How To Buy A Custom Engagement Ring Online

Photograph courtesy of The Clear Cut.
Just as the pandemic hasn’t canceled all weddings this year, there are people still looking to propose come fall and winter, a period known as “engagement season” for its spike in marriage proposals. That said, with the COVID-19 spread continuing in some places, one might want to (understandably) skip going into a physical jewelry store to buy the engagement ring. And while nowadays you can buy everything online, with a purchase this big, a potential buyer may be asking, Should I buy an engagement ring online?
The short answer is yes. “The remote process makes buying a ring online so much faster and effortless than the back-and-forth of going to the stores,” says Olivia Landau, the founder and CEO of The Clear Cut. “Not to mention that in the era of COVID-19 the online option is safer and stress-free.” Landau, who attended the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), started the company, with her now-husband Kyle Simon, after making rings for several of her friends; after posting the final designs on Instagram and getting more requests from strangers, she started selling diamonds through the platform before eventually launching The Clear Cut officially. “After selling countless diamond engagement rings virtually, we realized that the remote process is better for today’s modern couple,” she says. “The online process is easier, more accessible, and transparent.”
And while that’s all true, with a purchase this sizable in price tag and meaning, it’s important to know what to look for and think about before adding to cart. With that in mind, ahead, things to know while shopping for an engagement ring, complete and custom designs, online.

Set the budget

Before even starting to look for a design or diamond, set your budget. Remember to account for both a ring setting — that typically has a set price based on the materials (platinum vs. gold etc.) — and the diamond(s) — which will vary in price considerably more depending on factors like the 4Cs (clarity, cut, color, and carat weight), brand name (if buying from a popular designer), and more — as they are usually sold separately. “Once your budget is set, it is easier to make particular compromises and set expectations on the clarity, color, cut, and carat weight,” says Landau.

Narrow down preferences

As you’re setting the budget, take note of the diamond shapes and settings that you like. “To narrow down your preferences, it helps to get inspiration,” says Landau. “We always love it when clients have example diamonds and designs they love! We recommend saving a folder of your favorite rings on Instagram or Pinterest. Have them ready for your initial consultation, so we can get a sense of your preferences.” If you’re not sure what styles you’re leaning toward, according to Landau, it’s equally helpful to note the things that you don’t like, so that the jeweler can start by steering away from those.
While it’s not necessary, learning the terminology, like the 4Cs, diamond shapes, and setting names, while browsing can be useful in further refining the search online or talking to a consultant. "As you are looking for examples, I always recommend that you read the description. Doing so can help you become familiar with aspects of your ring you want, like the cut, metal, setting, pavé, and more,” says Landau.

What to look for in rings online

After you set the budget and narrowed the ring preference, begin shopping. Do your research on the different jewelers and brands you’re looking at; you want to make sure to source the ring from a trustworthy and reputable source. One who, for example, has an independent lab certificate proving the diamond’s quality and good reviews.
According to Landau, the best-quality diamonds are GIA-certified and untreated. “Make sure the diamond is not color or clarity enhanced — look out for HPHT treatments or laser drill holes,” she says. “If shopping for a natural diamond, make sure that your diamond is not lab-grown, man-made, or lab-created.” And vice versa: If you’re looking for lab-grown diamonds — which are, as the name suggests, grown in a lab environment; less expensive; and what some view as a sustainable alternative to earth-mined diamonds — note which brands and jewelers carry those. Before completing a purchase, review the return policy, to make sure you have the option and enough time to return the ring after the proposal. (Also note if the vendor only gives credit rather than a refund.) 
If you’re not buying a complete ring or still not sure what design you want, find a jeweler whose work you generally like and who comes recommended, and work from there instead. This brings us to the next step.

Get a phone consultation or virtual consultation

If you’re making a custom ring, get a phone consultation as soon as you establish your budget. “The phone consultation takes about 15 minutes, and we will get a sense of your preferences, budget, and timeline,” Landau says. This is also where you will talk about the design, ask questions about the difference between diamonds or what each of the 4Cs means, and get suggestions on how to get the best stone for your budget. Landau also suggests taking this opportunity to talk to the jeweler about your lifestyle to ensure that the design you’re eyeing will work for it: “Are you rough on your everyday jewelry because of your job or lifestyle? Is your personal style more classic, edgy, or feminine? Talking about your lifestyle and everyday style will help your jeweler create the perfect ring for you.”
Once the jeweler finds a selection of settings and diamonds based on your preferences, you can request photos or, even better, a video consultation. Since the pandemic began, many jewelers have begun to offer the option in place of physical appointments. “Make sure the diamond is eye-clean,” says Landau. “A professional GIA-certified gemologist will make sure your diamond is eye-clean, with no visible inclusions [the little dark marks inside the stone].” After deciding on a diamond and setting, don’t forget to ask how long the ring will take to make and ship: “This will make sure you are on track for the perfect proposal.”

Review the ring

If you’re custom-making the ring, once the design is complete, ask to see it virtually again before it’s shipped (with insurance on the package) to you. Typically during the first consultation for a custom design, you will see the setting and the loose diamond separately, so oftentimes this is the only time you’ll see the finished product and make sure everything looks right. “When it comes to seeing the finished product over Zoom or FaceTime, ask to see the ring from all angles. It should shine and sparkle even through the screen,” says Landau.
Feeling ready? Get inspired by seeing some of our favorite engagement ring designs in the slideshow, above.
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