Tips for Buying an Engagement Ring from an Expert

buying an engagement ring

Many people buy diamonds only a handful of times in their lives, and for some, only once: when they get married.

It’s hard to become an expert when you only try something once. So, before engagement season (November-February) gets into full swing, we found someone to bring us up to speed.

After nearly 30 years in the diamond business, Chris Del Gatto has had his hands on more diamonds than you or I could imagine.

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Del Gatto founded his company Delgatto after decades working as a diamond cutter and diamond merchant. Through the company’s secondary diamond marketplace, I Do Now I Don’t, Del Gatto hopes to revolutionize the secondary jewelry market. Already, over 40 percent of the diamonds bought on the platform are purchased through people’s phones. We talked to Del Gatto about how to buy the perfect engagement ring, and unsurprisingly, he felt that the perfect engagement ring is really about buying the perfect diamond.

The size of diamonds is of course measured in carats, and there are also ratings for things like color and clarity. But for Del Gatto, knowing how those things works will only get you part of the way to finding the perfect rock. Here are his tips for getting the rest of the way.

Do Your Aesthetic Research

Del Gatto says the diamond-buying process is an extremely personal choice, especially when considering diamonds for wedding rings. “Whenever I hear regret, it’s because something else drove the decision besides passion,” he says.

Del Gatto’s advice is to take the investment seriously by doing a significant amount of research into different diamond aesthetics. This probably should include lots of in-person ring shopping with your fiance, even if you plan on buying online. “Why wouldn’t you go in person and just try on things with your fiance? You know, it’s kind of a fun thing to do anyway, but then you get a sense of, ‘you know, a 2-carat is bigger than I thought, I wouldn’t feel comfortable wearing it everyday,’” he says.

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Find Someone you Can Trust to Talk about Options

If possible, it’s best to find a third-party source who can be unbiased when you bring them your buying criteria. Up-selling is in a salesperson’s job description, so it’s much harder to get honest advice from a person from whom you will likely buy a diamond.

For example, many people believe color and clarity are the most important aspects of a diamond, but for Del Gatto, the cut of the diamond (and who is doing the cutting) is the most important element for what people are describing when they say a diamond pops or sparkles. While you may be able to use scores in a diamond resale listing to rate the color and clarity, you may not know the ins and outs of different diamond manufacturers. An unbiased source can help you compare brands and cuts.

When in doubt, call in an independent third-party appraiser–someone who has no stake in an evaluation and will provide you with an accurate value of the diamond. This site has a helpful, interactive list of independent appraisers by state.

Don’t Listen to Advertiser Rules

One common rule you may hear is that a diamond for an engagement ring should cost the equivalent of three months salary. Del Gatto says this advice comes from advertising departments and should be ignored. Your budget is totally personal and may be more or less depending on your financial circumstances, the timeline of your engagement and wedding, and what type of ring your partner can imagine wearing long-term.

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Check out the Secondary/Estate Marketplace

As is the case with cars, buying diamonds in the secondary market can save you a great deal of money over paying retail. But unlike cars, diamonds won’t continue to depreciate in value forever. As a commodity, diamonds will fall to a wholesale price below which they won’t drop. For this reason, buying on the secondary market can save you a great deal of cash, especially if you’ve honed your aesthetic preferences and are looking for an older style cut.

Put Everything into the Diamond, Not the Mounting

While much of Del Gatto’s advice boils down to making a personal decision based on passion and research, the one hard rule he does recommend is putting all your funds into the diamond and not the mounting. Because the diamond is a commodity, it won’t lose value over time. The mounting, on the other hand, has a high mark-up and will depreciate as passing trends make it less desirable. If, in the future, your financial circumstances change, then you can change the mounting to your liking while maintaining the beautiful diamond investment you made to begin with.

To summarize, do your research, follow your interests, follow unbiased advice, and your partner will have a rock they are happy with for as long as the relationship lasts (hopefully, forever).