Engagement ring shopping is hella exciting, but it can be crazy expensive as well. Most of us don’t shop for diamonds on the regular, so it’s easy to get caught up in an overwhelming sea of options without knowing exactly what you’re looking for. To help you both avoid a traumatic experience, we tapped Steve Simon, founder of engagement ring hub Sparkly (it’s like Pinterest for rings) and Katie Zimmerman, Chief Merchandising Officer for Blue Nile, to get some helpful tips. So whether you and your beloved are heading out to browse together or your boo is flying solo for the big purchase, you can ensure it will be a successful — and smart — shopping trip.

1. Take it down a (tiny) notch. “Diamond prices tend to jump at the carat and half-carat marks. To maximize your budget, consider purchasing a 1.8-carat diamond instead of 2,” says Zimmerman. “The unnoticeable difference can potentially equate to savings of nearly 20 percent.”

2. Invest in the setting. “Selecting a platinum setting is not only the most popular choice but also the most cost-effective,” says Zimmerman. “Platinum is extremely durable due to the density and weight, which means that it holds up exceptionally well to time and daily wear — therefore it’s rarely necessary to re-shank or re-dip a platinum engagement ring.”

3. Trust your eye(s). “Choosing a lower clarity or color can greatly reduce costs. Always keep in mind what the diamond will actually look like in real life under normal lighting,” Simon advises. “Many people are super-concerned about clarity; however, in a lot of cases, a lower-grade clarity can only be seen under a microscope, and [it is] oftentimes impossible to tell the difference once you leave the jewelry store.”

4. Halos help. “To create the illusion of a larger center stone, consider a halo setting, a circle of small diamonds that are set closely together,” says Zimmerman. “A halo draws the eye to the center of the ring and adds additional sparkle.” It can also boost the appearance of the size of the stone. “Adding a halo to any ring makes it look so much bigger,” says Simon. “Some people even go with double or triple halos!”

5. Consider face value. How a diamond carries its weight matters, according to Simon. “You can try to find diamonds that ‘face up’ larger than the carat size suggests. For example, a 1.8 carat stone might look more like a 2.1 carat stone. The reason it looks larger is because more of the diamond weight is on the top (the part that most people see).” (This is sometimes also referred to as “spread.”)

6. Take the tint. “A lot of people stay away from diamonds with any fluorescence (a bluish tint),” Simon says. “On the right type of stone, it can actually save you a good amount of money. For example, if you find a slightly yellow diamond with a faint fluorescence, the blue from the fluorescence can actually offset the yellow color and make it seem like a more expensive colorless stone.”

(Photos via Chris Jackson/Getty, Getty, Jonathan Brady – WPA Pool/Getty)

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