Where your future husband purchases your engagement ring says almost as much about you as the diamond itself does. Ultimately, it comes down to the bride-to-be's style preferences and the type of experience the future groom is after. Though there's no wrong way to shop for an engagement ring, there is a method (and a place!) that's right for every couple. While some grooms-to-be want to see the broadest selection of diamond offerings out there, others seek out smaller companies with a curatorial focus. Not sure which type fits your preferences? To help you with your search, we outlined all the types of places that you can purchase a diamond, from local shops and private jewelers, to online retailers and antique vendors, complete with shopping advice from the experts.
Shopping at a local brick-and-mortar store is a great way to find a unique stone—and you'll also support a small business in the process. While proximity is a plus (you can stop in whenever it's convenient!), the real advantage concerns ring longevity. Purchasing a stone closer to home means that you're more likely to bring it in for cleanings and tune-ups, which will help keep your diamond in the same condition as it was when it was first purchased, says Eric Robertson, the Creative Director of Seattle's Green Lake Jewelry Works. "When you wear something every day for a lifetime, there's a chance that somewhere along the way it will get marred, broken, or even lost," he explains. "When you work with an established jeweler to find a ring, there's a guarantee on the quality of its craftsmanship, and in the case of a custom shop, detailed records of its original design and value."
A National Jeweler
Major jewelry chains are a great way to begin the engagement ring search, especially if you're not entirely sure what your bride-to-be wants. They typically boast huge selections that cater to just about everyone's style. Another plus? These retailers often offer financing options and insurance policies, which come are integral when it's time to buy.
You'll want to take the private jeweler route if you're looking for a custom engagement ring, says Olivia Landau, Founder and CEO of The Clear Cut in New York City. Right from the beginning, the experience is intensely personal. "We like to start with an initial phone call to get a better sense of the client's preferences and walk them through our process," explains Landau, who then sources preliminary stones, checks in for feedback, and then either proceeds with the diamond purchase or goes back to the drawing board. After clients choose a rock, the design element of the process begins. From start to finish, you go from the ideation phase to bespoke engagement ring in two to four weeks.
Before you settle on a jeweler, though, you'll want to ensure that they have considerable scope. Landau, a fourth-generation diamond expert with a deep network, says to look for a vendor with longevity, extensive industry experience, and access to multiple diamond markets—and to bookmark jewelers who don't hold inventory. This way, your jeweler scouts the diamond you love—not the one they want you to love, just because they need to sell it.
Most retail jewelry stores also have some presence online. This is true for Catbird, a Brooklyn-based fine jewelry shop with an impressive virtual roster of recycled and conflict-free engagement rings, in addition to an in-store Wedding Annex. According to Founder and Co-Creative Director Rony Vardi, most couples combine the "online and offline experience" and stresses that making the final purchase on the web can definitely be secure—providing you're purchasing from a brand with a proven track record. As for the benefits of adding an engagement ring to your online shopping cart? "You have the time and headspace to really compare details—even across brands—and to slowly learn what speaks to you," she says.
If you're skeptical about clicking buy without that in-person experience, but can't make it into the actual shop, ask if a video chat is available, suggests Vardi. "We try to replicate the one-on-one experience online, through video consultations, additional images, and lots of back and forth emails," she adds.
Antique Stores and Estate Sales
Vintage-loving brides understand the appeal of the antique engagement ring, which might hail from the Georgian and Victoria periods all the way through the Art Nouveau and Art Deco eras. The search for quality diamonds that have withstood the test of time, however, is best left to the pros. According to Amanda Adams, the Managing Partner at Queen May Jewelry—a vintage and estate jewelry shop located in the historic district of Cape May, New Jersey—rare jewels are rare for a reason. "We're very selective in the vintage and estate sourcing process," she says. "We spend the majority of the year purchasing unique pieces of jewelry from all over the world—from England, France, Austria, United States, Argentina, and more."
Choosing an antique jewelry specialist, specifically, also ensures that you're finding the real deal. "No manufacturing process took place to create these handmade beauties," says Rhett Outten, the owner of Charleston's Croghan's Jewel Box. This means that a true antique engagement ring shouldn't look perfect, she explains. "In antique mine and old-European cuts, precision facet junctions are nonexistent. Instead, you see the beauty of imperfection and the romance of a time gone by. These stones most likely were cut in candle light!"