Neil Lane
Credit: Neil Lane

Now that your search for that special someone is complete, it’s time to start searching for the perfect ring — a pursuit that requires much time, research and teamwork. And, while it’s meant to be romantic, it can also be overwhelming. But fear not! I’ve picked up quite a few tips in my years of designing that can help you navigate this unfamiliar territory. With these five easy steps to choosing a ring, you’ll be on your way to happily ever after in no time.

1. Decide How Much to Spend

Historically, the “rule” has been that the one proposing should spend approximately three months’ salary on an engagement ring. But that was then, and this is 2018. While the ring selection process was once a solo endeavor, it has over time become a task for two. What’s most important is that you have an honest conversation with your partner about how much you’re comfortable spending.

Talking about money can be tricky, however there are a few ways to bring up your budget without putting on the pressure. First, remember that you’re on the same team. Sit side-by-side, and bring up a topic you are comfortable discussing, one that’s an easy transition into engagement rings; maybe a close friend has recently gotten engaged or married, or your favorite romantic comedy is on and the proposal scene is coming up.

As you ease your way into the conversation, be sure to address your current financial situation and factor in your plans for the future. Are you saving for a new home, car or special trip? Keep in mind that while this part of the process is more pragmatic, buying a ring is one of the most significant and exciting purchases of your life – so it’s ok to splurge a little!

2. Try On — Different Jewelers

Once you’ve established your budget, it’s time to take a trip down “Diamond Lane.” Visit a few jewelry stores to get an up-close and personal look at different shapes and sizes. It never hurts to try on, and sometimes testing out an unexpected style can open your eyes to a whole new world of possibilities. While you’re in the store, pay attention to wedding band options as well; it’s smart to shop for engagement rings and bands at the same time so you can choose styles that pair well together. Before leaving, don’t forget to snap pictures of your favorite rings. Your memory may become cloudy after shopping for hours on end, so a picture will serve as a good to reference when the mental images of all the beautiful rings you saw start to blend together.

3. Choose Your #1 Jewelry Store

As with every relationship, trust is key and being able to trust your jeweler is paramount. A good jeweler will make your happiness their #1 priority. They will be eager to work within your budget while helping you find the ring of your heart’s desire. Though it’s not always necessary to purchase a ring with insurance or a warranty, if you find a jeweler that offers protection against damage, theft or loss, it’s advisable to take it. The thought of losing your most valued possession may seem unimaginable, but it happens more than you’d think.

4. Know the Basics

Diamonds are typically assessed by the "4 C" attributes, which refers to cut, color, clarity and carat weight. The 4 Cs are unique to each stone and have varied levels of importance to each couple. Therefore, you’ll want to find a combination that suits your tastes and your lifestyle.

Carat Weight

Let’s first address the elephant (or the carat, rather) in the room – a bigger number doesn’t necessarily mean a better ring. It’s a common misconception that carat count refers to size, however it’s actually a measurement of weight. Different shapes and settings can affect the appearance of a diamond. For instance, a halo of smaller stones that encircle the center diamond can make a ring look larger and enhance its overall brilliance, whereas stones with elongated tables, such as the elegant oval and pear cuts, appear to be bigger because they actually do have larger surface areas.

Neil Lane
Credit: Neil Lane


The cut of a diamond refers to the angles and proportions of a stone — as opposed to the size or shape. Each cut has its own personality and unique attributes that make it special to the wearer, making it one of the most vital factors to consider when deciding on a ring.

The round cut is one of the most iconic. It has 58 facets (or surfaces) that reflect light in every direction, creating that intense sparkle that diamonds are so famous for. This cut also offers much versatility and works with nearly every setting, making it an excellent choice to pair with an elaborate halo or band. If you like the idea of a round stone but want something more unusual, the oval is another great choice. This fancy shape has, once again, risen in popularity over the last few years and offers the ultimate balance of elegance and individuality.

Neil Lane
Credit: Neil Lane

The princess cut diamond debuted in the 1960’s and quickly became one of the most sought-after cuts in existence. This stand-out style’s bold, geometric shape offers clean lines and exudes sophistication from every angle. The princess is also a preferred cut for smaller diamonds that are set into ring bands. Their straight sides allow the stones sit side-by-side with virtually no gaps in between, creating a seamless and refined look.

Neil Lane
Credit: Neil Lane

Similar to the princess cut, the cushion is a square, fancy shape. Its rounded corners create a softness resembling a fusion and make it quite a romantic cut. This cut however, has been beloved for nearly 200 years and for its first 100 years, it was the most popular diamond shape in the world. What makes the cushion so enduring is its unparalleled “fire” or light that reflects outward from the diamond. The cushion emits an intense fire that can appear in brilliant white or even rainbow flashes.

Neil Lane
Credit: Neil Lane


A diamond’s color is graded on a scale from D (colorless) to Z (pale yellow). While D diamonds are the whitest and typically the most coveted, the majority of engagement ring stones fall in the pale-yellow range, with few natural diamonds being completely colorless. We tend to envision a white diamond as the traditional choice for an engagement ring, but diamonds of all colors and hues have been popular throughout the ages. In fact, some of the most distinguished and historical jewels in the world are colored stones, including the Cullinan Diamond in the scepter of the British Crown Jewel and the Dresden Green diamond, which has a historical record dating back to 1722.

In recent years, gemstones like morganite, aquamarine and garnet have become even more fashionable than some traditional diamonds.(We’re now sharing these beautiful gemstones with couples all over the world as part of my Neil Lane Bridal collection.) From a soft pink hue to a deep shade of red, opting for a color stone can add a little something special to your ring, while making it feel more symbolic of the love it represents. Always keep in mind that a stone’s color can affect its price, but if properly cut and faceted, a diamond of any hue, whether it’s blue, pink, pale yellow, or white, will shine and look beautiful.


Each diamond has its own unique set of small imperfections, often called “birthmarks” that make it truly one-of-a-kind. Clarity is essentially an assessment of those imperfections, which vary in number, size, shape, position and color. Birthmarks can occur at any point throughout a diamond’s journey to the jewelry store; during its growth or during the mining, cutting or polishing process. While no natural diamonds exist without imperfections, most are nearly impossible to see unless viewed under a microscope. And, even diamonds with inclusions and blemishes can be among the most beautiful, especially those with good cut and color.

VIDEO: Why Are Engagement Rings So Expensive?

5. Time to Buy

While there are endless possibilities to consider when searching for the perfect engagement ring, having some direction on what’s important to you and your partner, as well as a few tricks for spotting a great diamond can help you find your way. Once you’ve locked in your budget, learned the fundamentals and set your sights on a style, all that’s left is to do is make the purchase, and get ready for the big day.