This blog contains some simple tips and advice from two regular guys. We're not accountants, financial advisors, or brokers, so follow, ignore, or discuss our ideas as you see fit.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Wedding Planning, Buying An Engagement Ring

Posted By Paul

As we enter into a popular time for couples to get engaged and start planning their wedding, I wanted to take a moment to write about buying an engagement ring. Why? Because if you do a google search on buying a diamond, you come up with some amazing results.

For example, one diamond buying guide that I found on the internet includes phrases like:
"Buying a diamond means investing in a piece of forever."


"You can rest assured that the diamond you buy will be a sound financial investment."

It was these sorts of phrases along with phrases that I heard at jewelry stores while looking that made me want to write this article. Phrases like: "This is one of the most important purchases you'll ever make." and "This ring is a symbol of your love, so you need to make sure to get something of the highest quality." make me cringe, since I suspect the salesperson wouldn't use these phrases if they didn't work.

Just today on the radio the DJ was talking about buying a diamond ring and in her overview she said (quoting from memory here):
A two-carat diamond is now the standard, and when you figure that you may have your wedding ring for your whole life, it's a good investment.


There have been a lot of yellow diamonds on the market currently, being presented as a cool style, but THESE ARE NOT WHAT WE WANT LADIES.

Why does this bug me so much? The diamond marketing machine in particular and the diamond industry in general is one of the most terrible industries in so many ways (just google 'blood diamond' or 'conflict diamond' to learn some of the darker aspects of the industry). But I wanted to really focus on the marketing machine that exists around diamonds.

First of all, just to make it clear that I'm not trying to preach, when I proposed to my (now) wife I had a diamond ring. Why? Because I knew that's what my wife really wanted. This is a choice that I made (and a choice that she made), and a choice that you should make but I wanted to offer a few tips from my experience:

1) Remember, a diamond is NOT mandatory - I have several friends who chose to get sapphires, emeralds, or some other stone, not to mention friends who prefer a simple wedding band. I applaud these people who decided to forego convention and focus on what THEY wanted and not what society told them they needed.

2) If you do decide that you want to get a diamond, try to focus on how the diamond appears to the naked eye. There are all the guides out there that talk about the "4 C's" of diamonds, and often when you go to a diamond store they will be more than happy to have you examine a diamond using a magnifying glass. Try to remember that the whole point of buying a diamond engagement ring is to have it end up in a setting and on your wife's finger where it will pretty much sit all the time. One of the most common things I saw in stores that sold loose diamonds was their tendency to show you a diamond on a stark white sheet of paper (accentuating any color deviation) and offering you a magnifying glass (so you can pick out any flaw that the stone might have). Think about every time you've admired a friend or relative's wedding ring. How often did you ask the woman to take off the ring so that you could look at it with a magnifying glass?

3) I recommend taking the time to figure out what's important to you (by 'you' I ideally mean the bride and the groom since I consider a ring to be a big purchase so why not start off healthy marriage habits and discuss the purchase together). Just like any other purchase, decide what "features" are ones that you are willing to pay for. For example, maybe you want a really big diamond and are willing to live with it being a little yellow-ish, or maybe you are fine with a smaller stone but really want it to have a clear color. If you want the ring selection to be a surprise (I actually think ring shopping together is fun), then doing a little investigation (ask questions about what's important to the bride while window shopping at a jewelry store at the mall).

4) Don't think of a diamond as an investment. You hear this one a lot from salespeople. Even if you buy the idea that a diamond is a sound financial investment (and I REALLY don't), the idea of buying a wedding ring is that you'll have it for the rest of your life, so why consider something an investment if you're never going to sell it? (If there was a savings account that let you deposit money, but never let you withdraw it, would you consider that a good investment?).

5) I know several people who had a diamond that was in the family that they reused it in some way (for example using the stone in a new setting). The end result was a ring that was cheaper AND had a family history. A very cool option if it's available.

6) If possible find someone you trust when buying your ring. If you can find a trusted friend or a family member who is part of the jewelry industry then that's a huge bonus. It's not about finding someone who will give you a great deal, it's just about finding someone who will give you a fair deal and won't try to rob you blind.

7) I really would suggest that you not finance the ring. The ring is the first purchase in your journey towards married life, why make that first step purchasing something beyond your means that puts you in debt? If funds are low, that's nothing to be ashamed off, you can buy a smaller ring with a plan to upgrade it at your five year anniversary, or buy a CZ ring and replace the stone when you can afford it.

Most of all try to keep in mind that in many ways buying a diamond is a really an absurd purchase that our society tells you you need to make. In my opinion the sole purpose of a diamond on a ring is to look pretty to the naked eye. Contrast that with a cubic zirconia which looks just as pretty as a diamond (I don't know of anyone who can tell the difference with their naked eye). So why are you buying the diamond? It's essentially this strange sense of needing a real diamond as opposed to a fake one, but why? What difference does it really make? If you wanted to buy a new car for $50,000 but there was a different model that was the same in EVERY way except some of the parts could be shown to be different (not better, just different) when seen under a microscope, and the other car cost $500 which one would you buy?

Again, I'm not saying that you shouldn't buy a diamond ring, but just keep the absurdity of the whole industry in mind when you go shopping and make sure you don't get too sucked in by all of the hype out there.

I did find one reasonable diamond buying guide here at wedfrugal.com that had a lot of common sense advice:



In the last few years my wife has totally gotten into CZ jewelry. One year as a gift we went to the store and she got to pick out a CZ tennis bracelet (diamond versions cost well into the $2000+ range). She has discovered it's just as pretty, it was SOOO much cheaper, and another added bonus is that she doesn't have to be all paranoid about losing it when she wears it out.

No comments: