The Ultimate Engagement Ring Guide for Clueless Men

engagement ring shopping for men
Daniel Fishel/Thrillist

"Engagement ring shopping is such a breeze! I wish I could do it every day!" said no guy ever. Picking the perfect ring for your perfect lady is stressful. There is so much to consider and so much information that you just aren't told about the process. Don't worry, I got you.

From figuring out what she likes to picking a rock, here's a comprehensive guide to engagement ring shopping. We're gonna get through this.

Make an effort

The first golden rule of ring shopping is to make a real, significant effort to ensure this process is as special and successful as possible. You found the girl; now make an effort to get her the right ring. If you aren't willing to go all-in, you'll both be disappointed. Now is not the time to go to Jared. You know what we call a guy who goes to Jared? Single.

"Jewelry is so personal and has this magic behind it," says Sandy Rubin, owner and designer of Sandy Rubin Jewelry. "It travels through life with us and is passed down from one person to the next. Each piece tells such a unique story."

Hear that? Now is NOT THE TIME for bargain bins and bullshit, my friend.

Just because your girlfriend has a simpler style or doesn't wear a ton of jewelry, doesn't mean she wants a tiny ring. "Pretty much across the board, all women want a sizable diamond or gem," says jeweler and artist Nina Swistel.

This is a big deal! Hitting up the mall is not going to cut it. When it comes to cutting corners, consider a cheaper band or setting over a discount gem. I beg you.

Figure out what your girlfriend likes

Steven Grauer, chairman of Ritani, says the biggest mistake he sees men make is coming to shop without knowing the cut of the diamond his girlfriend actually wants. "Every diamond is as unique as the individual who will possess them: They are like fingerprints and no two diamonds are exactly alike." If you're marrying someone, you should probably have an idea of their style.

When it comes to choosing the shape of your girlfriend's rock, just listen to the words that come out of her mouth. It's very likely that she's told you the shape of her dream engagement ring. Very rarely do people get engaged without at least a baseline understanding that they're headed for the altar and subsequent ring convos are a byproduct of those discussions.

I can't speak for every woman, but for most of us, the ring is a HUGE deal. We're not trying to wind up with a ring we hate. There are way too many shapes and cuts to possibly count; but here is a really helpful slideshow to give you some ideas.

If you really can't find a clue, there are ways around that too. Ask your jeweler for some assistance. They've done this many times before and genuinely want to help. "I generally ask a few questions about his girlfriend's personality and style, such as what kind of clothes she wears. Does she prefer the city or the wilderness? Simple or ornate designs? Generally, guys will have an idea of what they think she might like."

Find out her ring size

Swistel reveals that she's had male customers do all kinds of crazy things to figure out a partner's ring size; from hacking into their girlfriend's Pinterest boards to tying string around a woman's ring finger while she slept.

"The best thing to do is to 'borrow' another ring of hers for a day and either bring it to us or get it checked at any jewelry store." Just be sure it's a ring she wears on her ring finger, guys...

If your girlfriend isn't much of a jewelry wearer, Swistel suggests asking one of her close friends or family members for her ring size. This isn't a surefire way to find it. If you can't figure it out, just get as close as you can and resize after the fact. (Yes, that is a thing you can do! Yay!) Where there is a will, there is a way.

Choose your jeweler

This is arguably the most important step of all and one of the most cringeworthy aspects of the whole experience. For many men, they have absolutely no idea where to even begin looking for a jeweler.

Men! You do not need to go to Tiffany's for an engagement ring. If you are not the king of Agrabah, you have options. You can get the exact same ring for a fraction of the price if you choose a small jeweler instead.

While narrowing down your options, ask for suggestions from married friends. They always have the sweet hookups, and a jeweler they trust. If you have a female friend or co-worker with a killer ring, ask if she'd recommend her jeweler. She already went through the process of getting a ring so she knows what she's doing... and if she doesn't, I'm sure she'd be happy to give you her fiancé's email address since he's the one who bought it.

"I tend to recommend local, artisan jewelers that do custom work (in addition to their own designs and one-of-a-kind pieces), because of the great customer experience," Swistel says. "They often work one-on-one with the customer, helping them design their piece, even if they know nothing about jewelry and gems."

"Transparency is key," Rubin agrees. "Ask questions, and ask for clarification." You want someone who you can trust, someone who doesn’t intimidate you. Artisan jewelers know what they're doing and know gems better than those big-name spots like Harry Winston.

Don’t get dragged into the hype. You want a diamond specialist who has been in the business since the dawn of time; one who basically lives and breathes precious gemstones.

Pick the diamond

When it comes to choosing your rock, you've got to live by the "four C's." But like all things in life, it's not as simple as it sounds. The C's stand for cut, color, clarity, and carat.

"The four C's of diamond quality are the universal system of quality of any diamond, worldwide," Grauer informs us. "We also suggest that customers purchase GIA-certified diamonds, the GIA is the industry leader in diamond certification." Ask your jeweler about certification and he or she will certainly assist you.

When it comes to the four C's, start with color and clarity, "As for the most important aspects of the four C's, we always start with color and clarity, as these are the first aspect of the diamond that you see." The carat size will be determined by your budget. The bigger the diamond, the heftier the price.

Just to add another dimension to the confusion, settings and stones are priced differently, therefore requiring you to take two things into consideration when buying. "Settings range in price from $245 and up, and diamonds range in price from $350 and up," Grauer says. "An avenge engagement ring purchase in New York City would be between $6,000 and $9,500."


You don't HAVE to go with a diamond

If your lady is not a diamond kind of gal, then don't get diamonds! Not every woman wants a diamond engagement ring (though most of us do). You can go to a jeweler who makes custom engagement rings with other precious stones. And there is clear benefit to taking this route.

According to Rubin, a customized ring doesn’t have to be the scary option. "The first thing I normally do with my custom engagement ring clients is figure out what we already know and figure out what we don't know," he says. "I typically have a list of questions that we run through together. This gives us a general guideline of where to start. We'll go back and forth answering all the questions until we both feel comfortable with the overall design. Then, we choose the stones together and make a prototype. Once the prototype is approved, the ring will then be completed!"

Just because it's custom, doesn't mean it's more expensive. "The best part of having a custom ring made is that you become an integral part of the process," Rubin says, "making the ring truly special and unique. Most custom jewelers are competitively priced and will aim to work within your budget."

Remember, this is an investment

This is an enormous purchase. If you're trying to choose between two stones, always go bigger. You won't regret it because you'll have a happy fiancé.

Diamonds have gone up in price year after year; purchasing one shouldn't be taken lightly. This is for your future wife! "This is a gift from you," Rubin says. "It can be whatever you want it to be. Different things work for different couples; and it's pretty great when the ring reflects that sentiment."

This is exciting, guys! Now go forth and get that "YES!"

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Gigi Engle is Thrillist's Sex and Dating staff writer. If you like it then you should have put a ring on it. Yes, she's been waiting her whole life to write that. Follow her lovable crazy on Twitter, iTunesFacebook, and Instagram @GigiEngle.