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Our Engagement Ring Shopping Experience

Our Engagement Ring Shopping Experience

I've said it on Instagram but not here yet!

Charles and I are engaged! I’ve known about it for a little while before we chose to share, of course. We officially bought the ring on July 1st, and then waited for it to come in! Finally, Charles asked! So, it was a tiny surprise.

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Today I wanted to share the story of the ring itself, which I think was good, mostly because we didn’t go the traditional route. I'm going to do full-disclosure right here...engagement rings can be absurdly expensive. The ring that we ended up getting was pricey. If that's something that bothers you, maybe this isn't the story for you. However, if you're trying to get a unique ring for a good deal, read on!

So, I was on a work trip when I get a text from Charles saying that it was probably time to go look at rings. Now, we had been talking marriage for this whole summer, so it wasn’t a big surprise, but it did mean things were getting serious. When I got home, we went to the mall. 

The town we live in isn’t exactly the jewelry mecca. It’s one or two privately owned jewelry stores, and three big-name chains. Off to the mall we went! I had (of course) looked online at some rings that I liked, and built my secret Pinterest board that all girls have, but I had never really tried any on. It seemed like a good place to start for just seeing what I liked.

I know two things when I walked in:

  1. I wanted it to be silver in color...so white gold or platinum. Alright, white gold. Platinum was already too pricey. 
  2. I wanted a colored stone. My mom has a colored stone, Kate Middleton has a colored stone, I want a colored stone. I was open to sapphires, garnets, emeralds, or rubies.

After trying on literally dozens of rings – they just pull them out of the case and have you slide them on – I was left disillusioned and with horrible sticker shock. I know that shit that they say about three months salary, but there was no way I would let Chuck spend that much. He agreed on this, given our past conversations on frugal living. However, it was something that I am going to wear every single day, so we wanted something that was durable and would stand the test of time. Rings that I didn't even like were five or seven thousand dollars. Nope. 

The first issue we had is that the options for colored stones were really poor. Everyone wants to sell you a honking big diamond, but no one wanted to sell me a sapphire. The ones we did see were small, set in sterling silver, and horrifically overpriced. A natural (not lab created) sapphire was going for $1,500 for a half carat, not including the setting. I left very disappointed, seeing only things that weren’t what I wanted, and out of our budget. I wasn't happy, and I didn't like these options. 

Charles then had the brilliant idea – we should buy the stone and setting separately to save some money while still getting what I wanted. We did a little research, and it helps that Montana is the sapphire capital of America. There’s an adorable little town called Philipsburg only three hours away from us. Philipsburg is an old mining town, and they still run on sapphires.

On a Sunday, we hopped in the car and headed off to Philipsburg. Philipsburg is super cute. Their main attraction is selling buckets of sapphire gravel to tourists. You buy the bucket of gravel, wash it and dig through it, because it’s essentially dirt, and you may find some gems that are actually worth something. They then cut and polish your new sapphires, amythests, or garnets on site! We thought about doing that, but it seemed like too much of a gamble. You might find something great, or you might get nothing. The store there also sells pre-cut loose stones that you can buy and stick in your own settings though.

Travis, at the front desk of Gem Mountain, was a delight. He got out countless loose stones for us to look at and compare. He talked to us about the differences between the gems, issues with cuts, imperfections and flaws…he covered it all. We ended up buying a 1.1 carat oval-cut Montana sapphire, mined outside of Philipsbug, for about a sixth of what we saw them for elsewhere.

But then it was just a stone. It was pretty, but it wasn’t a ring.

Down the road at Sapphire Gallery, there was the jackpot of ready-made rings. Since we had the stone, we were in business. They were real metalsmiths and could set an loose stone we brought in. I was initially worried because our gemologist, Molly, immediately handed me a ring that cost $26,000. Of course she didn’t tell me that until after I had it on and I loved it! We were with her for about a half hour. Again, she kept pulling out rings on rings, whole boxes of rings, and having me try them on until I found ones that I liked that would work with the size and shape of our loose stone. We ended up narrowing it down to a few bands that were all in our remaining budget for just the setting and side diamonds. 

This is where I say that fancy rings are overpriced and I think that they should just be cheaper.

This is also the part where I walked away.

If we’ve spent any time together, you know that I am the world’s biggest control freak. I needed to know that I would love this ring. So I picked out a few that I knew I could live with, and I left the building. Charles had to have the final choice, because of tradition and all that.

He came out a few minutes later, receipt in hand.

We went down to the local brewery, had a beer, got some lunch, celebrated the super emotional day that this was for me. I didn’t think that it would be so emotionally draining to pick out jewelry, but I was feeling really overwhelmed. We got in the car to come home, and the phone rang. It was Sapphire Gallery. There was a “problem” with our stone.

The problem? The 1.1 carat stone we had bought was actually…2.3 carats. It must have been mislabeled at the store. There was some initial panic that it wouldn’t fit in the chosen settings, but Molly assured Charles it would be fine, and we left, thinking about how our bargain (ish) ring became even more of a bargain.

We recently had the ring appraised, because after you get engaged, you should probably get insurance on that spendy thing, and it came in at about four times what we paid for it.

I’m not the kind of person to demand a certain carat weight, or a certain dollar amount that my rich husband had to pay. I just wanted something that was beautiful, timeless, and that I’d never get tired of looking at. I’m happy that we were able to get the look and vibe that I wanted, at a fraction of the price.

I would say that if you’re looking for a more cost-effective ring, especially if you’re going for a higher carat or a colored stone, to buy them separately. There were so many more options available to us, and we ended up getting something totally unique without paying for a custom ring.

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