Wedding Wednesday: Engagement Ring Shopping

For this installment of Wedding Wednesday, I’ll be sharing our ring shopping experience with you. Yes, I said “our” – we are definitely a non-traditional couple and we both picked out my engagement ring (read more about that here). It was an experience, too.

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First off, I need to let you know that The Boy has been married before and has, in his possession, a gold and diamond engagement ring. It was purchased from the Base Exchange through an “upgrade program”. Upgrade programs are pretty common at most small jewelers and chain stores and allows buyers to bring back a purchased ring and upgrade it to a nicer model or better quality stone. Generally, an upgrade involves using the “equity” built into the ring (the original price) + a minimum upgrade charge (usually about 50% of the original price) – then you only pay the upgrade charge because you already paid the original value. For example, say your original ring cost $1,500.00 – using a traditional upgrade program; you would be able to start looking at rings in the $2,250.00 range but only pay $750.00.

We grabbed the ring and its purchase information and headed out to the BX. Once there, I tried on some really pretty rings retailing at the $1,500.00 range (which covered the original cost of the gold ring + a minimum $500.00 upgrade charge). While trying on rings, I was able to make a few decisions about what kind of ring I ultimately wanted. I learned that I loved the very plain and simple settings (solitaires being my favorite look), I did not want gold (so white gold or platinum), and any stone bigger than 1 karat looked ridiculous on my small hand. I also was more interested in getting quality over quantity – meaning, I was happy to have a smaller karat if I got a stone with a J (or higher) and SI (or higher) rating.

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With this knowledge, we began talking to the salesperson. It was then that our engagement ring journey became more complex – she basically told us to take the ring and run – apparently, The Boy bought a good diamond (a J/I1) at a time that precious stone prices were low. She felt that the ring had now surpassed its initial price and that upgrading it would not get us the best possible deal.

So, we left. Seriously, just took the ring, said thank you, and went back to the truck (What!?!? We’re in Texas – it’s the law to own a truck.). After discussing it a bit, we decided to call in the big guns – we phoned The Boy’s mom. She knows all the local jewelers and recommended an excellent and reputable place to start – Moretti’s Fine Jeweler.

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At Moretti’s Fine Jewelry (a lovely long-time San Antonio establishment with an excellent reputation), we spoke to a salesperson who informed us that their appraiser was not in. She then wrote down the name of another jeweler whose appraiser was in-store that day and that Moretti’s did quite a bit of business with called Penaloza and Sons, Inc. Before leaving, we decided to look at a couple of rings featuring the stunning Hearts on Fire diamonds. They were exquisite and very reasonably priced for the more affordable .25 and .5 karat solitaire rings. Seriously, ya’ll – if you can afford it “the world’s most perfectly cut diamond” is DEFINITELY the way to go. Those babies sparkled from across the room!

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At Penaloza and Sons, Inc. we met the very accommodating Amanda – an aspiring gemologist who was a complete dream to talk to. We explained our issue and our goal – to acquire a lovely engagement ring at an affordable price (through a trade-in or upgrade program). Penaloza’s appraiser checked out the ring and gave us the lowdown – yes, the ring was more valuable than when originally purchased; however, it wasn’t going to be as valuable as we had hoped to jewelers. In fact, Amanda took the time to explain to us that it was actually the gold in the ring and not the diamond that would score us the most money! Her recommendation, remove the diamond and have it made into a new ring or a pretty necklace and sell the gold for cash. Since I refused to wear another woman’s rock (I’m cheap and flexible you guys but no woman should have to wear a hand-me-down diamond [unless it is an heirloom]) that looked like a sweet option for in the future.

At this time, Amanda took a moment to discuss cool alternatives to the traditional engagement ring buying process. For example, she told us that many small jewelers will do consignment sales. Once your unwanted piece sells then you can use the credit to buy a new ring from the same jeweler (or take the cash and run). Another option is to BUY the consignment pieces. In fact, she showed us a GORGE 1 karat princess cut solitaire (in my size!) that was being consigned for a good 50% less than the original owner had paid for it. It was an amazing rock at a great price – but sadly, it was about $1,000.00 out of our tiny budget!

So, back to the truck we went. After a brief discussion about getting a second opinion, we headed to a large (and higher end) mall that was nearby. The Boy remembered that there was an older, well-established jeweler inside that bought gold – Gurinsky’s Fine Jewelry. At the jeweler, we met Paul who took only a moment to second the opinion that the old engagement ring’s value was in its gold and not the stone. This is where it got really interesting – as I questioned Paul about the ring and its value, The Boy started chatting with another man behind the counter. Turns out it was the owner and he was willing to cut us a fantastic deal – he would double the amount that the store purchased the gold for (in store credit) and give us an amazing discount on a selection of loose stones that the store had. And then it got REALLY interesting. The Boy mentioned that he had a small collection of almost pure gold (purchased during one of his deployments in Saudi Arabia) and his old wedding band at home. Could we hold them to that offer if we came back that day with the additional gold? The answer: absolutely.

Annnd, back to the truck we went – this time to run home and dig out all that old gold. We had about five pieces when we left the house and headed back to Gurinsky’s. At the store, they tested the gold for purity and weighed it. The grand total? $571.00 in buyable gold – which the store would double (to $1,142.00) in store credit! AND they were still willing to cut us a deal on the loose stones. Paul took the time to listen to my engagement ring wants (single stone, silver tone setting, under 1 karat) – and pulled out the rocks that filled my criteria and budget. He also took the time to place each ring into a band (that I put on my finger) so that I could see how it all would look once completed.

The Boy and I decided that with the store credit, we were happy to spend up to $1,500.00 total on the ring. The funny thing – I ended up picking a GORGEOUS stone with a great quality rating (G/SI1) for a whopping $1,000.00. Yep, $500.00 under our agreed upon budget – and that included a free white gold band, complimentary jeweler’s setting and sizing, and FULL VALUE appraisal for our home owner’s policy (that last part is VERY important – always, always get a full value [not the price you paid] jeweler’s appraisal for your insurance…just in case.)! I was so happy with the store’s quality products and excellent service that I went ahead and used the last of our store credit (about $142.00) to buy my wedding band.

So, our ring excursion ended with 1 white gold 2mm band, .45 karat, G/SI1 rated, round solitaire engagement ring + 2mm white gold wedding band for a whopping $159.83 after store credit and sales tax. That’s right, ya’ll – I got my engagement ring and wedding band for under $160.00! Plus, Paul mentioned that I was eligible for a complimentary cleaning every six months + free resizing as long as I own the ring. That’s one kick ass engagement ring + wedding band + full value appraisal + free resizing + free cleanings for $159.83.

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That’s my ring story – will you be able to get such a great deal from your local jewelry stores? Maybe not, but keep in mind – we took the time to visit multiple jewelers, ask questions, and negotiate great deals. And so can you. Ask about consignment sales, ask about selling gold, ask about discounts, and ask about perks or complimentary services. From my experience, you never know – so ASK!

Want to learn more about the engagement ring purchasing process? Here are a few books that I found that might help you while making this big investment (*disclaimer):

Chime in, readers! Did you help pick out your own ring? Or did you score a fab deal on the ring or wedding band? Any tips or advice you'd like to share with others regarding engagement ring/wedding band shopping? Let it all out in the comments.

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