Here's the latest by Mpls.St.Paul Weddings guest blogger and contributor, Andy McPartland:
Even in this sluggish economy, it's possible to buy your beloved The Ring without having to sell any organs or limbs in the process. The latest trends show that men are able to buy respectable rings without putting a kidney on the black market.
Engagement ring sales didn't plunge with the rest of the economy during our recent Great Recession, at least at some metro jewelers. JB Hudson credits their increased sales push in the bridal market with an increase in engagement ring sales. Continental Diamond reports that the dire economy hasn't dampened local couples' engagement plans. Instead, squeezed consumers have demanded more classic styles, eschewing flashy, Trump-like bands encrusted with diamonds. Grooms- and brides-to-be are buying up traditional rings with a single diamond focal point.
Extensive research isn't necessary, according to our experts, but it's not a bad thing either. Predictably, the Facebook generation does our ring homework online before venturing to retail stores. "You're going to probably feel most comfortable [starting] from your home," says Patrick Nelson, diamond buyer for JB Hudson. "As much as most retailers will say, 'stay away from the Internet,' it's a tool for gaining a small bit of understanding."
Nelson recommends a visit to the Gemological Institute of America site to learn about the "4 Cs" of diamond grading: color, clarity, cut, and carat. The research process differs for every buyer, however. "Some come in and it's a five-minute process," says Helain Pesis, co-owner of Continental Diamond. "Some come in and it's a four-week process." It's helpful to develop a relationship with an experienced jeweler, who can provide expertise, patience, and a quick ring tutorial.
The old engagement-ring rule of thumb was to spend two- to three-months' salary. Given some "salaries" these days, though, I'm surprised more of my peers aren't resorting to Cracker Jack prize options.
JB Hudson's average engagement ring runs $5,000-$15,000, Nelson says. At Continental Diamond, the average cost hovers around $5,000, Pesis says. However, both note that there's a wide spectrum of prices and stressed buying within your means. If your means are rather sad, stores usually offer financing: Nelson estimates that half of his customers use it.
Financing options vary, but experts agree—and history shows—it's better to pay everything upfront. "This isn't something to go broke over and get five years of financing," Nelson says. "This is a symbol of your love. You have to feel comfortable with your purchase."
Can't afford a diamond? Sapphire is a great alternative, but it's not a big seller. Nelson proposes a band sans diamond if you need to cut costs. Also, cubic zirconia is NOT an acceptable choice—nor is it as common as we're led to believe by some ads. So, to the guys thinking it's a prime time to pull a fast one on her: Get the real thing.
Do your homework and trust your eyes when shopping, Nelson and Pesis say. Just relax, take your time, secure a high-paying job, and enjoy the ride.
One last note to brides- and grooms-to-be and their entourages: We've noticed more ladies picking out a ring and relaying the message to her man. What do you Aisle Filers think of this trend: Is it a good idea? Personally, I think it's merging into the fast lane on the highway to Bridezilla-town.
Next up: Joe the Wedding-Goer's guide to gift registries.