Jul 31, 2023 - Partners

Your guide to shopping for an engagement ring – with tips from a Charlotte diamond expert


This content was created in partnership with Diamonds Direct SouthPark.

You’ve decided to ask the big question. *pops champagne* Now, it’s time to buy the ring.

If you’ve made the mistake of flying blind at a jewelry store, you know how overwhelming the diamond-buying experience can be: A sea of different ring styles, settings and bands, plus foreign terms like clarity and carat.

  • In other words: Without a basic education on engagement rings, the process of buying a diamond is confusing and stressful instead of romantic and magical.

The solution: We teamed up with Diamonds Direct to create a digital diamond-buying guide to make the process as seamless and personalized as possible.

Read this guide and become a diamond-buying pro before you even enter the showroom.

The four C’s

First things first: Let’s define four terms you’re bound to hear while diamond shopping.

  • Cut — Very similar to a diamond’s shape, but the cut grade is determined by how well a diamond’s facets interact with light.
  • Color — Based on the absence of color. The color scale for diamonds begins with D, representing a colorless diamond, and continues to Z.
  • Carat — How much a diamond weighs. A metric “carat” is defined as 200mg. 
  • Clarity — Diamonds have internal and external characteristics called “inclusions” and “blemishes.” The clarity scale begins with flawless and ends with included.


One of the most distinguishing features of an engagement ring is the diamond’s shape. Here’s a rundown of the most common options:


The most popular diamond shape, round diamonds have a classic, timeless look. They’re also cut to reflect maximum light.

  • Because of the popularity and optimized cut, this is often the most expensive shape.


Quickly becoming a favorite shape, oval diamonds put a modern spin on the classic round shape. Plus, the elongated shape appears larger than other shapes of the same carat and weight.


The eye-shaped marquise cut is known for its tapered ends.


Can’t decide between a marquise or round cut? Get the best of both worlds with the pear shape. The pointed end can be worn facing either direction.


Famously known as “old mine cuts,” cushion-cut diamonds are rectangular with rounded corners.


A long, rectangular shape and step cuts are hallmarks of the emerald shape. This elegant cut gives a hall-of-mirrors effect, with lots of reflections within the diamond itself.


Similar to the emerald cut, the Asscher shape has the same step cuts. Instead of a rectangular shape, they’re square with a high crown for added brilliance.


Radiant shapes will look a lot like an emerald cut at first glance because they have the same rectangular shape with cut-off corners. Instead of the step cuts, though, radiant diamonds are brilliant cut (the pattern that reflects the most light).


Another classic look, the princess shape is known for its square appearance. It has the same brilliant cut and optimal sparkle as a round diamond, and you’ll see an “X” shape when you look down at it.


First things first: The setting refers to every part of the ring other than the center stone.

  • This includes the band, prongs, halo and any other stones on the ring.


If your significant other is into timeless looks, you can’t go wrong with a classic setting.

Some examples (left to right): Classic settings include solitaire bands, three-stone rings, four-prong settings and more.


Modern settings have a distinctive, contemporary look. If you’re interested in a modern look ask to see rings with mixed metals, bezel settings or split shanks.


Vintage settings give a ring a more old-fashioned, antique look. They’re known for ornate, detailed metalwork. If you love the idea of a ring that looks like a family heirloom, ask to see art deco or milgrain settings.


If you need a little help breaking out of decision paralysis, try taking some inspiration from trending settings.

Some examples (left to right): Halo settings, thin bands and double center stones.

Men’s bands

Men have far more options than polished gold these days. 

Some examples: Finishes can be matte, engraved, milgrain, patterned, brushed and more. Titanium, platinum, and palladium are becoming more popular metal choices, too.

Choosing a ring

Next steps: Now that you’ve made it through Diamond Buying 101, it’s time to make some decisions.

If you’re surprising your future fiancé…

Unless your significant other has been shamelessly dropping hints, you might need to do some detective work to find out their style preferences.

To figure out the right ring size, you can go a few routes.

  • Borrow a ring from their jewelry box and bring it to Diamonds Direct.
  • Ask one of your future fiancé’s friends to find out for you.
  • Go with a standard ring size — generally a 6.5 or 7 — and have it resized after the proposal if it needs adjusting.

If you want to shop together…

To take some of the pressure off, consider bringing your significant other ring shopping with you.

  • “More and more people are bringing in their partners to shop with them,” says Asim Baksh, a diamond expert at Diamonds Direct.

Okay, but: Does that ruin the surprise?

  • Chances are you’ve already had a conversation about potentially getting married (if not…maybe do that) so it’s completely fine (and also fun!) to casually peruse rings together.
  • The benefits: Browsing together will give you an idea of styles, and you can find out the correct ring size. Plus, Diamonds Direct will take down all the information and save it until you come back to purchase.

How much to spend

Forget the old “two months’ pay” rule of thumb. Spend whatever you’re comfortable with.

The idea: Whether your budget is $2K or $20K, Diamonds Direct has a vast range of ring settings and diamonds, which makes it easier to find something your future fiancé will love that won’t break the bank.

  • If one element is most important to you, like cut or carat, Diamonds Direct will work with you to maximize that feature while staying within budget.

An expert take: “You can also save money by choosing a lower price point setting,” points out Asim. “Our in-house brand, Diamonds Direct Designs, is more affordable so you can put more money towards the center diamond.”

Ring financing

If you aren’t sitting on a chunk of cash to pay for a ring, Diamonds Direct also offers financing options so you can break up the payments over time—up to five years.

  • Even better: If you pay it off within one year, no interest applies.

Turnaround time

Even if you find the perfect ring on day one of shopping, you still have to factor in a waiting period.

What to expect: It takes around 4-6 weeks for Diamonds Direct to make your ring, with some exceptions. If you’re planning the proposal around a special event or vacation, make sure to account for that.

If planning ahead isn’t your forte and you’ve waited until the week before your romantic trip to Paris to buy a ring, don’t panic.

  • Here’s why: For a tight turnaround, Diamonds Direct can put the diamond you pick out on a presentation mounting. “After the proposal, your fiancé can bring in the diamond mounting and pick out their dream setting,” explains Asim.

In some cases, you might be able to expedite the process, but it’ll usually come with a fee.

Diamonds Direct’s lifetime perks

In addition to a lifetime warranty, Diamonds Direct even provides free side stone replacements.

Plus, plus, plus: With free cleanings, your rock can always be sparkling. They also offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.

If you want to upgrade your diamond down the road, Diamonds Direct has you covered there, too.

  • The deets: If you want to add a carat or two to your center diamond, Diamonds Direct will give you what you spent on your original diamond plus 10% to put toward the new diamond. This policy goes into effect one year after your initial purchase.

Don’t forget: Insurance

An engagement ring is a big purchase. You’ll want to make sure it’s insured against loss or theft.

How it’s done: You can purchase a standalone policy or, in some cases, just add it on to your homeowner’s insurance policy.

Ready to start shopping? Browse rings here or follow @diamondsdirect on Instagram.

This content was created in partnership with Diamonds Direct SouthPark.


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