Before you scroll into the details of how to buy engagement rings, diamonds, wedding rings, and wedding bands, take a second to smile. Congrats! You’re in love! You’ve found the one, and you’re here because it’s time to seal it with a symbol that captures all the reasons why your relationship will last a lifetime. You know what this means. At Jack Lewis, so do we.
Okay, let’s go.
Let’s assume you’re new to engagement ring shopping. The jewelry industry has its own jargon, shorthand, and lingo. Here’s a quick rundown of what it means so you can speak the language like a pro.
It all starts with the big, bright, shining gemstone. Traditionally a diamond (but can be other gemstones too), the center stone is the main event. It’s the loose stone that will be ‘set’ into the ‘ring.’
This is where the lingo starts to get tricky, but when we use the term ‘ring’ in the context of engagement jewelry, we mean everything except the center stone. The ring itself is composed of two major sections: the setting and the shank. The setting is the top part of the ring (which has its own lingo like the head, shoulders, gallery, prongs, bridge, side stones, and halo), and this ‘setting’ is what your loose diamond center stone will eventually be securely ‘set’ into. The setting of the ring is also where you can capture your style and personality most. As you’re browsing through different ‘ring styles,’ you’re browsing through all the different ways the ring’s setting can look (fancy, sleek, vintage, minimal, ornate, art deco). All these fun designs are contained in the ‘setting’ of the ‘ring.’
The shank is the bottom part of the ring and can contain accent stones, hallmarks, and is where metal can be added or removed if your ring ever needs re-sized.
Together, the ‘setting’ and the ‘shank’ make up the ‘ring.’ The ‘ring’ is also sometimes called a ‘semi-mount.’ And again, it’s everything except the center stone.
Put the loose center stone into the setting of the ring, and that finished combination is what we all know as the engagement ring (also sometimes called a full-mount). The ‘engagement ring’ is the final, beautiful piece she’ll see when you open that brown Jack Lewis box and propose.
Many of the engagement rings you see in jewelry store display cases are actually just semi-mounts with CZ (cubic zirconia) center stones set into them as placeholders. This is done so you can browse the different ring styles and try them on while still getting a sense of what the final engagement ring will look like on your finger. But once you choose your real center stone, we’ll remove the CZ placeholder and set your real diamond into the ring. So when you’re at the jewelry counter looking at rings that seem to have center stones already set into them, you should ask, “I like that engagement ring. Is that a semi-mount with a CZ placeholder in it, or is that a full-mounted engagement ring with a diamond center stone in it?” Almost always, your jeweler will tell you it’s just a CZ placeholder (and they’ll realize you’ve done your homework). However, sometimes the engagement rings in the case actually are final, full mounts that do already have real diamonds set into them. So it’s a question worth asking as you’re browsing at Jack Lewis Jewelers.
Whereas only one of you gets an engagement ring, both of you need a wedding band. During your wedding ceremony, the wedding bands are what the officiant wants when he asks for the rings, and they’re what you put on each other’s fingers as you say vows like “with this ring, I thee wed.” These bands are what truly symbolize the power and commitment of your marriage. After the ceremony, the wedding band is what married men wear every day, and women will often wear both their engagement ring and their wedding band together.
Since only the engagement ring is needed for the proposal, and since you won’t actually wear your wedding bands until your wedding day, most couples wait until closer to their wedding day to come back in and buy their wedding bands together.
Believe it or not, despite ‘wedding rings’ being a common phrase, jewelry stores don’t actually use this term very often. When we’re talking about the piece of jewelry with a big sparkly diamond that you use during your proposal, we’re talking about the ‘engagement ring.’ And when we’re talking about the two round rings you need for your wedding ceremony that you’ll end up wearing every day forever, those are the ‘wedding bands.’ For us, the two categories are simply ‘engagement rings’ and ‘wedding bands.’
So what’s a ‘wedding ring,’ then? Good question! We asked our team what they would think you meant if you asked for a ‘wedding ring,’ and we got different answers! Some assumed that, by ‘wedding ring,’ you would really be asking about the ‘engagement ring,’ but others thought that if you asked about ‘wedding rings,’ you would be talking about your ‘wedding bands.’ After you get married, you’ll almost certainly refer to your ‘wedding bands’ as your ‘wedding rings.’ But before then, if you’re just starting to think about proposing, you might assume the ‘wedding ring’ simply means the ‘engagement ring.’
At Jack Lewis, if you ask for a ‘wedding ring,’ we’ll probably assume you’re talking about ‘wedding bands.’ But if that’s not what you meant, then just tell us you meant ‘engagement ring’ instead. No big deal!
Now that you’ve fallen in love and gotten up-to-speed on the lingo, here’s what you need to know about how to buy an engagement ring at Jack Lewis.
It’s a huge step for one of you to suggest going ring shopping together. Talk about laying your cards on the table! But we find that most couples have already had several serious conversations about the future before one of them brings up ring shopping. Personally, we love it when dating couples shop together. Not only is it a fun experience, but it also helps the proposer gather information that could otherwise be awkward to get (like what shape of diamond she wants, what ring style she likes, and even what size her finger is). At Jack Lewis, our team is trained to ask questions that draw out all this information, so it’s a great way for the proposer to eavesdrop and take mental notes as she shares her preferences.
But of course, you might also want the proposal to be a complete surprise and get started without giving your intentions away. That’s great too! We do ‘proposer-only’ appointments all the time here at Jack Lewis. This means slightly more undercover secret espionage on your part because you’ll have to gather information ahead of time, like what shape of diamond she wants, or if she even wants a diamond at all (she might want some other gemstone), what kind of ring style she likes, and what her finger size is. But if you can gather that (or better yet, if she has a Pinterest board you can creep), then coming in by yourself first is perfectly fine.
And honestly, if the proposer has questions about pricing or budgets or financing, it can be a good idea to come in alone first and get some of those questions out of the way. Then sometime later, when you come back and shop together, you can just fully enjoy the experience without having potentially awkward conversations at the counter about ‘not being able to afford’ certain rings when she’s standing right there.
Bottom line, there’s no wrong answer. Whether you come in by yourself or come in together (or eventually do both), making that decision is the first step in the process. Appointments aren’t mandatory at Jack Lewis Jewelers, but if you want, schedule your Couples appointment or your Proposer-Only appointment.
Understand you’re looking for two separate things: the big center stone, and then the empty ring you’ll set it into. In our lingo section earlier, you learned that your final ‘Engagement Ring’ equals a Center Stone plus a Semi-Mount Ring. Occasionally you’ll be able to find a final, fully-mounted, ready-to-go Engagement Ring in a jewelry store case, but most often, jewelry stores like Jack Lewis will have Loose Diamonds in one showcase, and then empty Semi-Mount Rings in another showcase. You might think to yourself, “That seems unnecessary. Why not just put real diamonds in the rings and have dozens of them ready to buy off the shelf?”
Fair question. But it’s because for a lifelong symbol this important, you probably don’t want something pre-packaged off the shelf. She’ll never own another piece of jewelry like this, so you want to make it special! Your one-of-a-kind love deserves a one-of-a-kind engagement ring, which means your job is to start with the loose diamond, and then choose the ring to put it in.
When it comes time to buy the engagement ring, you’ll buy both parts together as one final, out-the-door price (for example, a $5,000 Engagement Ring might be comprised of a $3,500 loose diamond and a $1,500 semi-mount ring), but the in-store shopping process begins with the loose diamond, and then once we’ve made good progress on that conversation, we’ll move down the counter and start choosing which ring style to put it in.
The ‘loose diamond’ + ‘ring style’ conversations can also happen simultaneously of course, but the bottom line is that you won’t just be coming in and buying something finished out of the case. Nor should you want to! You’ll first be choosing the bright, sparkly loose diamond that captures your imagination, and then choosing to put it in whichever ‘empty’ semi-mount ring best fits your personality and style. It’s a two stage shopping process, paid altogether at checkout.
Since we start with the loose diamond at Jack Lewis Jewelers, the best thing to do is come visit us in person, because there’s no substitute for seeing a diamond’s brilliance and presence with your own two eyes...especially if it’s a Jack Lewis Flame (more on that later). Make your appointment, or keep diving into more research on diamonds and colored gemstones.
Long gone are the days when you calculated your Engagement Ring budget based on “three month’s salary.” That’s all marketing nonsense and we don’t do things that way at Jack Lewis. Like you, we focus on what a piece of jewelry means, and you can find a uniquely meaningful ring no matter how much it costs. When you’re browsing at the counter, we’re never secretly eager to steer you toward something more expensive. You don’t find your perfect forever symbol when you feel pushed, pressured, and steered by a salesman. At Jack Lewis, we’re here to champion love and connect you to what means the most…and that can happen with a $600 ring or a $6,000 one. There is no rule on how much you ‘should’ spend. Your budget is whatever you need it to be. Period. Our job is to respect that, and offer diamonds and rings at various price ranges to accommodate all budgets. That’s what you’ll find at Jack Lewis.
That said, if you’re just starting to think about all this, you may not have any frame of reference at all. We have no problem sharing that at Jack Lewis, of the hundreds of engagement rings we sell every year, the final cost is about $3,500 on average. Again, depending on what you want, that could fluctuate wildly in either direction, but rather than annoyingly frustrate you by saying “pricing may vary,” we want to earn your trust, lead with transparency, and help you out with a general ballpark.
Some proposers start by knowing exactly how, where, and when they’ll propose, and then they work backward to make sure they leave enough time to find and buy the right engagement ring, whereas other proposers have no idea how, where, or when they’ll propose; they just know they love someone and want to have the engagement ring in their pocket so they can propose whenever the timing seems right. We’ve seen it both ways, and there’s no wrong answer! You do you!
But there are two reasons why you should start thinking about it around the time you buy the engagement ring: first, depending on what you bought, whether we had to special order anything, and how busy our repair shop is, it could take between a couple days to a couple weeks to get the loose diamond firmly and securely set into the ring. Our jewelers are easily able to do this in-house, but again, it’s more about how many other projects are already on the schedule ahead of you. Our priority, of course, is to always have your final Engagement Ring fully-mounted, sized, and ready as soon as possible, but it can also be helpful to know what timeline you’re considering so we never miss your deadline.
Looking for proposal ideas and locations in Bloomington-Normal? We've got a few examples to help!
The second reason you should start thinking about when and how to propose is because you might want to take advantage of our free, exclusive media services like Ring Cam and Pic Ninja. We like to say that weddings are great, but proposals are better. Getting engaged is you at your most authentic and unfiltered, and at Jack Lewis, we set ourselves apart by offering free ways to help you capture that memorable moment on photo and video.
Our special Ring Cam jewelry box has a hidden camera and microphone in it, so when you propose, you’ll capture the whole moment on video. You can rent it free with your engagement ring purchase, but since that impacts which type of jewelry box we give you, opting to use it is a decision you’ll have to make around the time your final Engagement Ring is ready so we can be sure that one of our Ring Cam boxes is available.
If you don’t want to capture the moment on video, but would be okay capturing it with photos, consider Pic Ninja. It’s another free, exclusive Jack Lewis service you can opt-into with your engagement ring purchase, and it involves coordinating with our in-house photographer to secretly hide in the bushes (so to speak) and snap photos of your proposal moment from a distance. Since that takes more planning and schedule coordination ahead of time, opting into Pic Ninja is also a decision you might need to make around the time your Engagement Ring is ready.
Bottom line, whether it’s to ensure the availability of our free media services, or simply to ensure your final Engagement Ring is ready by your deadline, considering when and how to propose is the next step.
This might seem like a throwaway final step, but it’s not. If you’re like most people just starting to consider engagement rings, you’re likely overwhelmed and stressed out by this whole process for a host of reasons, but mostly, it’s because your number one fear is that you’ll ‘mess up’ and get her something she doesn’t like. In fact, in the Ring Cam video footage we’ve seen over the years, the most common question the proposer asks after she says “Yes” is…”Do you like it?”
Here’s our opinion: of course she’ll like it! In the history of engagements, no proposal moment has ever been ruined because she looks down and is disappointed that you got her the ‘wrong ring.’ The adrenaline will be pumping, you’ll both be wrapped-up in the emotions of the moment, and it will be nothing but pure joy. So RELAX. Don’t overthink it. You’ve found the one, and you’re asking the love of your life to marry you. That shouldn’t be anything other than a GREAT day. Besides, worst case scenario, if a couple weeks down the road, she confesses that she really wanted a round diamond instead of a square one, then just bring it back to us and we’ll replace it for you. (Yes, we do that.)
This is supposed to be the happiest moment of your life, so take a deep breath, relax, and stay focused on why you’re proposing in the first place. Remember what it means and you won’t go wrong.
Now that you’re familiar with jewelry lingo, learned how to buy an engagement ring, and remembered what it all means, you’re ready to choose your own adventure. If you have a specific question, open the chat bubble at the lower right and we’ll get right back to you. If it’s time to visit us in-person, stop by unannounced or make an appointment. Or, to continue with a deeper online research dive, click one of the links below: