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Purchasing a diamond engagement ring for your significant other will be one of the most exciting, not to mention expensive, purchases you’ll ever make. For this reason alone, you want to make sure that you’re getting the best bang for your buck. With that in mind, here are a few tips from diamond jewelry experts that will help guide your search for the right ring.

Tip #1 – Research is key

If you haven’t already seen them, the websites of many diamond jewelry stores are impressively comprehensive. For instance, Shannon Fine Jewelry in Houston has a diamond search feature that allows customers to choose from a variety of diamond cuts, colors, clarity grades and carats. Take the time to peruse the jewelry websites before setting foot in a jewelry store. You could also browse your favorite wedding magazines to see the stones worn by other brides and grooms.

There are also online resources like Rare Carat, which promotes itself as the “ of diamonds” and enables customers to browse diamonds from a variety of jewelry store retailers. Sites such as this allow you to search for diamonds using search filters for shape, price, carat, cut, color and clarity. With these tools at your disposal, you can then proceed to the next tip…

Tip #2 – Set a budget for your diamond engagement ring

It’s important to set firm yet flexible limits in the amount of money you want to spend on an engagement ring. Don’t get caught up in the “three months’ salary” cliche and feel that you must spend that much to buy a ring that your fiancee will love. After all, each wedded couple will have their own priorities. Instead of buying expensive wedding rings, perhaps you’ll want to invest the money into the wedding itself, or the honeymoon that comes after, or even in a down payment for a house.

The factors that determine a diamond’s value are colloquially known as the Four C’s of diamond color grading. Arguably the most important of the Four C’s in terms of establishing a diamond’s monetary value are cut and color. In particular, diamond color grading helps a professional jeweler assess a diamond’s value—the closer to being colorless (or near colorless) a diamond is, the more rare (and therefore more valuable) it is. Consider how much you value each of the Four C’s before settling on a particular diamond engagement ring. This brings up to our next tip…

Tip #3 – Choose a reputable diamond jeweler

Once you’ve decided the type of engagement ring you want to purchase and the amount you’re willing to spend for it, the next step is to find a local jeweler that you believe will sell you a good product at an affordable cost. Sure, looking online for reviews of jewelry sellers is a good approach, as is looking for positive word-of-mouth from experts in the field. But the way to be really sure that you’re working with a trustworthy jeweler is to contact him or her in person.

Who knows, maybe you’ll get to form such a strong bond with your jeweler that he or she can help customize your engagement ring in a manner that will make it unique from anyone else’s. You may find that your jeweler shares your point-of-view about such matters as conflict-free diamonds and will work to secure a rock that you’ll feel comfortable wearing (or placing on your spouse’s hand). Whatever you’re looking for in an engagement ring, be sure to discuss those issues clearly and directly so that you get exactly the ring you’re looking for. Good luck to you in your engagement ring search—and, of course, in your marriage as well!