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How to save on engagement and wedding rings -- Page 2

Preset or design your own
Newly engaged couples have a few choices when it comes to rings. They can buy a new ring online or at a jewelry store, they can buy a raw stone and have a ring designed or they can use a family heirloom.

Aaron Blank, who proposed to his fiancee in April, found a ring design in a magazine that he and his bride-to-be loved. What they didn't love was the price tag -- $16,000.

"We ended up going to a jewelry maker who designed our ring based on the magazine that we saw," he says. "We actually got to choose our diamond and see how the ring was made for $8,000. The ring is handmade and is therefore appraised at a very high value. My fiancee loves the ring because there is 'no other like it in the world.'"

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Many newly engaged couples are offered family heirloom rings that have been in a family for generations. "Heirloom rings are a great way to get a beautiful stone, and in some cases a beautiful ring, at no cost," says Sharon Naylor, author of "Your Special Wedding Vows."

"You can keep the original setting or take the stone out of the ring and put it in your own setting."

Fred Roselli, who became engaged on New Year's Eve, followed a different path. "I went online to loose-stone wholesalers and purchased the stone that way," he says. "By doing your own research, you know what you're going to be getting, and most if not all of them offer money-back guarantees. I was sent the stone and a certificate, had it appraised and then set the stone in platinum -- all for about 40 percent of what the final product was appraised for."

Samantha Rubin, who got engaged Feb. 6, suggests that the newly engaged ask around for any family or friends in the gem or jewelry business. Through a friend of her fiance, they were able to buy a stone, then get it put in a setting of their choice. "Because we had this connection, it took a lot of the stress out of the process," she says.

The buying process
Before buying, do some research on the Internet so you have some basic knowledge of what's important when looking for a stone. Whether the man is buying the ring or the couple picks it out together, it's important to have an idea of the type of diamond or other gem you want and what kind of setting you like.

Think about how your engagement ring will fit with your wedding ring. It's not imperative to match exactly, but you'll be wearing them together for many years so you don't want them to clash.

Before you start gazing at big diamonds on a tray in the jeweler's shop, consider your budget. "Let's face it, many younger brides and grooms don't have a lot of money to spend on an expensive engagement ring," Naylor says. This is where an upgrading plan can come into play.

"Buy a ring that can be upgraded in the future through the addition of extra stones, with the understanding that in five or 10 years on your anniversary, you'll add to it," she continues. If you spend too much on a ring, you can be in debt for a long time rather than saving for a house or putting aside money for retirement.

If you shop locally, ask your jeweler for a discount if you come back to the same store to purchase your wedding ring. And seriously consider charging the ring on a credit card that gives you frequent flier or frequent hotel stay rewards so you can take advantage of those points on your honeymoon or a future trip, Naylor adds.

Most consumers start their research on the Internet. Blue provides an interactive ring-buying process, so you can see what different stones, different cuts and different settings look like before you buy. Many jewelers benchmark their prices against Blue Nile, so if you browse there you'll have a good idea of what the ring you like may sell for locally.

The Gemological Institute of America offers an extensive FAQ at its Web site that explores many issues involved in purchasing jewelry and diamonds, including the four Cs, how to choose a jeweler and information on diamond inscription, enhancement and appraisal.

See also: Beware of 'blood diamonds'

-- Posted: July 21, 2004



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