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Ask HN: How have HN readers bought diamond engagement rings?
9 points by jseliger 876 days ago | 25 comments
I need to buy a diamond engagement ring, but buying a diamond is really expensive and really confusing; to learn enough to understand what I'm doing would take weeks or months of study, and even then I might do it wrong. Plus, investing the time isn't worthwhile for something that I'll buy at most a couple of times in my life.

So, HN readers who are engaged or married: How did you buy your ring? Has anyone founded a startup to try and make this process easier? The closest thing I've found is My Trio Rings: http://www.mytriorings.com/ . Has anyone used them?

(Background: Diamonds are basically a cartel, as was discussed on HN: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4535611 . In my case, not buying a diamond is not an option, although I have tried to explore this option.)




I bought my wife's ring from Blue Nile - www.bluenile.com - and would absolutely recommend them. They made it very easy to get what I wanted, and did a good job of educating me on what options were available to me. It's entirely an online operation, so it's very easy to browse their inventory over a long period of time and research any ?'s you might have somewhere else (if you don't trust their shopping guides). It's the antithesis of what I experienced at a couple of brick and mortar stores, where salesmen were pushy, unwilling to answer ?'s about their product, and at one point actually told me "if you have to ask, you can't afford it" when I asked about a ring of lesser quality than what I wound up buying. I don't plan on making it a habit to buy jewelry that expensive again, but if I did, I'd use Blue Nile in a heartbeat.

Also, they did probably the coolest thing I've seen with shipping. I had the ring shipped to my office address, and spent much of its arrival date refreshing the tracking page. Almost immediately after I saw that our shipping department had "signed" for it, my phone rang. Someone from Blue Nile called to say that someone other than me (the name of someone in our mail department) had signed for the package, and they wanted to make sure it was in the right place. I didn't pay anything extra for this service, but it was a really nice touch and I've told that story to everyone I've recommended the company to.

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Yes, I recommend Blue Nile too. Before you complete the order, give them a phone call. The operator I reached offered me some very good advice on choosing between two similar diamonds. They had the same price approximately and same ratings, but the dimensions were different and she explained which was more aesthetically pleasing. They do publish the dimensions, but as someone who knows nothing about jewelry I didn't know what to make of them.

They offer engraving too which is a nice touch.

Very nice experience overall. And not a bad startup idea on their part either.

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Interesting. Thanks! This is precisely the sort of thing I was looking for.

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How would you rate their prices?

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I'm not particularly savvy to diamond prices, so all I can offer is my limited experience from 2008 when I was in the market. Further, diamonds aren't really fungible, so it's hard to compare pricing as you're really never going to buy the same diamond in two different contexts. That said, I'll provide the details of my own experience and let you decide whether Blue Nile's prices qualify as "good".

I got a "perfect" (D color, brilliant cut, flawless clarity) 0.5 carat diamond in a platinum band for about $4500 all inclusive. Looking at 3 brick and mortar stores, I did not find a single ring that compared in quality with what I bought from Blue Nile. Most retailers seem to cater towards larger diamonds, and I didn't want one of those - diamonds exhibit a serious iceberg effect, and a "larger" diamond doesn't always appear substantially larger when mounted in a ring. Based on what I did see, I expect a comparable ring from a brick and mortar store would be around double the cost and significantly harder to find. I did not check other online retailers.

Also, for what it's worth, I did not involve my wife in the ring-buying decision, favoring the element of surprise (I got her ring size by pretending to talk in my sleep for two months before the purchase and asking her nonsensical ?'s). Blue Nile's interface would be exceptional for involving a significant other, though - you can check pictures of an individual diamond as it would appear mounted in various rings, and I believe you could upload a photo of a hand to see how it would look when worn (I didn't do that - element of surprise and all). If it's not obvious enough from my posts so far, I'm a big fan of the company and would encourage anyone out there who's looking for a diamond to check Blue Nile.

# EDIT - Noticed the caveat about pregnancy. Blue Nile will also resize their rings for free provided you ship it back to them.

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+1 for Blue Nile. I couldn't think of a way to figure out her ring size while maintaining the element of surprise, so their free resizing was really useful (they send you a sizing kit with every order). The overall price was also very competitive.

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Similar to BlueNile, I used Since1910: http://www.since1910.com/create-your-own-engagement-ring.asp...

It appealed to me mainly because it was very entertaining to be able to go through pages of raw diamonds and view their exact characteristics (measurements and all) and compare different ones. It's easy to drill down based on certain criteria.

I did call them after narrowing down to a few and talked about the different options. I learned that there are non-continuous price steps as you approach certain round carat sizes (0.5, 1.0, 2.0, etc) and so it can save you some money if you go slightly below a round-number size.

I got a 0.94 carat diamond with excellent characteristics for significantly cheaper than anything I found at $JEWELRY_STORE.

They ship free, and if you're not in NY, no tax, which will save you hundreds right off the top.

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I watched this guy's videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/jonmervis/videos?view=0

I also learned a few things while shopping: 1. You need to see the diamond in person.

2. Size is easily quantifiable, but sparkle/pop is more important. See #1.

3. I don't like to haggle. So I went to a diamond wholesaler, which was basically an office environment as opposed to a sales floor. I took my time, didn't feel pressured and I walked away with a great diamond at a great price. I can't recommend this option enough.

4. Not all certifications are equal. If the price seems to good to be true, it probably is. This is especially relevant for online vendors.

Another random tip: before you propose, secretly make a manicure appointment for your significant other for later that day or the next day.

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Tip:

Make sure she doesn't wear it when pregnant. Women swell up a bit and the ring will start to choke her finger. Then you will have to cut it with a Dremel at 11:00 PM on a Tuesday and lose your "investment". Don't ask me how I know...

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Much appreciated. This isn't likely to be a problem in the immediate future, but it probably will be in the medium term.

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Good luck and keep us posted. I'm a bit of a romantic so proposals and weddings are one of my secret enjoyments. :)

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Thanks. Will do. We're already actually engaged, but I gave her a family ring, which she initially liked until she (and I) realized that my sister had apparently been wearing it around for years. And it belonged to a grandmother with an unfortunate history that apparently devalues the sentimental value.

So now I'm in the market for a new ring, but ideally one that doesn't cost a lot, given our financial situation. I'm writing a dissertation, being a grant writing consultant, and starting to work for a startup called Lion Crest publishing (http://lioncrest.com/), which makes for some weird explanations and, at the moment, not a tremendous amount of cash.

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I went with my older brother. 6 weeks, 8 weeks, 13 weeks salary, they were all the same number. I was in school.

The retail trade feeds on one's insecurity. Bought the really cheap one. Felt like crap walking out with it. Took me a year to pay it off.

She stopped wearing it after our first anniversary. The next one is 17.

It's meaning is a promise. The promise gets superseded by a vow. Or doesn't.

Congratulations.

Good Luck.

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Find out from the girl, either directly or indirectly, what she wants in a diamond. I took her to the jewelry stores with me. The first shop they gave us the whole spiel about the 5 C's etc. They had my wife try on this ungodly large diamond ring she would never wear. We thanked them and left. Went to another store, saw a few in our price range and we left with it that day.

Now that method isn't for everybody, some of my wife's friends thought it was pathetic I brought her along and had her choose, others thought it was a good idea. Generally those were the ones who were married and were upset at the ring their husband bought.

But at least in my opinion the ring is specific to the girl. Some want big diamonds, others like my wife feel uncomfortable with one. She wanted a fancier cut than others in that price range though. And don't forget there is more to the ring than just the diamond. The band is important too(Another reason to have her go with you. Instant sizing.) Diamonds are hard to buy online because the way the light hits the diamond is important to its look and again, every girl has a different look she wants.

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Back in the day I bought my wife's ring from Ashford.com by buying a lose stone and picking a setting. I had a spreadsheet and built a simple pricing model based on the 4C for the stones in their database and looked for stones that were underpriced in my pricerange. They called me twice to make sure I wanted the ring. I lived in houston and picked the ring up in person, and the manager there let me know they'd had a data entry error on the stone and had transposed the first two digits of the price, the $24xx should have been $42xx. Ashford doesn't do the lose stone business now...

One small hint, if you set a stone in platinum you can pick a stone with a lower color grade and have it look just as good. Being able to go down a color grade or two means a lot more discount or larger stone.

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I remember going in with her for "fun" and she pointed out the ring she wanted. When I was ready, I went and got the ring she wanted but went up in diamond size (from 1 ct. to 2 ct.). It was a super easy process because she had shown me what she wanted and liked. I bought it from JB Robinson (which is owned by the company that also runs Kays). I definitely over payed and have seen the price of that ring drop by several thousand since then. However, the important thing (to me) is that my wife was happy with the ring choice. Money will come and go but that special person is much harder to replace!

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If you've got the right partner, the size of the diamond won't matter. If you want to buy a diamond based on the size of your or your partner's ego, buy the biggest one you can afford and hope it works.

Avoid Amazon and go for specialty jewelery websites, Blue Nile is definately good. Unless you can afford Tiffany/etc, avoid the chain jewelery stores because they're almost always disappointing in quality. Yelp is sortof helpful in picking a store, but really the best thing here right now is legwork.

So: Windowshop, Save Up, Hope you picked the right one (ring and future spouse).

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Picking the spouse is orders of magnitude more important than picking the ring.

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>If you've got the right partner, the size of the diamond won't matter

That's certainly true. I'm looking less for size than for reasonable value, and that's really hard for me to assess.

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Make it a holiday and go to the diamond mines in South Africa or Namibia to see them digging it out. Its a magical experience and you can get blood diamonds at a much better price than store bought.

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Indeed. How fucking shallow and sexist is it to expect your partner to shell out thousands of dollars on a useless piece of carbon that literally becomes worthless as soon as it's sold? And I bet these people are all about "gender equality" too.

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I did a few hours of Internet research on the 4 Cs, wholesale prices, what to look for, etc.

I think the biggest thing is to shop separately for the stone and the setting. I found a stone I really liked in a ring I didn't care for at all, but then found a ring with a sapphire set in it that I had the jeweler swap out for my diamond.

Overall, I still like buying big ticket items in person, and making sure I knew where to go (tip: Stay away from the mall and any place you see on TV) made a huge difference.

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I researched the 4 Cs on google, then bought a ring on ebay. It had a 7 day return policy, so I scheduled an appraisal for the day after I got it. Paid a few thousand. Appraised for 4+ times as much as I paid.

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Walk past a jewelery store slowly, see if she sees a style in the window that she likes. or just take her along and let her choose, but set the budget with her early.

Congrats!

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Tiffany & Co. Yes, I paid a premium.

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