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I remember when John and I first started to think about getting engaged, I was really excited – but also completely overwhelmed.

Excited, of course, because I was inching closer to marrying my best friend! Overwhelmed, because though I’ve been a wedding expert for most of my life, it seems, I was extremely nervous about making such a large purchase when I felt so uneducated on what I was buying (well, what John was buying ;)).

I don’t want anyone else to feel that way, so today, we’ve teamed up with the jewelers at Ritani to offer some engagement ring shopping tips! Whether you’re two months or two years away from getting engaged, I hope you feel more equipped for this big step after reading our Q&A.

P.S. Don’t miss the part about their in-store preview program – such a great opportunity!

Southern Weddings: What do you recommend couples do to prepare before they go ring shopping, if anything?
Ritani: If you’re in the market for a diamond, read up on basic diamond and ring education, including the differences between diamond shapes, the 4 Cs (see below!), and the differences between the most popular ring styles and metals. Before you go shopping, try to narrow down a few basic choices like what diamond shape you like and what style ring. But, know that just as with your wedding dress, you might like a totally different style of ring on your finger than in photos! A Pinterest board can help you gather ideas.

Consider how a certain ring will mesh with your existing style — if you go for a more classic look, try a solitaire or classic setting; if you love vintage-inspired jewelry, explore shapes like cushion, pear, or marquise.

Finally, get a sense for pricing by comparing diamonds and rings on a few different websites. It’s important to remember that diamond shopping is not about finding the “best deal”–rather, you should think about getting the best quality for whatever your budget allows.

SW: How many stores should couples visit when looking for an engagement ring, and how should they decide which stores to go to?
Ritani: We recommend visiting two or three stores in addition to your online research. It makes a big difference to see different types of diamonds in person, as well as try on a few rings. You’ll be able to get a feel for engagement ring styles while also learning about the differences in diamond grades.

If you prefer browsing in-store, plan to visit a handful of independently-owned jewelry stores. Independent jewelers will have more unique designs and be able to design custom rings. Ritani has a network of more than 200 independent retailers throughout the country, so if you need help finding a reputable store, head to ritani.com/stores to find a certified partner.

That said, companies that offer both an online and in-person experience can provide the best value; you get the selection and pricing of an online store with the value of talking to a professional in-person and seeing the diamond first-hand. Ritani offers a free in-store preview option, which lets customers make sure their rings are perfect before they buy.

With our free in-store preview program, you can pick out your engagement ring and diamond online. Our expert jewelers set the ring (with the diamond you picked and in your size), then send it to a local store for you to see it in person before you decide whether you’d like to buy. If it’s not perfect, there’s no pressure to buy. It’s a great way to test out your investment before “driving it off the lot.”

SW: Tell us about the four C’s and what couples should know about them.
Ritani: The 4 C’s of diamonds are cut, color, clarity and carat weight.

Cut refers to the quality of a diamond’s proportions and symmetry. It is angles which allow a diamond to capture light and reflect it, the key ingredient for sparkle. For a truly brilliant diamond, consider those with grades of Very Good or Ideal.

Color refers to the “whiteness” of a diamond, or its lack of color. The less color in a diamond, the higher the value. The GIA grades diamond color using letters to represent the absence of color, beginning with D (colorless) and ending at Z (light yellow or brown).

Clarity is how clean a diamond is, inside and out. “Flawless” diamonds are perfectly clear and smooth (and extremely rare). “Included” diamonds have noticeable scratches or internal markings that make them look dirty and dull. Clarity is generally a less important characteristic because most imperfections can’t be seen unless under professional magnification. Many customers choose a diamond in the VS2, VS1, VVS2, or VVS1 categories.

Carat weight is a measure of a diamond’s weight, and a reflection of its size. Unlike the other 3 Cs, carat weight is not necessarily a reflection of quality: you can often find diamonds with low carat weight that are more brilliant and sparkling than their larger cousins. For the best value, look at diamonds slightly lighter than the carat weight you initially want. For example, instead of 1-carat diamonds, consider 0.98 and 0.99-carat diamonds. While there is no “perfect” carat weight, the average carat weight sold in most U.S. states is around 1 carat.

For the most sparkle, the most-desired combo is a 1-carat Ideal Cut, Colorless (D), Flawless diamond.

SW: Tell us about the different metal options that couples will be presented with. Are there pros and cons to each?
First, take personal preference into account. Take a look at the jewelry you wear regularly to pick the right metal color. Do you go for classic yellow gold, on-trend rose gold, or timeless silver? From there, consider durability, how sensitive your skin is, and budget. Our most popular metal is 18k white gold.

If you’re really active and work with your hands, you will probably do best with a high-durability (and hypoallergenic!) ring setting like platinum or palladium. Platinum requires very little maintenance and will not need to be replated over time, but it does cost significantly more than other metals. If you don’t do much with your hands and don’t require a super-durable metal, go for a more affordable metal like yellow gold or even sterling silver.

When you’re ready to start browsing for your own heirloom, head over to Ritani’s site. Wishing you all the best in this exciting process! xo

This post is sponsored by Ritani, a company we’ve worked with for years. Thanks for your support of the brands who support Southern Weddings!

emily Written with love by Emily
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    This post is sponsored by Gemesis. We think their man-made, 100% real diamonds are the bee’s knees, and we’re excited to have the chance to introduce them to you today!

    Hello, friends! The wedding industry likes to refer to the time between Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day as “engagement season.” While I think that’s a little silly, it is true that bunches of guys and gals WILL get engaged over the next few weeks — which is very exciting!!

    I remember when John and I first started to think about getting engaged, I was completely overwhelmed. (A wedding expert I may be, but an engagement ring expert I am not.) Just in case any of you are feeling the same way, I thought it would be fun to share a few tips we’ve picked up, in the hopes they’ll prove helpful!

    1. Figure out how you’ll approach the situation. Is your guy super traditional, bound and determined to do the entire thing himself? Or would you both prefer to navigate the purchase together? You might be surprised by your partner’s thoughts on the subject, so make sure you sit down and have an honest conversation to avoid hurt feelings or misconceptions on either side.

    2. Discuss a budget. Speaking of honest conversations, I think it’s entirely wise to sit down with your partner and discuss a reasonable budget for this purchase. Unromantic? Maybe. But I know that in my case, my and John’s finances were already largely entwined even before we got engaged, and our financial goals were, too. We both wanted to make sure we had a price range we were comfortable with before we stepped foot in a store and had our eyes dazzled by diamonds.

    3. Collect inspiration. Hello, Pinterest! At the beginning of the process I’d recommend getting a feel for what’s out there and what styles you’re attracted to. Even if you intend to leave all of the shopping to your boyfriend, he might ask your Mom, sister, or best friend for assistance, and it’d be great if they had a few photos to reference when giving advice. If your BF is super savvy, he might even take a peek at your board himself!

    4. Get educated on your options. And oh my, they’re endless. Online v. brick and mortar retailer? Small v. large store? Traditional diamond v. man-made diamond? Is there a family stone in play? They’re all important things to consider. And yep, I said man-made diamond. Gemesis diamonds are man-made diamonds, but they are real, carbon crystal-growth diamonds! We love that these beauties are conflict-free by definition, as well as eco-friendly. Approximately two tons of earth have to be moved to produce 1 carat of mined diamond, which is a huge disturbance to natural ecosystems, and there are carbon emissions associated with this process, as well. Good to know!

    5. Shop together. Again, even if you plan to leave the final choice up to your partner or shop online, I’d recommend stepping into a store to see how things look in person. You could even go with a friend, or by yourself! You’ll learn which of the 4 C’s are most important to you (for example, I couldn’t tell the difference between clarity as much as I could color), as well as which shapes and sizes look best on your finger.

    Any tips you might have to add, please leave them in the comments! And y’all know we love to share the exciting news about our newly engaged readers, so if you have a shot to share of yourself getting engaged or directly following your engagement, please send it to Marissa! We’ll collect them all and share them on the blog early in the new year.

    emily Written with love by Emily
    5 Comments
    1. avatar Katie reply

      I definitely think it’s important to go to a store and try on some rings, with or without your bf, and even if you don’t end up buying from that store. There were several cuts and styles I thought I liked, but once I put them on my finger, I realized I didn’t like how they looked with the rest of my hand. And it is definitely engagement season! Every time I’ve been to the jewelry store recently, for last minute wedding errands, there’s at least one guy there trying to pick a ring, and it absolutely warms my heart to see that!

      • avatar Emily reply

        Hi Katie! I completely agree! I thought I wanted an oval style before stepping foot in a store, but in reality I didn’t like how they looked on my finger! I was surprised by how much I liked emerald cuts in person.

    2. avatar jamie reply

      My fiance wanted to do all of the ring shopping on his own, but he did look at my Pinterest for ideas! I ended up getting the exact ring I wanted, but it was still a surprise (my ring looks exactly like the first ring picture on this post, actually!) xO

    3. avatar Paige reply

      I created a wish list for him after talking about price ranges and such so there were about five options that were all (pretty much) rings I’d love to wear-especially coming from him! I knew I’d be excited about the ring and wearing it and was still able to be surprised by his selection. We also did a round of in-person shopping for sizing and opinion purposes that was very helpful in determining both ring size and stone size. For us, this method worked wonderfully and allowed us to communicate about it without diminishing his ability to pick.

    4. avatar Therese reply

      I’m kind of in love with that canary one. also I wanted to leave this great resource here for couples on a budget http://www.brilliance.com/diamond-buying-tips-infograph. Best tips on engagement ring shopping without having to bust your budget.

    Southern Weddings reserves the right to delete comments which contain profanity or personal attacks or seek to promote a business unrelated to the post.  And remember: a good attitude is like kudzu – it spreads.  We love hearing your kind thoughts!

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