Jeweler preparing a loose diamond for mounting into a ring setting.
When it comes to buying an engagement ring, there are many decisions that can affect the outcome and cost of the diamond ring. In fact, I often get asked questions like this: “Is it better to buy the diamond and setting separately or should I buy a pre mounted engagement ring?”.
Interestingly, many first time shoppers who started their search at local jewelry stores wrongly assume that preset diamond rings (diamond already mounted in ring setting) are the only options available.
But is it worth it to go through the hassle to customize your own diamond ring when you could simply shop in a cash and carry manner? In this write up, we will review the advantages and disadvantages of both shopping methods.
Let’s jump right in…
Here is a list of topics we will be covering:
At the end of the day, it boils down to a difference between flexibility and convenience. A preset ring offers a cash-and-carry mode of purchase which is straightforward and faster. If you like what you see, you make a payment for it and that’s the end of the story. It’s a perfect option for people who need a ring in a hurry.
However, it does make it harder for you to properly assess a diamond’s quality. Why do I say this? Very often, diamonds are set in such a manner where flaws are intentionally concealed by the prongs or away from sight. Since most consumers don’t know what to look out for, it can be easy to get duped by an unethical seller.
A pre-mounted diamond ring also makes it harder for you to assess the cut quality of the diamond. For example, if you were buying a hearts and arrows diamond, it would be impossible to examine the hearts patterning image to check its cut precision.
This hearts patterning image can only be captured with a loose diamond from its pavilion view.
Another issue with mounted diamond rings the limited selections and choices available. If you are shopping in a local brick and mortar jewelry store, chances are there will be very limited options for you to choose from.
For example, if you are looking for a 1.0 carat D color diamond with IF clarity rating and the store only has a 1.4ct D/VVS2 available in a preset ring, you may have to compromise and even end up overspending if you decide to buy the preset ring. If you don’t settle and still insist on looking for a preset ring, you can expect to spend a lot of time and effort searching for a ring and even so, it may not even yield any successful results.
Without a doubt, it might take a little more work to purchase a loose stone and to select a mounting for it separately. However, I personally believe that it is the safer and wiser choice to do so. There are 4 main advantages over a preset diamond ring are many:
1) It allows you to focus on the stone’s quality for the best selection possible. You get to see and inspect the details of the diamond before it gets mounted. This allows you to check for any potential problems and to verify any issues beforehand. There are no hidden surprises.
2) It is easier for you to make a purchase within your stipulated budget. Most jewelers carry limited preset rings and you might not always be able to find one that fits your budget or criteria. You would likely be forced to raise your budget or to make a compromise to settle for less.
3) You can either design the ring to your liking or allow her to choose the setting herself. From experience, choosing a ring design is one of the toughest dilemmas I personally faced and I think this is a common problem for most guys too. What better way to get around this issue than to let her pick a design she loves? If the ring is meant as a surprise, being able to choose a design and a diamond of your choice would be better than settling for a preset ring where there’s little room for customization.
4) Better price transparency and lower costs. Many people have the misconception that customizing your own ring will be more expensive. The truth is far from that. Building your own ring gives you better transparency because you can see the granular price of each component and this helps you understand exactly what you are paying for.
Over the years, I’ve purchased multiple diamond rings (for my wife, friends and relatives) from various online vendors. The shopping process was always the same. I started out with a predetermined budget and made diamond selections based on tangible data like videos and scope images.
By shopping online at reliable retailers, I could view and scrutinize the smallest details and cherry pick the best diamond for any given budget. I use a proven process to handpick an eyeclean diamond which is cut to the best possible light performance and you can do the same using the guidelines here.
The most recent diamond ring I purchased was a pave set diamond engagement ring with a princess cut center stone using a budget of $2000. You can view the full details of what I bought below and how the ring looks like in real life.
Being able to choose the setting and diamond based on what I want (instead of what’s available in a preset ring) meant that I had full control of the diamond specifications and costs. More importantly, it’s close to impossible to find a preset ring with a diamond of such caliber for this price point.
Watch the video below to look at the craftsmanship of the pave setting and the light performance of the diamond.
In general, I would recommend against doing that. Buying a loose diamond from one place and getting it set in another place will complicate things unnecessarily.
First of all, going to separate merchants may result in additional costs to be incurred. Some jewelers may charge an additional fee to set a ring if the diamond wasn’t purchased from them. You may also have to pay extra for insurance and shipping.
Secondly, it’s a hassle. You will have to spend time to vet a vendor and trust them to set your diamond. What happens if something goes wrong? For example, if the diamond gets chipped during the setting, who would be responsible for it?
Unless there’s a special reason for you to buy the loose diamond and ring setting separately, buying everything together at a single place will be a better idea and lead to a more enjoyable experience.
Ok. Here’s a question that I get asked a couple of times by Beyond4Cs’s readers. If the engagement ring is meant as a surprise, how do you ensure that the setting you chose is one that she likes? One of the ways to do this is to buy a loose diamond to propose first. After having success with the proposal, you could shop for a new setting together with your loved one.
Now, proposing with a loose diamond doesn’t sound like a romantic idea and you probably want her to have a ring to slip onto her fingers when you get down on your knees. But don’t worry, there are creative ways to make the proposal picture-perfect.
You could get the diamond set in a simple temporary setting so that it is secured and looks presentable during your proposal. Some jewelers might provide a special presentation box made specifically for loose diamonds upon request. Others may be able to provide you with a free clasp-foe ring or something similar to the one seen below.
I want to quickly touch on this aspect because there is a certain group of people who are looking to invest their money into diamonds. First of all, you have to understand that diamonds have a different trading model and they still cannot be treated the way public shares are.
When you are considering diamonds as a form of investment, you probably do not want to buy a preset ring or a setting. This is because loose diamonds have more liquidity and are easier to be evaluated by buyers for their value.
There are exceptions though.
In some rare cases, the integrity of a jewelry piece that features a mounted diamond might be more valuable than selling the setting and the stone separately. For example, when a piece of diamond jewelry possesses a rich history of being worn by someone famous, it could be a valuable collector’s item that would be worth more in its original state.
The answer is there isn’t a “better” or “worse” method and it really depends on the type of person you are.
For people who can’t deal with having too many choices or can’t be bothered to put in some effort for your purchase, pre-set diamond rings would offer an easy way of shopping. All you need to do is to ask the jeweler to give you a set of options and choose one that best fits your criterion.
On the other hand, if you are someone who wants better control of what you are buying and appreciates the ability to put together a sentimental purchase, selecting a diamond and a setting of your choice would be ideal for you. This means you don’t have to make compromises on cut quality or budget and be able to manage the specifications of your ring from start to finish.
Personally speaking, I belong to the latter camp and I encourage you to pick your own diamond and setting when buying an engagement ring. It really isn’t that hard. More importantly, it ensures you get a ring design you like, a high quality diamond of your choosing and at a budget that is largely determined by you.