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How to shop for engagement rings these days 

Before you can pop the question, you should probably buy a ring. You’ll want something to put on that finger after hearing a definitive and enthusiastic "yes." But this isn't the 1950s and the rules of buying an engagement ring have changed. How much? Don’t worry, we’ve got you.

A ring, like a proposal , isn't one-size fits all. For each individual partner, there will be an individual ring that's perfect. That's what makes shopping for one special and fun. Still, a little guidance can go a long way, so here are six tips to help you find that perfect stone, setting, and everything else that makes eyes water and hearts flutter.

Establish a budget

This isn't the 1800s. You (hopefully) don’t have to worry about a dowry or an outrageously priced and ostentatious engagement ring. The old rule about spending two or three month's salary? Outdated. One month's wages are a good ballpark. Go under or go over as you wish—but keep that figure and framing in mind as a starting point.

Life's an expensive journey and your wedding could be pricey , too. Don't put your financial future as a couple behind the eight ball by spending too much on the ring. They love you for you, not the stone.

Phone a friend

There's nothing wrong with getting a little help when it comes to shopping for the perfect engagement ring. Before you start the buying process, you need to know what your partner wants in a ring. Call up a sister or a best friend and recruit them to help. A little creative subterfuge never hurt anyone, right?

Do it together

Or instead of recruiting someone to do some awkward detective work, which, let's be honest here, will probably lead to your purchase plan getting exposed—there are only so many "so, what's your ring size" questions a person can hear before they get suspicious—you and your partner could go shopping together. Plus, you’re setting the foundation for your marriage, which will be a partnership . You don't need to buy the ring together, although you certainly can, but it's a great way to get a sense of what they want. If you need something to be a surprise, make it the proposal.

A variety of stones

You could go the classic route, a diamond mined from the ground. If you do, make sure that it's certified, conflict-free, and A-okay. There are more modern options, too. Like lab-grown diamonds, which should be certified by an accredited laboratory and often much less expensive—think one quarter of the price of a traditional stone—although nearly impossible to resell. (Hopefully it won't come to that!) You can also consider black diamonds, opals, rubies, sapphires, and other types of precious gems, too.

Lab-grown diamonds, which should be certified by an accredited laboratory are often much less expensive.

Negotiate within reason

Let's get this straight: an engagement ring is not a used car. This isn't a haggle until you drop, could-you-throw-in-some-floor-mats situation. That said, the sticker price of an engagement ring can be massively inflated and there's frequently room to bring the seller's price down a bit. Comparison shopping can help in this regard, getting a sense of the market, how much different cuts, sizes, settings, and quality costs. Don't be afraid to propose a lower price point.

Go direct

You've probably purchased some goods from a direct-to-consumer company in the recent past. A mattress, maybe? A cashmere sweater, perhaps? A pair of glasses, see? So what about an engagement ring? By avoiding the big shops and those little green boxes, and hitting up a DTC or other non-traditional ringmaker, you can work one-on-one with an expert, and you might be able to score a deal by avoiding the middleman markup.

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