Adventures with Engagement Rings

Adventures with Engagement Rings

Huge kudos to my partner for nailing my ring.  Having never been engagement ring shopping before, I had no idea of what I wanted.  I like clean lines and delicate details.  I definitely wanted something durable (I’m accident prone, although my partner kindly calls me all-terrain).  Most importantly, I knew that I wanted something custom that came from the heart.

My partner and I talked about a marriage long before we started talking about getting engaged.  Priorities!  As such, it was not a surprise when we decided we wanted to get engaged.  In the American tradition, it’s “supposed to” start with a diamond ring.  He had saved up plenty of cash, since it’s something you should NEVER go into debt for, and said I truly could have whatever I wanted.

No matter what, I was going to love the ring.  It was a gift from someone who wants to spend the rest of their life with me.  However, I also wanted to genuinely like the ring since I was supposed to wear it every day for the rest of my life.  I’ve never done the pinterest boards, collages, etc. but my partner knows how picky I am and said it was time to figure out my metal and shape of choice.  Of course, knowing me, the research started with finding…

All the Times You Are Not Supposed to Wear Your Ring

  • Sleeping – it can scratch your/your partner’s face or get caught in the bed sheets which can loosen the stones
  • Taking a shower – product or residue buildup (or getting caught in your hair)
  • Putting on lotion, makeup or hair products – product or residue buildup
  • Cooking/Baking – at least if it’s sticky or gooey
  • Doing dishes – depending on your dish soap, it can discolor, dissolve, or otherwise damage the stone or metal bands
  • Cleaning the house/oven/anything else – because chemicals (I am basically running a bed and breakfast, so this is no good)
  • Gardening – hidden rocks can chip the stone, knock stones loose, and – surprise! – dirt gets the ring dirty
  • Swimming at the pool – chlorine can damage the metal and the ring could fall off in the water if your hands get cold, although you could potentially get it back in the filter or by draining the pool
  • Going to the beach – it’s a goner in all the sand, especially if you are swimming
  • Doing any weight training – it can scratch the band or damage the stone
  • Doing any sort of sports – they could knock out stones, especially tennis and golf
  • Operating heavy machinery – it could break, crack, or stones could loosen

And we’re spending HOW MUCH on this thing that I apparently can’t wear anywhere other than at my desk at work?!  Two months of my partner’s salary?!  I wear my Tiffany’s rings everywhere and doing almost everything daily, and I clean them with silver polish when needed.  This new ring does NOT seem like a solid purchase.

“Can we just skip the ring?” “No. I fully intend to tag you as mine.” 🙂 We settled on finding me a wedding band later that can be worn 100% of the time, at which point it would be acceptable if I didn’t regularly wear the engagement ring with it.  Marriage is all about compromise.

Starting with the Metal

All my other rings are silver.  That meant silver, white gold, palladium or platinum to match.

  • Silver is a softer metal, making it more susceptible to scratching and other damage. It also has a greater tendency to oxidize than other metals, causing the silver in rings to turn black sometimes. Not so good for an engagement ring that we potentially would pass along for generations.
  • White gold rings are often coated in rhodium to enhance their white color and protect the gold below from wear and tear. However, over time the rhodium plating in white gold will wear off and fade to a yellowish tinge. Once you re-polish and re-plate the white gold ring, it will look white again.  Too much maintenance, and not for me.
  • Both platinum and palladium are naturally white (no alloys or plating required) and resilient to discoloration (they won’t tarnish). They have similar durability (Platinum is a 4.5 and palladium is a 5) and develop a patina finish over time.  Palladium is usually 95% pure compared to platinum at almost a 100% purity.  The differences are really density and price.  Platinum is a dense metal, and will feel heavier than palladium.  Palladium is lighter and usually cheaper.  I was fine with either.

We ended up going with platinum because it’s more common so more jewelers would be able to work with the ring if something were to happen. (For example, needing it resized later.  If a jeweler who is unfamiliar with palladium tries to resize it, they can damage the ring or leave dark marks.)

My partner wanted to “tag me with a giant rock,” and I wanted a stone since all my other rings are simple bands.  I like when things match so I didn’t want a colored stone.  Next up…

How to Cost Save on Diamonds

  • It’s often cheaper to order the ring online or to buy the stone online (Blue Nile is really helpful when searching for specific stones or looking at average prices) and have a jeweler set it, or you can try to negotiate with a jeweler for a discount.
  • “Buy shy,” or buy slightly under the round number for carat (.85-.95 instead of 1 carat) since only a jeweler can really tell. Carat actually measures the weight, not the size.
  • At a certain point, the naked eye can’t tell the specs (Color: Aim for H or higher and consider a yellow gold setting for H or lower so it won’t look as yellow. Clarity: VS1 or higher is considered eye-clean and SI2 should be alright but make sure any imperfections don’t affect the diamond’s integrity. Cut: Aim for “Very Good” or better since a better cut means more sparkle.)
  • Consider a unique shape – the round brilliant is the most popular and therefore one of the most expensive when compared to all others, all C’s being equal.
  • Consider more small diamonds or a halo setting instead of one big diamond.

It wouldn’t save a ton, but at least this helps save on the ring I’m not even supposed to ever wear during normal daily life.  However, with all this research, I found that…

The Diamond Industry is Awful

  • De Beers ads brainwashed generations of people into thinking “a diamond is forever”
  • Market manipulation is the reason that the cost of a diamond is so high (the De Beers cartel controls 90%+ of the rough diamond production and only releases small batches of diamonds at a time)
  • Diamonds are mined illegally in war zones with the proceeds used to fuel armed conflicts (“blood diamonds”)
  • Even “conflict free” diamonds could have been mined using child labor or underpaid workers, and the mines often have poor working conditions
  • The value of a diamond depreciates the moment you put it on thanks to De Beers marketing – just visit eBay to see for yourself

Leading to…

“Brand New Diamond Ring” Alternatives

  • A family heirloom
  • An antique or vintage ring/stone from an estate sale or consignment store
  • A used diamond ring/stone from online auction sites, yard sales, etc.
  • A lab-created diamond
  • A gem-free ring
  • Stones like moissanite, white sapphire, cubic zirconia or a completely different gemstone altogether

Introducing Moissanite

Moissanite is a naturally occurring silicon carbide.  It was originally discovered in 1893 by Henri Moissan in a meteor crater in Canyon Diablo, Arizona.  It is a very rare and scarce mineral.  However, it has been synthesized in labs since the early 1900s.  It’s a space rock!

Compared to a diamond?  A Forever One Moissanite is completely colorless, similar to an E-color diamond.  A diamond is a 10 on the hardness scale, but a moissanite is a 9.25 which is higher than any other gemstone (and almost as hard as a diamond to scratch).  It has higher brilliance than a diamond, so some people may not appreciate the extra sparkle or “fire” even though I love it.  The price is where moissanite really shines.  It comes in at about a fifth the cost of a comparable diamond, and in some cases it’s even cheaper than that.  This was the rock for me.

Deciding on a Shape

My partner smartly sent me to the mall to visit the jewelry stores (alone, because sales people can be vultures).  I was able to visit three different jewelry stores and try on all sorts of options.  I tried on any ring that caught my interest, and I took photos of each.  I definitely left feeling overwhelmed by the sales pitches, and it was hard to picture how rings would fit since none were my size.  I had a couple front runners, though.

Armed with a knowledge of my front runners, I found similar styles and shapes (as well as some bands) in the Amazon costume jewelry area and ordered them with Prime (free return shipping for any Amazon fashions you don’t want to hang on to).  That gave me a chance to try them on in my size and in a low pressure setting with my partner.  We were able to talk about the things I liked and didn’t like.  I settled on a pear shape and then returned most of the rings (although I kept some of the simple bands… they were all super cute!) and left the rest up to my partner.

Designing My Ring

The CAD drawing of my engagement ring. My partner really enjoyed working with Do Amore.

My amazing and wonderful partner used Do Amore’s custom designs.  We really appreciate their charitable mission.  It wasn’t the cheapest, but it was a lot easier than ordering the stone and working with a jeweler separately.  He emailed them general photos of what he was looking for, explained via email the details he wanted included, was emailed back a CAD drawing of the ring that he got to adjust or approve, and then it was produced and mailed with FedEx and he was able to pick it up at the nearest office.  Really easy, pretty fast, and he was able to hide all the details easily from me.  (Our well is being built in India, for anyone who is familiar with Do Amore’s charitable mission.)

I love how much time and thought he put into designing such a beautiful ring, which has all sorts of personal touches.  Thank you to my favorite person in the whole world!

How do other people react to my “not-a-diamond” ring?

Who cares?  I love it.  Actually, they all love the ring as well and I’ve never been asked what kind of stone it is (probably because they all assume it’s a diamond… they do know where I live).  The ring gets a ton of compliments.  I love sharing all the thought my partner put into it.  I think that’s a far better showing of how much he loves me than throwing down an extra $7k for the center stone, even though he offered and even though we had the cash to pay for it.  I don’t want someone to negatively judge my wonderful partner just because we’re going against the norms for what we consider to be a better option for us. (Because SPACE ROCK!  It’s so cool and Earth-friendly!)

Even if it had been a band without a stone at all, why should anyone care?  I don’t feel the need to compare my ring, my relationship, or even myself to anyone else.  I fully admit I didn’t want to participate in the diamond trade due to ethical reasons, but I don’t judge people who buy diamonds.  If a diamond is the right choice for you, go for it!  If you have other priorities, it’s OK to put those first instead.  At the end of the day, “better than others” is a negative way of thinking, and there are much better measuring sticks to use.

September 10, 2017 at the Buford Dam near Atlanta, Georgia

4 Replies to “Adventures with Engagement Rings”

  1. I love this – if I could go back in time I honestly would never have gotten an engagement ring. I appreciate the intention, and mine is meaningful for me because my husband picked it out… but I almost never wear it! A solid band would have been my way to go.

  2. I actually did the same thing and never had my engagement ring fused to my wedding band so I can wear just the band depending on the situation. Then again, my ring is technically a “promise ring” not an engagement ring because it is so small – which is exactly what I wanted. Your ring is absolutely gorgeous, btw.

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