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An engagement ring is one of the most important – and meaningful – items you will ever give or receive. While shopping for an engagement ring can seem daunting, it should be exciting, creative and enjoyable experience. Use Jewelers of America’s steps to engagement ring shopping to guide you in this important decision.

Step 1: Shop With a Trustworthy Jeweler

At the end of the day, where you shop is the most important factor. Shop with a jeweler you trust. Either ask for a referral from your friends or look for a well-established jeweler who has an excellent reputation for integrity and service, like jewelry stores that are members of a Jewelers of America, who uphold the highest professional practices. You can find reputable jewelry stores near you in our Find a JA Jeweler directory.

Step 2: Determine an Engagement Ring Budget

How much to spend on an engagement ring is a personal matter. The commonly accepted guideline of two month’s salary was developed to be a directional tool to help establish a budget. Once a budget is established, a professional jeweler will work with you to ensure you select the finest quality stone available at that price. You should never feel pressured to spend more, reputable jewelers will make you comfortable and guide you toward the highest quality within your engagement ring budget. Most jewelry stores also offer financing, lay away or other payment plans.

Step 3: Understand the 4Cs, Especially Cut

One of the most wonderful lures of diamonds is that no two diamonds can ever be exactly alike, even though they may sometimes look identical. Diamonds and gemstone quality are graded by the 4Cs: cut, color, clarity and carat weight. Cut is considered the most important as it relates most to a diamond’s magically brilliant sparkle, while color is most important for colored gemstones. See our guide to diamond quality factors >

Step 4: Pay Attention to Her Style

Next time she asks how she looks in that dress, actually pay attention. What she wears, what’s in her closet and jewelry box will give you a lot of hints about her personal style. If she has a lot of sterling silver or white gold, then she is a cool metal person, making a white gold, platinum, or palladium ring an ideal choice. If she has more yellow metals that she is a warm metal woman so stick to yellow gold or rose gold.

Take note if she is traditional or non-traditional? If she has jewelry that is bold and funky, then she most likely wants a ring that is different from all of her friends.

Note her reaction to other women’s engagement rings. The best clues can be found this way. When in doubt, ask a friend. Find a trustworthy friend who knows her style. They will be able to get a lot of information that you might be able to obtain without being suspicious.

More and more couples are shopping together for their engagement rings and wedding bands. Want to surprise her? Narrow down the choice between two or three rings so she won’t know exactly which one she will be receiving. Then, plan the date, location and a memorable style.

Step 5: Size Matters

If you can, sneak a ring that you know fits her ring finger, take it to a jeweler and have them check the size. If you only have a few minutes with the ring before she notices that it is gone, press the ring into a soft bar of soap. The ring will leave an indent that the jeweler should be able to determine a size from. Ask if your jeweler will resize it for you for after the proposal, many jewelers offer this service for free. See our guide to ring settings, style and sizing >

Step 6: Make Sure It’s Covered

Make note of the jewelry store’s exchange or return policy. If she would still prefer a different ring, you will need to make sure you can exchange it. After you find the right ring, make sure you get it insured properly. Look into getting a rider on your homeowner’s insurance or a standalone policy such as the one offered by Jewelers Mutual Insurance Company. See our guide to jewelry insurance >

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