying tactics, what would be the best way to handle this? Do I have a diamond in hand by then and then have her take it to her jeweler? I'm not sure how this would work logistically, and I'm not crazy about the idea of letting the stone leave my possession and then have it mailed back to me or something...seems like a lot could go wrong). Or do I have one picked out (which I guess would be easier online) so she can show the specs to her jeweler? Anyone ever navigated something like this before?

Thats all that comes to mind now, other than the call for general advice, but I'm sure I will have other questions over the next several weeks and may bump this thread from time to time. Thank you in advance for any input!!!
 

Asscherhalo_lover

Ideal_Rock
Premium
Joined
Aug 16, 2007
Messages
5,758
One vendor on 47th st who is actually highly recommended around these parts is ID jewelry, specifically the owner Yuketial (sp?). They know PS well and the quality people from here expect, they are also very competitive on pricing. Anything they show you you can post the reports/images on here and people can help you choose. I would start there since you would have the chance to view in person. I would call them and give them your budget and priorities so they can put stones and setting together for you to view, then mak an appointment so they will have time to spend with you. Be aware many jewelers are on holiday around this time so do make sure to call first. I'm also in the NYC area and have visited them before.

I would avoid the Mom's jeweler, there's a good chance they will just dog whatever you buy and try to show you something "better". You're buying you can do as you please.
 

centrifuge41

Rough_Rock
Joined
Nov 7, 2015
Messages
25
Hello!

Yes, sounds like simple solitaire 4 prong might be what your gf wanted. Simple, relatively inexpensive, and leaves much of the stone's face visible.

1) Your 4 c's are close to recommend priority, but not quite. Go for maximum cut first, since cut is what dictates the angles, which dictates how much light is reflected back to the viewer, and how much rainbow s/he sees (fire). Here's the trick. GIA scores stones as high as "excellent", but it's a far too wide category. An 80th percentile stone and a 99th percentile stone both score "Excellent", but can perform very differently. Cut, carat, color, clarity would be a better prioritization from top to bottom. You can run stones you come across into the HCA software, reject stones that get a score >2, and keep stones with <=2 scores for further consideration (with further tools, such as ASET).

Clarity last makes sense, to a degree. VS1 stones are always eye clean, VS2 stones are eye clean roughly 90% of the time, SI1 stones are eye clean roughly 70% of the time, and SI2 stones are eye clean maybe 30% of the time. Finding a lucky SI2 could save a bit of money, but not too much. SI1 is generally a great grade to shop against, but it will take a bit of work to filter out the non eye-clean SI1's.

Color: it's hard to max out on color when there's no upper end to the desired size. With your budget, max cut out first (see above), lock down clarity (roughly SI1, maybe VS2 or maybe SI2), then you'll find that there's a big play between more size/less color for the given budget. You/her would probably want to choose a color range to shop against. It might be best to go to some stores to have an idea, making sure to see the stones outside the spotlight too.

3) Blue Nile is competitive priced, with a caveat. Because the stones are not generally visible to you, you may have to buy a higher clarity and end up spending more than other stores with images of stones (e.g. Enchanted or James Allen). E.g. you could buy a VS2 from Blue Nile and it is unfortunately not eye clean. Meanwhile, someone else could hand-select an SI2 from James Allen, and it is indeed eye clean. It's also hard to figure out if a stone is 80% or 99th% for symmetry from Blue Nile (no way to differentiate one Symmetry=Ex from another).

With that said, diamonds are a semi-commodity. Once you are shopping against competitively priced retailers/options, for a given grade, there's not much way to save money on the stone beyond that. Blue Nile does have cashback (e.g. 5% cashback from UPromise or other cashback portals), if you end up going that route. (I found a stone on James Allen, but the very same stone was also sold on Blue Nile, for slightly less, so I bought it there).

4) Yes, you can consider a stone and a setting separate purchase. You don't have to, since 4 prong solitaires are fairly ubiquitous. In my case, my gf was eyeing a very specific ring, so I quoted that particular ring against the (few) merchants who sold that brand/model in the area, and chose the best priced store. That store happened to charge no extra premium for setting online stones. Other stores would charge some amount to set outside stones. I forgot how much, but maybe ~$80 to $150 or so.
 

tuckie

Shiny_Rock
Premium
Joined
Apr 21, 2013
Messages
229
How's this for an experiment:
I picked one vendor (whiteflash) because they have a large inventory, a great reputation, and their ACA and Expert Selection lines are a good way to "fool-proof" a top cut stone.

Let's pretend that you want this setting, the Vatche Caroline which is lovely and not the least nor most expensive 4 prong solitaire you could choose.
http://www.whiteflash.com/engagement-rings/solitaire/caroline-solitaire-engagement-ring-by-vatche-251.htm
It retails for $1850 in platinum.

That leaves you with $8150 to play with for your ring. A quick search with the parameters as follows yields 42 stones:
Cut: ACA or Expert Selection
Carat: 1.0 +
Clarity: VS1, VS2, or SI1
Color: D - J

This leaves you with lots of things consider from a priorities standpoint. For example:

If you solve for size, you might look at this 1.362 I SI1 which is eye clean
http://www.whiteflash.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut-loose-diamond-3587736.htm

If you solve for color, you might prefer this 1.14 F SI1 which may not eye clean
http://www.whiteflash.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut-loose-diamond-3157621.htm

You could also solve for price you could find this 1.016 J SI1 which is eye clean:
http://www.whiteflash.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut-loose-diamond-3565122.htm

Perhaps a "balanced" view might leave you with this 1.214 H SI1 which is eye clean:
http://www.whiteflash.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut-loose-diamond-3595892.htm


It seems to me that within your budget and your partner's wish list, you have a little room to see which attributes are most important and you want to prioritize more. Maybe that's size, or a blingy band, or total mind-cleanliness of being in the G-H and VS range, or something else. Perhaps you think about which of these things is most important - maybe that means understanding your partners preference on color.

Good luck!
 

telephone89

Ideal_Rock
Premium
Joined
Aug 29, 2014
Messages
4,224
5) I'm sure her mom has good intentions, but UGH that is a terrible idea. I see a few options here.

-You have a ready made ring that you take to show her. Say it's too late to return, but you'd be happy to go to the jeweler. He/she will shit all over this ring, and probably make you feel like crap. And your MIL will think you've gotten her daughter a crap diamond. She might also be unhappy that you purchased w/o her 'consent', in which case I'd play it off happy go lucky in love. You saw it and KNEW it was the one, it made your heart flutter almost as much as GF, etc haha. OR, part b of this. Your diamond outshines every other one in the store, and MIL is amazed and adores it. (I feel like we could find you one that does this ;-) )

-You have a ready made ring and leave it at home (or have something on hold/in the works). Say the stats you are looking at, and see what the jeweler has. Likely won't be any better, but at least you can say you went to look. And then you go home, have the 'heart fluttering' moment and buy what you already had.

-You go in with an open mind (and a short timeline!) and see what the jeweler has. I personally wouldn't want to leave it this late, if you want to propose in march visiting late feb. But that's up to you. I'd probably rather have something at LEAST in the works by then.

I would under NO circumstances give her the diamond and mail it back.
 

Medphysdave

Rough_Rock
Joined
Nov 13, 2015
Messages
67
Charles at Good old gold was great about picking out eye clean SI1 and SI2 stones.

"And a 2.15 I SI2 GIA 3EX for $11,935 It's a GIA Excellent Cut (+Polish/Symm) Faint Fluor with a 62.2 depth. 58 table. Seems clean!"

Symmetry was a little off, but it seemed like a lot of stone for the price.
 

travanx

Rough_Rock
Joined
Jan 5, 2011
Messages
26
As I look to upgrade her diamond I am going through the same thing again. I would hold at a certain carat range with at least an excellent cut and just look through a selection to get a better idea of what you absolutely must have and what you can go down in to keep that carat range.

I was really happy going with JA and just bought some earrings from there doing this same method only in pairs of diamonds. As an example I started with SI2 diamonds and realized I didn't like what I was seeing in my price range. Same as SI1. So at least I had somewhere to start with. I assume the HCA is a decent way to also sort out the diamonds to try to narrow it down even more. I also kept an excel spreadsheet with the ones I liked with links and stats.

Every girl has that looked at my SO's ring looks at it pretty up close, so that eye clean things is important on a ring. Hers is a J color on platinum band with whiter pave. No one has ever said it looked yellow, but it sparkles quite nicely. I was in your exact same price range too.
 

tyty333

Super_Ideal_Rock
Premium
Joined
Dec 17, 2008
Messages
27,342
tuckie|1451505651|3968578 said:
How's this for an experiment:
I picked one vendor (whiteflash) because they have a large inventory, a great reputation, and their ACA and Expert Selection lines are a good way to "fool-proof" a top cut stone.

Let's pretend that you want this setting, the Vatche Caroline which is lovely and not the least nor most expensive 4 prong solitaire you could choose.
http://www.whiteflash.com/engagement-rings/solitaire/caroline-solitaire-engagement-ring-by-vatche-251.htm
It retails for $1850 in platinum.

That leaves you with $8150 to play with for your ring. A quick search with the parameters as follows yields 42 stones:
Cut: ACA or Expert Selection
Carat: 1.0 +
Clarity: VS1, VS2, or SI1
Color: D - J

This leaves you with lots of things consider from a priorities standpoint. For example:

If you solve for size, you might look at this 1.362 I SI1 which is eye clean
http://www.whiteflash.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut-loose-diamond-3587736.htm

If you solve for color, you might prefer this 1.14 F SI1 which may not eye clean
http://www.whiteflash.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut-loose-diamond-3157621.htm

You could also solve for price you could find this 1.016 J SI1 which is eye clean:
http://www.whiteflash.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut-loose-diamond-3565122.htm

Perhaps a "balanced" view might leave you with this 1.214 H SI1 which is eye clean:
http://www.whiteflash.com/loose-diamonds/round-cut-loose-diamond-3595892.htm


It seems to me that within your budget and your partner's wish list, you have a little room to see which attributes are most important and you want to prioritize more. Maybe that's size, or a blingy band, or total mind-cleanliness of being in the G-H and VS range, or something else. Perhaps you think about which of these things is most important - maybe that means understanding your partners preference on color.

Good luck!

Had to laugh at this tuckie...you make it sound like an algebra problem! :lol: "If you solve for"____. Cracks me up!
 

AdaBeta27

Brilliant_Rock
Premium
Joined
Sep 7, 2004
Messages
1,081
The ring is your purchase, or you and your gf's purchase. Now would be an excellent time to tell the future MIL that "We are doing it this way, and YOU need to butt out." I'm a huge fan of setting a MIL straight, early and often, about what's not her business.

I'd have the vendor that you buy the stone from set the stone in the ring. That way, it it's damaged or it breaks in the mounting process, that vendor's insurance covers it. When you buy a diamond someplace and take it somewhere else to be set, then usually that second jeweler won't be responsible for damage or breakage.
 

tyty333

Super_Ideal_Rock
Premium
Joined
Dec 17, 2008
Messages
27,342
I would in no way give your MIL the stone so she can run it by her jeweler. Maybe its just an excuse so that your MIL can give you
some input on her daughter's behalf (which is fine but). Maybe you could just talk to her Mom and ask her Mom what specs she
thinks her daughter would like. We will/can make sure you get a well cut stone.

Once you get it I would not disclose cost or anything. You just dont want in-laws (or parents for that matter) too much in your
business. So if they have the nerve to ask how much it cost be ready with a non-committal answer.
 

JackieBirdBurden

Rough_Rock
Joined
Dec 28, 2015
Messages
8
Thanks to everyone for all the replies! I'm sorry I pulled the ol' start thread > walk away, but with the holidays and trying to plan proposal, ring shopping, figuring out finances, etc., all while trying to do my job on the side, I've been a little preoccupied!

Really do appreciate everyone's input, and if this thread bump elicits any more "pearls" (bad joke?) of wisdom, please fire away!
 

Sagefemme

Shiny_Rock
Joined
Oct 8, 2015
Messages
290
Ok, holidays are over, what are you planning to do to get closer to the ring? Have you been to IDJ as advised? I think that's a great place to start if you live in NYC.
 

JackieBirdBurden

Rough_Rock
Joined
Dec 28, 2015
Messages
8
Sagefemme|1454342878|3985136 said:
Ok, holidays are over, what are you planning to do to get closer to the ring? Have you been to IDJ as advised? I think that's a great place to start if you live in NYC.

I have not, but may still. We went out shopping over the weekend to get some perspective, and decided that she actually prefers a micropave band to a plain platinum, so it was a productive mission in that sense.

There are a couple of stones I'm eyeing on Whiteflash, including one that was posted earlier in this thread. I may go to ID Jewelry with those in mind and see what they have comparable.
 
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