How to Shop for an Engagement Ring
We want you to love your ring. Forever. Our goal is not to get you to spend the most amount of money, or to upgrade to a bigger stone, or to get you to buy something quickly. Our goal is to help you find the right ring for you. We are experts on finding and making beautiful jewelry, and taking care of our customers. This is our greatest privilege and there is absolutely nothing more important to us, or more rewarding. To learn what we believe in and strive for as a company, and how we are working to affect change in the jewelry industry at large, please visit Our Values.
When you buy a ring from Catbird, it is either handmade by our highly trained jewelers in our Brooklyn studio or by one of the designers we work with closely. Working this way ensures that - no matter what your budget - your ring is of the highest quality, your stones are conflict-free, your gold is only recycled or fair trade and we confidently offer a lifetime guarantee. See what our customers have to say about shopping with us!
We believe your ring should be a thing of true beauty, and that the primary purpose of jewelry is to add joy to your life for the long run — not only on the day it is purchased. For some that means a large center stone, for others it means a sprinkling of smaller stones. When designing or finding rings, we seek out fine craftsmanship, beauty, and magic above all else. We want your ring, and your experience with us, to be special and worthy of the journey you are about to embark on.
The Catbird Shopping Experience
Catbird is a completely no-pressure environment. We do not work on commission or sales goals; we understand that this is a big decision. If you have questions, or would like some guidance, we have years of experience and are here to help. You can email our wedding experts, book a complimentary consultation at our Wedding Annex, or you can always just drop by our flagship store.
We also encourage you to take your time. Not 100% sure after looking at rings? Take some pictures, go home, sleep on it, get their best friend’s/sister’s/mother’s opinions and reassurances. You can come visit that ring as many times as you want before diving in.
Not sure if you should include your intended? Well, you’re probably the best person to answer that question. Would they love an old-fashioned surprise, or would they want to share the whole experience with you? Sometimes the recipient gets ideas and shares those with her partner, who then narrows it down to the final choice. There is absolutely no wrong way to do it.
Some people propose without a ring or with an obvious substitute — we know someone who proposed with a gumball machine ring — and then embark on the actual ring shopping experience together.
To Budget or Not To Budget
Gone are the days of rules when it comes to budget. We think the one to three months salary standard is archaic. We have a wide range - spend what works for you! Find a ring you love that is perfect for your partner but it’s only half of what you planned on spending? Who cares! More money to buy a beautiful band to go with it later. Or, go on vacation! There are a ton of heart-stoppingly beautiful options in a wide price range. No matter your budget, you’ll be able to find something special.
Consider Her Lifestyle
Do you want something that can be worn every day? Something that can be left on in the shower, working out, etc.? Consider the materials. Gold and platinum are tough metals, made to be worn. Diamonds, sapphires, and rubies are the strongest stones out there, while opals, turquoise, and emeralds tend to be a little softer (that is in the grand scheme of stones - they’re still pretty tough!) so they need a little more consideration and overall care when being active.
What's Her Style?
Which words would you use to describe your partner’s style? Classic, edgy, vintage, eccentric, bold, timeless? What’s her favorite movie or book? Can you describe her go-to outfits? Does she have a Pinterest board or does she follow any jewelers on Instagram? Do you think your partner would want a bold statement piece or prefer an understated, subtly beautiful ring? Isolating a few touch points about her aesthetic helps when going through ring options and allows you to focus on a smaller group of choices making the process less overwhelming. If you’d like some help or advice, please email us! Feel free to include information about what she loves or pictures of what sort of jewelry she wears.
The most traditional choice is of course diamonds. But diamonds can be white, grey, champagne, black, etc. We find that if your partner is anti-diamond, they have probably expressed that by now. We think white diamonds are beautiful and we only use ethically sourced diamonds that are conflict-free (many of them are recycled, thus giving existing goods a second life!) - read about our diamonds here.
Sapphires and rubies are a beautiful alternative option to diamonds, while emeralds, opals and colored diamonds are a great option for someone who loves something a little different than the norm.
Typically, you’ll want either gold or platinum for durability.
Gold can come in yellow, rose, or white. All are still gold. Yellow is the naturally occurring color, while rose has a bit of copper added to give it a pinkish tint. White has another base metal (often palladium) added to make it look a little more greyish-silvery. You’ll also see gold come in different karats. 14k, 18k, and even 22k are popular choices. The higher the karat, the softer the gold is technically, but still very durable! The higher the karat, the warmer tones of yellow are apparent in the metal. 22k yellow gold is a deep, warm and glowing yellow, like the sun right before it sets.
Platinum only comes in one color - it’s a white base metal. Platinum is one tough cookie and is the strongest out of the two options. Platinum looks great with white diamonds and is a very classic look.
Most Catbird rings are available in all colors of gold and many are available in platinum.
The Four C's
One of the first things you see when you start researching engagement rings, and particularly diamonds, is “Ask for the four C’s”. While we are of the belief that if a ring is beautiful and feels right, things like this don’t necessarily matter, it’s still good to know what you’re paying for. The four C’s are: cut, clarity, color, and carat.
“Cut” refers to the way the rough gem was sliced and faceted to increase its brilliance. Different cut names are a way of labeling different proportions and shapes. A brilliant cut looks like a diamond you’d draw on a piece of paper, while a rose cut does not have the pointed bottom. They both reflect light differently. Brilliants shine and are super glittery in the sun (bling), while rose cuts have a soft, romantic, subtler sparkle. Baguette cuts are rectangular shaped stones that look like they have little steps in them. Marquise cuts are boat shaped (cut to look like the lips of the Marquise de Pompadour, lover of the King Louis XIV), and so on.
All stones have natural inclusions in them. We don’t like calling them “imperfections” since those little characteristics are what makes gems one of a kind. There is a scale in which diamond clarity is rated from FL (which means flawless and is very very rare) to I3 (visible, and big inclusions). Most of the stones we carry fall somewhere in on the higher end of the middle of the spectrum, where inclusions exist but can only really be seen under a microscope.
White diamonds are always graded on a color scale. The scale runs from a pure white to yellow, D to Z. This scale is used just for white diamonds since black or pink or champagne diamonds don’t really fit into that scale. Our white diamonds typically sit on the G to H side of the spectrum.
Diamond carat is the unit of measurement used to describe the weight of a stone. Carat weight doesn’t always reflect on the diameter of a stone, since different cuts can hide or accentuate a stone’s profile, but is usually a pretty good indication of size.
Ring sizing is really tricky, and not an exact science. It depends so much on the shape of one’s fingers, how someone likes to wear their rings, the width of the ring, etc.
If you can, secretly slip a ring that she wears on her ring finger onto your finger and mark where it hits. If she wears it on her left hand (assuming that is her non-dominant hand), make sure to size down a ¼ size. You can use a ring sizer to see what size the ring is that hits that same mark. We also have some ring sizing information here. You can purchase a ring sizer here.
Things to keep in mind if you do not know her size:
After selecting the ring they want to propose with, some customers buy the floor sample for the proposal and then come in afterwards to get sized and order the exact size.
Some rings can be re-sized, some cannot be sized at all, and some can only be re-sized a little bit. Ask us about the style you’re considering if you don’t know her size and we can advise you! We are here to help.
Too big is better than too small.
We’re proud to have helped thousands and thousands of customers over the years make these very personal decisions. It is our privilege and passion. If you have any questions about a specific ring, or the process in general - please be in touch, we are here to help!!