HOW TO BUY AN ENGAGEMENT RING
In the past, when a couple wished to purchase an engagement ring, a retail jewellery store was the only place to go. Many couples walked in off the street knowing very little about the product they were buying. They often left having paid a considerable amount of money to purchase an engagement ring, and being none the wiser. This was often because the retail staff selling the ring knew very little about diamonds and what exactly it was they had just sold.
This is the way it was for many years, and unfortunately this is still the case for many retail shops, where staff are poorly trained or have very limited knowledge and understanding of the subject of diamonds. This is understandable in a way, as the subject is vast and it does take some years of experience to gain sufficient knowledge of the complexities of what makes a good diamond and the way they are graded, and many, many years of experience to have a comprehensive understanding.
However, these days information on the web on just about any subject is almost unlimited. In fact, there is so much written about products we want that it can be quite overwhelming. And, as we say, SOME of the info out there on the net about diamonds is even true!
Information = power. Armed with information, people have educated themselves a great deal, and this is a far better situation than couples used to find themselves in, being totally reliant on the often limited knowledge of the salesperson they were dealing with. Unfortunately, much of the info out there on the web about diamonds simplifies the subject too much, or only tells part of the story, or is just plain wrong. A lot of what we do every day is to educate clients, and often re-educate them if they have been reading dodgy info found on the net. It is not unusual for a client to send us 10 or 20 emails about a diamond grade or ring design – in fact the record to date is 78 emails before the client was ready to commission us to source the diamond and make the ring!
So these days the question of how you buy an engagement ring and get it right can be still quite complex. As always, it is about asking the right questions and finding the right jeweller. It is an important decision, and if you get it wrong you can pay for it for the rest of your life! I know one person who bought a diamond in the pub for $500. His intended hated it for 20 years, and eventually the day came around for an upgrade. The amount that needed to be spent to “put the injustice right ” (in her words) was 30 K! Having said that, it is not about the amount you spend, but more about spending your money wisely. You can still of course walk into a shop and drop a big bundle of cash on the counter… but most people quite a bit smarter than that now.
The first thing to decide is where to buy the ring and who can supply what you want.
What are your options?
There are a lot of different levels of retail shop, from the brand names of Tiffany, Bulgari and Cartier etc., to the big chain stores such as Michael Hill, Zamels and Bevilles and a lot of other smaller concerns with multiple stores or member buying groups in-between. What this model offers clients is a bricks and mortar security blanket, which is important to some people. Of course “bricks and mortar” is an illusion we have become accustomed to over the years. Just because a store is big, with a major position in the main street, does not always make it the best place to shop. Big businesses go broke too and buying from a big business does not necessarily give you a guarantee that the rings they sell are of good quality.
What the consumer needs to remember, is that the bigger the overheads of a business, the more margin needs to be squeezed out of a ring sale to pay for the costs of running the business. As costs rise every year, many retailers have to drop the quality of the products they sell, often in areas that are difficult to detect to the untrained eye. Much of what is sold is mass produced in large overseas factories where the quality of the ring making suffers and diamonds selected for the rings are the lowest cost options which are poor examples of their grade. Looks can be very deceiving, and many techniques can be used to mask problem areas in the materials and workmanship. Of course big retail stores rely on turnover, so they will tend to stock the safe usual options, resulting in a lot of “sameness” in designs between stores.
Boutique stores are usually owner operated, often with a jeweller on site. This option can be great and not so great depending on the skill level of the work produced and the level and standards applied to the stock they have on show. The best stores will have a great reputation you can test, because they will be busy with existing client work. Of course the down side is still that you will be paying the overheads of the business in the price you pay, and with a store to pay for, that can add significantly to the ring cost.
So, corners may be cut in some areas on some stock.
The “upstairs manufacturing jeweller” with an in house team of working jewellers: Ellissi fits into this category.
Again some jewellers will be good at making engagement rings, some will be fantastic and others will be very ordinary indeed. Depending on the level of expertise of the “upstairs jeweller”, this way of appointment based consultation can deliver the best outcome for the ring, as custom making and designing the engagement ring from scratch will allow the jeweller to advise on the best way to make the ring and source the best diamond for the available budget. As you deal directly with the jeweller, you get to discuss the detail of the ring one to one and are able to make informed decisions about your engagement ring. You are not stuck, as with the usual retail shops, with the stock they have in store, with no flexibility in either the design or diamond size/grade.
At Ellissi, we scour the world for diamonds, dealing with diamond cutters directly, to get the best possible diamonds for our clients. Spending your money with a manufacturing jeweller gets you the best value (provided you have selected a good operator), and the diamond selection and ring design can be tailored to suit your requirements/budget. A great jeweller will have crafted many, many engagement rings over the course of their career, so will have the experience you need to make and design a fantastic diamond engagement ring. Such a jeweller will have a great track record with excellent client testimonials.
A manufacturing jeweller’s overheads are as low as they (realistically) can be, and purchasing your ring through a good manufacturer cuts out additional costs that the high street retail store will naturally need to charge to stay afloat.
Web Only Sales
Totally web based retail: great for a lot of things where you actually know what you are buying (such as a particular make and model of a fairly standard item such as a TV), really not great if their are a lot of variables and complexities in what you are buying (such as a diamond engagement ring) and the business is not up front and honest about what it is you are getting for your money.
Many of these companies exist in the jewellery world, after all it is really quite a simple matter to build a website, put up computer generated images of rings and superimpose diamonds sitting on the top of the rings. Often these web based business claim that a diamond is a particular size or grade, but the problem is that exact same diamond image has been used over and over again in every ring pictured, and it is clearly not the diamond described in the print. We have seen this time and time again, where a big rock is displayed, but the description next to the price is actually of a very small diamond – very misleading!
It is easy for us as trained jewellers to see through this, but these companies must end up with many disappointed clients who buy something that is actually very different to what they think they are buying. In fact, many web only companies deliberately try to keep the detail of grading and what is important about the diamond out of the client focus.
They do this by listing diamonds for sale (diamonds that we all have access to, and could also list for sale if we chose to) but these diamonds are usually at the lowest cost levels which means they are the poorest examples of their grade. Web based companies such as these simply let the client pick a diamond, without providing them with any education whatsoever about what makes one diamond better than another, and therefore why costs between diamonds of the same grade vary.
So their clients make their decisions simply based on price, and generally end up with a very poor quality diamond. With a bit of education, clients will discover that this is not smart way to buy a diamond at all, if it is a good diamond that you want.
Some of these sites look like pretty good value – that is until you read the small print, and see how the price stacks up in total cost for the ring. The quality of the ring mount can be so poor that it bears almost no resemblance to the image the purchaser based their decision on. Rock bottom prices do come at a cost - you potentially give up quality, service and the normal level of guarantees.
I suppose that is the main reason that we at Ellissi decided to use photos of real rings that we have actually made, so that the quality of our actual work is there for all to see. Low cost is low cost for a reason, and that is usually a lack of quality in the ring making and diamond selection. It is not difficult to see the way that a website using fake photos can look the part, it is only a matter of computer programming, which has nothing to do with the skill and craftsmanship required to make a great looking ring. Many such websites are overseas operators, and the unhappy consumer can face many difficulties trying to return products they are dissatisfied with.
Antique shops and second hand jewellery
Genuine antique jewellery is quite old, in fact it is supposed to be at least 50 years old to be considered “antique”. Some of the better pieces can be very well made and detailed, primarily due to the fact the the craftsmen in the past had only the most traditional methods available to them and generally higher skill due to time at the workbench. This, combined with a greater amount of time to make each engagement ring made for some excellent work.
The down side of the antique ring option is that they have already had a full life, and may not have been well treated, subsequently after having been worn for over 50 years or longer, the ring can require major restoration work and even need to be almost entirely re-built.
This is difficult work to do and often simply impossible to carry out, without fully remaking the ring.
Because there is a market for this sort of jewellery and it is in short supply, companies buy up what they can, do a quick restoration ( often not very well ) and put it up for sale. Some dealers also augment their stock with reproductions of antique designs – there is nothing wrong with that, as long as the quality is still there and they are not in fact trying to get a better price telling customers that the engagement ring is an “Antique” when in fact it was made a few weeks ago in a Chinese factory.
On another note, some people are a little worried about the “karma” of having a ring that was not retained by the previous family, and I suppose if you are a believer in such things you can see their point. For example, under what circumstances would you part with an engagement ring rather than hand it down to someone in the family? So they think it may come with a bad omen, or be in fact of dubious origin. I don’t necessarily agree with this, but for some it is an important consideration.
So What Should You Do? How Do You Make a Decision?
At the end of the day, there a few undeniable facts you simply cannot get away from – you need to deal with someone you feel you can trust. You need to know that if you have to bring the ring back for some reason, that they will in fact be there to assist. Also that you, as the consumer, have a right to get what you pay for …and that is just it, you need to know what it is you are paying for in an engagement ring and remember that the money you spend on the ring often dictates the level at which you can buy quality. Good, sound advice is critical.
HOW TO GET THE ENGAGEMENT RING FINGER SIZE MEASUREMENT
Working out the finger size for an engagement ring is pretty easy if everyone is in the loop on the ring purchase. The ring finger is on the left hand and is the finger next to the little finger ( just so the guys know ).
If the person receiving the ring knows all about the ring’s imminent arrival then the finger can be measured, either by a jeweller near you or by using a ring that fits the finger in question and taking a measurement of the INNER diameter of that ring. It needs to be accurate, so a millimetre measurement is best and you need to be as exact as possible. A typical mm size for the engagement ring finger would be 16.5 or 17.2 etc., on average.
You can work out this measurement by placing the ring over the top of a ruler and reading the inside measurement at the mid point of the ring. What do you do if the ring does not look round? Then the measurement taken in two directions may be needed – along the axis, north/south and east/west. If this is done, we can then calculate an average measurement. Remember to be as accurate as possible. If you have the tools, a vernier gauge would be better, but if not just use a ruler.
It is possible for us to send you a measuring gauge to test your partner’s finger size, but your partner will still need to test this in person, so you can’t sneak about in the dead of night with it!
If the ring is to be a total surprise then this gets a little tricky. You can take the mm size from a ring that they wear, as above , BUT you need to make sure the ring is from the correct finger for the engagement ring (unlikely because girls seldom put a ring on that finger until it is “The One”). If this cannot be done, the next best thing to do is take a ring that she wears on the ring finger on the right hand and measure this.
If the person is right handed then the right hand ring finger is likely to be one size larger than the actual engagement ring finger, so we get this mm size and adjust it down slightly.
Knowing which finger the ring you are measuring is usually worn on, is crucial. If it is not the ring finger, we can still use the measurement if we need to, but there is a bit more guesswork involved, so this will not be as accurate.
If you have no idea of the finger size and have no way to work it out either by seconding a friend or family member to assist in the mission, or by any of the methods above, then we will need to make a complete guess based on the general build of the person, or maybe a photo of their hand if you have one. This is unlikely to be correct, so the other options would be better. However, if it is the only way… so be it.
Generally about 98 % of engagement rings can be re-sized without any issues, and it is likely that most rings will need to have this done at some stage over the years, so it is not critical that the ring is the correct size on day one. However it would be best if it were close, and even better if it is exactly right on the day it is presented.
Good luck, and if you would like us to send out a finger sizing gauge, please just let us know.
Ian / ellissi